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Testosterone and manners

From: Dawn

Dear Jessica, like everyone else, I can't thank you enough for giving us HORSE-SENSE. If you ever do decide to start charging for this, I'll be glad to pay my share! I have a question that I thought was about stallion manners (well, you probably figured that out from the title), but now I'm not sure. I'd better tell you about it.

I run a small boarding stable and one of my boarders asked me if I would allow a stallion on the place for a few weeks. A friend of hers had bought a colt and needed a place to keep it before he could move it to his new farm. Anyway this was two months ago, I said yes which I probably shouldn't have, and the colt is still here. He is a problem because he is totally out of control. He's way worse than he was when he got here. His owner is the other problem -- this guy is just about as bad as his horse when it comes to manners and behaving. The colt gets out once a day, for about half an hour, which I think isn't enough time, but we don't have a separate pasture with stallion fencing, and this colt (he's two) is already a big strong horse. I don't think he's a mean horse, but Brad (owner) always makes a big deal out of putting a chain over his nose or through his mouth and yanking on it, and yelling "Out of the way, chicks, this here is a stallion!" I think that the chain makes the colt rear, because it probably hurts him, but he'll rear up and Brad will jerk the chain and then the colt will rear up about halfway and paw at Brad with his front feet. I think that someday he'll strike at him and nail him, and frankly I won't be sorry, but I hope he's off my place when it happens. My boarders are getting upset, they don't like to watch this kind of stuff, but it seems like the more people are at the barn, the more of this goes on. If five people are riding in the arena, that's the time Brad just HAS to come in and do his thing.

There is some problem with the new farm, which is why the colt has been here so long, but his manners aren't getting any better. I've asked Brad to leave, but he really doesn't have anyplace to go except his new place, so I'm probably stuck with him for another month. I don't appreciate being told "Look, lady, he's a stud, that's how they are, you have to get after them or they'll try and kill you, you can't ever trust a stallion, they're wild." I've known some darned nice stallions, and I think that Brad could teach him manners, but he just walks off whenever I suggest it. I guess my question is really two questions. One: do you think that this is true, that stallions just have bad manners because they are stallions? I've heard that testosterone is the reason stallions can be out of control. Two: should I just refuse to have a stallion on my place ever again? That's what I'm thinking now. Or is this just because Brad is a guy? All my other boarders are women, always have been, not a policy but that's just how it's worked out. I guess I'm not sure how much of this is male hormones!

Thanks for all your help.


Hi Dawn, thanks for the kind words! HORSE-SENSE will not become a for-pay service, ever, but in another month or so I'll probably post a note asking for contributions to Prairienet (our gracious host), and if you're moved to give them something, that would be lovely. ;-)

In answer to your questions.... let me answer the second one first: It's up to you. It's your place. You know that you don't have enough turnout for a stallion, and you obviously haven't enjoyed having this one around, so perhaps you would be better off making a "NO STALLIONS" rule. If you ever need to accomodate a nice person with a nice stallion, you can make an exception to the rule. ;-)

Now, in answer to your first question: NO. Stallions have stallion behaviour, just as mares have mare behaviour. Young horses have young-horse behaviour. But ALL horses can have perfectly nice manners if someone bothers to train them well. And that, I suspect, is the problem with this particular colt -- nobody has trained him well, and someone is busily training him very badly indeed. Testosterone isn't an instant chemical formula for bad manners, and it's not an excuse for bad manners in horse OR HUMAN. A female trainer who acted in an equally stupid and aggressive way toward a colt would provoke similar reactions -- and I've seen that happen. Bad training practices, ignorance, and attitude problems aren't sex-linked. There are many excellent male trainers and lovely, well-behaved stallions in the world. Don't judge the stallion's temperament by the trainer's stupidity, and don't judge the trainer by his testosterone level. Real men don't get their jollies out of keeping young stallions confined, then provoking them to rear so that they can then "master" them.

For your safety and peace of mind, it might be best if you insisted that Brad take his horse and leave sooner rather than later. It might be the best thing for the colt, too. Perhaps Brad can find someone to rent him a field somewhere, and the colt can go out and be a horse instead of an extension of Brad's...ego. ;-)

In the meantime, try this: since you are clearly not set up to accomodate a stallion, and need to make some strategic changes to keep everyone safe until Brad leaves, give Brad certain hours that are HIS time to come out and work with his horse, and assign him the hours when nobody else is likely to be around. This will accomplish several things. First, he may get annoyed and find that he CAN leave earlier than he thought he could. Second, he may lose all interest in jerking his horse around if he can't do it in front of a group of women. Third, even if he stays for the rest of the month and continues to handle his horse badly, your boarders won't put at risk by sharing the ring with him.

It's not a good situation, and I'm sure you'll be glad when it ends, but the basic problem is Brad-the-individual, not Brad-the-representative-of-the-male-sex. ;-)


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