Curing saddle/blanket nerves?
   

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Curing saddle/blanket nerves?

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        12-23-2013, 01:56 PM
      #1
    Foal
    Curing saddle/blanket nerves?

    So the horse I'm currently working with is quite green, and is afraid of things being put on his back. The owner had once forgotten how green he was, and plopped a saddle on his back, which is apparently the cause of his fear.

    When I first started working with him, it took me a good five minutes to put just the saddle pad on his back, and he would still jump a meter into the air at times. He would flinch even if I moved slow and let him sniff and see the pad.

    We've made great progress since then, and he now lets me put the saddle on without much fuss, though I still have to move slow. However, he is still nervous and presses himself into the wall if I saddle him up in his stall. He is also nervous of blankets. He is not blanketed regularly, and it took me a good 15 minutes to get a cooler on him. He is fine once the blanket/object is actually on his back, he seems to not like the very act of putting it on. He even gets mildly nervous if someone hands me a jacket while I am riding.

    Once the object is actually on him though, he is completely fine. I can put the blanket over his head, or rub the jacket on his neck, and he is fine. He is also fine with me swinging a rope over his back, for example.

    Has anyone had a similar problem? Concrete exercises would be very helpful, otherwise I will just stick with repetition and patience, which seems to work.
         
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        12-23-2013, 02:04 PM
      #2
    Weanling
    Watch this video. Stacy Westfall is doing a series on training a horse, all the videos are posted on youtube. It is long but worth it!

    I would get a saddle blanket and just keep throwing it on his back. If he moves away stay with him and keep throwing it on his back.
    Wallaby and greentree like this.
         
        12-23-2013, 02:13 PM
      #3
    Foal
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Thrill Ride    
    Watch this video. Stacy Westfall is doing a series on training a horse, all the videos are posted on youtube. It is long but worth it!
    Stacy's Video Diary: Jac-Episode 15-First saddling; saddle falling off, bucking and more tips - YouTube

    I would get a saddle blanket and just keep throwing it on his back. If he moves away stay with him and keep throwing it on his back.
    I like the idea of swinging the saddle pad around. I think I'll try that. I'd also like to try saddling him up from the other side, that might keep him from sticking to the wall.

    In passing though, I really don't like the way she has the lunge line on the ground all the time. Especially in the beginning where she gets her leg wrapped around in it. That is a big no-no for me.
         
        12-23-2013, 02:49 PM
      #4
    Weanling
    You could always watch them and get some ideas and then change it a bit to works best for you and your horse :)
         
        12-23-2013, 02:56 PM
      #5
    Green Broke
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wtwg    
    We've made great progress since then, and he now lets me put the saddle on without much fuss, though I still have to move slow. However, he is still nervous and presses himself into the wall if I saddle him up in his stall. He is also nervous of blankets. He is not blanketed regularly, and it took me a good 15 minutes to get a cooler on him. He is fine once the blanket/object is actually on his back, he seems to not like the very act of putting it on. He even gets mildly nervous if someone hands me a jacket while I am riding.
    The section I bolded is part of your problem.

    In the wild, what moves slow? A predator sneaking up on prey. This is what your horse thinks of when you sloooooowly try to lay a blanket on his back.

    In general, it sounds like you need to take a step back and properly desensitize your horse with ground work.

    Timing is also key. If you release pressure too soon, he learns nothing. If you release pressure too late, he'll wig out.

    Present your saddle blanket (or any object) to your horse. The very instant he shows signs of nervousness (wide eyes, wide nostrils, raise head, etc), you need to STOP bringing it closer. Immediately. Then hold steady. Do not remove the saddle blanket until you see some sort of relaxation from him (licking lips, blinking, lower head, etc). Then immediately turn away from him and take the blanket away.

    For the first time, you may need to stop 10 feet from him, if he shows signs of nervousness then. Do what you need to do.

    If he moves his feet (you should never do this when he's tied up), go ahead and let him move. But do not bring the blanket closer, nor let it move farther away. Keep your distance exactly the same until his feet stop moving (sign of relaxation). Then immeidately remove it.

    Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. On both sides. Work on this every single day.

    Approach and retreat.

    You are trying to teach your horse that when they relax in a stressful situation (or stop moving), they get rewarded by having the stressful object taken away. This is why if you take the object away too soon, they will learn that "freaking out" make the object go away. Or if you remove the object too late, they will learn that relaxing did NOT make it go away. Timing is important.

    And don't try to sneak the blanket (or whatever object) closer. Be loud and proud about it. I intentionally am loud and all over the place when I desensitize. So they learn that me waving my arms about, jumping, and whatever, makes no difference and is nothing to get excited about.

    I very much doubt he has such great fear because someone plopped a saddle on his back one time. He just needs more ground work and desensitizing work. He needs to know he can trust his handler. Right now, he doesn't.
    sunset878 and greentree like this.
         
        12-23-2013, 03:11 PM
      #6
    Foal
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by beau159    
    The section I bolded is part of your problem.

    In the wild, what moves slow? A predator sneaking up on prey. This is what your horse thinks of when you sloooooowly try to lay a blanket on his back.

    In general, it sounds like you need to take a step back and properly desensitize your horse with ground work.

    Timing is also key. If you release pressure too soon, he learns nothing. If you release pressure too late, he'll wig out.

    Present your saddle blanket (or any object) to your horse. The very instant he shows signs of nervousness (wide eyes, wide nostrils, raise head, etc), you need to STOP bringing it closer. Immediately. Then hold steady. Do not remove the saddle blanket until you see some sort of relaxation from him (licking lips, blinking, lower head, etc). Then immediately turn away from him and take the blanket away.

    For the first time, you may need to stop 10 feet from him, if he shows signs of nervousness then. Do what you need to do.

    If he moves his feet (you should never do this when he's tied up), go ahead and let him move. But do not bring the blanket closer, nor let it move farther away. Keep your distance exactly the same until his feet stop moving (sign of relaxation). Then immeidately remove it.

    Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. On both sides. Work on this every single day.

    Approach and retreat.

    You are trying to teach your horse that when they relax in a stressful situation (or stop moving), they get rewarded by having the stressful object taken away. This is why if you take the object away too soon, they will learn that "freaking out" make the object go away. Or if you remove the object too late, they will learn that relaxing did NOT make it go away. Timing is important.

    And don't try to sneak the blanket (or whatever object) closer. Be loud and proud about it. I intentionally am loud and all over the place when I desensitize. So they learn that me waving my arms about, jumping, and whatever, makes no difference and is nothing to get excited about.

    I very much doubt he has such great fear because someone plopped a saddle on his back one time. He just needs more ground work and desensitizing work. He needs to know he can trust his handler. Right now, he doesn't.
    I do not try to sneak it onto him. The problem isn't really the object itself, it is the action of putting it on. I can drape a blanket over the rails of his stall, and he won't even blink. After it's on, I can put it over his head no problem. I can even approach him with it, and he will display only curiosity. He is only nervous if I try to put it on his back.

    This is what people don't seem to understand, and what I didn't understand at first. The problem isn't the object, it's putting the object of his back.

    I am going to start getting him used to more exaggerated movements and such soon, but for now I have just wanted to let him know that this particular action will not hurt/startle him, hence my slow movements.
         
        12-23-2013, 03:15 PM
      #7
    Foal
    I also have to disagree with the predator part. I believe moving slowly encourages relaxation, and makes a stressful experience more like a relaxing activity, such as grooming. I do not believe in stressing a horse with loud noises or quick movements when they are already nervous. I prefer adding those variables later, when they are more comfortable and trusting.
         
        12-23-2013, 04:19 PM
      #8
    Yearling
    Is he spooky from both sides, or just the left side? Spooky with all handlers or just you? Any signs of a vision issue? What happens if you keep one hand on him (essentially for comfort & warning) while you swing the item over with the other hand?

    I'm slow and extra quiet the first few times I saddle a youngster, but after a few days I'm treating them more like a broke horse and most will step up to the plate and respond as such - in my experience, proceeding confidently helps him trust my actions & leadership much more than tiptoeing around him. It does not cause stress. But, if I'm overly cautious around any horse, he's likely to wonder what I'm so scared about and react, or over-react, even more. And that causes stress for horse and human!

    If you're expecting him to react to the movement, chances are good he's going to do so. Next time you are preparing to do something, pick up the item, take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Then proceed towards him as if you know he's going to stand still and allow it. A gentle "whoa" as you're approaching may help you both relax.

    That said, I wouldn't be riding a young horse who spooked over everyday, necessary items being swung over his back - I wouldn't consider the appropriate foundation to have yet been laid. I understand when my own greenie startles over something new (like the wind catching that jacket I'd just hung over the horn,) but I can toss a rope, pad, blanket, etc. over him and know he'll deal with it.
         
        12-23-2013, 04:33 PM
      #9
    Showing
    Start out with a thick rope about 12' long. Just keep throwing it over his back willy nilly until he quits reacting. The rope is much lighter than the pad and it's easier on you. Do both sides. If you stop because he reacts, you've trained him to react. Don't ***** foot when you do this, just toss and pull it off. Hold onto the lead, don't tie him. If he starts to circle you, stay just behind his shoulder and follow him and keep tossing the rope. When he stops, stop tossing and give him a break for a minute, then start again. While you are doing this have the pad on the ground so he can see/sniff it. Then before you use it, hold it and let him check it out, then wipe it down his shoulder a few times then on half his back going with lay of the hair. Repeat until he's relaxed. Then the other side. Spend as much time as it takes. The next time, begin with the rope work again to build a routine altho it will soon take only a minute or two.
    Thrill Ride and greentree like this.
         
        12-23-2013, 06:25 PM
      #10
    Foal
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Cynical25    
    Is he spooky from both sides, or just the left side? Spooky with all handlers or just you? Any signs of a vision issue? What happens if you keep one hand on him (essentially for comfort & warning) while you swing the item over with the other hand?

    I'm slow and extra quiet the first few times I saddle a youngster, but after a few days I'm treating them more like a broke horse and most will step up to the plate and respond as such - in my experience, proceeding confidently helps him trust my actions & leadership much more than tiptoeing around him. It does not cause stress. But, if I'm overly cautious around any horse, he's likely to wonder what I'm so scared about and react, or over-react, even more. And that causes stress for horse and human!

    If you're expecting him to react to the movement, chances are good he's going to do so. Next time you are preparing to do something, pick up the item, take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Then proceed towards him as if you know he's going to stand still and allow it. A gentle "whoa" as you're approaching may help you both relax.

    That said, I wouldn't be riding a young horse who spooked over everyday, necessary items being swung over his back - I wouldn't consider the appropriate foundation to have yet been laid. I understand when my own greenie startles over something new (like the wind catching that jacket I'd just hung over the horn,) but I can toss a rope, pad, blanket, etc. over him and know he'll deal with it.
    He seems to do a lot better with me than with other handlers. People have told me that he is a nut-case, but I haven't seen anything to suggest that. No sign of vision loss, or any other health/pain problems. I haven't tried the other side yet.

    I do approach him confidently, just calmly. I do not expect him to react anymore honestly, and most of the time he doesn't. I've had problems with new items most of the time, like the blanket. I wasn't expecting him to react then, and kind of just started to throw it over him when he started snorting and gluing himself to the wall.

    The thing is, he isn't a young horse. He's probably older than 7, he just hasn't been worked much in the past few years. He's pretty solid under saddle, we've started working on getting him round and to respond promptly to transition aids and such. It's not as if he spooks, he just kind of flinches and snorts most of the time.
         

    Tags
    blanket, green, nervous, saddle, shy

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