On this page you will find out about the 2 main types of psychological behaviour in horses and how you can help resolve them.
- Naturally occurring behaviours
- Artificially produced behaviours caused by by outside influences
- How can you resolve your horses psychological issues?
Weaning, grieving, genetic breeding and boredom can all cause problems. Not to mention seasonal behaviour in mares.
Those mares with foals at foot can be quite aggressive towards others. But then others may need to have a foal first in order for them to calm down.
Common problems like weaving, crib biting, wind sucking and head shaking can all be distressing for owners. These may be vices in the stable through boredom or through learned behaviour from stable mates.
Different breeds have different temperaments and can be sharp minded through their intelligence. So knowing how to handle them is a must before unruly behaviour sets in and all control is lost. Not only this, but some mature a lot later compared to other breeds. So when buying a horse don’t be caught out by buying something that may be too strong for you, too advanced, or too young.
In the UK our horses and ponies are very much sort after because of their temperament – particularly childrens riding ponies.
Another cause of poor horse behaviour is the amount and type for food it has. They can become out of control with too much energy.
Of course there could also be issues arising from cruelty and poor handling.
Weaning too early or grieving for their companions may create psychological problems. These could be in the form of withdrawal from their surroundings or not eating or drinking. But at the same time this may also be due to the pecking order in fields.
Mare behaviour also can be aggressive due to hormonal seasons. Sometimes they can be impossible to ride because of this. Stallions too can be very dangerous if they know a mare is in season – or not. But he will try his luck at the expense of being kicked continuously and stamped on.
We take it for granted that horses can jump high, run fast, pull great loads. In the west horses are used for recreation and sport. However in some parts of the world they are used for fetching and carrying work.
Loss of communication and trust between you and your horse can cause bad behaviour. Your horse is labeled as ‘badly behaved’ for one reason or another before being sold.
We forget that they are animals and not machines.
We forget how much work they do because we are so engrossed in getting the training right.
Your horse needs time to stretch and take a breather before carrying on.
Repetitive activities from riders can cause horses to turn sour in training. Ambitious riders forcing their horse over difficult obstacles can phase the horse causing it to lose confidence.
How you ride your horse can either make or break their confidence. If you use your hands and legs aggressively. Or if you tie them in with draw reins and side reins. Remember your reins are attached to the horses mouth so be careful how tightly you hold them. If you use too much force it will cause issues. Your horses mouth is soft and sensitive but if you tug violently on the reins the mouth will harden in time. There will be no yielding from your horse and it will constantly pull making a miserable experience for both of you.
Some horses perform better with male riders compared to female riders.
When instructors are teaching the riders the tone of shouting can unsettle the horse. After all it doesn’t know its not the one being shouted at. The best option is to de-sensitise them. Put music on, install bright lights around stables, or tie plastic and paper bags to fences.
Dog attacks can cause deep psychological trauma. This stems from the days in the wild when predators would try and pull them down. If they reared up to stamp on the predators they exposed their bellies where upon the predators would bring them down that way.
The general well being of the horse can cause behaviour problems too. From ill fitting tack, sore backs, sharp teeth to untrimmed hooves. Not the mention poor stabling with no light, fresh air, companions, lack of stimulation, or access to fields and open space. This can result in your horse becoming withdrawn.
A change of environment and routine is not great for your horse and it will take 3 to 6 months for them to really settle in their new home.
Horse can also behave badly due to things that have happened to them in the past such as bad handling from previous owners to loading and traveling in cramped horseboxes. Even a bad experience with clipping, shoeing and dentistry can upset your horse.