He’s never done THAT before…

When I first started learning about horses with behavioural problems, I was on the road a lot. I would come out to anyone who wanted my help. That was of course a huge learning experience, because you would find something new every time and no two calls were the same. During that period I was asked to help with a Friesian horse that had problems loading. I arrived at the yard where the horse was stabled and immediately ran into someone at the gate who asked: “Are you the one who is going to put that horse on the trailer?” On my way to the stables I got the same question four times, each time with a very worried undertone… 

 

But since I had worked with a lot of difficult loaders, I though it would be fine. Somewhat wary I met the owners and the horse. The Friesian, Goliath, stood by himself in a paddock and the owners were happy that I was there. When I asked if he was very difficult, they indicated that he was quite dominant. Well, I handle that kind of horses more often, so I was not surprised… I also asked if the horse showed any specific behaviour: kicking, biting, anything that was useful to know before I started working with the horse? “Neh… not really,” was the hesitant answer. I went to work in good spirits. I put the halter on, that went fine. I had Goliath take a step forward and the horse cooperated well. I then asked the horse to back up… The next thing I knew is I was flying through the air and landed on my back, the only thing I was able to see were hooves flying all above me. Fortunately I could roll under a fence, but it was not fun. As I got up, I wiped the sand from my pants and joked to the owner, “What, he doesn’t like blondes…?” To which the owner reluctantly said that Goliath would indeed give headbutts, but that she thought he wouldn’t do that with me… First of all, this horse taught me that my position in relation to the horse was not good. A lesson that later helped me a lot. 

  

This horse had probably become aggressive due to overhandling as a foal. With clicker training, they had also taught Goliath to move his head left and right, preventing him from attacking and biting. Very nice, but he had become so good at it that he used his huge Friesian neck as a tennis racket… An extra line on the right side of his halter with a helper on that side offered a solution. My helper was able to prevent Goliath coming to me with his head. I have to go back one day to thank Goliath for this wise lesson… 

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