Horses are generally kind, friendly creatures. That’s part of the charm that a lot of equestrian fans cite as to why horses make such great companions and pets. But even the friendliest of animals can be pushed to bouts of aggression, which you may have experienced yourself when you walk into your horse’s stall, only to get charged by a very annoyed horse. Why would a horse do that? And what can you do to help? Here’s a short guide on dealing with an unhappy horse in their stall.
Generally, you’re going to encounter two types of horses: Those that are free to roam around in fields all day and those who are confined mostly to their stall. The latter are much more inclined to fits of annoyance and downright anger when someone steps into their stall, though not for all the obvious reasons. There is a chance that it’s all a territorial thing, but that’s not usually a horse’s MO.
More likely, a horse that’s kept in a stall all day is going to be pent up- quite literally- to the point that they’re on edge and the slightest change will send them into a fit of rage, or at least into a small temper tantrum. They could be lashing out because they want more attention or they just plain want to go run around and expend some energy on their terms.
What may also be the cause of the problem is if the horse in question is a show horse. Show horses tend to have rather high stress levels, particularly if they’re always kept in their stall. This is because to them, any time they’re asked to come out of their stall, it’s only to work and for no other reason. The result is an increased level of bother whenever someone shows up as it means it’s for work, thus they lash out and charge at the intruder.
Other times you’ll find that the horse with the problem is a mare that’s just foaled and doesn’t want any guests. This isn’t an action then that should be seen as aggressive more than it’s just natural instincts to protect her offspring, so don’t hold it against her. Just give her space to feel comfortable and you should be completely fine.
Dealing with any other type of horse can be tricky though. A lot of times, using the distraction method of bringing a carrot or some feed into the stall will work well as horses, like so many animals, will naturally be drawn to the food and forget anything else, such as their annoyance or frustration levels. Instead they’ll just see the food and switch over to the “I’m hungry and would like food please” mode. However, this doesn’t work every time, and sometimes the animal just isn’t hungry or they’re really ticked, meaning you could still be walking into a bad situation.
One of the best methods to deal with your horse in the long run, assuming you haven’t built up a ton of trust yet, is to do just that and get your horse used to your presence. You can do this by setting up a chair just outside the horse’s reach and spending as much time there as possible. This allows your horse to get used to your presence in a calm and curious manner, meaning when you do approach them, they may be more inclined toward curiosity than to simply charge.
No matter what you do, it’s important to always try and keep your horse facing you. If they’re stressed or startled, standing behind them could result in a serious thump from an unexpected kick, so keep them with their head facing you if at all possible. If you have to use a training whip for this, use it to gently help correct them to the position you’d most prefer, namely one that doesn’t have their head facing a corner away from you. Don’t use the whip as punishment though! Rather, you’d just using it as you would with anything else in order to get their attention and have them notice what you’d like done. Again, don’t blindly whip at your horse with it, so if you don’t know how to properly use it, just forget that and go with the carrot and feed method instead.
Horses want to be free, but they always want to be helpful and friendly with their owners. If you’re treating your horse well, you may never encounter a horse charging about it its stall. But there are still times that no matter how well you’ve treated your horse, they may just be having a bad day and want nothing to do with you at all or their pen. Be careful and loving in your approach, and hopefully everyone will be happy by the end of the day!
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