There's a long-standing comic line that asks, "Where does an 800-pound gorilla sit?" The answer is, "Anywhere he wants to."
While it still gets a chuckle, the moral of the story is: The gorilla is so big and dangerous, he can call the shots.
That's exactly the situation that we don't want with our horses. Our safety, and often theirs, depends on our being able to control them and their good ground manners. And since we can't control our horses by muscling them around, we have to depend on good training.
That's all fine and good when we have our horses bridled, or even at the end of the lead rope. But what about when we enter the stall and they're less than pleasant?
We know from watching herd dynamics that horses generally go out of their way to avoid a fight. But when they feel threatened, they may lash out. A horse who is aggressive in the stall is most likely scared. But he's also dangerous.
In some situations, a stalled horse may have developed the bad habit of threatening the horses next to him and has carried that over to threatening people. Or he may feel insecure or aggressive. In many cases, it's not yet a full-blown aggression - just a brash move to tell that us we're not very high on the pecking order in his mind. But we can't let that go on or it will become outright aggression.
We can't fault a horse for his attitude, and we shouldn't punish him for being scared. Threatening him or scaring him further will only compound the problem and make it increasingly dangerous for us. However, we can use a series of small moves to teach him what we want him to do. And the better he knows his job, the less fearful he will be.
Turn and Face
We'll start by establishing a standard: What do we want the horse to do?
I want a horse to turn and face me when I open the stall door. That way, I'm in a safe position, away from his hindquarters. And I want the horse to come toward me in a friendly, non-aggressive manner, so I'll set out to teach that response.
You can use this method with a horse who ignores you when you come to the stall. But it's especially helpful for the horse who threatens to kick. Normally, that horse will put his nose in the corner farthest from the stall door, with his rump facing you. So that's the position we'll work with.
If the stall door opens on the right of the stall, move the horse clockwise, so that he's facing you as he comes around. If the door opens on the left, move the horse counterclockwise.