What is Horse Aggression?
Horses, like humans and pets tend to have a variety of behavioral problems. These behavioral issues may arise suddenly, after a traumatic experience, or may be deeply rooted in the horse’s psyche from past experiences.
Aggression in horses can be a particularly dangerous combination! Some horses may take to biting and kicking, hostile rearing and charging, crowding your space when leading, bumping you with his head or leaning on you.
What Causes Horse Aggression?
Any ‘acting out’ has a root cause. The cause may be physical (caused by pain, discomfort or disease) or psychological (past abuse or stress and anxiety. It is important to determine the cause of the problem. All horses that exhibit aggressive behavior should undergo a full check up at the vet.
Other causes may include:
- A horse being unhappy in its environment
- Dislike of other horses sharing stables
- Lack of a close relationship at ‘ground-level’
- Lack of training
- A horse that is not properly gelded
- Past abuse
Diagnosing Horse Aggression
Because degrees of aggression vary, it is important to watch out for the warning signs of aggression in unsettled or angry horses.
Symptoms of equine aggression include:
- Opening the mouth or showing teeth as if to bite
- Pinning ears back
- Crowding your space when leading
- Bumping you with his head
- Aggressive, vicious noises
Speak to your vet if your horse becomes aggressive or shows signs of aggressive behavior and for more advice to tame and train your horse.
Help for Horse Aggression
There are many medications to assist hostile mares that have behavioral issues with underlying aggression. Unfortunately these medications are not without side effects, and while they may help to relax the horse in the short term, their long-term effects are not known.
Furthermore, sedatives and calming drugs can leave a horse’s senses dulled – that can make competitive events difficult, as concentration and alertness is required. Speak to your vet about other alternatives.
There are many herbal and homeopathic remedies that can help to lessen aggressive tendencies while still keeping your horse alert. Homeopathic ingredients such as Chamomilla, Kali phos and Cina have been used traditionally for centuries to treat underlying root causes of aggression and promote calmness.
Homeopathic remedies get to work on a cellular level, addressing the horse’s imbalances and promoting adequate levels of cell salts in the living cells needed for physical and mental health. Phosphorus and Asarum can also help to strengthen the nervous system in the animal body – promoting sound mental health and addressing nervous disorders.
More Information on Horse Aggression
The first rule for any horse owner is to realize that any horse that gets away with an aggressive act will believe he is dominant over you! Horses operate within a hierarchy. Right from the start, make it very clear to your horse that he/she must not come into your personal space – you are the alpha horse. This is imperative for your safety and the safety of others!
Tips related to Horse Aggression
- Establishing obedience from the ground up. Teach your horse to walk and stop -being mindful of you at all times.
- Reward positive behavior immediately, and reprimand bad behavior immediately- do not whip or spur the horse, but do use low harsh tones and dominant stance.
- It is important to just "be" with your horse. Sit in their paddock with them, talk to them, sit and read a book.
- Clicker training works well with horses that have "issues".
- Use the word "good" to reward positive behavior on ground level, followed by a food reward.
- For bad behavior, talk in a sharp, low voice and say "Bad!" or "No!" and move towards the horse in an aggressive stance.
Note: If you are struggling to combat your horse’s aggressive behavior, talk to a behaviorist or horse expert, who can help you to address volatile behavior and nip it in the bud. Horse aggression should not be taken lightly.