Do you think She's been hit? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 08-07-2010, 10:17 AM Thread Starter
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Do you think She's been hit?

My mare has been coming along nicely, and becoming such a pocket pony. lol

The one thing that's nagging at me though, is if somewhere in her past life, she's been hit in the head.
There are times when I've been handling her, that I will raise my hand and she will jump away from me as if she's afraid.
Sometimes, I've lifted my hand to go up and scratch near her ears or pick something out of her mane, and if I do it too fast she'll jump away from me.

Yesterday, I tried lifting my hand slowly, and I got a sideways glance and she started to turn her head away. Rather than forcing it, I just kept my hand in that position, and talked softly to her for a few seconds, then very slowly brought my hand to just behind and below her ear and started to scratch her.
She then responded to me, by pushing her head inward to receive more scratches. I was so happy!

Can I have your comments on this? Is it common for horses to avert themselves when a hand is lifted like that or is it more likely she's been hit at some point in time?

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post #2 of 9 Old 08-07-2010, 10:49 AM
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It's always possible that her headshy behavior is a result of being handled poorly in the past. Of course it's also possible that she's just more sensitive about her head. Some horses are. Either way, the fix is the same. She needs lots of time with desensitizing. Spend lots of time rubbing her ears, her poll, between her eyes. Do "sacking out" techniques on her body, and once she's comfortable start making your way up her neck and eventually to her head. Once she gets used to consistent handling around her head and figures out its not going to hurt her, she'll get better.

Also you need to start slow by moving carefully around her head but gradually move towards normal movement. If you constantly tiptoe around her you will only reinforce. Work with her ina roundpen where you don't have to tie her. That way if she does panic she won't be tied as that will only make the situation worse.

But I have one horse that for his entire life has been just a little leery of things around his ears. I've worked a lot with him and he's improved a lot, but every now and then he'll flinch at a quick movement or he'll raise his head away from me when I'm trying to do something around his ears. I know this horse has had no abuse of any kind. It's just his "quirk" and for the most part we've worked through it.

Last edited by Cobalt; 08-07-2010 at 10:51 AM.
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post #3 of 9 Old 08-07-2010, 12:07 PM
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I agree with Cobalt. It's a possibility that she could have been made headshy by past handling, but a lot of horses are just sensitive about their head and ears. IMHO, a lot of people jump to the conclusion that the horse has been smacked around the head when really the horse either has a physical issue that makes the head sensitive (ear mites, bug bites or something similar), has never had the issue of having the head or ears handled resolved (i.e. a hole in basic training), or simply has a more defensive personality.

You might want to inspect her ears for bug bites or some other physical reason for her to pull away. I think you handled the situation that you described very well, and I would address the issue in the same way. Find the point at which she becomes uncomfortable, and start desensitizing her there, moving closer and closer as she relaxes. No matter why she's defensive, the desensitizing will help.

Good luck!

A stubborn horse walks behind you, an impatient one in front of you, but a noble companion walks beside you ~ Unknown
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post #4 of 9 Old 08-09-2010, 09:35 PM
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i believe my pony mare has been hit because of the jerking violently away when you move your hand. its sad.

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post #5 of 9 Old 08-09-2010, 09:49 PM
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You'd be amazed, some horses are just a LOT more sensitive then others. When Shay-la bought Eve, granted she was wild and unhandled, but allowing us to touch her head was the BIGGEST ordeal. I got rained with grain SO many times, because the minute her lips bumped your hand, she'd go into full spazz mode and start snorting and rolling her eyes and backing away violently. It took us WEEKS to teach her how to eat out of a bucket, or to touch her on the face. She was fine with us touching her all over her body, but would act like you electrocuted her if you touched her face.

Two years later and Eve is a complete pocket pony. You can stand this mare loose in a pen, and completely sack her out with a tarp and she'll never move. However, if you jump in the air beside her and flap your arms, she will spook so violently you would SWEAR she's been abused. Same if you move to quick around her head - she'll jump and fling her head away (even though she LOVES face scratches now).

We know for fact that filly was never abused, and was almost completely wild (she was running on 5,000 acres with a herd of Shires until Shay-la bought her as a yearling). And yet, she acts like she's been badly abused about the head.

And then my Paint Jynx? She tried to run over Shay-la once and got a bucket cracked across her head, and she couldn't care less. You probably COULD abuse her and she'd never be headshy!

I hope God tells her to smash her computer with a sledgehammer.

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post #6 of 9 Old 08-09-2010, 10:28 PM
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Stiffler is the same way and I know for a fact the previous barn owner would belt him or punch him in the nose if he got testy. Sadly this has stuck with him and every time I raise my hand the poor boy about has a heart attack.

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post #7 of 9 Old 08-09-2010, 11:51 PM
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I agree with the others; some horses have had abuse, and may or may not be head shy. Some horses have had no abuse, and just are head shy, because they are just more leery of hands, and such being in their faces.

My mare had definitely been eared at some point before I got her, because you couldn't touch her ears or poll area with out her cringing and pulling back in fear. I've just taken things slowly, but I DO touch her ears, and her poll...she is 100 times better than she was last fall when I got her...I couldn't bridle her without her anticipating being eared, and trying to get away. Now she lowers her head, and lets me bridle and unbridle her with little issues; everyonce in a while she'll have a 'spazz attack' and I will just spend some time desensitizing again, and that will be that.

So my advice? Whether he's been abused or not, make it a point to touch him everywhere. Use approach and retreat methods if you have to, until he is comfortable with you approaching his head, but DO touch him...I think of it this way; if I ever have to have a vet do something with his head, I don't want to have to sedate him, just because I never bothered to help the horse overcome his even if you are okay with him being that way, make sure you work toward helping him get over it, so if someone DOES have to work on his head, ears, and face, he is okay with that.

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post #8 of 9 Old 08-11-2010, 12:06 AM
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Horses always make you wonder, but the point is, it doesn't matter why- just fix it

Plenty of horses just are head shy, others have been handled rudely, and some are in the middle of a learning process. Tommy Turvey brought in a young colt at a Horse Expo and said, "He bites, so he's also head shy." Makes sense! Some horses do give people reasons to make them head shy- I know that sounds bad, but if a hrose gets in your space in an attempt to nip and you protect yourself as if you were swatting a fly he might not even have gotten a slight bumb but may have still swung his head out of the way. Ever watch horses play halter tag- nip and retreat. they go in for the bite and quick swing their head out of the way before the other guy gets them back- its a game. Not saying that is the issue with this horse- just trying to show that the swinging away of the head is instinctual even with horses who are dominant and playful instead of sensitive.
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post #9 of 9 Old 08-12-2010, 02:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Danee View Post
Horses always make you wonder, but the point is, it doesn't matter why- just fix it
I agree with this 100%.

The past is the past & there is nothing that's going to change it. What you can change is the present and the future. Teach your horse what you expect from them & how you expect them to respond. Don't worry about what happened before you had control of the horse.

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