Horse Vices and How to Correct Them

The definition of a vice is behavior that is immoral or wicked. You do not have to be around horses terribly long to realize that a horse that an ill behaving horse is not terribly fun to be around. Not only do vices create manageability problems, but they also promote dangerous behavior. Vices develop over time and become habitual. Training unhealthy habits out of horses takes time and patience. Work horses in short sessions and always end the lesson on a positive note. The job of correcting vices should be left to only trained and confident horse handlers.

Barn Sour Horse

A barn sour horse is uncomfortable when separated from its home and buddies. Many barn sour horses will throw fits when they get outside their "comfort zone". These fits may start out as just jigging or head tossing but can eventually lead to rearing, bucking, and bolting. To correct a barn sour horse you must convince the horse that the barn and the buddies are like work and the area outside the barn is a pleasant place to rest.

Outfit your horse in its regular saddle and bridle. Lead the horse to a safe enclosure such as a round pen or riding arena. The area must be in the horse's comfort zone, near the barn or pasture where your horse spends most of its time. Tie a few of the horse's buddies on one side of the enclosure to make the horse feel secure.

Ask the horse to perform uncomplicated tasks, such as stopping, backing, and turning in both directions. Always work on the side of the enclosure closest to the buddies. Gradually increase the difficulties of the maneuvers and include walk to trot transitions. When you have complete control of the horse, ride about 15 to 20 feet away from the buddies. Stop and praise the horse. Go back to working on the other side of the enclosure near the barn and other horses. Ride 15 to 20 feet away and give the horse a break. Continue increasing the space away from the other horses. Eventually the horse will understand that the barn means work and away from the barn means a break.

Kicking Horse

Kicking is an extremely common horse vice. In the wild, horses defend themselves by kicking. Domesticated horses still have the instinct to kick when they feel threatened. A horse is most likely to kick when having its feet handled. The horse must learn that when something touches its legs, it is not going to hurt it.

Put a well-fitting halter and a strong lead rope on your horse. Lead your horse into a safe and small enclosure, not in a stall, however. The enclosure could be a round pen or similar training pen. Bring a training stick or dressage whip with you to use as an extension of your arm. The safest place for you to stand while working with your horse is facing the horse's left shoulder. Hold the lead rope in your left hand about 10 inches away from the halter. Hold the whip in your right hand.

Slowly raise the whip and start petting the horse's neck and shoulder with it. If the horse moves move with it, then resume your safe position. Talk to the horse calmly as you stroke it to reassure that you intend no harm. When the horse stands still, take the whip away and offer praise. Slowly and calmly raise the whip again and gently stroke the back and hip. Repeat this action until the horse, once again, stands still. Slowly start moving further and further back with the whip until you can rub the horses back left leg. Repeat this exercise on the right size. After you feel confident that the horse accepts the whip, replace the whip with your hand and repeat the whole process over. Go back to the whip and repeat the process slowly if the horse kicks at your hand.

Biting Horse

A soft nibble from your horse may seem like a friendly gesture, however, if a soft nibble gets left unattended, the nibble will turn into an aggressive bite. Like kicking, a horse that bites is normally showing signs of agitation, however, if a horse is not getting any attention it may also bite.

Use a well-fitted halter and a strong lead rope. Place your hands around the horse's muzzle in a cup fashion. Rub and massage the muzzle for a few minutes. Remove your hand and look away from the horse. If the horse nudges you or attempts to bite, begin massaging its lips again. Many horses learn that if they nudge you will rub their muzzle. Eventually they will get tired and stop.

Idle horses tend to get mouthy. Give your horse something to do like, back up, side pass, or lounge in a small circle. When a horse is busy focusing or working it has little time to think about biting.

Always keep your horse's nose pointed away from you and don't allow it to enter your space bubble. If the horse begins to move into your space ask it to move over. A horse that respects your space and keeps its nose pointed away from you will not bite.