Defensive Aggression can
be a physical or an emotional response. It is an act of aggression in a
way of being defensive caused from abuse, violence, or dangerous and traumatic
situations. Even though the abusive environment does not exist any longer, psychological
and muscle memory can set this behavior off in multiple ways: saying the
wrong word, touching certain places, use of tools that include rope or whip, or
sometimes even the slightest movement. This behavior can be found in both
People and Animals.
There is a saying “if
you kick a dog long enough, that dog will bite back.” Even after being in
a new environment for some time where the dog is loved and cared for, if that
dog thinks he is going to get kicked he will bite in a defensive manner, even though
that was not the persons intentions. It is a dangerous situation. People
will say the dog is aggressive when the dog is simply showing Defensive
Aggression behavior from being abused.
The same thing goes with
abused horses, A certain percentage of abused horses will become
defensive aggressive even after the horse has been taken out of that
environment and placed in a new home where the horse is well cared and loved
for. With the muscle memory in horses, the slightest movement, touching the horse
in the wrong place etc. can set this behavior off. What the horse is
really saying is “I am going to get you way before you have one chance to get
me,” even though that was not our intent. In these cases, the horse may grab
you with his mouth and throw you to the ground, bite you, kick you, or strike
you and then the horses takes flight getting out of the situation the horse
found threatening - A horse with a true aggressive intention will not flee.
This takes less than a second for the horse to exhibit defensive
aggression. In the horses mind, it is trying to get out of the situation
where in his mind he was about to get abused. The Pictures above show the horse
being calm to defensive aggression to taking flight in less than a second.
Even after being in a
new environment for some time, the horse does not know the difference between a
new horse owner or horse trainer from the person who abused him causing the
defensive aggression behavior. Even though we treat the horse with love and
care, the horse will still see us as people and people did this to him.
The good news is this
problem can be solved in horses - The sad thing is I have to treat it like an
aggressive horse when the horse is only feeling he has to defend himself in an
aggressive manner. When a horse shows this Defensive Aggression Behavior, I
have to do an exercise that does not cause pain or fear in the horse.
"Exercise" is the motivator, the motivator is a reason for the horse
to change their behavior, and the exercise is done - without pain or fear.
The exercise will allow the horse to begin to trust again by replacing
the horses muscle memory of being abused with good and trusting memories.
This is not a behavior
for most horse owners to take on. It is a very dangerous behavior that
needs to be solved before someone gets hurt. If you have a horse like
this please consult with a professional horse trainer that has experience in
working with abused horses. To learn more about horse behavior, and how to work
with multiple behavior problems ranging from respect to performance, please
join my membership page at https://mikehugheshorsetraining.vhx.tv/