“Stacy, I know this is a long shot. I train horses in Canada. I have a clients horse who went to a different trainer initially. When the horse left the owners possession it was docile, friendly and loving. He has returned home angry, afraid and dangerous. He was simple to catch and came when called and now upon attempting to catch him the horse will kick out and bite. I’m trying to work him through this for my client and would love any input or advice as this is beginning to look hopeless to break him of the kicking and biting. Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated.” Thank you, Noel M.

Yikes. Sounds like something went wrong somewhere. More information would make my answer more accurate but I will still attempt to offer some thoughts.

It sounds like you are eventually able to catch him. If that is true then my first recommendation is to have him examined to see if there is something physically wrong. The list of possibilities in this area is large so having a vet is a great idea. I have seen a mare with raging uterine infections that went undetected which caused her to be angry and kick a lot. The list of possible physical issues is long and broad and include things that could have happened accidentally or with abuse.

Upon initially reading this question the first thought is ‘what happened over there’? This can cause us to immediately leap to the idea of abuse. Has the owner asked questions? Was she visiting during the time the horse was in training? Do the answers fit the symptoms that are being seen?

Hopefully your client had a reason to initially chose this trainer that included having visited the barn and liked how the horses and humans were being treated. If this is true then there are still other possibilities. If this is a young stallion and he sexually matured while there he may have become more aggressive. Combine that with someone, maybe not even the trainer, backing off when threatened and the seed of trouble could have been planted. Other horses can also influence how the horse response out in the pasture if they are constantly attacking and putting him on the defensive. It doesn’t make it right, just a possibility.

The list of words describing the horse are interesting. Angry and dangerous go together but afraid is the interesting one. Yes, horses can become afraid enough to become angry and dangerous but maybe I read the email wrong. You seemed to be describing catching a horse in a large area (…“and came when called”…) and in that situation the horse that is afraid will generally leave. If they are coming but with the intention of being aggressive they usually don’t look afraid.

If this is a stallion then the symptoms would be consistent with a horse that was struggling to control his hormones. If you suspect that there was some type of abuse then you are dealing with retraining. The retraining process can be a long one. If the horse was there for several months then you should be prepared for the process to take awhile for the results to be solid. Be creative. Think outside the box. Is the horse good once he is caught? Is he better or worse in a stall, round pen or pasture? How is he treating the other horses in the pasture? How is he being treated by the other horses in the pasture?

I am also including a link to some YouTube videos I did with a horse that wasn’t halter broke. The theory you should be looking for is that the horse needed to stand in a particular spot in the stall…and I was completely out of reach. See if you can think of a way to modify this technique to fit you and your horse and remember; safety first for both of you.

P.S.-These videos were made six years ago and this mare has gone on to have a successful show career. For the first half of this year she was in the top ten in the World standings in her division!