Helping a horse become kid friendly. - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 17 Old 07-29-2010, 11:46 AM
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Solway MN
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I totally agree with Barry. I have a 3 yr old niece, and a 9 yr old niece. I have had a few heartstoppers when the 3 yr old bolted and ran right for the horses. Thank Epona that they are all calm and gentle and did not react badly. I have to suggest kneeling down to this little girls level and talking to her. A 4 yr old should have the ability to follow rules. Explain to her-

"You are going to see my ponies. I have rules about the ponies. The rules are that you must hold my hand when we go see the ponies. You cannot run away from me. You have to listen to what I say about the ponies. If you cannot follow the rules, you will have to sit outside the fence on a time out while I brush the ponies. Do you understand?"

Have 2-3 simple rules, and a consequence. Make her repeat the rules back to you.

I would suggest putting your mare up in her stall or in another pasture while the little one is with you. Do not put your horse in a situation she is uncomfortable in. You can acclimate the child to the horse over the stall door or through the fence. I would suggest having the child offer the horse a tasty treat such as a baby carrot or apple slice each time she sees her. Child can put treat in a bucket and offer it to her. This way your mare will see the little girl as a pleasurable thing. She may not ever be a kids horse, but you can at least make sure that she is tolerable.

Spent a whole hour today laying in a pasture, waiting for a sparkling vampire to show up. Alas, I woke up and looked over, only to find a mound of horse crap. Sigh.
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post #12 of 17 Old 07-29-2010, 02:14 PM
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Location: Watertown, MN
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Originally Posted by draftrider View Post

"You are going to see my ponies. I have rules about the ponies. The rules are that you must hold my hand when we go see the ponies. You cannot run away from me. You have to listen to what I say about the ponies. If you cannot follow the rules, you will have to sit outside the fence on a time out while I brush the ponies. Do you understand?"

Have 2-3 simple rules, and a consequence. Make her repeat the rules back to you.
This is almost the exact conversation I had with my niece and other kids that come out. Ash broke the rules 1-2x at first, but then her little butt was sitting in the barn waiting for me to get done.
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post #13 of 17 Old 07-29-2010, 02:34 PM
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Eastern Canada
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Some horses hate children. My pony was one of them - pinned her ears, made faces, would leave the area if loose. I made the decision to not force her to 'like' them. She had to tolerate them, but I would make sure kids weren't in her bubble. If they were there she had to be polite about it but didn't have to enjoy it.

She's the only horse or pony I've ever met who hated children. My thoroughbred loooooves them and is a different animal around them.

My advice would be, don't force Honey into 'liking' kids - she'll just end up more resentful.
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post #14 of 17 Old 07-29-2010, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by mls View Post
As was said - some critters simply do not like children. Usually boils down to the predator reaction. Children and dogs cause the most common 'dislike' or fear response.
This hits the nail on the head.

A small child, to a horse, is much like a dog or wolf. They have the same "feel" to the horse when they enter the horse's space. It's not really about the sudden movements, or the sudden loud noises - it's actually about the energy children carry with them everywhere.

Some horses can cope and don't mind that at all/seem to enjoy - others can cope but don't enjoy it - and others still can't cope.

I'm with whoever it was that said a Children's horse is born, not made. I have yet to meet a horse who is uncomfortable with children who was made "child safe". I've seen them (and helped them) to cope so that they aren't defensive around children, but, never altered a horse's perception of a child.

By 4 years of age a child should be able to understand a couple simple rules about the barn/horses. Make sure you enforce the consequences for breaking those rules, ALWAYS.

I generally don't allow small children to be "alone" near the horses at all, even my "child friendly" horses. Children (especially very young ones) "forget" themselves sometimes - and horses can forget themselves too. They must be within arms reach of me at all times until they are at least 5 or 6 years old (around that age they can be taught how to handle an appropriately sized/trained horse).
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post #15 of 17 Old 07-29-2010, 06:48 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you everyone for the food for thought. Whilst I'm not trying to make my horse child safe I've only been working towards her being tolerable, I can see that this will be a slow and steady game with the rules I've enforced and some of the new, safer ideas I have gain from this thread. Thank you all for your advice it has been much appreciated and eye opening. It's funny you bring up dogs, honey is curious of my dog butalso doesn't do more than tolerate her. I'll take that as a sign from what I've read here.
Thanks again everyone!
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post #16 of 17 Old 07-29-2010, 08:22 PM
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I'm not going to tell you what's already been told, but rather tell you how it works on my property.
One - no way, no how are you going to visit the horses if you are being loud, exuberant, saucy or irregardless to rules.
Two - I always HOLD the children. I know that should a situation happen, I can either rush the child out of there or (most of the time with my boys) diffuse the situation with one hand.
Now, I have one gelding who is so dead, dog quiet even the most challenging of kids could handle him with ease. I trust him 100%. But I never let children just hang off of him or treat him in a less then desirable way because who is to say that that child will not see another horse in a different setting and treat him the same, with far worse consequences?
My other gelding despises children - as shown by the day one of my father's coworkers let his children out of his truck. My gelding put his head down and chased that child clear out of his paddock. Had the child fallen, he probably would have run him over.
BUT that horse absolutely adores me. When I approach him with a child in my arms, he is absolutely thrilled to see me and puts up with the child petting him. I make the situation comfortable for him by my presence being there to make him feel that things are alright. He fears children on their own, but they are smaller then he is so he will undoubtedly chase or hurt them. Because he trusts me so much, he is willing to overlook it and say "well mum says its okay."
Perhaps you could try something like that with Honey?

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post #17 of 17 Old 07-29-2010, 09:02 PM
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I just want to share a couple of little stories. My old horse Buck was a monster of a horse, standing around 16 hands and weighing around 1400. When my brother was young, maybe 6 or 7, he was leading Buck back to his stall at the show ground. As they were walking, an electric cord brushed Buck's rump and caused him to pop his head up. My brother had a tight enough grip on the lead close enough to Buck's head that he was pulled off his feet. He sprawled out on the ground in front of the still-walking horse. Buck took a step and ended up with his foot on the side of Jason's knee. He didn't move another muscle or try to take another step, he simply dropped his nose down to my Brother and stood there with his foot barely resting on my Brother's knee. He stayed exactly in that position for several seconds until my Dad could get there and show Buck where it was safe to move his foot to avoid the rest of the arms and legs that were underneath him. Even after all that, the only mark to be seen was a hoofprint of dust on my Brother's jeans.

We had a team of Belgian Mules named Buster and Tiny. Both of them were over 17 hands and weighed more than 1500 (though Buster was quite a bit bigger). When they were about 5 years old, we had them at a Mule show. Dad was leading them down the isle of the barn to their stalls when Buster froze and refused to move. When Dad turned to see what the deal was, he heard a squeal and giggle from directly behind the mules. Apparently, (according to other witnesses) a young girl of 3 or 4 had wandered away from her parents and when she saw the mules, she hit a run towards their walking hind feet. She never even slowed down as she hit Buster's back legs and wrapped her arms around them. He never reacted other than to freeze every muscle, lift his head, and cock his ears back.

These are the type of reactions that absolutely cannot be taught, they must be ingrained in a horse's being so deeply that they are simply unable to react badly to a child. The horse from the first story, Buck? If that had been an adult, he would have run them over and sneered as he trampled them and kept going. His lot in life was a kid horse and that was what he was best at. For a kid, he would kill himself doing what they wanted to do so long as they were safe but an adult would be hard pressed to successfully ride him without a big fight.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that some horses don't like children and never will. Regardless of what kind of training or desensitizing Honey gets, she may never be comfortable or safe around kids. Probably your best bet would be to continue on with the way you are doing things now, keep the girl away unless you are right there to protect her.
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