Problem: Aggressive, disrespectful behavior towards humans.
Wish, “the carnivorous horse,” is an Appaloosa mare that came from Colorado Horse Rescue. She was supposedly owned by a woman in Aspen who called CHR and said: “If you won’t take this horse I am going to ‘can’ her.” Apparently she was devouring the woman’s trainers one bite at a time. CHR took the horse, she proceeded to bully all the other horses and bite the volunteers, she cut her leg and was put in solitary confinement, presumably to the relief of both the other horses and the volunteers.
A friend of ours called and asked if we would look at her and if we thought we could help her, he would adopt her. We spent some time with her at CHR and concluded she wasn’t going to be that much trouble.
We brought her home and put her in the pasture with the other horses. Her first move was to go up to the Percheron mares and say:
“Listen you black bitches, I am the new queen and I expect you to begin bowing and scraping, starting right now!”
The next time we saw her she had several chunks of hide taken out of her back, some kick marks on her rump, and a whole new attitude. She tried the same thing on Marilyn Monroe, a mustang mare with about the same result. All and all, she hasn’t been too difficult; we took her to the CHR Open House several months ago where we like to think she was sort of the “Poster Horse”.
We think at some point she was abusively trained and was simply defending herself. It appears, when she bit people in Aspen that caused her to be left alone, they still fed her. From her point of view that was a pretty good deal, nobody bothered her and she got plenty to eat; in essence, she was trained to bite people! That the consequence of that behavior could be that she wound up on some Frenchman’s dinner plate never occurred to her, nor would it to any other horse, she was only reacting to what she had been taught.
Wish needed a herd structure and to change her relationship with humans to one of respect rather than just someone else to bully. After about three weeks I brought her into the round pen. At first I rode her bareback with a rope hackamore and later with a saddle and snaffle bit. I then began to take her on the trail all the while making sure she was in the gait I wanted and going in the direction I wanted to go. When she wanted to go in a different direction than I wanted to go I simply bumped her with my leg until she was going in the direction I wanted her to. I also made sure to let her hook up to the focus of my eyes so it would be easier for her to understand where I wanted her to go. Persistence and no anger, I believe, were two of the elements that allowed her to build respect.
The only aggressive move she ever made toward me was when I was riding her in the pen at Colorado Horse Rescue. I was sitting on her bareback and she turned her head and thought about biting my foot, I thought back at her “that will be the worst mistake you ever make”, she turned her head back and that was the end of the biting. She has a ways to go before she will be a great trail horse, but she’s on her way.
– Jim Rea