Desperate for Help with a Terrified Horse! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 34 Old 09-06-2011, 03:26 AM Thread Starter
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Desperate for Help with a Terrified Horse!

I live in Alaska, and I have worked at a ranch for a few years as a teen (am 33 now), and was around horses in the small town in Europe, where I grew up.... I have not really "worked" with them since I was 23, but I have been around horses here and there since. Although I worked with a variety of horses as a "Guide", taking people on rides thru the Alaskan Mountains, I have never really "Owned" a horse of my very own before... But a couple days ago I was offered one for free... Tempting, but...

His name is Griz (I will explain why). He is a Gelding, who is about 9 years old. He's a breath-taking, jet-black boy, and a LARGE horse (16 hands 2 or so?).
But no one has ever been able to ride him for very long.... No one wants him, and no one trusts him...
Well, he was attacked, TERRIBLY by a Grizzly Bear as a young colt, and his side was ripped apart (he has massive scars to this day), and he is insanely terrified to go into any woods, forest, and heaven forbid he picks up a bear's scent...
He is unpredictable because of his fear... Which is understandable...
He has freaked out so bad, so many times, that he almost killed a few people.... His owner has tried to give him away for free multiple times, and people have tried working with him, but they all gave up...
Now, I was told they are going to SHOOT him..!!!
I was offered this horse for free, but I have never met him... I am going to meet him in the next week... If we "Click", I will be taking him home.... I really want to help him become more than an animal that terrifes those around him...
As I mentioned before, I have never had a horse of my own, although I have been around them my entire younger life...
I have never worked with an animal like him, and I am not sure what to do...!!!
I really want to give him a chance...
I am brain-storming.... I was thinking about using an un-treated (raw) bear hide (which I have access to, because my sister and her husband own a packing/guiding business for hunters), and cutting a chunk of the hide off, and introducing him to the smell of bears in a "nice" way, giving treats, and rewarding for being so brave. Perhaps hanging it by his feeder to get him used to the smell... Eventually, I wanted to drape the hide over a log, and walk him by it, etc.

I'm just coming up with ideas, but I desperately need advice...!!!
Or should I not even bother with him..???
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post #2 of 34 Old 09-06-2011, 05:58 AM
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Your post sends up quite a few red flags that worry me a lot.

You said he was attacked by a grizzly?? This horse is emotionally traumatized and chances are he will be for the rest of his life. I'm sure this horse is really sweet and would never purposely hurt anyone, but he sounds mental. When he attacks, does he do it at random times or just when he's around a forest or picks up a bears scent?

Second (this worries me the most) he's almost KILLED a FEW people??? That'd be enough for me to run, not walk away, from this horse. There's risk with working with any horse, let alone one that has a record of being unpredictable and being uncontrollable around people. And he's 9. I mean, if this happened when he was young I would think if he would ever work through this fear, he already would have.

Another thing that worries me is that numerous people have tried working with him and many have turned him down. If this was an easy fix, I doubt so many horse people would have given up on him. Were these experienced horse trainers? Some horses simply can't be trained. They're very few and far between, but they do exist.

And lastly, you said you have never owned a horse even though you have worked around them for a few years. Working around horses is a lot different than actually working with them and the two shouldn't be confused. I would only recommend an extremely patient, experienced horse person to even think about working with this horse. It almost sounds like a movie to me. Everyone gives up on all hope for traumatized horse and he's going to be put to death. But then one person comes along, is determined to help him using patience even though s/he has little experience in working with horses and turns him around to overcome all odds. [Add cheesy ending here].

It's ideal for Hollywood, but I don't think it's realistic. Your idea on introducing him to bear hide is a good one, but what if he spazzes out one day and runs you over? Even if you think you've trained him out of his fear, it may come back one day without warning and you'll be unprepared.

Just be very careful OP. It's commendable to say the least what you're trying to do, but give this a lot of thought and please do listen to other members on the forum. There's a lot of wise people on here that you can learn a lot from.

You can tell a gelding. You can ask a stallion. But you must discuss it with a mare. -Unknown
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post #3 of 34 Old 09-06-2011, 06:59 AM
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What nice intentions you have for this poor horse. He has been through so much and it does seem like his fear of bears has taken over his life, however I am not sure you will ever find a way to make that fear go away, and I dont believe hanging a bear hide in the horses vicinity will desensitze him since horses are naturally going to be fearful of bears and bear scents as a built in instinct. Making him try to accept the scent of bear would be like you being in a terrible collision , almost killed (causing you to have anxiety and nightmares)and someone constantly wanting you to go check out the car with them. He sounds terribly damaged and while I feel bad for the horse, safety must come first for the handler.
You never said what he was like previous to the attack? I would be interested to know if he was a quiet, well behaved mount previously.
The horse may never get over its fears and rightfully so, he should be a pasture puff for a very long time with daily human contact, nothing forced to see if he improves. Fear has a way of subsiding over time if we arent reminded of it every day and I think he needs to be allowed time. I dont think you will find a magic cure for something so horrible other than time, and his fear may always interfere with his ability to focus on being ridden so riding may be out of the question all together. Perhaps a local trainer would have a look with you?
Please be careful when you make a decision about him as fear is much different and dangerous in a horse than stubborn or lazy or disobedient.
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post #4 of 34 Old 09-06-2011, 10:01 AM
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Its saddening to hear this story. I think its wonderful that you want to help this poor animal, but you need to keep your safety in mind as well. I honestly don't think you'll ever be able to get rid of his fear of the woods, and even if you get him willing to go into them, he will always be unpredictable.
IMO he should be a pasture puff, or he should be completely removed from the situations that frighten him. It may take awhile, but I think he would benefit being in a more urban setting (more buildings, less trees and woods, and working in a ring instead of trail riding). This may not be practicable for you though.
Just my two cents ;)
Ps- do you have any pictures? You can tell a lot about a horse just from its facial expressions and body stance.
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post #5 of 34 Old 09-06-2011, 10:13 AM
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I'm sorry to have to say this but I don't think this horse is for you. Maybe if you lived in the US, in some State far from any woods with bears in them or you only wanted to use him for arena work.
I'm guessing him 'almost killing people' was from an explosive reaction & not from him actually attacking someone.
The poor guy would probably be very happy living in a desert or heavily people populated area.
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post #6 of 34 Old 09-06-2011, 10:26 AM
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I'm thinking it's more than just the bear attack that is causing all the problems. I wouldn't bother with a horse that had been bounced around that much. It's a good way to get injured. Sometimes shooting a horse is the kindest thing to do and will save people a lot of suffering as well.
IslandWave and aforred like this.

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post #7 of 34 Old 09-06-2011, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by paulandashia View Post
Or should I not even bother with him..???
This. Please don't put yourself in harm's way over an animal who has been traumatized to the point of panicking and endangering human lives.

A bullet isn't always cruel, especially if this horse lives in constant fear. He can't have much quality of life if he's forever looking for the next thing that is going to hurt him. Poor beast.

You want the truth? You can't HANDLE the truth!
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post #8 of 34 Old 09-06-2011, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by natisha View Post
I'm sorry to have to say this but I don't think this horse is for you. Maybe if you lived in the US, in some State far from any woods with bears in them or you only wanted to use him for arena work.
I'm guessing him 'almost killing people' was from an explosive reaction & not from him actually attacking someone.
The poor guy would probably be very happy living in a desert or heavily people populated area.
This is what I was thinking he might do better in an area with out bears and maybe in an arena but not for a novice unless you want a pasture ornament. He may benefit from some natural horsemanship type training if that hasn't been done
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post #9 of 34 Old 09-06-2011, 11:01 AM
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I'm voting with the majority here, this poor boy sounds like a huge liability, and not a project for a novice.

As an arena horse in a bear free area maybe, but where you are, no.
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post #10 of 34 Old 09-06-2011, 11:22 AM
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I completelly understand you wanting to help this horse as I know I would. There are alot of things to consider. He will need love, time, patience and an environment he can feel safe in. If you have these things then I would consider it but if you don't, maybe you know someone else that does or at least someone else that can help (preferrably with more experience).
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