Fear of Saddles! (feed back please) - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 05-07-2011, 09:17 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Tennessee
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Question Fear of Saddles! (feed back please)

Ok, so, I recently got a horse that I've known for 2 years and he's finally mine. With in a month I got a job. It's to work third shift (11pm-7am) but I had to be trained during the day and will be starting my official shift tonight. In all this I haven't had the time to train him myself, but only bits here and there to really work him. So, since I got him I worked with him a little here and there and he was fine. Round penning, long lineing, saddle on and off....But, I knew that he needed more, so I hired a trainer to come out. I talked with her for a few hours and had her out and showed her what I could do with him and told her that he's basically ready to start his riding lessons. He was a little dancy but behaved and took his saddle and everything. A week later she comes out and he's in the round pen and she goes to saddle him...EXPLOSION!

He wouldn't stand still, he went in circles, he pulled away from her, he was just totally FREAKED out! I had watched her, and she hadn't done anything I wouldn't have...So I knew it wasn't her. It took her a while, but eventually she got the saddle on. Then it came to cynching up the girth. She didn't even get it pulled and he went to bucking like a rodeo horse!

I couldn't believe this was MY horse! He was always calm and never bucked! I paid attention to her more...she still hadn't done anything different....It just blew my mind how he could be totally chill one day, but then this day he freaks out! I thought that maybe it was just her he didn't like, for whatever reason. So I went in to help and he did NOT calm down, so I stepped out again.

Eventually she got it on enough to just round pen him with it on. I had to leave because of a dinner date so I didn't get to see how she finished, but I trust that she didn't do anything too horrible with him because of how I saw her working with him before.

Now a pause for a bit of back story on this horse. He hasn't been messed with much in nearly 2 years. The one time he was worked with it was when his previous owner decided it was ok to let this guy break him. He was cross tied and had everything thrown him at once, then was 'ridden'. I wasn't there, but I heard the story from the previous owner...He proved that he indeed, has the ability to be a rodeo horse. However, since I got him and worked with him, he's not shown that side of him and has taken to everything well. But I know that his first experience with a saddle was not great. Still...he's not acted this way with me.

So, next chapter of this 'short' story is this. I went out there today and worked with him. He was sweet as ever...until I broke out the saddle pad. He danced and circled and was just down right not kosher with me putting it on him. It took me a while, but I got it on him, then I tried the saddle...worse...only difference from what he did with the trainer the day before was that he wasn't pulling AWAY from me. Just lots and lots of spaztic circling. He dumped the pad, dumped the saddle when I finally got it on him several times. The whole pad and saddle thing were NOT working, and I couldn't just 'put' it on him. He wouldn't buck, but he didn't like it! So, I took the pad off, got really close, and threw the saddle up on him. This of course freaked him out, but it put me in the right position to KEEP it on him. Did this many many times. On, circle circle circle, stand still, off. On, repeat, stand still, off. Eventually he was circling less and less. So then I cynched him, absolutely NO buck. He didn't like it, but he barely moved. I left it on him for a while and just made him stand, relax with the saddle on. (something he would NOT do the day before with the trainer). Then about 15 minutes later (also a breather for me lol) I took it off and tried again....Reverted right back to the 'freak out'. So, I tried a new tactic. I would put it on, wait for him to stand, and give him a treat. This worked rather rapidly! So I kept doing that a few more times, cynched, and made him stand. Another breather later, did this again....right BACK to freak out! So, loosing patience and strength, and knowing now that he learns when he's standing and NOT when he's moving....I try a more...er...aggressive approach...I grab my crop and instead of just letting him circle me to get 'away' from the saddle, I pop him in the chest while asking for a 'woah' as I'm throwing the saddle up on him. Let me tell you what...that got his attention! It turned into 5 pops to stop him, to 2, then to 1....I did it over and over and EVERY time he took so much as one step forward, he'd get a 'woah' then a pop if he stepped again. Eventually...he just stood there!

Now, I share this with you because I feel bad that my popping him worked as I was one to always believe that you don't use force...but NOT using force just had him going in circles...literally...I stepped back and realized...when he's moving...he's not thinking...he's just moving moving moving...but, when he's 'forced' to stand still and pay attention to what's actually happening...he's WAY better! This is just so opposite from everything I've read and previously done with ANY horses.

This was written as a bit of a 'journal' entry, as well as to ask for some feed back.

(I do apologize if this entry seems a bit jumbled...this new night shift I'm on has me easily distracted)
Quedeme is offline  
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post #2 of 11 Old 05-07-2011, 09:48 PM
Green Broke
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Milwaukee
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I had a similar problem with my horse, Brandon. He had not been ridden for 5 years before I adopted him, and this previous owner was ...inexperienced, I suppose (I am being kind here).
He had some really bad experiences with saddles, bits, crops, spurs, etc.

It took me a LOT of in hand/groundwork to get him relaxed.

I also used TTouch (I know a lot of people here think it's BS, but it worked for me) and clicker training.

Does your saddle fit right?
Did he have a bad experience under saddle prior to this?
Did the trainer make him visibly nervous before she started working with him?

I saddled and rode him for the first time this Wed and he was a perfect angel.

Here are some links if you're interested.

TTouch: http://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Horse-Behavior-Training-Book/dp/1570763208/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1304819162&sr=8-6Why TTEAM® for Your Horse? - Tellington TTouch Training™

Clicker Training: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0793832004and http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1890948357

"My treasures do not clink together or glitter; They gleam in the sun and neigh in the night."
-Arabian Proverb
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post #3 of 11 Old 05-07-2011, 09:58 PM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Ontario
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OK you've forced the horse to accept the saddle. How can he trust you if you hit him? His reaction is telling you he's afraid. We can force a horse to be compliant but then we never get the trust. Shortcuts in training have a way of showing up at the wrong time.
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post #4 of 11 Old 05-07-2011, 10:02 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Tennessee
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Like I said, the only previous experience I know of is when some idiot tied him down and threw it all on him and just jumped on. Other than that, I know he's not been abused.

As for her making him nervous prior to the work, I didn't notice it to be honest, but I did notice that he didn't respect her much. Like he won't just bump into me or run over me, but he did ALOT of bumping and space invasion of her and nearly ran her over a few times. Total lack of respect for her even though he respects me.

I hate using a crop on him, but it seems to be the only thing that really makes him think and not just react.

I also noticed that when he's allowed to just move and circle constantly, he doesn't lick his lips, but when I was popping him and gave him a moment, he'd lick his lips. So he's not learning when moving....Very strange x.x
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post #5 of 11 Old 05-07-2011, 10:17 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Tennessee
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Note, He's MORE scared when he's allowed to move. He actually calms down when he's being corrected and thinks. I'm not just 'beating' him, I'm popping him. He can still move if he really wanted to, I don't have him tied or chained or any of that, AND I do alot of trust building in other ways, like giving him LOTS of praise, attention, and even treats once he does stand still. I give him lots of breaks so it's not just 'work work work' as well. Each time I approach him, he's actually less and less scared...

And...now that I've actually typed that out and thought about it...it makes me think of something else. Could it be that he's LOOKING for someone firm? Someone to tell him 'it's ok' in a different way than just letting him do it and letting him think 'it's ok'? Like when a horse trusts the alpha herd member because they're alpha, because they're strong, and because they keep the other horses in their place in the herd? Just a thought....
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post #6 of 11 Old 05-07-2011, 11:56 PM
Join Date: Apr 2011
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I think you found a way that works for you & your horse! Good for you! If one thing isnt working always change tactics or everyone will get frustrated.
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post #7 of 11 Old 05-08-2011, 07:05 AM
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sorry if i've misunderstood the thread but sounds like he could be in some kind if pain in his back. Have you had chiro out?

should i or should i not.........
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post #8 of 11 Old 05-08-2011, 08:09 AM
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I honestly think your horse needs some slower, more consistent experiences with the whole frame work of his mental capacity. He has just had to much "thrown at him" all at once. Instead of putting the saddle pad on then removing it when he has a negative reaction sack him out all over his body with the saddle pad or just a saddle blanket. Don't even bring the saddle into the view of your horse in the beginning of the remedial training. This new training regime could take up to 4-6 weeks.
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post #9 of 11 Old 05-08-2011, 08:44 AM
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Has the horse ever been allowed to investigate/smell the saddle and pad?
Does he freak at other common items? You can always try feeding him some hay or grain placed right next to the saddle and pad. You should be able to touch him all over with the pad, and the girth as well all over his belly.
Maybe he just needs more time sacking out.
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post #10 of 11 Old 05-08-2011, 01:22 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Tennessee
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He's not scared of the pad, JUST the saddle. And yes, I've let him smell it, and just look at it alot. I would let him smell and investigate before and after each atempt I've examined his back and he shows NO signs of pain. No flinching or bumps or any of that. I've also put weight on him once the saddle is on (grabbing the stirrup and putting ALL my weight on it, and I'm NOT light lol) and he stands there like he's done it all his life. Once it's on, he's chill. It's just getting it ON him that's the trick.

Thank you for all your responses and the chance to talk out this issue to further help me understand him and this situation.
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