Head tossing - eye sight - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 09-26-2013, 07:16 AM Thread Starter
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Location: Connecticut
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Head tossing - eye sight

Hi, everyone. I am going to be fostering a rescue horse and am very excited. She is about 20-22 years old and very sweet. She moves away from pressure, halters, leads, backs, lets you rub her all over, blanket, touch her ears, face, picks up feet, etc.

The issue she is having is she is what we call head shy and tosses her head up whenever she enters a run-in, stall, or has things moving from what I see at her eye to shoulder level, anything up higher. She startles pretty bad sometimes. She will let you rub her face and ears but after she does this head toss. And once she sees what it is or that it's ok she relaxes. I believe this comes from a little cloudy spot she has on her right eye. Obviously, it comes from some kind of eye trauma in the past. She has been vet checked and it is not a cataract just scaring.

Does anyone have good ideas with helping her with this. I believe it is more of a problem because she has that spot in her eye and isn't doing it to be naughty. I was just testing her yesterday while she was eating. I would back off a bit and just kind of swing my arms around like dancing and waving and moved closer to her each time to see where her uncomfortable spot is with the pressure that causes her to throw her head up. Once I did this over and over it didn't bother her at all. It's just the initial few startling times. I guess just working with her and desensitizing her to things higher up, over her head, backs, bouncing balls, etc.

I will be trying to riding her, but not until I am sure she is good with her ground cues an commands and lots of ground work, but this head tossing because of her vision worries me a bit getting under saddle though I know there are horses that are blind or partially blind that right just fine with lots of trusting their owner.

What do you guys think. Sorry this is long. I wanted to give the info that I knew about her.

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post #2 of 6 Old 09-26-2013, 07:39 AM
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Powhatan, Virginia
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I would just continue working with her with the head tossing. You can't expect her to stop immediately just because you know you're not going to hurt her.
Horses have to learn these things, so I suggest just keep working around her face.
Sorry if that made no sense, I've just woken up!
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post #3 of 6 Old 09-26-2013, 10:25 AM
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If she's in her twenties, you have no clue what she has gone through in her life. It could be the eye, but it's also entirely possible that she was badly handled and became headshy as a result. If she can see fine out of the other eye and she can hear fine, then she knows when you're coming. If you are already with her then she has no reason to freak out, then it is habit. If she's vet checked, let's assume it's a habit for simplicity sake.

You're going to want to do 2 things: first is touch her all over. Including her face. Go slow, but when she tosses don't take your hand away, keep it there until she brings her head down then release. Get to be able to rub her everywhere. You'll probably have to start on her neck and muzzle and chin. Then work your way up

Also teaching a head down cue will help you oodles. People teach it in different ways, but make it a part of your groundwork training. Good luck!
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post #4 of 6 Old 09-26-2013, 10:50 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Connecticut
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She does pretty good with letting me and others rubbing her on her poll, her muzzle, her ears, and head once the initial head toss is done and she realizes "oh, it's okay" it's that initial movement that is high up where just tosses her head. She does the same thing when you walk by her with the apple picker or anything really that has some height. She doesn't flinch though when you put her sheet on. I put it on her backwards :) and had to turn it around while it was on her and she was totally fine with the movement. It's just that initial movement. I know she will relax with me working with her. I know it will take some time and patience. Just wondering if you guys might have some suggestions with some exercises to do. I guess it would be just like sacking a horse out with bags, etc. but more towards that area. Keep that pressure on until she relaxes and then take that pressure away and reward her with praise and rubs.
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post #5 of 6 Old 09-26-2013, 11:04 PM Thread Starter
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Oh, I also meant to say that she has had her teeth floated and been checked by the vet and there are no health issues except that spot on her eye.
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post #6 of 6 Old 09-27-2013, 02:46 PM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Ontario
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It's called an acute sense of self preservation. The head provides the horse with 99% of it's senses that help keep it safe from attack, the eyes, the ears and the nose. With an older horse these senses may fade a bit so it become more sensitive to everything.
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