Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: I'm an American girl living in Southern France
Some thoughts based on what my mare was like...
The wash stall where I am is outside with only one wall, so it's not very confining. However, it's right next to a busy road where there are speed bumps, so often we have trucks going over making loud banging sounds and scooters with no mufflers. Needless to say, my mare would get very nervous there since this whole place was new to her, plus she's kind of a chicken anyway.
The solution was 4-fold:
1. Instead of tying her to anything, I held her lead rope in hand or had a friend do it. She does MUCH better when she's held by a human and not a ring. Eventually she got the point that I could use the ring, but she likes the rope loose so she can move around. Not that she does move around much, but she likes to know she "can" if she wants to. It gives her a sense of security. A short lead rope makes her feel trapped and she gets panicky.
2. I used lots of treats. She now associates that spot with carrots. She looooves carrots. I treated when she calmed down. I patted her on the neck rhythmically and spoke to her in a calm voice to help her relax when necessary.
3. I had another horse she trusts stand nearby. She always does really well when she sees another horse acting totally fine in a place she's nervous about.
4. Pressure/release. When I first turned on the water, she danced around like a crazy horse. I just kept it on, away from her, until she calmed down. Then after giving her a break (release), moved it closer, did the same thing, waited until she stopped dancing and then released the pressure. Then on her feet, same thing. Then on her legs, etc. Eventually she learned to sit still for an entire shower, but it took a while and we have to do it often or she goes back to being nervous.
Note that my mare was never being dangerous towards me. She'd swing her butt around, but not to kick. It was to see things from a different angle. She was always worried something was going to sneak up on her. Her favorite place to stand was with her whole body sideways up against the wall, leaving only the other side vulnerable. The way I fixed that was the looser lead rope. She stands very still when she doesn't feel trapped. If she was being dangerous (rearing, striking, biting), I'm not sure that my techniques above would have worked. I would have brought a pro in for that.
Good luck fixing the problem!
“When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes. ” ~ William Shakespeare