Case of the Week: Foal – Dangerous Attention Seeking

Frankie, a Welsh part bred colt foal, and his mum, Gemma.

Presenting Problem: Charging up to people, and rearing, mounting and nipping them.

Medical issues: None.

History: Gemma was rescued in foal and underweight. Due to her aggression towards other horses, Gemma and Frankie were kept alone, out at grass. Gemma is tolerant of her son’s playful behaviour, but doesn’t play back. Frankie has had a lot of attention and handling from birth, but isn’t cooperative with haltering, grooming or hoof care. Their owners visit them twice a day to feed and groom them, for approximately 20 minutes each time.

Assessment: Frankie loves people and seeks their attention at every opportunity. He’s a very playful colt who only has people to play with, and directs normal colt play towards them. This makes them try to chase him away by flapping their arms and pushing at him; which only makes him more persistent because he is so highly motivated to play. When his owners try to halter him, or handle him, he is easily confused and stimulated to push, nip and rear in play.

Treatment: To arrange for another pony to come to live with them, for Frankie to play with after a strategic and graduated introduction procedure – although the risk of maternal aggression from Gemma is much lower now Frankie is older (4 months old). To teach Frankie that attention is earned and sustained by remaining calm, and that his owners will step away from him and ignore him (even leaving the paddock) if he persists in coltish play. Care must be taken to read his body language in order to respond earlier in the play wind up. Frankie is also to be taught how to respond to haltering, grooming and hoof care through more gradual reintroduction of these activities and well timed breaks and scratches for cooperative behaviour.

Outcome: I supported Frankie’s owners over the phone during the weeks following the consultation, and then later through the weaning and rehoming process of both Gemma and Frankie.

Free Download: Learn to Earn – Horses

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