It’s been a while since we have given a Baxter update. Baxter is a tough nut to crack, he’s clearly got a strong distrust of people and shows clear signs of being abused. However, he’s also retained a lot of his stallion-like behaviors from being gelded late in life and has a very dominant personality. He was adopted out once and returned because he intimidated his adopter with his aloof, even grumpy (ears pinning, swinging his hind end in your direction) exterior, even though he’s never been aggressive towards humans. However, beneath his gruff exterior is a very insecure horse, one that if you take a firm hand in correcting him for being pushy or rude, quickly dissolves to show an extremely fearful horse that cowers as if you are going to beat him. It is sad to see, and although we have always been kind to him, he’s been very slow to trust us. At the same time, he does have that dominant streak and will test people if he senses a lack of authority. He is very food aggressive (understandable considering where he came from), so one of the things you have to demand with him at all times is to stand back and put his ears up or he doesn’t get his food. He’s learned now to back away and pop the ears up, but if you let him get away with being rude, he’ll pin his ears and try to snatch the food away from you. We don’t hand-feed him treats because of this.
Our volunteer Sara had been riding him and he initially was doing well, and then he started trying to exert his authority over her under saddle by pinning his ears, balking, and bucking. As the behavior continued to worsen rather than improve, we decided to send him up to our trainer for a few weeks to see if she could work through the issue. The trainer reported that at first, he sensed her authority and was clearly scared of her the first couple of times she worked with him. He tried the bucking thing a couple of times, but it took nothing more than a growl and a kick to get him forward again, and he gave it up completely after a couple of rides. He is now going beautifully walk/trot/canter, ears up, willing, and seems to enjoy his work. On Saturday, Sara was able to ride him in a lesson with the trainer and had no problems with him whatsoever. We are hoping that Baxter will be able to continue this progress and will be returning to SAFE within a week or two.
Baxter is definitely a more forward-moving horse and really shows an aptitude for dressage, but he would be a cute western horse as well. He was taken on trails by his previous adopter and she said he did great. While we do not recommend he ever be pastured with other horses (especially a mixed herd), due to his strong interest in mares and aggression towards other geldings, he has had no problems being ridden with other horses in the arena or on the trail. He is not spooky and quite sensible, but he is not for a beginner. Whomever adopts him needs to have enough experience to clearly assert their dominance with him as he will test his boundaries, but it is a fine line with him between him accepting your authority and being scared of you, so he does best with a firm, but kind approach.