I'm having trouble with my mare and her fear-problems.
Let me start by saying, I am a new (adult) trainer - I have been learning about horses all my life at a rescue. I've moved up the ranks and am now training the rescues, I help them overcome problems often caused by their previous owners. I've trained our rescues a-LOT of ground work, as most aren't able to be ridden (do to soundness issues), the few that are able to be ridden have never given me much trouble. I've started a few of our horses, never had any trouble with bucking or bolting, most of the horses I teach them everything they need to know for riding while I'm on the ground first anyway.
I was finally given the opportunity to get my very own horse (after far too long of waiting for this country kid raised in the city ). Well of course, being broke and loving rescues, I decided to get a rescue myself. Well, I made the mistake we all too often make when we're getting our 'first horse'. I went, I saw her, I fell in love, the next morning she was in my barn. She was a 'free to good home' horse - now I know what that really means...
She is a 15.1 hand Canadian horse (well that's my best guess to her breed, if anyone knows better I'd love to know!). She's a Tank (like her name), she may be short but she's Very 'sturdy'! I love her more than anything.
Her previous owner was not part of her life, left her with 'the trainer'. The trainer told me she was halter broke, trained to give to the bit, accepts all sorts of tack and can be ground driven. So I thought it was only a matter of converting her into a riding horse. I was thrilled. She got home and was Clearly never halter broke. Clearly had never had a bit in her mouth and clearly had never seen tack before then.
Well, it's been a year! I took it as a challenge and a serious learning opportunity for me! A horse, who is all too forgiving of my short-comings, who will let me learn how to train her. I started by getting her comfortable with me, then the halter, then I taught her how to give to pressure - everywhere. She gives to the pressure of the halter, walking forward, backing up, moving her hind end away, moving her front end away, moving sideways away, moving to pressure from the halter turning away from me (with the rope all the way around her behind). She also does most of those things with verbal commands or just by pointing, I don't generally need to touch her unless she's feeling naughty . She had come a very long way. After getting her so as I can do anything with her on the ground I started with the bit, I found a french link full cheek snaffle (I like full cheeks for new horses as the aids are clearer and it's held in the correct spot in their mouth - in my opinion). I gave her time to get used to it, then began teaching her to give to the bit, turning in both directions and halting and backing. I got her comfortable with a harness and sort of ground drove her for a while (this is when I started running low on time and didn't have much time to really focus on her). I got her comfortable with a small English saddle and a girth. I've begun riding her in her field (bareback - I like to have the option to bail when I get on new horses ). She's doing fantastic, learning to move off my leg, she walks and halts and turns now. I'm so thrilled with her!
Now here's the bad part. I've had extreme trouble sense the beginning getting her out of her field! I don't know much about her past, but she is very scared to be out of her field. The first time I had no idea what would happen, a few steps out the gate her whole body got tense, her head was up, she was breathing heavy and her body had turned to stone! Finally she would turn around and bolt back to her stall. The first time I got hurt, rope burn and a scraped ankle. It could have been much worse. I called a trainer the next day, one who works with draft horses... long story short, I've tried a whole lot of methods to get her out. Using other horses with her, using two people holding her and forcing her out (bad idea!). It's clearly fear, as far as I know she's never been in a barn before (she's in an 2 stall right now), and the barn right in front of her field is seriously scary (to her). Clearly she has very little - to no real respect for me, she does what I ask in the field because she's a good girl - she'll do what I ask outside too, but only until she explodes and bolts up to her stall.
After talking with numerous trainers and ignoring all their violent suggestions I finally learned a trick that seems to have helped a bit. I taught her to 'put her head down' on command. With pressure on the halter - now with my verbal command she puts her nose to the ground, according to multiple trainers (and it makes sense to me too), this shifts them out of 'flight mode' and into 'eating mode'. Well, this has worked substantially I have gained a great deal of respect, when I take her out I can get her half way up and down the driveway so long as I stay on the side closer to her field, not the side close to the barn - when she starts to tense up I ask her to put her head down and she calms down.
Now I'm moving, we're going to a barn with just her and her companion pony, and nothing but open spaces around us. Now that the slate will be clean and no more bad memories or scary barns to make her afraid I want to begin getting her to venture out of her new field. I have 3 turnouts I can move her between, but the riding area is not fenced, or have any borders, it's simply an area where there is footing put in to ride on (I'm renting so I'm not going to invest in fencing). I want to be able to ride her in the riding area and hopefully someday even in the open field behind our property. Anyone have any sort of constructive ideas as to how I can begin to venture her out of her little world? I realize much of this is do to my lack of knowledge and in-experience, but I can't afford a trainer and I really wanted to do it all myself - to really learn. I'd really appreciate constructive help (please don't bash me or my training styles, I'm just looking for ideas).
Thanks so much for letting me blab on, sorry I'm so chatty. This is her being a good girl :P (I know it looks like I'm too far forward, but I swear it didn't feel like that when I was on her o.O)
Thanks everyone! I'm very excited to join here, I've been looking for a fun place to 'talk pony' with people.