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Possum Playing Percheron

Hello Mr. Walker,

I have a 7 year old Percheron Stallion that has turned into the biggest, meanest most spoiled brat ever!

I've been working on my confidence because it s a no-brainer that he doesn't respect me.

I gelded him last Wednesday and have a trainer coming out once a week, just to show me how to properly lunge, lead etc.

He's not a bad horse, he actually can be pretty sweet, we're just having pecking order issues.

I know I have to act like I the leader but when you have something that weighs a ton try to bite you, well, I tend to make a mad dash for the gate!

And you think you're alone in this self-preservation instinct?

Gelding was certainly a start in the right direction.

When I was in Wyoming I had the great pleasure to spend some horse time with an incredible woman who handled the ranch's elk feeding contract in the winter. She fed 4,000 plus elk every day by herself using drafts and sleds. She also was a roper, horse trainer, white water guide as well as a hunting and fishing guide in addition to other talents but I digress.

As we horsed around and exchanged concepts and ideas we began talking about drafts. I told her how I observed drafts are seldom like the drafts of my youth; docile, gentle and compliant as it was possible to be. She told me how important it was to have horses like that when she was feeding elk all by herself and how difficult it was to find them. The ranch raised their own draft stock because of the difficulty of finding the kind of horse they need.

I then told her of my experiences with them in my clinics and problem solving work. They seem to feel that their size allows them to do whatever they wish and to humor humans.

The only horse that has gotten the better of me since I became enlightened was a very large Percheron named Elvis. Elvis was HUGE. He just casually advanced on me ignoring everything I did to change his mind. There was no doubt in either of our minds what was going to happen when we met and I knew I wasn't going to like it. I had no way of escaping and all that saved me was sending him very intense mental messages: "YOU WIN! I'M THROUGH!" At that point he stopped advancing and I left the pen.

I could have gone back in and with a few adjustments gotten the better of him but it would not have been pretty. I didn't because the owner saw no disrespect or threat from him and would have taken my actions as "I brought my horse to that clinic and he beat him up!' They had no trouble with him because they let him do whatever he wanted or they distracted him if he was doing something they didn't like. When they led him anywhere they led him by circling and wandering all over.

I told the owner exactly what I saw and predicted he would one day show aggression to them and when he did I'd like the opportunity to meet him again.

And the other draft and draft crosses I have worked with seem to have a lot more of this attitude than the teams my grandfather used in my youth.

The teams in my grandfather's day HAD to be productive. If they weren't they went down the road or to the mink ranch, they certainly weren't bred. They had to work as efficiently as possible.

Drafts seldom work any more. Now they are kept as novelties and for show. To make them more showy they are often bred to flashier animals.

I said all that to say drafts are bred for different purposes today than they were in the past. Their personalities and their reactions to the things they are now asked to do but weren't bred for can make them testy and a little difficult to deal with.

So I'm going to try your bonder method.

I do have two questions though, what if I'm making him move forward but he's really just ignoring me, I only get his attention when I make him change direction or he slows down. He's a big horse and can trot for hours without really getting tired. Should I just keep it up? Just keep him moving until I see I have his attention?

You only get his attention when you make him change his direction? Then make him change his direction when you want his attention. When I'm in an enclosure with a horse it can't ignore me when I want his attention. I'll tell the horse, "Pay attention to me!" by making it change direction.

It is not how long he trots but how well he follows your direction. If we work a horse until he is tired we build up his endurance and just make him stronger for the next time. The object is to give the horse a series of directions we know beyond a doubt we can get the horse to perform until the horse says, "Hmmm... This being is giving me a set of directions and I'm doing them. Therefore, this being must be a leader. If this being is a leader then I must be a follower."

Once the horse arrives at this conclusion he will begin paying attention to you and start to obey your directions quicker.

And two, he's sort of a biter, should I be worried about him "playing possum"? He says sure I ll follow you and then after a few steps he bites me in the back????

I don t think he would do that, but I ve been hurt enough in the past that I will probably never truly trust a horse (and you shouldn t anyway). I ll admit I m a little paranoid lately, but that s only because I prefer my bones in their present position!!!

Any tips on these two questions would be most helpful!


If he is fully convinced you are a leader he will not bite you. You don't bite, kick or move disrespectfully into the leader's space. I think over time you'll put that fear out of your mind as you develop your herd leader skills.

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