You are here:

Horses/Catching an aggressive horse...


Please please help!

My problem is that my new horse has become awful to catch. I dont mean that he runs away from me- i have read a million horsemanship books in my time an attended so many clinics, but i have never been told how to catch an agressive horse.I walk in to his field (hes turned out with my mare, and although can be aggressive with her- 90% of the time they get on fine but arent clingy!!) and he will come over to me. About three steps away from me his ears go back, and then if i move towards him, his ears go flat back and he tries to bite me. If i move away from him, he chases me teeth showing and when im cornered turn his bum like hes about to kick. He hasnt actually kicked me- yet. If i just stand there- then he sniffes me- the moment i try to move he attacks me.

Ive tried going in to the field to dominate him- it doesnt work. He turns his hind on me and backs me into a corner! Ive tried taking in a whip, a stick, a headcoller, a lunge line, star jumps, waving my arms etc etc.Ive tried running after him and that makes things much much worse. And believe me this all happens very fast. Ive found if i am submissive, he will come towards me, but the second i move even an inch, he snaps at me. I have tried taking in feed or carrots, he attacks me for the carrots and gets very defensive over his feed.

He is a rescue horse and although all these are signs of a dominant horse- is it possible hes so scared of people that instead of the flight reflex, he simply has a fight reflex?

At his old yard, he would come over to call and stand to be caught. However, at this yard he was not in any work. He was brought in to a stable and fed every night, but was not groomed/ worked etc for over 2 years. So he hasnt really been handled,a nd his field there has no grass, where as mine does have plenty and i am generous with hay.

I have had him for about a month and have been bringing him back in to work. He was ok to catch at first, and it has steadily got worse. It started with just ears laid back, and now hes attacking me.

My guts telling me its because i keep my horses out until the weather is awful, so he is being fed in the field. So thinking like a horse i can imagine him thinking "why would i want to come in with you, when people like you have hurt me before, when i can stay out here with my friend and have a full belly anyway?"

Im going to start only feeding him when i catch him- but obviously i cant let him starve!!

Do you know any techniques to catch a horse like this? Or even any groundwork i can do with him? I think i need to make him feel safer with me? I have only had him a month so it is all new for him- but hes scared me these past two days and if theres any way to get him out of this i want to!! And make it safer for myself!

I should just add that to ride hes a superstar, and once actually on a  lead rope he seems to be ok, he can get a bit nervous when grooming or tacking up but nothing untoward!! When i got him 1 month ago, he could not have a bridle on, you couldnt pick up his feet etc. I have managed to get him ok and manageable with this- so we were making tracks in the right direction! And i havent pushed him really...though obviously it is more than he has done in a while!



   Hi Samantha,
  You have raised quite a few questions, and I would like to try to deal with them all. However I may not be able to do it in one go, so I hope you won't mind if it comes in two or more segments.
   As regards figuring out what is going on in his mind, you have to try to be very clear headed, and clinical. If I am understanding you correctly, he was ok. to catch at his old yard, and initially at your place. That wouldn't appear to fit with an animal that has been left with only a fight reflex. One factor that "could" be at play here, is that, it seems, he is being better fed by you. an animal whose nutritional graph is on the way up "may" begin to feel that he  ought to move up in the herd rankings. Whether that is a factor, or you have inadvertently shown some sign of weakness in dealing with him, the fact is (as you are aware), that he is simply bullying you.
   Forget about making him feel safer with you (for the moment at least), what you need right now (as in today), is to get some respect from him, and for YOU to feel safe. The situation you describe sounds quite alarming and dangerous. You have told me about the various objects you brought into the field to help you, and some of them ought to have worked.Unfortunately I don't know what use you made of them, but I suspect that you are a bit too "soft" on him.
    What can you do ? Well I have two answers. The first one is psychological warfare, the second is physical. Question : do you know or think that a plastic bag being shaken vigorously close to him would scare him ? If so I would tape one of your typical shopping sized bags to the end of a small stick. I would test the effectiveness of my "weapon", by approaching the gate with some treats in a bucket, but remaining outside the field, and keeping the stick and bag hidden behind my back. I assume he will come to the gate if you rattle the bucket. When he gets to within a yard or two, produce the stick and give it a few shakes. Almost all horses will run away at this stage, so you put the stick behind your back again. If you feel quite happy that you now have the wherewithal to get the better of him, you could enter the field. Allow him to approach you if he so desires, but at the tiniest hint of aggression, on his part,    immediately produce your stick and shake it hard. Try to be very strict with your timing i.e. produce and shake at the first hint of bad behaviour, and stop and hide as soon as he flees or drops his threats. It will probably take a little time for him to realise that the trigger for your "scary" actions are his displays of aggression, so I would try to repeat this exercise as often as you can manage it.
     Doing this will, almost certainly, make him a bit wary of you, but that is not such a bad thing, after all, the lower ranking animals in the herd, have to be a bit wary of those above them.  
     Samantha, I am going to send what I have written so far to you. I would like to hear your views, and whether or not you think it could work for you. I can always describe the other method for you too, but it might require a bit of physical strength, and I don't know how you are fixed in that department.
       Anyway I hope to hear back from you.


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Brendan Brennan


I can answer questions regarding equine behaviour e.g. general manners, obstinancy, lack of respect for humans, their fears, foibles etc. I can also deal with queries about classical dressage riding and showjumping, and general management of horses.


I am a qualified E.F.I. coach, and I have over 30 years experience of horses. I also have approx.20years experience as a horse whisperer, with my own method.

None at the moment, but a former member of The Irish Draft Horse Society, The Irish Showjumping Society and The Irish Pony Society.


High school graduation and certification as an E.F.I. equestrian coach (as part of the Irish National Coaching Development Programme)

Awards and Honors

Past/Present Clients
Various local people and their animals for coaching or retraining.

©2017 All rights reserved.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]