First off, I would say that there's a difference between rough handling and giving a horse a firm wack if they refuse to get out of your space or won't let you enter a stall door. That is*your* bucket, you're the lead horse, you decide when they eat, and that's that.
As for helping gentle them, I'd say spend a ton of time with them/around them and be patient. What may seem like a tiny change for you can be a huge breakthrough for them. When I got Ziggy, I had to spend the first month just sitting in his pen for 3-4 hours everyday. Mucking out their stall is a great way for them to get used to you, so long as they have an out - they can go to one corner while you clean another. But the most important thing is safety. If it's too small for you and two horses to be safe, try to find a place to temporarily put them.
So it's not the best advice, but it sounds like the two of them are going to take a lot of time. I worry a bit about the fact that you said you're scared of them. I don't know how it works in Ireland, but you might look into getting a trainer who can help them and help you work with them until they settle down. There's no shame in it. Even the most experienced horseperson needs help from an outside source now and then. :)
Last edited by ZiggyKlepto; 10-29-2009 at 03:41 PM.