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Marissa Raymo will discuss everything about horses, including horse health care tips, training tips, equestrian friendly trails, horse buying info and much more.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Struck Out!

In the 6+ months that I have owned Lyric, I have been slowly chipping away at her many bad habits and quirks, working hard to help her find the good natured little horse that I believe is hidden somewhere deep below the impatient, unpredictable, irritable mare-ish exterior. 

About two months back, while getting her groomed and prepped to saddle, an unusually powerful stomp caught me straight in the stomach and literally took my breath away. We both stopped for a second to figure out what had happened, and then I continued to tack up as she continued to show her disapproval. 

From that point on, whenever Lyric decided that she would rather not be tied up/groomed/tacked up/hugged/etc., I found myself facing a swift knee to the gut. And if I wasn't within easy reach of her knee, she'd actually reach out with her front hoof to try to stomp down on my foot. In my years of working/owning/playing with horses I have been bitten, kicked, pinned, rolled on and stepped on, but this one was new to me.

If you're unsure of what "striking out" is, take a look at the video of the gelding to the right (about 45 seconds in), and then imagine yourself standing directly in front of him...looks like the recipe for a bad day, right?

If you're faced with a horse that likes to strike out, there are a couple of things you can do to correct the behavior. But unfortunately, as with most bad habits, it appears to be a trait that is easier learned than corrected. 

First, it is important to make sure that the striking out or stomping is not a sign of an injury or health issue. A horse may stomp to communicate pain in its leg or hoof. In this particular case, I ruled out injury because the behavior is completely situational and does not occur when she is not tied down (which likely means it is the result of boredom, anxiety, or frustration). 

If you have a horse that strikes out, it is obviously important to be on guard at all times when you are within reach to be aware of any flying hooves, but also to be able to react quickly. The moment the horse strikes out with the front leg you can either:

A. Slap the knee with a riding crop or the end of the lead rope (not hard enough to hurt, but enough to interrupt the behavior).
B. Catch the leg in your hand and slowly lower it to the ground until your horse relaxes. Note - this is not the best option for a horse that is known to rear.

In either case, you'll probably have to repeat this over and over until your horse realizes that she will have to give to your pressure rather than the other way around.

Cowboy Logic of the Day
"Always try to be a bit nicer than is called for, but don't take too much guff."



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