Got Equine Behavior Problems??
Here are 3 Reasons why your horse might "misbehave"
Equine behavior problems can become very
frustrating. For both you and your horse. I believe
that horses generally don't just "misbehave". Even
horses who are labeled as "naughty", "bad",
"nasty", "stubborn", "disobedient", etc. are usually
just trying to communicate with us.
If they have become "nasty" or "stubborn" maybe it
is because no one has been listening to them and
they have learned that this "bad" behavior is the
only way to get their point across or to prevent what
is bothering them, causing them pain, fear, anxiety,
So, with that introduction, let's take a look at a few
reasons why your horse might be "misbehaving".
Again, I am not representing this as a complete list.
These are just some things to think about if you
have having trouble with your horse.
Reason 1: Physical pain or discomfort
A horse who is dealing with pain has no way to tell you that he is in pain except to "misbehave". Since he cannot
tell you in plain English, he must tell you in horse language - through his body and behavior.
For instance - maybe your horse bucks. It could be that his saddle does not fit correctly
and is pinching him. Or, as was the case in a horse I worked on, she had a vertebrae out of
place right where the saddle sat. She was always trying - and succeeding - to remove her
rider. Over time, saddle and back problems can become so uncomfortable that the horse
can no longer take the pain and begins to try to get the offender off his back.
Or, maybe your horse has pain in his body due to the job he is asked to perform - such as
jumping. He may start to resist when asked to jump. I had a client horse one time who had
a misalignment in his withers. He began to associate jumping with pain. After he was
adjusted, he went back to work without any more complaints.
Sometimes it is harder to figure out where the pain is. He may just seem "cranky" or "off"
for no apparent reason. A thorough evaluation of your horse's entire body may reveal
some areas of tension and tenderness.
A visit from your veterinarian may be necessary to rule out any physical problem that could be causing a change
in mood. Hormonal imbalances or other medical problems can cause a horse to be "cranky" and "unwilling".
I am not going to go into any more examples. I could be here all day, but I hope you get the idea. Investigate
before just assuming your horse is being "bad"...you know what they say about assuming.
Reason 2: Communication Problems
Since you speak English and your horse speaks...well,
horse, it may be wise to step back, take a deep breath and
ask yourself, "Does my horse really understand what I am
asking of him?"
A horse that doesn't really understand what is being asked
isn't trying to be "bad", he is probably just as frustrated as
This is one of the reasons that I like equine clicker training
so much. It opens up a conversation between you and your
horse. It breaks communication down into very small pieces
so that your horse is able to understand what you want from
them. And it does it in a way that does not use dominance or
fear as a teaching tool. Could you learn well from someone
who was dominating and threatening? If you did learn, would
you want to be around this person? Or would you want to flee
Which brings me to my next reason that horses "misbehave".
Reason 3: Fear and Insecurity
You probably know and agree that the horse is first a flight animal. Out in the wild, they are the prey, not the
predator. They would rather run from danger than confront it. And, how do they know there is danger? They feel
fear. A horse that feels fear and cannot run away from "it" will panic and - you guessed it - "misbehave". This
"naughty" behavior is an attempt by the horse to tell you that he really wants to get away from whatever he is afraid
Fear is the basis for "spooky" horses. They are usually very insecure and don't trust that you will protect them from
the scary circumstance that he has found himself in.
Or, maybe you are the scary circumstance. If you find yourself
getting frustrated with your horse, you are probably not working
with them in a calm and fair manner.
If this is the case, you need to take a break. Take a deep breath
and get relaxed before continuing to work with him.
Horses can read you better than you can read the words on this
page. They are all about body language and energy. That is how
they kept from getting eaten out in the wild. That is how they
interact with each other. They are masters at reading body
language. So, you need to become a master at it too.
Information presented is for educational purposes only and is not intended
to replace professional opinions or recommendations.
Consult your veterinarian for advice about any medical condition or
treatment needed for your horse
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