By Jim and Phyllis Dobbs
Horses play an integral part in many of the pointing dog sports. After our article on "ground tying" horses (Pointing Dog Journal, March/April, '98) we received inquiries from readers on how to use an e-collar for other horse related problems. One of the most frequently asked questions was "Can the e-collar be used to stop savaging?" The answer to this question is an emphatic "Yes!"
Savaging is the term used when a horse is overly aggressive and hurts another horse. This occurs most often when a new horse is turned in with an established herd. The ensuing dominance struggle to establish a pecking order can become very ugly.
Occasionally, you will have a horse that continues to be aggressive. This can continue even after the savaged horse has become submissive. It is as though the aggressive horse wants to run the other one out of his territory.
When we were in Ohio giving a dog training seminar on the use of e-collars one of the participants asked us if we could cure a horse from savaging. He had encountered such a problem when he turned a newly acquired gelding into a pasture with several mares and another gelding. He expected the usual act that horses go through when getting to know each other. However, his new gelding turned out to be extremely aggressive toward the other gelding and was savaging him unmercifully.
The next night we went out to see the horses and found that the horse that was being savaged had panicked and tried to run through a high tinsel wire fence. It was fortunate that the owner was a veterinarian because the savaged horse had stitches all across his chest and face. Physically the horse would heal but mentally he was a wreck.
Here is how we went about curing the problem. We started by putting the horse that had been savaged into a small pipe panel stall that was attached to the riding arena. Then we fitted the e-collar on the new gelding and turned him loose in the arena.
Right away the horse that had been savaged went to the corner furthest away from the common fence and stood there quivering. The new gelding ran right up to the fence and acted very intimidating. The moment he leaned over the fence we used the e-collar on a low strength setting. He felt it but the low wasn't strong enough to deter him from leaning back over the fence and repeating his aggressive act. We then used the e-collar on a medium strength setting. The aggressive horse moved away from the fence and acted like he was no longer interested in bothering the other horse.
Next, we put both horses on lunge lines and brought them into the riding arena. We started lunging the horse that had been savaged. Then we allowed the aggressive gelding to move in behind him. It didn't take long for the bad guy to make his move. He ran after the other horse and tried to bite him on the rump. As he did this we used the e-collar on a high setting and, as luck would have it, the weakling kicked back at the same time. Well, the new gelding didn't know what hit him and literally stopped in his tracks.
What happened next was very interesting. The bad actor immediately sensed that he had made a huge error in savaging the other gelding and the weakling sensed it too. We lunged both horses again in the same manner and it was apparent the aggression had ceased, at least for the moment.
We then took both horses off the lunge lines and turned them loose in the arena. The bad guy now showed a lack of confidence when he was near the other horse. The weakling turned into "Superman" and started acting in a more dominant manner. The former bad guy wanted no part of him and gave him a wide birth. It wasn't long until they were both peacefully moving around the arena ignoring each other.
The man that owned these horses thought it was great and wanted to turn the mares into the arena with the geldings right then. We convinced him to let the geldings sleep on their lessons , so to speak, and let them out with the mares in the morning.
The next day we asked how the horses were getting along. He said the geldings and mares were all doing fine and grazing peacefully in the pasture together. Unlike some other parts of training that take many repetitions, curing savaging with the use of an e-collar can produce positive results very quickly!
Dobbs Training Center