Fear Rearing. What Would You Do? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 06-22-2011, 11:35 PM Thread Starter
Green Broke
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Fear Rearing. What Would You Do?

I'm working with a mare named Sugar who rears frequently when I'm working with her. She isn't broke, so this is on the ground in a halter.

She is very claustrophobic. Whenever I'm leading her into the barn, she stops. Her head goes up, her eyes roll back. I put a small amount of pressure on her halter to bring her fowards. Even that small amount causes to her rear. Her feet go no more than six inches off the ground and she doesn't bolt or act overly foolish afterwards. She rears up and backs several steps.

How should this be handled? Rearing is dangerous. At this stage, it more of an annoyance then a danger, but I fear it will become more pronounced. Since it is from fear, I can't treat it like a rear stemming from brattiness. Punishing her will only make her more afraid, I fear. Buuuut... She should know this isn't an acceptable behavior. :/

Currently, I allow her to come back down and back a few steps before promptly requesting forward motion again. If she isn't allowed to move her feet (backwards, in this case), she becomes more paniced.
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post #2 of 8 Old 06-22-2011, 11:52 PM
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I used to lease an extremely claustraphobic ottb who did the same thing. But I'm pretty sure he'd been partially trained out of it because if I hesitated AT ALL going into the barn he reared. I ended up learning that *for him* I had to keep constant pressure at lease 20 ft away from the barn and walk forward like a pedophile was following us. Haha I know I'm no help but just putting in input and showing it does get better!! He was also very head shy/ hated putting the bridle on (anything coming toward his face) but as time went he egan to trut me and accept the bridle himself :) sorry I'm no help but good luck!!
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post #3 of 8 Old 06-23-2011, 01:53 AM
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I might use treats for such. If you can coax her a few steps (without pressure, so hopefully without rearing), she'll end up realising the barn isn't all bad and gives her food.
You could also just set some pans in a line with a little sweet feed/treats in each and put slack in the line enough that the horse can reach the feed pans without pressure or can back up a little if she gets too overwhelmed. And eventually you could take treats/feed out of the pans with just the pans there (but let her sniff them or lick or whatever she wants to do to acknowledge them), and slowly take the pans away altogether. Soon enough she'll get the idea I isn't that bad and willingly walk in. Maybe take a few treats with you after you've finished with the pans to help reinforce when she walks willingly and calmly into the barn without any fuss or second thoughts?

Also, if she isn't in the barn at all when she rears (still on the way toward it) I would suggest to continue backing her until she's willing to walk forward. It should be associated with her acting up and not her fear of entering the barn.
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post #4 of 8 Old 06-23-2011, 02:37 AM
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All very interesting idea! I was thinking that it might be good to work with her the way you would work with a horse that is afraid to load into a trailer;

move them toward the trailer and then away from the trailer, then toward, then away. But you move them away from the trailer just before the horse gets to the place where it can't tolerate any more. Eventually, you will be easing yourself closer and closer, but always allowing, in fact requesting, the horse to retreat just before they feel the MUST retreat or panic.
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post #5 of 8 Old 06-23-2011, 12:52 PM Thread Starter
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So... Push her almost to the limit and back off a second before she decides she needs to back off herself? I like this. Sugar is very easy to read, so it isn't a mystery when she is unsure.

She is also one of the few horses that I can use treats to train with without her becoming pushy. I'll try the treat idea as well. It's a little unconventional, but I don't see why it wouldn't help.
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post #6 of 8 Old 06-23-2011, 05:30 PM
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I would work her near the entrance with absolutely no intention of getting her to approach it. Just very relaxed exercises such as sending her through tight spaces, (you and a wall), yielding her hind quarters and backing her up, maybe even a nice snack near the entrance. Anything to let her be exposed to it in a positive way. Do it that way a few times and then happen to "accidentally" send her into the space. Take the fact that it's that particular opening out of the equation. That's all I've got.

You just have to see your distance...you don't have to like it.
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post #7 of 8 Old 06-23-2011, 06:06 PM
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I agree with the above advices to reassure her and trust you for guidance, and to get her over her fear, BUT, if she is using the popping up and backing as an evasion to not do something that makes her uneasy, that behavior in itself is dangerous and unacceptable. Don't get after her for being nervous, but DO get after her if she goes up. If she pops up, send her backwards hard and fast, about a dozen steps or so. Then offer to let her stop and stand, and think about it. Then return to the point you were at before and continue working. If she decides that her reaction isn't worth yours, that particular behavior will stop. I had a very nervous Saddlebred that had some very rough handling before I got him, and this was his reaction to anything that made him nervous (which was everything). It didn't take him long to realize that while being nervous was okay, that particular behavior WAS NOT. When he went blind, that behavior resurfaced briefly, I handled it the same way, and it stopped.

"Keep a leg on each side and your mind in the middle"
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post #8 of 8 Old 06-23-2011, 06:38 PM
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[QUOTE=Brighteyes;1074216]So... Push her almost to the limit and back off a second before she decides she needs to back off herself? I like this. Sugar is very easy to read, so it isn't a mystery when she is unsure.

Yes, that's the essense. The idea is that the horse learns that you will not ask them to do more than they can and the they will be allowed to retreat soon. With time, they can stand more and more, as long as they know a retreat will come. Then, they wont need a retreat, but if they do, sometimes just a step or two backward and you can ask again if they will try forward. This , after you do bigger retreats, like turning away from the barn door and going for "a walk" the other direction before reapproaching the barn door. After a bit, maybe , as you approach if she hesitate and steps back, you may be able to ask for forward again sooner.

Lay the foundation first, of confidence, then it will come faster, so take the time you need up front.
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