What is a 'Behaviour Problem'?
If your horse's behaviour is concerning you for any reason, spending time with
your horse can become stressful, upsetting or even dangerous and we can
class the behaviour that is worrying you as a 'behaviour problem'. Clearly,
people's attitudes about what is or is not a problem vary widely, from those
who are concerned by small signs of tension in their horse to those who
happily report that they had a good week and only got bucked off three times!
The term 'behaviour problem' does not put any blame on your horse (or you!)
it simply means that you have a concern about how he is behaving.
So, whether your horse's behaviour is, for example:
- causing you concerns for your safety, or the safety of others
- detracting from your competitive success or progress in training
- causing you worry about his welfare
- causing you worry due to complaints about his behaviour from livery
staff or other owners at your yard
- preventing you from performing routine tasks such as clipping
- simply puzzling you because you don't understand his behaviour
a qualified equine behaviour consultant can help you to understand the
behaviour and resolve any problems.
Examples of typical behaviour problems
Including problems tacking up, mounting, bucking, rearing, bolting, napping,
jumping problems, rushing backwards, head tossing, spooking, lack of
attention to rider/slow to respond to aids, problems when away from home, for
example 'playing up' when out at competitions.
Including leading or catching problems, problems loading and/or travelling,
difficult behaviour with the farrier or vet, problems with grooming, rugging up,
clipping or picking up feet, head shyness.
Including jumping out of stable or field, distress/misbehaviour when separated
from other horses, eating or drinking problems, concerning behaviour towards
field companions or other horses/animals, attention seeking behaviours such
as banging on the stable door.
Stereotypies (traditionally known as stable vices)
Including crib-biting, wind-sucking, weaving, box-walking and many more
|Felicity George BSc MPhil SEBC PTC
Equine Behaviour Consultant
phone : 07884 030533
email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Some Causes of behaviour problems
Most of the problems listed may have more than one underlying cause, which is
why a thorough diagnosis is so important. Some of the common causes of
behaviour problems are:
As we all know, as well as learning what we want them to, horses also learn to do
things that we would rather they didn't do! Whether this is learning to let
themselves out of their stable, or to deposit their rider when it suits them,
undesired learned behaviours are a common cause of problems.
Tension (including fear, pain, anxiety and physical problems)
This is another very common cause of problems, and is a rather broad category.
Whatever you are doing with your horse, you'd like him to be relaxed about it. Mild
tension can spoil the quality of ridden work; extreme fear of some object can be
alarming and dangerous to you and your horse. In many cases tension can be
clearly seen as an underlying cause of a behavioural problem, and the exact
cause of the tension may also be clear (for example, fear of clippers). However,
sometimes the signs of tension are small and very intermittent, and careful
observation and analysis of the problem is needed.
Social Behaviour Problems
The natural social behaviour of horses can cause several types of problems in a
domestic setting. True aggression is rarely seen in domestic horses; it is a 'last
resort' in nature, used only when social behaviour has broken down. However, the
behaviours that horses use to establish order in their social groups such as
nipping, biting, kicking and barging can cause problems between horses sharing
space in a domestic setting, and are often frightening and dangerous if directed
toward humans. Social behaviour and the type of relationship you have with your
horse may also be the root cause of ridden problems such as napping, 'playing up'
when away from home and refusing to stand to be mounted and some
management problems such as jumping out of a field or stable, misbehaviour when
separated from other horses, and attention seeking behaviour.
Tack which doesn't quite fit is one of the major causes of ridden problems. It is
very important to have your tack regularly checked by a qualified saddle fitter.
Unfortunately for us, horses can change shape pretty rapidly, for example with a
change in feeding or work, and a saddle which was well fitted and comfortable may
be causing discomfort or pain within months of fitting.