QUESTION: We have never had a horse before. We bought a 4-year-old gelding. He is pretty nice to ride but lately he has started pinning his ears back at us when we pet him on his sides and flanks. Also when we approach him and give him treats from our hands, he pins his ears at us. So we try to do this everyday to show him we love him but he is getting worse and worse. We are afraid he will start biting us soon because he acts like he wants too?

ANSWER: This "Horse Behavior" is common in a horse that does not have a lot of respect for his owner. First, the touchiest places on a horse’s body are his sides, under his belly and especially the thin skinned Flank area. When grooming or stroking them there, do so with enough gentle pressure to ensure you are not feeling to him like a pesky fly on him or he may kick at you to get that annoying thing to stop. Keep stroking these areas (up to 50 times continuously without stopping) until he quits twitching his skin at your touch. Once he stops, you stop shortly afterwards, don't keep doing it. Personally I leave my horses flank area alone except for grooming so I don't make a pest of myself.

Horses pin their ears because they are annoyed with the human. Often they have become a bit spoiled and lack respect for their humans. This happens with relatively new horse owners. The new horse owner is spoiling them with incorrect handling. We may think they all like being petted and patted and fed treats all the time, but truthfully, many then lose respect for the human instead. A person should never make a habit of feeding treats to any horse by hand. They soon learn to care only for the treats and may start biting when they don’t get the treat. PLEASE remember no two horses are created equal. Where one might like this constant pet, pet, pet, another might not.

To put him in his place, when his ears go back, give one sharp tug to the lead shank attached to the halter. And firmly in a no nonsense voice say "QUIT". A sharp sounding word that he will soon associate with his display of bad temper. Of course, keep what is annoying him to a minimum.

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