Belara's owners had purchased her as a three-month-old foal. She was adorable -
and lonely after being weaned at a young age - so they spent most of their free
time with her. She was so cute and they felt sorry for her, so they never
discplined her - even if she bit or kicked at them. As she grew, she learned
that her owners would not discpline her, and she began testing her boundaries
more and more often. If she did not want to do something or wanted to be left
alone, she bit or kicked at her owners. Before long, whenever she pinned her
ears, they backed off and left her alone. By the time she was placed with a
horse rescue, she was in charge of her human handlers.
When Belara arrived, The Equine Behaviorist's first job was to set down some ground
rules. If Belara pinned her ears, Jennifer did not back off but instead continued
whatever she was doing. If Belara bit or kicked at her, Jennifer immediately
discplined her. At first, Jennifer tried using a strong and loud "NO" whenever
Belara kicked or bit at her. However, Belara was indifferent to a loud voice.
If Belara was on a lead or line line and attempted to bite, Jennifer would
jerk the leadrope and tell her no. If Belara kicked at her, Jennifer
would "kick back" by smacking her side or hip. Jennifer would never hit
or smack Belara around the face.
At first, Belara became even more aggressive. She had never had to mind a human
handler and she did not understand what was expected of her. If she kicked at
Jennifer and was corrected, she would kick again. Each time she attempted to
kick her, Jennifer would immediately and calmy discipline her. They key to
stopping aggressive behavior is to consistently correct the behavior each time
While Jennifer was working with Belara, she also generously rewarded Belara when
she behaved well. When Belara did what was asked of her, she was petted,
verbally praised, and occassionally given a treat such as a bit of carrot or
a horse cookie. Jennifer wanted to make it clear to Belara: Bad behavior earned
swift discpline while good behavior earned rewards.
It took Belara about a week to make the connection and to stop kicking and biting.
After that week, Belara never kicked or bit at Jennifer again and she was also
much easier for other people to handle. The Equine Behaviorist cautions any handler
that dealing with such behaviors can be dangerous. Horses can seriously injure
or even kill handlers with a well-placed bite or kick. The best way to avoid these
problems is to always discipline your horse if he or she bites or kicks at you -
even if your horse is very young. Letting babies get away with bad behaviors just
sets them up for more difficulties down the road. If you acquire a horse with
these behavioral problems, seek professional help.
Belara went on to become a nice riding horse. She was well-behaved and happy once
she learned that kicking and biting would not be tolerated.