Horse Behavior Problems and Solutions

Last Updated on July 27, 2020 by Allison Price

Like any other human, behavioral issues also happen to horses. They vary in temperaments and willingness to please and respond to their environment. Many behavioral problems are usually associated with horses’ physical and emotional states. Also, their relationship with their handler is a factor. It is important to understand the normal horse’s behavior to identify abnormal ones. This is so we can still be able to correct them.


This is a common behavior issue among horses. This includes neck wrestling, chasing, kicks, bites, and other threats. Ears flattened backward, dominance, retracted lips are among the signs of aggressiveness. Submissive horses clamp their tail and avoid the aggressive horse.

Being Aggressive to People

Trauma and mistreatment is usually the reason why horses are aggressive to people. Horses are big and majestic. If they ever show the slightest aggression towards you, then you may have to deal with it as soon as possible. Aggressive horses are too dangerous to keep. There should be an interaction to your horse every day. Build their trust by engaging on leisure walks and other simple activities. Training your horse is the best thing to do, yet, you should take things slow.

Being Aggressive to Horses

Horses show their dominance to others by being aggressive. They will bite, kick, and push to steal their food. This behavior is usually observed every time you try to get close while feeding them. The horse will pin its ears back and stare at you as they eat their food.

Start disciplining your horses while you’re feeding them. Give a command to move away as you put the empty bucket down. If they don’t, immediately get after them and send them out at a working trot. Keep your horse on the lead. Remember that you are the alpha, thus they must follow your commands and not the other way around. Your commands should be firmer whenever your horses get more aggressive. Add handfuls of grain as you see fit. Use the same technique when it’s actual feeding time.

Refusing to be on Lead

If you see your horse moving restless and dragging the rope, needless to say, you horse doesn’t like to be then tied up. A horse that doesn’t like to be on lead may also pull back on the rope with its full body weight. Your horse may test its restraints.

Many horses use this as a scare tactic to their owners. They want to be then untied and put on somewhere else after they pulled back the rope. The best way for horses to learn how to stand while being tied is by tying them up to a nice solid object. Just let your horses be whenever they tend to pull back and fight the rope when tied. If you refuse to untie them, sooner or later they’ll learn that it’s pointless to fight it.

Stubbornness and Unwillingness

While being then led back to the stable or somewhere, your horse may have seen something they like. They will drag you that place even if you keep on tugging the rope. This is a common sign of stubbornness from your horse. This behavior is a total act of rebellion against you and your authority as the horse’s handler. You can correct their stubbornness by making them work every time they go to eat grass when they shouldn’t be.

They may also display this kind of behavior while they are on a ride. Horses like to snatch a bite of grass or go on a different way. This is also a symptom of their unwillingness to move around. If this continues, it can be then problematic. This behavior is rude because the horse is completely ignoring the handler. Regular training can usually change your horse’s laziness. Allow them to rest if it needs to.

Horse and a rider incompatibility is sometimes a cause of such abnormal behavior. The horse should be on a ride by another competent rider to see if the abnormal behavior continues.

Spoiled Horses or Orphaned Foals

This behavior often starts when they are young and had usually pampered too much. Orphaned Foals can become so human that they lose all respect for their handlers. This can become difficult to handle when they become older. They need the company of other horses to learn to behave like horses. These horses seldom thrive unless they socialized. Handling should be then limited to the least required for feeding and training.

Here are other common issues caused by pain and boredom:

Bucking, Rearing, and Refusing

These behavioral problems are often due to pain. Consult your vet so they can check your horse and see what the problem is.

Box Walking

This behavior problem is usually caused by boredom. This involves repeated episodes of aimless walking around the stable or along a wall. You can control this behavior by supplying them with toys to relieve boredom. You can also place obstacles such as rubber tires in the stable to impede any progress.


Crib biting is usually caused by dietary reason or boredom. This act involves chewing wooden structures in the stall or paddock for a long time. To address this issue, bring them out of their shed once in a while. You can also replace the wooden part by metals. This will discourage them from biting the hard structures.


This involves biting a door, feed manger, fence rail, or other wooden surface and appearing to gulp in air. This habit can lead to colic. Some horses may even develop a ‘pot-bellied’ appearance.

This is usually addressed if a cribbling strap will be then attached around the throat. An operation to cut the throat muscles is sometimes conducted on persistent cases. But, this is only successful in some.


If your horse is usually stressed, they will not learn. If your horse is fearful, they will not listen. If your horse is in pain, they will not respond. If your horse is then malnourished or overfed, they will not cooperate.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!