Out of nowhere?

Behavior has always fascinated me.  Understanding the reasons why horses react and behave as they do means that I can consciously make changes that will cause the reactions and behaviors to be more to my liking if that’s what I desire.  The following video came across my FB feed.  I’d like to pose this question to people:  Did this horse attack the man without warning?

The translation isn’t very good, but from what I can gather the horse is a stallion who’s had, at the least, some incompetent handling to this point.  The man that gets attacked, I believe is trying to sort the horse out.

Before I give my opinion on the video I’d like to digress for a moment and talk about two experiences I’ve had with horse behavior that were what I consider out of the norm.  I’ve often said that horse’s telegraph what’s coming next and that people just miss the signals because they aren’t paying close enough attention.  I still hold to that belief even though I’ve experienced a (singular) horse that didn’t *originally* tell me shit before losing his mind, repeatedly.

There was none of the usual signs you’d expect from a horse that wasn’t okay in the moment; no ear movement, no increase in body tension, no reluctance to move forward, no eye rolling, no change in respiration (no blowing, snorting, or holding of the breath), and there wasn’t anything new being introduced.  Not tack or exercise.  No changes in regime, turn out, food, or other management practices.  And no weather changes or astrological events.

I know at this point someone is thinking, ‘she had to have been missing something’.  Anything is possible, but I sure put every effort and resource into figuring the horse out.  I knew why the behavior existed, but I couldn’t for the life of me predict when it would rear its ugly head.  So I forged onward and spent copious amounts of time building the relationship, and then one day out of the blue it happened.

I remember exactly the moment the horse gave me the first obvious, clear and unmistakable sign that things were not okay in the moment and he was about to lose his mind – a singular smack of his jaw that rattled the bit in his mouth.  This was a horse that had always held the bit quietly in his mouth (no, I wasn’t trying out a new bit, it was one he’d worn for well over a year, and no, he hadn’t just got his teeth done), nor had he ever gaped his mouth, crossed his jaw or anything of that nature and here he was snapping his jaw while on a casual walk, on a long rein, in a field he’d been to hundreds of times.  That was followed quickly by an increase in body tension he’d never given me before.  I changed direction and asked him to move on a bit and he immediately relaxed and quieted his mouth.

The horse went on to develop other tells and soon I had the entire spectrum of horse-not-okay signals.  Those were followed up with all sorts of new and wonderful horse-perfectly-content signals, and horse-being-a-clown signals and so on.  He developed into quite the ‘talker’.

Currently I’m working with a horse that was exactly the opposite.  This horse was constantly yelling and flashing red neon signals, ‘I’m not okay! I’m not okay!’, even though there wasn’t a darn thing going on in the moment that should be upsetting him.  I did my best to reassure him that all was fine, but he clearly wasn’t buying what I was selling.

I forged on, concentrating on building the relationship, and lo and behold he started to believe me.  We’re a long way from the end.  He’s still not okay, but more times than not he’ll ask me first if he should lose his mind, and more times than not he believes me when I say, ‘you’re okay’.

Back to the video.  When I watched it the first time it appeared the horse attacked without warning and that just didn’t ring true to me from what I know and understand about horses, especially since it appears from the translation that this man understood this stallion was spoiled.  So I watched it again and paused it a few times to get a better look at the horse.  Sure enough the horse’s ears were splayed right from the start.   Then the left ear comes forward to focus on whatever is in the man’s hand – looks like a cow hide to me – indicating the horse is wary of that hide.  As the man approaches, he drops the hand holding the hide a bit and the horse’s ears go right back.  That hide is no longer acting as a ‘shield’ for the man and now the horse has the man lined up for the attack.  The action that prevents the attack in the next moment is to back off and lift the hide up again.

I also think the horse is verbalizing in a most unusual way in the video.  Turn up the sound and see if you think the horse is ‘talking’.

I hope the man wasn’t seriously injured, and I hope the horse was able to be rehabilitated into a safe equine citizen.  The lesson here is to never ignore what the horse is telling you.  If you don’t understand the conversation or the context, stop.


84 thoughts on “Out of nowhere?

  1. Hey, glad you are back! About the video, it’s a short clip and I have no idea what came before. Maybe the horse had already threatened a few times?

    • This clip is from a video called Buck; which is about Buck Brannaman. Really good video by the way. He is a clinician and quite the horseman. Anyway, Buck was doing a clinic and this woman brought this stallion to the clinic for help. This colt was oxygen deprived at birth when she found the foal. I believe his mom died. She ended up reviving the baby and bottle fed him, etc. Never got him castrated; first stupid mistake but the horse continued to show signs of aggression; likely from it’s brain problem and on top of him being a stallion. Apparently, she had several other “stallions” running around at home too. This woman was very uneducated in alot of ways. The long and short of it ends up with the guy going in with this extremely, dangerous horse and taking stitches in his head from the bite this colt took out of his forehead. The horse ended up being taken away and euthanized. He was a danger to anyone and everyone that tried to come in contact with him. The next day, the group was asking Buck questions, etc about what happened the day before. Buck explained that a HUMAN failed this horse and that he could have been a decent saddle horse that maybe packed around some people. But because the human that was responsible for him, did absolutely nothing to help him along…the first thing would be to castrate him….next to work with him, he might have been ok. He could have had a chance, is what he was saying. Like a child that had a disability; is what he compared it to. It was a good video, as mentioned before. I found it on netflix.

    • yes just to state the obvious that you already know. The bottle fed probably brain damaged young stud raised in a whole pen of studs by a lady that wasn’t coping.

  2. This is a clip from the docu-movie Buck and its a movie well worth seeing. This horse started out ‘wrong’ – oxygen deprived at birth, raised as an orphan IN THE HOUSE by someone with good intentions who had a whole lot of baggage of her own – and left unhandled to the age of three in a field with 18 other studs. The progression of his training was fully documented and discussed at the end by Buck, who laid the blame on ‘the human’ who had not given the horse what he needed in the beginning. It was part of the point he made that we owe our horses a good start, to make them useful members of society because it is they who suffer when training goes wrong or is non-existent. The horse was euthanized.

    • I’m not aware of the movie. Is there an explanation of what was thought to have occurred during this clip? What’s the history of the interaction of man and horse just prior to this attack?

      That’s a real shame the horse had to be euthanized. Looked like a decent enough individual from a conformation standpoint.

      • The stallion had a history of attacking people, including the owner, just walking into the pasture. She brought him to a Buck Brannaman clinic because she didn’t know how to handle him. The odd vocalizations were a constant and he would suddenly attack even over the fence when someone walked past his paddock. This was the second day of the clinic and the man in the clip is Buck’s assistant who was working with him while Buck saddled his own horse. On the first day the horse was saddled and ridden without a lot of drama but Buck was very clear that this horse had become extremely dangerous from the lack of direction he had had on top of possible brain damage at his birth. He also said that, properly handled from birth he might have made an OK horse, just as a disabled person can do well with the proper support. Unfortunately that hadn’t happened and chances were he would eventually kill someone. The movie is available on Netflix and I do recommend it to any horse person.

        • Was a reason given as to why such a horse needed to be saddled and ridden on the first day of the clinic? Why is that even a good idea in the first place?!? A horse with possible/probable brain damage and a history of aggression is taken to a clinic to be saddled and ridden – um…what? I don’t get it.

          • In retrospect probably not a good idea but the owner brought the horse to a colt starting clinic so that was the task at hand. I don’t know how much of the history was known ahead of time, but enough that the horse was handled separately.

          • Buck described the horse as the closest thing to a predator he’d every seen in a horse. None of its behavior was normal. I believe the horse was ridden and handled by rope as it was not safe to be in the pen with it on foot or up close. If I recall correctly it had been introduced to saddling, etc. before it arrived at the clinic.

          • Yes, he did say that about the horse and the horse was worked separately, but if they mentioned the horse having been worked prior to the clinic, I missed it.

          • Exactly my questions when I saw the movie. Here is another instance of a ‘killer’ horse made that way through the techniques of ‘natural horsemanship’ :


            I’ve had horses kill snapping dogs with one quick smack of a forefoot to the head. I would hope that the results of pushing the predator/prey paradigm until the horse decides that you, the puny human, is a serious predator would get at least a few people thinking about how they handle their horses. We humans really do not understand how forgiving horses are of our foibles.


          • saraannon, I don’t think there is any evidence this horse was turned into a predator by natural horsemanship techniques, I don’t think the owner knew enough about horses, period, to claim to be using natural horsemanship. And did your horses kill dogs because of natural horsemanship? What about their training made them killers?

        • The first ride took place with the horse roped by a hind foot and Buck using the rope to limit the horse’s ability to react. In other words, that first ride was “stolen” from the horse, which later exacted revenge on the man who rode him. Or, as my son said after viewing this sequence, “Not again, m*****f*****!”

          • That is a good way to describe what happened – stolen.

            I got the impression that Buck was resigned from the start knowing that something different should be done for this horse, but that the outcome was predetermined and out of his hands.

            I think the horse could have been fixed, he responded to Buck quickly, and he was a ‘hit and run’ attacker. I’m disappointed there was no one there who could step up and take him, and give it an honest try.

    • Great film! Last I checked was available on Netflix in Canada in case anyone is looking to check it out. The story of the stallion really stuck with me!

  3. My (probably not) humble opinion: provoked. The first frame of the video, the one it freezes on before you hit “play,” shows a horse that doesn’t want to be there. His whole posture is tense, and his energy is going backward. There is some tension on the rope. The man walks forward with far too much energy, and I bet this horse has learned he can’t get away, so his only other option in the fight/flight decision is fight. The horse does what he feels is right to end the situation, but then stops and leaves the area. He doesn’t want to continue to fight any longer than he has to to remove the overwhelming stimulus of the man and the hide.

    I’d like to know what made the man think this was the right thing to do. It seems like it’s skipping a good many steps.

    • I too noted how the horse immediately ‘left’, even when the man was still in the pen with him. I’d have thought that meant there was some hope for this horse to be able to come around in time, as opposed to if he’d have continued to attack.

      I guess I’ll have to try and find a copy of the movie to watch to get better context.

  4. The whole movie is quite interesting, and the story surrounding this particular horse and his owner is somewhat of the climax of the film. The man in the pen with the stud I believe is one of Buck’s assistants (hence perhaps his slightly less experienced approach to this horse). This was filmed at one of Buck’s clinics, and the owner brought the horse in to try and get help. He shows a lot of aggression throughout the entire process, and I think the man found himself at an unfortunate place and time. The horse has reached a peak aggressive state, and the man is not approaching him with due caution to react in the split second the stud made the choice to end the scenario in his way. Zanhar’s earlier comment sums it up quite well. Certainly would reccommend tracking down and watching the film. Buck is an exceptional horseman.

    • My issue with that then is that a horse that’s clearly demonstrated a sequence of aggression needs not to be in a situation where he likely feels trapped (round pen), with a group of people (predators) standing around it, in a clinic environment, and another (predator) coming at him with a piece of hide? to lay on his back? while he’s being held in place with a rope. Purposely escalating the aggression doesn’t make sense to me. You’re looking for a fight and setting the horse up to fail.

      I’ll definitely need to watch the movie for context. Perhaps they thought the only way to get through to the horse was to dominate it come hell or high water and make it ‘give in’ right then and there.

      • It’s been a while since I watched it myself, so I can’t quite remember where this particular clip lies in the sequence of events, but I do remember this horse demonstrated highly dangerous behaviour throughout, and I think for the sake of opening the owners eyes a little to how her own choices were negatively affecting the (large over abundance of mis/unhandled) horses in her care, the best efforts were made to make some progress with this particular individual. Whether it was the man in the video, or the owner herself, it was very much a disaster waiting to happen no matter what.

        Yes, I’d love to hear your opinions after watching the whole film! I tried to find the entire clip on YouTube, but alas, copyrighting abounds. I did find this though, which is an excerpt from some Buck training DVDs, and relevant to the conversation about things being “out of the blue” https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=je9v_RW9qQU

      • It was all edited down, so even in the movie you really don’t know all the details. Buck had ordered that people stay away, only the one guy should be in the pen and he should be on guard and that isn’t what happened. Also the guy had safely saddled the horse the day before and gotten through the ride, he may have thought he could get away with it again.

        • Yes, but the day before when he saddled the horse and got on it and rode, Buck had the horse roped by one hind leg the whole time. And every time the horse thought about doing anything, Buck would take up the horse’s hind leg and stop him.

          Buck was the one who instructed the guy to saddle the horse on the second day, while Buck said he was going to go warm up his own horse. The guy didn’t look particularly thrilled to me about having to go in there and saddle the horse. He swung the saddle pad at the horse twice and the this video is him trying to put the saddle pad on for the third time.

          • true, Buck probably shouldn’t have left the guy unsupervised, probably should have said no in the first place. But they did get it saddled safely the day before so the guy could get on it.

            Oh, and congrats, Tesla getting a lot of good press lately on the EVs.

          • And that really says a lot about horses’ natures. Even this ‘rogue’ horse showed an ability to learn and change in a short period of time.

            Tx! Husband is working insane hours on the new vehicle which comes out on the 29th. While he’ll have several more months of work to do with this vehicle, the rest of his department and many of the other engineers have already shifted their attentions to the third generation vehicle – Model 3. That’s the one that should change the face of personal transportation for the good around the world. We’re really excited for it and can hardly wait. Just a couple more years…

  5. I found the movie boring, I kept watching because of the spectacular scenery. I’m sure Buck is a nice fellow to have a cup of coffee with, but the movie was just flat. I always figured that the horse was brought in to spice things up. I don’t know about clinics, is it usual to bring stallions? I also thought the horse was badgered into this clip. He was obviously very dangerous, and needed different handling. He seemed to be very aggressive when confronted.

    But back to the issue at hand. I think that we will see many more instances of un horse like behavior, because more horses are being bred and raised in small areas, and not in herd conditions. The difference between a horse that has been raised in a large area with a herd and a horse raised in a small corral all by himself will be huge.

    • That’s an excellent point of discussion! How could we ever expect a horse to behave like a horse when he’s being managed in the most unhorselike ways. For his own sanity and survival he would have to adapt.

  6. I’ve had a chance to watch the movie and see this video excerpt in context and what happened just prior. Um…yeah…no surprise at all at the outcome. And while the horse was unprovoked, he was giving signals the whole time that things were not okay.

    I’m not sure why Buck allowed the man to get in the pen with this horse based on what Buck instinctually knew about the horse and saw on the previous day, and what he knew about how the man felt being around the horse on the ground. The man was clearly afraid of the horse, and this horse saw that as an opening. The previous day the horse had tried to come at Buck in a small penned area and Buck handled the situation without batting an eyelash. After the incident, Buck loaded the horse for the owner and despite the horse trying a few times to come at him, it was overall a non-issue. It looked to me that Buck was seriously pissed afterwards when they filmed him walking off after loading the horse.

    • I agree – I think he was really angry at what had been done to that horse and that the horse would have to die for the owner’s incompetence. It’s like euthanizing pit bulls because some jerk has made them into fighting dogs. It’s not their fault.

  7. Buck was very pissed. He talked about it the next day how the human failed that horse and when he ripped into the owner. I don’t think the handler was Bucks assistant, I think he was a local man. I thought his fear was obvious in the way he handled the horse. I would have been terrified but I didn’t think he did a very good job of handling the horse. I think Very few people could handle a horse like that correctly which is why I think euthanizing him was the kindest thing to do.

    • I re-watched the movie again last night and noticed that Dan (the guy handling the horse) was one of the clinic sponsors, which might explain why Buck was adamant that no one else handle him. Although I imagine Buck was confident in his abilities, I also feel like maybe he was concerned about the sponsors’ (and his own) liability should someone not connected to the clinic get hurt.

  8. Now to try to remember what I wrote yesterday!

    You know my view on dangerous horses. I’m a huge advocate for the horse and as such I never seek to blame it. Rather I tend to knowing that it’s been fucked up and to wanting to put that right by good management and training.

    But aside from that it’s an absolute fact that a horse is a flight and fright animal NOT an attack and kill or seek and destroy beast. I always start with that premise. Just like Mercedes I always think the horse is a reluctant aggressor and it always gives signs.

    IF a horse turns into aggressor it always means that it’s pushed so far that it’s going against it’s instinct to fright and flight and because it thinks it has no choice. They really aren’t that complex.

    It’s a short video and of course we don’t know what happened immediately prior to filming but for sure it’s not true to say that this came from nowhere. It commences with a horse that is neither relaxed nor settled. Indeed it’s just the opposite. We’ve a cowboy “armed” with coiled rope and cape and squared facing up to the horse and coming in (just like a bull fighter going to do battle). In an instant the horse is trying to dare to take a step back, it flattens it’s ears and as the cowboy forces himself forward the horse strikes out in the blink of an eye.

    No surprise there!

    Indeed the second I switched it to play I thought “pillock”. Meaning the cowboy. NOT the horse!

    Now we’re told it’s a stallion with a history. I’ve got to say that I think that alone leads me to believe that it’s got no place in a clinic with spectators, a flim crew etc and a cowboy looking to impress the audience by how he’s so confident he can move in and show how quickly he can sort it. I’ve done a lot of clinics over the years but NOT that sort! I do clinics with horses I know and that haven’t been spoilt and to demonstrate the way I do something with a trained and well adjusted horse. I’ve often said that those clinicians who work on unknown horses to try to achieve a quick fix and show how clever they are are either mad of stupidly brave and bold or all of the aforementioned!

    I’ve had decades of training, managing and handling countless horses and including many years owning a stud farm. I’ve come across the mad, bad, dangerous. I’ve retrained countless ones of those. The spoilt and poorly trained. The badly managed and handled. The untamed, feral and wild. I’ve never yet come across one that wants to wants to be aggressive “just because”. It’s ordinarily because the horse has been pushed (often in ignorance) into thinking it’s no way out. Sometimes because of bad handling. Sometimes because it’s in pain or an underlying condition. NEVER for no reason.

    I wouldn’t personally recommend that squaring up, coming in with cape and rope is “way to go” with a horse with a history of being dangerous. Far from it!! I’d say it was absobloodylutely stark staring stoopid!

    The thing is, even with great well trained, well disciplined, well behaved stallions, they are hard wired just to check that the leader is still up to the job in hand. Frankly that’s why stallions don’t suit the majority of horse owners. You tend to have to be a quiet confident and assertive leader. NOT pushy. NOT “in your face”. NOT a control and command freak. Put together that intrinsic behaviour with “known spoilt and dangerous” and a cowboy coming in like a matador and oh boy: light the blue touch paper!

    I’ve also never come across any horse that gives no indication. In my lifetime of being around countless ones I’ve come across 3 that were so darned quick to do something dangerous that I missed the signs. With hindsight though, the signs were all there. I just missed them.

    To me the lesson in this video is “careful what you wish for when you said you could show them how you could train that horse”.

    It’s not something I’ll be trying anytime soon. I’ll stick with training the 2 I’m on with now and in the privacy of my own establishment and taking as long as it takes and constantly mindful of the needs of the horse and what signals it’s giving out and also my own behaviour, demeanour and body language.

    • Your comments are well put, Hoo4hearted, based on the clip. There is more to this though as you can see if you read the previous discussion or (preferably) watch the movie it was clipped from. You may see it differently in context and I, for one, would be interested in your further comments at that point.😊

  9. Give me a clue then??? Where is this “movie”? What points in particular do you want me to take into account??

    Incidentally I read all that crap about “starved of oxygen. Reared as if it was a child! Blah, blah blah. As far as I’m concerned that all falls very squarely and fairly in the context that I described and wouldn’t lead me to post any differently.

    But what do you think I’m missing? Be clearer.

    • Knowing you as I do, I think your answer wouldn’t change much, though a few thoughts might be different.

      The cowboy was a friend of the owner of the horse, not the clinician. And he was quite nervous and I’d say afraid of the horse. He’d ridden the horse the day before with the help of the clinician, Buck, and had done well. Buck even notes in the movie to ‘Dan’ that Dan’s more comfortable on the back of the horse than he is with it on the ground.

      I’m not necessarily convinced the horse was ‘starved of oxygen’ mostly because the horse shows real signs of thinking, understanding and learning. When he tries to attack Buck and Buck holds his ground and ‘attacks’ back (with a flag) the horse is able to work out ‘guy with the flag is greater than me’ and concedes. He does try to come at Buck again, but that’s exactly what you’d expect from a horse – to test again just to make sure.

      Buck is fine horseman, there’s no doubt about that. He’s sincere, honest, empathetic and so on. He never blames the horse, he’s consistent, fair, talented and all that right and proper stuff.

      The owner had no business bringing the stallion to that clinic, but she clearly was there as a last resort. I don’t agree with the horse being ridden on the first day of the clinic and the ‘attempt’ to saddle and ride him on the second day, but undoubtedly other people at the clinic learned a lot and we have to cross our fingers that the owner learned enough to start getting her shit together.

      Even not knowing the full context of the video, one can still see all the signs of ‘this is not going to end well’.

    • Missing, not by not being observant but by not having the full context. No argument of your assessment of what you see here. But this was not a Yahoo trying to show off how fast he could break a horse. It was an incident at a clinic where the participants brought their own horses to have support of an expert with their first ride. This horse should never have been there – but he was and the clinician did his best to help the owner understand how she had gone so desperately wrong. The cowboy, Dan, was simply saddling (or trying to saddle) a horse he had ridden for the owner the day before. Did he approach it properly? Obviously not. And he paid the price – but he was one more victim of the inept owner. It’s a shame this sort of thing ends up on YouTube as a horrific attack instead of the complete incident which could be instructive instead of of the subject of approbation. The movie it is from is ‘Buck’ and is available on Netflix.

      • That’s a great point, zanhar. For those that don’t know horses and don’t know where the excerpt video was pulled from might only see a vicious horse attacking a guy.

  10. I would think gelding such a horse would be an obvious move? Might not fix everything, but would be worth a try. Even our local mini-horse rescue reports big changes when they geld the semi-feral unbroke minis that seem to proliferate and breed unchecked in backyards all over the place.

    • Absolutely! This stallion was in with 18 other stallions. He might conceivably have been one of the ‘top guns’ or he might have been a ‘bottom feeder’ taking full advantage in a new herd dynamic with people.

      I recently worked with 4 young stallions that had been turned out together for most of their lives with little handling. Two of them were quite difficult to deal with, one being of the ‘hit and run’ aggressive variety. Wouldn’t let you get near him (took me quite some time to get him halter broke), but then would take any opportunity to strike or come teeth first at you. While I didn’t have the benefit of getting either gelded, I did get the owner to separate them out for a period of time allowing me to deal with them one on one and on my terms. Both came around and I actually got to quite like them, especially the hit and run bugger.

  11. I’ve not read or seen anything that would make me change my mind or want to alter what I wrote previously.

    Indeed it’s reinforcing the substance of what I attempted to communicate.

    “But this was not a Yahoo trying to show off how fast he could break a horse. It was an incident at a clinic where the participants brought their own horses to have support of an expert with their first ride. This horse should never have been there – but he was and the clinician did his best to help the owner understand how she had gone so desperately wrong.”

    How you judge the cowboy is a matter of opinion. Whether he’s a friend of the owner, just someone who sat on the horse the day before or someone being paid to try to help the owner or someone who was trying to work with the horse is all somewhat irrelevant in my opinion.
    It’s a horse known to have history. It’s not been trained. For sure it’s not been properly produced. I didn’t personally use the word “yahoo” but it seems to me that it’s a word that could well be justified.

    I’ll say it again:
    I wouldn’t personally recommend that squaring up, coming in with cape and rope is “way to go” with a horse with a history of being dangerous. Far from it!! I’d say it was absobloodylutely stark staring stoopid!

    it’s (the horse) got no place in a clinic with spectators, a flim crew etc and a cowboy looking to impress the audience by how he’s so confident he can move in and show how quickly he can sort it.

    To me the lesson in this video is “careful what you wish for when you said you could show them how you could train that horse”.

    In my opinion ANY REAL horse trainer would have politely and discreetly said to the owner that a clinic was not the place to take the horse and not the place to try “stuff”. To expect a turnaround or any significant difference after a couple of days or even 6 weeks is unrealistic and not achievable. Believe me I’ve told horse owners that if it took 4 years to fuck a horse up and train it to be mad, bad and dangerous that they’d best be prepared to allow me sufficient time to give the horse another chance and retrain it so that it’s not joining the ranks that just get labelled and sent on it’s way to a death sentence.

    OK so it’s on the internet and might well be perceived by some viewers as a random attack. Frankly that’s irrelevant. Anyone who has done any basic handling or been around horses to do anything meaningful ever knows that horses just do not randomly attack people for absolutely no reason whatsoever. It’s ALWAYS down to genetics, environment, general health, management and training. (Same for dogs too)

    I’m also not buying this nonsense about “starved of oxygen at birth”. Colour me cynical but I’ve heard it before. More than once. I’ve also heard the “we think it’s got something wrong with it’s brain”. “it was probably a brain tumour”. That falls in the category of “desperately seeking to find an excuse”. IF a real horseman actually thinks a horse has a brain condition then he gets a vet and diagnostics: A neurological clinical examination. An EEG. A scan. Neuro-imaging. Or he accepts he doesn’t want to spend the money and manages the horse appropriately. Possibly just letting it live out it’s life safely and trimming the grass or having it humanely put down. They don’t live it ungelded living a feral life and then decide to take it to a trainer and have it backed and ridden. Neither do half decent trainers accept horses for clinics and training IF there’s a strong suspicion of a neurological disorder that is making them lose their mind and unjustifiably lash out and attempt to kill said trainer or member of his staff.

    The other thing I would add is that I’m most definitely in the camp of knowing that gelding is NOT a replacement for training. The stallions I’ve owned have all been well trained and managed and I’ve often been told that “they’re better behaved than most horses”. The reason why stallions suit me is that I’m a bit of a stickler for doing it right and consistently and always whether it’s a Shetland pony mare, a thoroughbred gelding OR a team of 4 Dutch Warmblood stallions.
    Stallions are less likely to let you get away with inadequate handling. They’re more likely to push the boundaries and just check you know what you’re doing. Though as I type that I am thinking that it sounds just like a lot of “PONY”breeds and their disposition 😉

    Gelding was never going to sort out that horse. In my opinion that would come WAYYYY down a list of priorities in a training action plan.

    I saw the earlier post that the horse had been put down quite quickly and that the “boss” trainer, Buck, thought the horse “might” have in time made it given different circumstances etc etc.
    That might well be true and that’s the sort of thing I ordinarily say. But regrettably once a horse is like this then it’s really bloody hard and time consuming and risky to try to retrain and make it so it’s “safe”. I don’t believe that’s going to be at all possible with the existing owner who made it that way in the first place…. but that’s just me speaking from experience. I feel confident someone somewhere has a story to tell that’s different. I just struggle to imagine it.

    There are so many spoilt, poorly managed, badly trained, dangerous horses churning round the market that truthfully it’s probably for the good of all that this one was put down before it killed some other yahoo that was naive enough to march in to saddle it up! It doesn’t bear thinking about that it could well grab out at some passing child over the fence and take their face off!

    • ‘…a cowboy looking to impress the audience by how he’s so confident he can move in and show how quickly he can sorted it.’

      That’s not what he was doing, at all. Buck, the clinician, asked Dan, the cowboy in question, to go get the horse saddled, while the clinician went to warm up his own horse.

      Yep, the approach was wrong, but it was out of a lack of knowledge and skill, not out of showing off.

      ‘I my opinion any real horseman…’

      Dan, the cowboy, never presented himself as anything other than a friend willing to help the owner. And at the clinic he was only doing what he was asked to do with the horse. Nope, he wasn’t given (on camera) any advice on how to handle the horse. Off camera he may have, we have no way of knowing.

  12. I have raised two foals that were oxegen deprived at foaling; one thing that stuck me when watching the horse in the clip (yes, I have seen Buck in it’s entirety) was that this horse didn’t seem to be profoundly affected in the ways my two were. I have trained horses that were raised as orphans and this horse’s issues seem more in line with that scenario, just amplified by, well, a lot!

    Did anyone besides me think the horse zeroed in on the man who rode him, as in seeming to want to attack him more than anyone else, in the trailer loading scenes?

    • I agree, Lucy. I wasn’t seeing a brain damaged individual, indeed, the horse looked like it was being very calculated in its actions.

      And yes, the horse seemed to take every opportunity to come at Dan, even as he would just walk by, and especially when he’d turn his back to the horse. I wondered if Dan and the horse had a previous history because Dan seemed more afraid of the horse than I thought he should have been and the horse seemed more aggressive toward Dan than anyone else. As Dan was a friend of the owner, I wondered if this wasn’t the first time the two had had it out.

      • Or perhaps it was just the horse’s reputation that had Dan rattled?

        My worst affected apoxia foal demonstrated amazing skills at opening latches. (It took 3 weeks for him to learn how to drink out of an automatic waterer, and he would only eat out of the one of the buckets that his dam had, even at age 15 years.) Perhaps the horse we are discussing has savant-like agression skills!

        Did you catch the part about the horse being kept in the house as a young foal? I have raised orphan/bottle foals and worked with others, and I have found things work out best in the long run if you constantly reinforce to the foal that he is a HORSE, not a human. I have never brought a foal into my house, even though the previous farm owners did so and there is a mudroom suitable for housing a foal that they built for that purpose.

        • Yes, that’s also possible about aggression skills.

          And yes, I caught the part about the foal being indoors. I’m guilty of doing that with an orphan foal for a few days when he developed stress pneumonia and the weather turned super cold. Unfortunately he didn’t make it and I certainly wouldn’t have had any intentions of keeping him in and ‘potty training’ him as that woman did.

      • You did comment in your original post that the horse was ‘verbalizing in the most unusual way’ and, as he seemed to keep this up right from the start it had me wondering. I’ve certainly heard a horse make that sound but not continually.

        • Yep, I remembered making that comment, but when I watched the movie so much else was going on that I never noticed the ‘talking’. I imagine it’s part of the whole ‘I’m not okay with what’s going on here’ that the horse is screaming with every once of himself.

  13. I’ve been to several buck clinics and there are people who bring very difficult horses hoping for a miracle fix. He doesn’t do that but he does try to get as much done with the horse to make its life better when it goes back home. He is brutally honest in what he tells you about the horse and yourself.
    The difficult think about the movie is that it is edited so there is probably a lot that we are not privy to see. I did hear that the owner decided against putting the stud down and just turned him back out.

  14. There’s always a lot we aren’t privy to see. Even in real life owners “edit” so you never ever get the full picture.

    What’s that old joke: How do you know a horse owner is lying? They’re moving their lips 😉

    As a horse trainer I’m never convinced that I need to know “everything” though. It’s good enough for me to know “horse is messed up. Just that “It doesn’t know what to do and how to behave and it’s difficult to manage as it is.”

    My strategic approach is to presume nothing and only having taken over responsibility for it’s management to start by getting to know the horse. Letting it settle in and observing it and making sure it is set up to be safe and to do things right. To take time starting from the beginning and only if and when the horse is relaxed and confident about each stage to progress on. Then and only once I’ve got the horse so I’m confident it will behave for me and my staff do I start to work with the owner to ensure they know what has then to be done.

    IF from the get go I assess an owner as being a twit without a clue then I don’t take the horse on unless and until I can influence and persuade that they have to either change their behaviour and attitude or change the management of the horse and including accepting that they need to find it a more suitable owner. Horse trainers are not miracle workers. Furthermore it’s absolutely irrelevant whether or not I can do something with a horse if I’m not the one that’s going to be owning it.

    It’s why I struggle to accept that you can do much of anything to make the horse’s life better in a clinic. If you’re going to send it back to the very person who screwed it up in the first place then frankly nothing is going to change. It may well be that Buck managed to tie the horse’s leg up and get a saddle on it and even sit on it and ride it but I sure as hell know that’s not “training” the horse. It’s restraint and forcing and just because he’s bold enough to do that does not mean at all that the horse’s life is going to be better. Indeed I’d say just the opposite.

    I’m very aware that there’ll be a lot we don’t know but as I said in my first posting the attack sure as hell didn’t come out of nowhere. It sounds to me like it came with great big bloody signposts with warning. The handler was not doing the right thing in the right place and ignored all the signs and paid the price. The fact the handler was told by someone who should have known better to do it is still making no difference to my assessment.

    Indeed the more I read about the story and the longer film version the more I’m thinking “idiots!” and what a tragic shame for the horse that it has/had such associations responsible for managing and training it.

    Excuse me being so cynical but I don’t think this sort of trainer is doing it to make the horse’s life better. It’s about taking what money you can for doing something for a short time and it may well be about self promotion and suckering others in. It doesn’t work for me.

    • actually, in most clinics the clinicians don’t work the horses other than in colt starting, and even not much then, the horse in this video was a bit of an exception. The emphasis is more on retraining the owners on their own horses, usually more beginner riders don’t bring a colt to break but sign up for the beginning riding class. The owners are riding horses they ride anyway. So they learn to do things in better ways on their horses. Some people don’t learn, others make progress, I am sure that is typical of what any trainer sees. What the clinicians emphasize and some techniques they teach are different than you might see in more classical approaches, but usually there is an underlying similarity to classical exercises. There are a few things that are at their core fairly different. I’ve only seen Brannaman in person once, never ridden with him. He is not at all like some of the more ‘commercial’ clincians, neither he, Ray Hunt or some others are like Parelli, Lyons, Anderson or some of the more self promoting gurus.

      But it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea and I am sure you could find plenty to criticize.

  15. This doesn’t quite relate to behavior (unless you count the fact that licking is a behavior), but I wanted to get people’s opinions on this horse:


    Is his or her face deformed? Looking at the gif repeat a couple of times, it looks like he can’t keep his tongue in his mouth at all, and he’s very thick through the jaw. The muzzle also looks misshapen, and the lower jaw appears to jut out. Or is he just making an extremely weird face? The more I look at it the less sure I am one way or another!

  16. I did wonder about that but I thought it looked even on the left side and was just the upper lip. That’s despite having recently bought a 24″ screen monitor for my PC! As it happens I am going to the opticians today for new glasses! I could be dangerous if I could see! 🙂

  17. I got an alert you’d posted and so alive 😉 It would be rude to pop by and not wish you festive greetings of good will. So have a very Merry Christmas and an exceedingly happy New Year.

  18. I believe I saw this also. The horse has learned to become a predator and I didn’t watch his ears closely etc. I instantly knew we had trouble but also was surprised by the vicious attack. Not the attack so much as the flat out aggression from him. Uncalled for. I think this lil monster had a backstory of having loss of oxygen at birth and brain damage. Apparently had been allowed to progressively get worse.

    • I’d no idea this was so well known, I’ve never seen the movie but I did see a clip before. Old, retired and don’t get out much-!! I’ll look at comments in the future as my post is just repetitive.

  19. I saw this a while ago: the horse is a young stallion brought in with a herd of around 20 of them. I can’t see the horse doing anything else but begin to attack the aggressor who really needs to either do something else with horses other than groundwork. No offense, just observation of the obvious. I have had horses like this come to me but I ask they be gelded first, spend time alone as a gelding, and lose some of the testosterone. I have seen this before, just not with a person throwing a blanket on them. Somewhat typical reaction from a young colt with zero human interaction and raised with a herd of studs. Sad for both parties. This poor man could have been seriously hurt, and the horse put down for being a horse. Love this blog by the way….

        • Yea, I got that, I was supposed to be replying to April Reeves. Getting back to the blog would be great, I figured that most people had gravitated to social media.

          • No, trailrider20, I haven’t gravitated to social media but lots have. Just been busy training horses and working on my own project horse. Along with just life stuff, I haven’t had time nor the energy to write up articles and such. I want to get back to it and have recently dropped a dozen horses from my training roster…so maybe some time is on its way.

          • Heck, I’m retired, and I STILL can’t find all the time I want. I’m still out here in the southwest where (with no pasture) I am continuing my “trickle feeding with automatics”.

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