Aggressive Horse Behavior- Charging the Stall Bars

Does your horse charge at the bars of his stall with ears pinned and sometimes teeth bared whenever another horse or human passes by or comes too close? When someone enters the stall, he is reluctant and grumpy to be haltered, or have someone clean the stall? Or maybe he simply put his ears back and acts annoyed at your presence? What your horse is trying to tell you is that his stall is “his space” and to keep out! Some horses can be very protective of their space and what they consider to be their territory. Horses by nature are supposed to live in large herds with wide open places so when we unnaturally confine them, the stall becomes their safe haven in danger and they even look to the walls of the stall for comfort as they would to the bodies of their herd mates.

What you want to do in this situation is not force the issue. He already feels threatened and you don’t want to confirm his suspicions by coming in there aggressively. You don’t want to communicate that you are a predator trying to attack him or a more dominant herd member trying to push him away. Act casual, keep your eyes soft, show him you respect his needs but still wish to approach. Watch for the least sign of tension or aggression and immediately stop your approach. Look away for a few seconds, then look back casually. After a moment, take another step forward. If he is watching you with ears forward, smile and praise him. If he still acts threatened, step back again. Think of backing off, but not because you are afraid, but because you want to show him respect and politeness. It is you who is choosing to retreat, not him who is forcing you to do so.

You may have to do this for several minutes over several sessions, but stay calm and focused and eventually the horse will let you into his space. He will accept that you have no ulterior motives and when you are close enough, you can offer him a treat, and or give him a rub, and leave him alone for a while. After a few days, he should accept you into his space without question as long as you approach politely. At first, make your visits fairly short, with calm movements. He needs time to build up his trust and you don’t want to set off any alarm bells or you will be right back to where you started. Horses need time to change a behavior, especially if it’s one that has been a pattern for some time.

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