Advice on Fearful Pony Please!!*(Video) - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 19 Old 02-05-2013, 05:32 AM
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The thing is with the 'hand' is that you can touch anywhere and be safe. it will cut back on the time it takes to desensitise her because no matter what her reaction you can keep the hand on her even if it isn't the place you were originally touching.

You can let her move around you in a circle to start so that she will realise that no matter what, kicking out or moving she is still being touched and that it is nothing bad.
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post #12 of 19 Old 02-05-2013, 07:08 AM
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From the pony's point of view. She was out in a paddock with herd mates. Outside, horses can see where a potential predator might try to get one of them. She wasn't handled much. Now she's kept in a cage without her old herd mates. She has no idea of a pitchfork and probably little of being handled. She is acting in her own defence as she doesn't know you and anyone else who's handling her. She appears to want to get outside into the open. You might find if she's in an outdoor pen with her stable mate you'd have an easier time working with her. To sum it up, she's being rushed to accept so many new things. Very stressful.
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post #13 of 19 Old 02-05-2013, 08:04 AM
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Good for you for helping this pony!
I would brush with a slower rhythm, and have my other hand on her gently so I could feel her reaction to my brush. Also, things always go better for me when I focus on what kind of behavior I want (Yes, you are a good little mare!) not the behavior I don't want (Pease don't be a bad pony!).
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post #14 of 19 Old 02-05-2013, 12:28 PM
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You've been given some really wonderful info! I think they're right, keeping her where she feels safe with her horse friends will help, also not expecting her to know how to be held with a halter (letting her move around) will certainly help her feel more comfortable. If she feels like she has a potential escape route to somewhere she is comfortable she'll be more willing to take risks, if she feels she can't get away she'll either fight it all or shut down (I wouldn't want to see either). The bamboo pole is a fantastic idea - I've seen it done and work wonders on so many horses. My only concern with it is that you need to be very good at timing your releases and not terrifying the pony with it when you release (sometimes pulling it back fast might startle them more than it just resting on them to begin with.

Let me tell you another story that may help.
I got my mare and she was so pleasant to work with, a short but Very substantial draft horse. Her old owners herded her off the trailer and into her indoor/outdoor at my barn. She had never been halter broke and handled only minimally. My mare loved people though - I think she's always known she's bigger and stronger than us and can squish us if need be, so had never felt afraid.
It took a few days to get her halter broke enough to lead around her paddock and to not invade my space. A few more weeks of giving to pressure and she was a doll. She would yield everything and put her head down and just anything I thought of she'd happily do for me.
Until... It was time to leave her paddock and go down to the round pen. Let me be clear, there were no other horses in her paddock for her to be bonded with, the others came out in surrounding paddocks during the day and went back into the big barn at night - she never really cared. The day I went to bring her down i thought it would be no big deal, I walked up to the gate and she froze - turned to stone. I thought, maybe she thinks it's too narrow, she has a scar on her shoulder suggesting she got caught up in something, so I made the gate wider. Still she froze, and nothing was going to budge her enormous self. This is when I started getting serious I did everything you would for a horse who won't get on a trailer, lunging for respect, using a whip to drive her forward from the back, trying to bribe her out with buckets of food - anything I could think of, a chain over her nose.
Several times I did get her through the gate through sheer force - and I would have upon me a 1400 pound crazed animal who had no idea anything I'd previously taught her - she would be tripping over herself, tripping over me, pulling and pushing and wildly just trying to get back to her paddock. I spent a whole year working on this. Each time spending a few weeks building up her respect then forcing her out the gate. Each time ending in disaster I got hurt twice, she got hurt once, we both hated each other. Each time I brought her toward the gate it was as if I asked her to walk through hell's fire - and any trust I'd previously earned was thrown out the window.
Then I learned about Clicker Training and I thought 'screw it, it can't make her any worse'. What happened was a miracle. I started by teaching her the bridge (my smooch noise) and that she only gets food when she's standing respectfully (no space invasion!). She learned all this quickly as well as some other fun stuff, I taught her verbal and visual cues for all our yielding exercises which made it so I no longer needed physical cues (don't need to apply pressure any more). Most important I taught her how to touch the target (colorful crop). After a few months of her excelling at this and me falling madly in love with her all over again I opened the gate and put the target on the gate. She touched it. I thought my heart would explode. I put the target just outside the gate, she stepped forward touched it. I was out of my mind. In 10 minutes we had walked past my large metal dumpster with a flapping tarp on it - which she also targetted quietly. We learned about my car and we made it to the hay field out back.
I will never forget that moment. She looked up and realized where she was - she just kind of looked around with wide eyes then at the end of the lead rope started hopping and cantering around me, never putting any tension in the rope or doing anything bad, she was just overjoyed! I don't think she'd ever seen that much open space in her life!!
I let her graze a while then brought her back in. I no longer need the target with me, she will go anywhere I ask without hesitation. I believe the target gives them a clear 'this is what I want from you' and a clear motivation to do it (the reward). It helps them understand what we need so as not to be afraid. Also the click/smooch and the reward both give off happy endorphins which help bring them back down out of 'this is really scary' into 'I did it!' modes :)

I suggest you look into it if you're at your wits end. But be prepared for a lot of attacks about it if you do. If you're more interested I'm happy to provide you some links to some learning material on it. :)
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post #15 of 19 Old 02-05-2013, 01:36 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you, everyone, for your advice.

Again, I have had plenty of animals over the years, and let's face it: despite protestation, there are a LOT of similarities in animal handling. That being said, I have never attempted to tame down something so feral (for lack of better word). Feral dumpster kittens are one thing: untouched terrified pony, something else.

I will try the bamboo pole. It sounds like a very viable tool. I know as well that care, such as cleaning her udders, has likely never been done in her ten years of life, and the pole will help me get there (and to her feet) without significant injury to myself, or the pony.

As for the halter: I "insisted" on the halter yesterday for the sake of the video, but I will be taking it slow. She was so frightened of it, she bumped her ass into the waterer while running away backwards, and started breathing audibly hard. SHE WILL SNIFF THE HALTER however, which means that I will probably not have a hard time of it if I start at a slower pace, sniff, rub treats, that kind of thing.

I do not wish to work her outside with her herdmate, and here is why: I also own her weanling colt, who I am working with. He follows mom's lead, and she is frightened. I do not want to reinforce fear of people on him. Right now, he is comfortable with me, but will not approach me in the field because mom runs...however he twitches his ears, stands still and looks "conflicted" for lack of better terminology. What I can do is work with her in the arena, where there is plenty of free space, and horses in their stalls all around. And honestly, once I get her desensitized to the harness, the act of leading her even a short way should help.

I can try to brush her more gently. I am a heavy handed person, and my other horse has never minded my brushing for dirt cleaning efficiency...I do however see that in order to perhaps make it more "enjoyable" for her in the long run, maybe I need to take it slower. She does seem to calm when I sing to her, so maybe that is something else I can do more often when grooming.

This clicker training with a target sounds interesting. I will PM you, PunksTank. I've long since learned that many horse people are set in their ways and unwilling to check out the possibilities of other methods. I do not give a spit about any of that, and I will use whatever methods work to achieve my goals. ;)

@Saddlebag, I know she's feeling rushed, and she does have my sympathy, but though I can and should be more patient with her because of that understanding....I don't want to get stuck in the trap of treating her as anything other than just another horse. Not sure if that makes sense? I know darn well I can't let her get one up on me.

Originally Posted by Jareth, the Goblin King
I move the stars for no one.
RIP Pumpkin: 2012-8/26/13
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post #16 of 19 Old 02-05-2013, 02:28 PM
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The first time I used 'the hand' was many years ago on a 6 year old TB mare that had never been touched!
As a yearling she had damaged her leg and all the owner did was to throw some powder at her.
I managed to halter her and ponied her to my place, a short distance of about 2 miles but all on roads.

After that the fun began! I could touch her on her face and to her shoulder but anywhere else, well it was pretty risky for all concerned. After three weeks of handling her three or four times a day I still could not touch a front leg and, go anywhere near her hinds and she could kick the eye from a fly!

I wish I had a film of her reaction to the hand! I had to work with her in the indoor school, she would have kicked out the wall of the stable. She bucked, she kicked, she reared she tried to run away about the only thing she didn't do was lie down!

It took me about three days, four times a day to get her relaxed and accept a human hand in replacement for the mock one.

Odd thing was that she was one of the easiest after that!
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post #17 of 19 Old 02-06-2013, 01:44 AM
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Do you have a training stick or a buggy whip? I would touch her with that all over,legs included. Have her out in a corral/round pen where she can move and use a 10-12 foot lead rope. With one like that I would drape the lead over my arm and stand by her shoulders to touch her with the training stick all over, under the belly, up/down legs, across the rump, etc......don't stop touching her if she moves, move with her and keep rubbing her with it.....when she stops take it away and praise far you seem to doing pretty good. I also use the end of the lead rope to lift the hind legs, flip it behind the leg and so you have both sides lift her foot up, she may kick at it but let her and when she stops drop the rope right away to take away the pressure!

My horses are the joy in my life.....
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post #18 of 19 Old 02-06-2013, 08:32 PM Thread Starter
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I think that we are making progress, and thanks again to everyone who added input.
Today I used a proper paste dewormer, and she let me put my finger in her mouth, plunger and all. She did not jerk away, took all the dewormer, then "smiled" in my direction, which I had to laugh at.
I took the time after that to brush her a little, then just hang out with my arm across her back, scratching occasionally. Once the BO left to feed the other horses, BF got comfortable with my arm hanging over her back, and munched hay for probably ten minutes or so until I left. I took her eating to be a good sign.

I do have pretty much every size whip, though I'm not sure where they are. Unfortunately, my husband has the golden touch, in that everything he touches gets lost. I will ask him about it, and I will definitely try the rope with her back legs.
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Originally Posted by Jareth, the Goblin King
I move the stars for no one.
RIP Pumpkin: 2012-8/26/13
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post #19 of 19 Old 02-10-2013, 09:41 PM Thread Starter
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Great News! I have found someone to work with Mama Pony at least twice a week! This girl has recommendations, works with troubled horses, and has a rescue herself! I am meeting her this next week and we will discus hours. The great thing about this is, Mama Pony will be getting at least five proper people encounters a week.

If she works out, when I move out to go house hunting in CA, I will have that girl see her several more times a week, to make up for me not being there that month, especially since I *KNOW* the hubby won't go that many times a week in my stead! So Mama Pony won't lose any ground, and may even improve while I'm gone. YAY!

On top of that, we administered a shot to Mama Pony a few days ago, and though she flinched when the needle was inserted, she did not move her feet or act out in any way. I am really excited =)
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Originally Posted by Jareth, the Goblin King
I move the stars for no one.
RIP Pumpkin: 2012-8/26/13
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shetland pony , training

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