Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Bit of Bad News...

So my friend Clara, who owns Major and I have posted lots of blogs with her in them, feeds at the barn on the weekend evenings. I got a phone call from her after my 9:30 shift Wednesday evening saying that Milo double barrel kicked her. So immediately I called her to get the details. Apparently, she wasnt sure how Milo and Chica were getting along, so decided to feed him on the fence so they werent in close proximity to each other for feeding. Although I have been told that they are getting along well (and even sharing the same grain bucket) for feeding time, Clara wasnt sure. I guess they ate their food just fine, but Milo had dragged the bucket into the pasture so she couldnt reach it from outside the fence. Not thinking anything of it, Clara went into his pasture to retrieve it. Bucket in hand, she returned back to the gate. I guess that is when Milo made his move.

He rammed his butt right up into her and nearly pinned her against the fence, double barrel kicking out all the while. While not landing a blow due to the close proximity, somehow Clara lost her footing and went down. She said she feared he would double around and pretty much maul her, but I guess he just resumed his kicking. With quick thinking, Clara got to her feet and launched the grain bucket at him making him back off just slightly, but allowing enough time for Jake's owner to hand her a longe whip through the fence. To which Clara went after him with.

Fortunately, Clara knows how I handle Milo and how to gain his respect. She very clearly let him know that his behavior was absolutely not acceptable, and got him backing away from her respectfully and yielding his hindquarters away each direction. I am most pleased that she did this so he immediately would know his behavior was unacceptable. And better yet, she was not hurt.

But this brings me back to this topic that seems to be haunting us and the talk of the barn lately. Its the hot topic that Milo is food aggressive, although Clara felt a different take on her account with him. She suggested that he is more territorial aggressive/dominant. But the food just ads to his dominance. While still unacceptable, its an interesting thought. I have been told by numerous people that he can get into their face/space if they enter his pasture, or take out another horse from it.

Fortunately, Chica's owner, Brittany, has not had any issues with Milo and I hope it remains that way. And I dont have any problems with him. But how can we make it totally clear to this little momma's-boy that he must respect anyone that interacts with him? It isnt necessarily fair or right for everyone to have to have a one-on-one session with him. Its just not possible. I cant do anything but be frustrated over the situation and throw my hands into the air. I am at a loss.


Fetlock said...

Wow, this is a really scary problem. Clara is a much braver person than I would have been in that situation.

One of the problems in this situation is that a human being caught in the line of fire could wind up with broken bones or brain damage. It's really not a big deal if Milo does this sort of thing to another horse--but a person is different, and we have to have special rules.

What would Clara have done if someone hadn't been able to immediately hand her a lunge whip? Would she have been able to get him under control with just her body language and hollering at him?

In a shared barn situation, Milo will probably always be running into new people. Even if you get him one-on-one time with everyone who usually cares for the horses, someone might have a friend or neighbor visiting or helping one day...or a kid walking by might come through the gate at the wrong time. You never know.

I remember in one of the Walter Farley books about a filly that had a biting problem, and how they solved her problem by putting a hot potato in someone's shirt and letting her bite into that. She had to eat mash for a few days until her mouth healed, but she never bit anyone again.

I shudder at the idea of using pain to teach a lesson, but in an instance where a horse has become aggressive with a person(even if you know exactly WHY and WHEN he's going to do it) then you may have to consider setting him up for a lesson that will really surprise him and make a big impression.

I'm a fairly new visitor to your blog and you have obviously come a long way with your horse. I hope I'm not offending you by offering my opinion's kind of like telling someone how to raise their kids! :) I didn't believe in spanking to discipline my kids, but there were some times I spanked my identical twin boys when they did things that put life and limb in danger (opening a hot stove, climbing out second-story window, etc). I felt horribly guilty about it, but I also was terrified they would repeat the behavior and one of them was going to get killed.

I am so glad that Clara didn't get hurt and that she had the presence of mind to do what she did.

Story said...

Very interesting and not to mention very scary issue you have here. And one that has been on my mind lately coincidentally enough. At our old barn, the only people who handled Dee were myself and the girl who cleaned her stall. That's it. And even at that I often worried about Dee with the stall cleaner. Although I have never seen Dee actually kick, I have seen her threaten, and that's why I worried. Anyway, now that she is at the new barn she is handled by barn staff every day, often different people, and often in close proximity to strange horses since the horses are often led to and from their paddocks with another horse or two in tow. Well, it seems last week she was being brought in at the same time as the trainer's gelding and she tried to kick him. And then she tried again the next day. Not nearly as scary as if she'd tried to kick a person, but all the same, I want my girl on her best behavior and I sure don't want her to hurt any person or anybody's horse.

It's interesting timing with your post, but I've often thought lately that as much as it's important that my horse be great under saddle, there is nothing I like hearing more than how good she behaves for barn staff, so when she's bad for them I find it very upsetting. I need her to be safe and pleasant for them. I want them to love her!

Sorry about the rambling there.

Back to the situation at hand, is it possible he is feeling even a bit more territorial than usual because of his new girlfriend? Like maybe it's one thing when it's just the boys out there, but now maybe he's taking ownership over his lady? It's hard to guess the minds of horses.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear that - scary for all concerned. Anyone who goes in with him should probably carry a stick or whip and immediately move him around to establish who's in charge. Barn/feeding staff might want to switch to using feedbags to feed him and his pasture mate - the horse has to come up to you to have the bag put on and removed, so bad manners result in no food or the bag not being removed (no grazing). He'll also know he's going to get his food which may reduce the anxiety that leads to the aggression.

Good luck with this!

Anonymous said...

Also, if you haven't already, you might want to seriously consider having him checked for ulcers. Ulcers are a common cause of aggression that is food-related - the horse wants the food very much but experiences pain when food is presented - leading to confusion and sometimes aggression against other horses or the person feeding. This confusion is made worse when the horse is punished for displaying aggression - the horse now associates the handler with the pain it is experiencing and then experiences extra stress around feeding which can make the ulcers and the pain even worse. Pretty soon the horse associates the handler with the pain - it's as if the person presenting the food is causing the horse to hurt, from the horse's point of view - hence the aggression towards the handler. It's a bad cycle which can spiral downwards as the horse's pain and bad behavior escalate and the handler's response escalates too. It's one way vicious horses happen.

Molly said...

Hmm, that is very scary! I would have done the same thing she did, no matter whose horse it was! I usually hit one of my own with a feed bucket if she gets to be like that and luckily she hasn't done it in over 2 years.

I don't know if you have one of these or have access to one, but the first thing that came to my mind was letting someone go out there and have a cattle prod with them. Someone that he doesn't know that he would act that way with... the second he shows aggression then shock him.

Like the first commenter said, hope i'm not offending you!! But, I would do it with my own. It wouldn't cause injury... just a scare.

Good luck with whatever you decided to do!

Fetlock said...

I like Kate's suggestions--I think every possibility should be ruled out. Horses with ulcers can be utterly miserable.

Also, the feedbag idea would be an excellent and nonviolent way of reinforcing that bad manners=no food.

The thing that bothers me the most about this story is that Milo apparently didn't threaten until her back was turned--Nina says Clara had already picked up the bucket and was heading back to the gate. The horses I've seen with food issues DIRECTLY confront people--they'll threaten as the person approaches the horse either with food in hand or while the horse actually has the food. I'm troubled by the details that Clara's back was turned when he pinned her. There also wasn't any grain for him to be aggressive about--he'd finished it already.

So I think that Clara's idea that something else is going on here besides food aggression has merit as well.

Best of luck to you, Nina, and I hope you get some more ideas about what to try.