Like people, all horses have unique personalities. Some horses are naturally happy and nicker to you when you walk in the barn, and some... well, are not. Louisa is that girl. She is not a cuddle bug and she is perfectly fine with very little love and affection... unless you have treats. But I'm okay with that. I know I'm not going to change her, so I have to accept her for who she is and get all my hugging and loving from someone else.
When you have a horse that is a touch more ornery than the rest, here are some tips with how to handle them and their not so sunny disposition. First thing I do is get the horse acupunctured. More often than not, the horse's energy is not flowing correctly, and that makes them a little grumpier than the usual horse. Once you get their energy flowing properly, you will have a much more pleasant horse. Louisa had a Liver Qi stagnation. Her energy wasn't flowing like it should. We put in two acupuncture needles in her hind legs and she immediately felt relief... her energy is flowing again. We also put an acupuncture staple in her forehead which helps calm sensitive horses.
When working with Louisa, she is very sensitive near her hind end. I believe this is a learned behavior as she has "learned" that she can control a human with a swish of the tail and a hike of the hind leg. This behavior needs to be ignored. Do not feed into the behavior by punishing the horse excessively. Now, if the horse tries to kick you, a quick rebuttal with your hand will let them know that is not acceptable, but you do not need to do anything more than that. The bigger you make the issue, the more the horse will start to shut down or behave even worse.
Louisa came to us thinking that kicking out when we were working on her hind legs was acceptable. By ignoring the negative behavior (and rewarding positive), and only delivering a quick reprimand if the behavior becomes dangerous, we are now able to easily pick out her hooves, bathe her hind legs, and even towel dry her hind legs with ease.
Louisa also gives you a grumpy face when you walk in front of her (very typical of Thoroughbreds). Again, the best thing you can do is ignore her. I walk past her and do not give her any attention when she gives me a grumpy face. If she gives me a pleasant face, she is rewarded with a small treat. Horses work much better by reinforcing positive behavior than punishing negative behavior. Punishing negative behavior shuts the horse down to learning. We want our horses happy and willing to please.
With daily grooming and riding, Louisa is making her way to being a great horse to work with. She is testing us less and less and seems to enjoy doing the right thing. We are very pleased with her progress!