Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Attack Foal - Arabian Horses

Mare Stare has a question and answer board to help newcomers to horses and foalings learn without contacting web cam owners directly. By posting their questions, anyone with any insight can respond.

I had been hearing about the 'Attack Foal" in the chat room for a few days but hadn't felt it was my place to tell the owner the behavior was scary not cute. I was glad to see the owner posted the following question about the foals behavior.

" Need some advise from horse breeding people. My little colt who is a week old today is turning out to be a mean little booger. Last night when I went in his stall to do some human bonding with him, he pinned those little ears and lunged at me like he wanted to attack me,lol. I know they start getting their little personalities, etc, but my question is how do you handle something like that? He seems to do it more when he is ready to nurse. I don't bother him when he is eating. Do you just ignore the behaviour? His mama is kind of a grouch sometimes. Not to people, but to the imaginary horse in the next stall. She has always done this and I'm afraid he is picking up on her vibes. Any advise would be very helpful. Txs "

I breed for Arabian horses with a lot of attitude because it's important to have that presence in the show ring. So I deal with aggressive foals a lot. They pretty much think they were born to rule the world. My Arabian horses usually just come out that way. It is very important to deal with it right from the beginning. Just like grown horses, each time a foal gets away with something, it is that much harder to get the foal to quit the behavior.

This is a good place to use natural horsemanship type corrections. Making yourself bigger and moving into the foal's space to confront the assault of an aggressive foal is always good. Just keep in mind that the horse always determines how much pressure that you use. If the foal makes a huge aggressive move like lunging at you, lunge back with as much force. If he makes a more subtle move like pinning his ears, then you be more subtle like maybe scolding with a firm voice and moving towards the horse. Keep up the pressure (correction) until you get a response from the foal. Then release the pressure and praise the foal. You want to teach the horse but not scare him to death so be careful with how much pressure you use.

Also, many people leave their horses alone to eat. But from personal experience I know that if you control when the horse can eat or foal can nurse, you have a lot more respect from the horse/foal. I always brush my horses, pick their feet etc when they are eating. If I need the horse to move, it moves. Since you say this colt seems to want to charge you when he wants to nurse, I would make it a point to stop him from nursing and brush him, hold him, love on him, move him away from his mother, etc, so you are teaching him that you decide when he eats.

If you think about it, the herd leader is in charge of the food. If there is a shortage of food or water, the herd leader gets what food and water there is. The other horses watch until the herd leader says they can eat. The herd leader may even decide who gets what is left.

Keep in mind just because he is a cute little foal to you, in his mind he is a horse! He is learning where he fits into the pecking order. If you let the foal believe he has any position over you, he can make your life miserable. People can and have been terrorized by foals. It may look cute when a foal kicks out or tries to bite but this is a serious manner. I've seen people with 3 year old stallions they raised from foals and every member of the household is in dire fear of the horse they all love. It's a very sad and dangerous situation for the people and the horse. (A particular horse like this almost killed a groom friend of mine) So if you can't get this under control soon. Seek help from someone knowledgeable enough to humanly deal with it.

For others insight into this Attack Foal question


  1. I am very glad that you believe in natural horsemanship. This way the horse's spirit is not broken! I hope that you enjoyed a wonderful Easter, too!

  2. In my experience aggressive, hostile horses are not happy being this way. Once they get proper handing to teach them that they can catch more flies with honey than vinegar they are usually much happier horses. Very rarely do you come acorss a horse that is just plain evil, but it does happen.

  3. I've been learning so much from your posts! This particular post could apply to anyone trying to train their family dog. Dog packs seem to behave much like horse herds, the way you describe them. Aggressive dogs need the same reaction - control the food, show them you are the pack leader.
    This is really fascinating. If only more people would learn to relate to their animals the way the animals relate to each other, they would have a much easier time with them. Why do we expect our animals to know English, lol?!

  4. This is so true MiKael, it is cute when they are small but they grow up fast and then it isnt so cute.

    Thanks for the tips on natural horsemanship.