Horses acquire bad habits from mishandling, from boredom, spoiling, and fear. Some of the most common faults are cribbing, kicking, shying, balking, rearing, bolting, crowding, starting forward before the rider is settled in the saddle, and being barn soured.
To find the cure it is wise to try to find the cause. An experienced horseman can usually tell what causes a horse to react as he does. Most horses can be retrained unless the animal has been mistreated cruelly or ridden incorrectly over a long period of time. It is seldom that a really vicious horse can be retrained. He has already been disillusioned, he cannot bring himself to trust a man, and the habit of hate is too well established. The odds of even the expert horseman ever making the animal usable are few.
Bite The Manager, The Door, Or A Post
Let’s take the faults in the order mentioned and give their cure. A horse that is cribbing will bite on the manager or door or possibly a post. It is said to be caused by indigestion or by the teeth pressing too closely against one another. However, it is certain that an animal stabled next to a cribber will pick up the habit, and once the habit is well established there is a chance he will never get over it. Whatever the cause, it is a disagreeable habit. Horses seldom crib on anything lower than their knees. Remove the manager and feed from the ground for a time. If the habit is new, this may cure it. A habitual cribber may never be cured. However, a horse that chews on wood is not necessarily a cribber. Horses chew on rails and posts when they have nothing to do. When an animal is confined in too small an area he will chew wood. See that the horse gets plenty of exercise and nail metal nosing on all wood rails and on the corners of the posts.
Horses kick out if they’re startled. Habitual kicking can be caused by putting another horse into the next stall—the kicker will lash out while eating. Some horses kick just to hear the clatter of their hoofs and some to feel their strength. A spoiled horse will kick whenever he is interrupted. A bully will kick other horses to assert himself. Kicking is a dangerous habit, and should be stopped as soon as noticed.
If the animal kicks when you approach, then he should be punished with a sharp cut of the whip administered every time he tries to kick and at the precise moment he is in the act.
If this is not effective, then a foot length of heavy chain attached to a collar and placed just above the hock of the kicking leg will stop this habit in a few days. Horses kick right- or left-handed, so be sure you have the leg the animal habitually kicks with. In this manner he will punish himself and will eventually be afraid to kick, remembering the pain of the chain. After the chain treatment the habit rarely occurs again, but if it does, replace the chain for another treatment. Striking goes in line with kicking. It first starts as a playful gesture in a colt and then graduates to an expression of anger. A sound whipping across the front legs is necessary. Don’t put it off, as it will get worse.
Other Tips For Having A Horse
Most horses, being farsighted and not able to focus on close objects, will shy at some movement they cannot understand. When a horse shies at something, bring him to it and let him smell and examine it with his muzzle. Talk to him in a soothing voice. Learn to recognize the things that frighten your horse and be prepared to guide him gently by them. Always be ready for a sudden jump. Very young or highly strung animals must be watched for shying. Gentleness must always be used. If possible, when riding, turn their heads away from the object that frightens them. If riding with a companion, allow him to go ahead; your horse will probably follow without fear. A horse that has confidence in his rider can be quieted by a reassuring word. Because shying is caused by fear, we should mention frightened horses.