Thursday, November 24, 2011

Some Things Improve, Some Things Stay the Same . . .

Some things get better with time and some things stay the same.  A number of Drifter's prior issues have just melted away - picking his feet is now easy whether he's loose in the stall or on crossties - it's now reliable and he picks up each foot in turn as I go around.  His ridden work is much better and his ability to pay attention and focus is improved - yesterday he dealt well with Sugar tacking up outside the barn and leaving to go on the trail while we were working in the arena - he noticed and was distracted but was able to come right back to work.  He leads much better (caveat in next paragraph), and will even trailer load much better than he did after 6 months of not having worked on it at all.

But Mr. Drifter has also been displaying his "stallion" side lately - he isn't one, we've had him tested - but he likes to think he is and has many stallion-like behaviors.  Yesterday, he was attempting to get nippy with me while I was leading him, attempting to bite my hand, and was also trying to nip when my hand was near his face.  We had a conversation about that where I made it clear that wasn't acceptable, and praised him when he was behaving correctly, and also did some extra leading work after our riding session to reinforce good behavior.  When I turned him out in Pie's paddock (while Pie was out of it) for a while so his feet could benefit from the pea gravel, he walked around, sniffed every pile of Pie poo, and then selected a pile and made a precise "deposit" on top of it to express his dominance.  This morning while I was leading him to the turnout, we were walking by Dawn's paddock - she's coming into heat and was squealing and striking on the other side of the fence - and he decided that he since he was feeling pretty fresh - it was also cold and windy - it would be fun to do several large rears.  Each time he went up, I snapped the lead and told him "no" in a strong voice.  When he came back down and stood quietly for a moment, we went on with our walk.  He seems to get particularly obnoxious when one or more of the mares is in heat.

His behavior isn't particularly aggressive, although that sort of thing can get you hurt around horses so it's not acceptable.  He's more fresh and sassy and playful than aggressive - he clearly feels really good after his EPM treatment and wants to show off his prowess (particularly to Dawn).  When I tell him no, he falls into line pretty quickly but he's one, I think, who's always going to test the limits and see what he can get away with.  I also suspect that he may have been gelded late and have spent some part of his prior life as a stallion, so the behaviors may be more learned than hormonal.  I also suspect he wasn't properly socialized in a herd as a young horse and he can be very aggressive in a herd situation with the other geldings, again acting like a stallion - that's why he's on solo turnout.  One option might be to turn him out with the mares, but we haven't done that due to the risk of injury - Dawn is a pretty aggressive little horse herself and if he didn't injure her she'd quite likely injure him - he'd probably learn a good lesson but the cost might be too high. I suspect that over time, with consistent handling, some of these stallion-like behaviors may abate, but he certainly keeps me on my toes.

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A very happy Thankgiving to all of you in the United States!


  1. Was Drifter gelded late? Our Paint, Dozer, was cut around the age of four, and occasionally exhibits stallion like behavior. Although it isn't anything along the lines of what Drifter is up to.

    I'm confident you'll be able to work him through this. It may also be exacerbated by the fact that he is feeling good for the first time in awhile.

    Happy Thanksgiving,!

  2. Dave - I suspect he was gelded late. And he is feeling really good right now . . .

  3. Too many romance novels in his stall.


    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  4. Kenny Harlow suggests grabbing the horse's muzzle/nose and holding in in a kind of "twitch hold" when they bite. I'm never quite quick enough for that, so I found that making my fingers into "teeth" and giving my horse a sharp "jab bite" seems to work pretty well to discourage that nipping. Just get him anywhere and as fast as you can. That's what another horse would do to discipline him.

  5. Sounds like you have him well in hand , and your consistent corrections should over time make a difference.

  6. Sounds like you can never let your guard down with Mr. Studley. Naughty Drifter!
    I'm glad you're capable and confident enough to deal with his challenges.


  7. Hi Kate ...happy Thanksgiving. I hope you had a lovely time with family and of course the day wouldn't be complete without a smooch from your horses.
    Drifter sounds a lot like JD. I'm not sure if you remember him. Earlier in my blog(about 2 years ago) he was part of my family and got very stallion like around mares and very possesive. I found him hard work to ride in a group and as most of my riding is in groups it was clear he needed to go to a more individual home. I get regular photos ...even two years on and he is thriving doing dressage in spectacular fashion.
    I admire your ability to be with your horses so much and take the time to set them straight. I guess they should be giving thanks for having such a wonderful owner!

  8. I think Drifter is very lucky to have landed a home with a very understanding, well educated owner. Sounds like even though his behaviour is only 'playful' if he was handled by an inexperienced horse owner this could turn really ugly very quickly! I think you do exceptionally well with all of your steads!

  9. Heather (and I before her) have/had the same issues with Poko. I just kept him away from mares, but she puts him out with the herd and makes him fall back in line when he's pulled up to ride, which is almost every day. As consistent as you are with your horses, I bet he'll work thru some of the studliness in hand in no time.

  10. I'm sure with your consistent work Drifter will learn the behaviors expected of him. He probably was gelded late or it could just be his personality...a limit tester.

    When we got Sami he was an Arabian stallion of five years old. We had him gelded but he exhibits none of the behaviors that Drifter does. He's just as sweet and well behaved as can be. Now Blue on the other hand we got at four years old, gelded also. He exhibited some studly behavior around mares. We had him tested too. Negative, it was just an attitude which he eventually got over. Maybe they just need time to grow up.

  11. I had an OTTB who was cut late, and he always had tendencies to act like a stallion. He wasn't nippy though, or aggressive. I guess they're pretty strict with colts on the track.

  12. Happy Thanksgiving!

    Drifter does not know how lucky he is to have you. Good work.

  13. I think it's hilarious he would carefully poop all over Pie's piles! I know you've said before that he seems to kind of start things like a stud would but then lose interest--it's interesting what things he chooses to follow all the way through on. Hope you guys had a great Thanksgiving as well!


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