Originally Posted by tinyliny
Having made sucha wonderful turn around with him, have you described how you did this? Would be valuable for many , including me.
Patience... lots and lots of patience. That and groundwork. I was very very picky about who I let around him, what I did with him, and what his attitude was when I was around him. Most of the things I did were trial and error, and when I made an error, he definitely let me know. The most difficult thing about working with him is balancing discipline with his fear complex. If you push him too far, he will flip a switch and fear takes over. If you aren't hard enough on him, he will walk all over you. I have never met any horse like him.
Onyx was tricky to work with when I got him, and still is. He doesn't trust easily. I am just about postive that he was abused/neglected. He has a dent in his head, a missing tooth, and arthritis in his right hock from (what I suspect) being started too early. Onyx was sold to me as a 10 year old last year, but my vet said he is only 7. He came with an absolute fear of whips. His vices were: Biting, rearing on the ground, not taking a bit, pinning ears, not standing still (especially when tied), invading space, wouldn't pick up his feet, not lunging to the right.
I knew this horse had issues when I bought him. I bought him as a project when Lakota died, he was cheap and broke. I looked at him once and he was AWFUL! He displayed just about all his vices that first visit. His owners told me they wanted me to handle him because they couldn't. They had a 12 year old daughter... she let him get away with everything and constantly fed him treats. Thus the biting, and disrespect issues.
So the first thing I did was work with him without any commitment to him. Over 2 hours or so, I worked with the owner and the horse getting him to listen. He tested me for those 2 hours, but had slightly improved by the end of that time. I went home, feeling like I needed to work that horse again. I talked it over with my husband, he said go for it. He came with me the next time, about a week later. Onyx had not been worked much since I had last worked him. He remembered me and everything I had taught him. That was my clue that there was a willing, even tempered horse under there somewhere.
When I brought him home, he ran through my lead, charged me, and then broke my fence.
I knew I had myself a project.
First thing I tried all of my techniques I had learned, and although they were helping, his progress was not as good as I wanted. He would get upset, scared, or just downright stubborn and ignore me. Especailly when it came to his biting habit. I tried everything from whacking him, to making him circle, to taking a whip and chasing him around. These things would help for a while, but he would go back to his old self after a few minutes.
So I consulted with a trainer. He used him in a clinic briefly and taught me a little bit about natural horsemanship. THANK GOODNESS! It saved my butt with this horse. One of the first things the trainer had me do was teach Onyx to yield his hindquarters to me. This proved to be a very wise move.
So, I broke his vices one by one, all the while, no matter what vice I was working on, I demanded respect. As soon as he gave me an inkling of disrespect (ears pinned, tail swishing) I treated it as if he had already tried to kick or bite. I was proactive. I also bought myself a good rope halter. Whenever he got overwhelmed, I stopped working him. Sometimes, this was only 10 minutes. He was very ADD, as the trainer even said so
Every time he got confused, I would bring him back to the yielding hind exercise and start over from there.
I broke his biting habit by ignoring him. Weird, I know. When he would try to bite, I would not look at him, not even acknowledge his presence. All I did was throw an elbow in his face by flapping my arms like a chicken. That stopped the biting habit in about 2 weeks.
The leading issues (rearing, pulling through the lead) I broke by a combination of things. I taught him a join up of sorts, and I started from square one with leading. He was to stay at my shoulder, stopping when I stopped, backing when I backed, and moving when I moved. He is smart horse and picked up very quickly. Over time, those habits faded as he learned to see me as leader.
The standing while tied thing came with time. I just tied him and brushed the heck outta him. He could dance all he wanted, as long as he stayed outta my space. He was not allowed to paw or pull back though. Eventually he got sick of it and now he stands very well when tied.
The feet were a challenge. The first farrier visit he was twitched, and he still reared on 3 legs at times. I had a good farrier though, and he fought through it. I worked on his issues first in his front. I would forcefully ask for his foot, he would start swinging it and I held on no matter what. When he relaxed, I put the foot down. The front ones were easy, the back ones were way worse. So I used a leadrope. I would put the leadrope around his foot and yank on it, holding it up. He would kick and kick and kick, but I would not put that hoof down until he stood. Eventually (and I mean weeks later) I moved to picking up the hoof with a rope, picking it out with my hoof pick, and putting it down with my hand. Now I can pick all 4 feet up with my hands and he is pretty good. He no longer needs any twitch for a farrier either.
Lunging was a huge issue with him. He was terrified of whips and would not lunge to the right at all. I have never met a horse more resistant to having a person on his right side. I started by desensitizing to a whip and free lunging. Once he got comfortable with that, I moved him to line lunging. He hated it at first, but I got him comfortable going to the left. When I asked him to turn, I simply moved with him on a short line, having him yield his hindquarters as I had taught him earlier, and then asked him to move forward at the same time. He caught on and then it was just a matter of practice. We then moved on to transitioning up and down, and now we lunge without a whip on a nice loose line. He knows his verbal walk/trot/woah as well.
In addition to these things, I taught this horse to bend and flex, move away from pressure, respond to verbal cues, and overall just be more respectful of human beings.
Throughout my work with this horse, I learned he had multiple issues. The whole not taking the bit thing was ridiculous. After 5 minutes of head tossing, I could get his bit on. But when I went to ride him, he would still toss his head. Red flag for me. So I tried him in just a rope halter. No head tossing. I had a vet out ASAP to do his teeth. Vet said his teeth were awful. He was cutting his gums and tongue with his teeth, and the bit was painful for him. I had ridden him twice, and although he seemed agitated, he never once acted up. At that point I was very happy I bought this horse, it was obvious to me that he is kind natured.
The other issue I have had to address is his hock injury. He is not receiving routine hock injections and is on a supplement. I had x-rays done and he has arthritis in his right hock. Vet said eventually the joint will fuse and stop causing him pain, until then, hock injections it is!
Oh and when I did start riding him, after about 6 or so months, he had his behavioral issues there as well. But those are definitely improving as well.
The number one thing I learned: Patience with him goes a heck of a lot further than discipline. He needed someone to trust and lead him. Once he figured out that it was me, and that I wasn't going anywhere, he fell into place very quickly. He is a smart horse.
Gee sorry that's so long