On Monday, February 4, I went to Golden, Colorado to attend a meeting of the Jefferson County Horse Council. A well known Horse Behaviorist was there named Anna Twinney and she spoke about some of the possible reasons as to why horses could be acting out.
Horses communicate to humans through their body language. They don’t have a way to tells us when they’re unhappy or stressed or in pain, so it’s up to us to properly read our horse and the situation to figure out what’s wrong when a problem arises. When there is a problem in a horse’s life, they only way they can show their discomfort is by acting out. There are six categories that you can look at to try and determine what is causing your horse to act out.
Age: A horse’s age can also explain a horse's behavior. If you have a young horse who will rear or act goofy, it could just be because he’s young and playful. With proper horsemanship, building a strong bond with the horse based on trust and respect, the horse will probably learn to act calmer around you and eventually outgrow all of his supercharged energy.
Environment: If you’ve learned anything from this website, you hopefully know by know that horse’s need to live in an environment that is very close to how wild horses live. (If not, check out the rest of this website!) Cribbing, stress, and other stall vices could be cause by where a horse is living. Is he in a small stall or run all day? Does he live with other horses? This could be a big reason as to why your horse is unhappy.
Personality: Just like humans, all horses have different personalities that affect how he acts. He might be a dominant, high energy horse who will constantly test you as a leader. Or maybe he’s more low energy and easily become nervous. It’s best to find a horse who fits your own personality and skill level. This makes it easier for you and your horse to connect and have a trusting relationship.
Nutrition: What a horse is eating will greatly affect his energy level. He should be eating many small meals of a variety of grass hays every day and not eat processed pellet feeds. The horse should also have free choice salt and other minerals to eat. If a horse is lacking nutrients or has an unneeded element in his diet, it will affect his overall health and actions. (To read more about nutrition, visit the diet page)
Training: Every single person that a horse interacts with is training the horse. If your horse is acting out, it could be because of either a recent or past experience that he had with a person. (To learn more about Natural Horsemanship, visit my Natural Horsemanship page)
If your horse acts out while you're riding, taking him up, or even going to catch him from your pasture, it may be because he’s in pain and his tack doesn’t fit correctly or he has a physical injury that causes pain. In this case, check over your horse and his tack.
Horses will never be “mean” or “bad” or “evil”. If they are acting out, it’s because they have something to tell us humans. We just need to be aware enough to listen.