Horse very nervous outside paddock

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Horse very nervous outside paddock

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  • How to manage a nervous horse outside
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    03-27-2012, 12:16 AM
Horse very nervous outside paddock

Hi! I have a horse I am riding down for someone. She is either very green or had some aweful training. Basically I got her to the point that she trusts and respects me, we have walked and trotted - no canter yet. She is comfortable and fairly safe in the roundpen and her paddock (about 3 acres). She has not been out of her paddock (on a ride) in like a year, she lives alone (I know, poor horse), very territorial and extremely nervous outside the paddock.
So I figured I would start by leading her out of the paddock with halter on and basically walking around to get her used to being in unfamiliar territory. Boy, she started blowing and dancing immediately, trying to go in all possible directions, mostly for some reason towards me with her shoulder. I am guessing because I was not letting her run and hide, she decided that I was her best protection and she was trying to get as close as possible. I literally had to struggle to stay on my feet, she was pushing so hard. She was very anxotic - never seen that behavior in the paddock, she was trying to look in all directions in one and just getting overwhelmed. I do not know if the cause for it is simply her being in the paddock for that long or what. But obviously she is not safe to ride out, and I was wondering what I can do to get her to cam down? I have NEVER seen that kinda behavior before. Horses being more alert outside of their territory - sure, but close to having a heart attack from just being out - never! Please, help with any advice you can! Thank you.
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    03-27-2012, 12:57 AM
It sounds like she is lacking confidence when she gets away from her familiar surroundings. I think that it would be a good thing to take her out daily, even if it is only hand walking her to let her get used to things. Before you go out with her, see how well she responds to you on the ground in the area she is most comfortable in, like the paddock or the roundpen. You didn't say if you have done any work with her on the ground yet. If not, it would be a good idea to see how well she responds to you on the ground before heading out. She should move away from you when you ask her to, you could try moving the hindend away, the forehand away, she should back up when you want her to and walk on, turn and stop when asked. When she can do these types of things by responding as soon as you ask her to with the least amount of pressure this is great. She needs to respect your space before you try heading out for walks with you. Once you feel that she is ready, you could try taking her out of her comfort zone, don't expect to go very far at first, be happy if you can go for only a little bit with her listening to you and respecting your space and then head back before she starts to lose her confidence. You will need to keep repeating this, hopefully getting a little further each time before she loses her confidence. If she starts to lose it and get crazy on the walk, practice what you worked on on the ground, making sure she respects your space, work at this until she is listening to you and calm or at least as calm as she can get.

Most important thing is for you to be able to stay confident as well, if you don't feel comfortable she will pick up on it and it will not help her out any. So if she loses it remember to stay calm and breathe, remind her to respect your space by moving her away from you and getting her to focus on you.

Just remember if you get out there and she loses it before you get back to her safe place stop and get her attention and her respecting your space and hopefully calm before heading back to her safe place. You really don't want her to learn that she can start to act that way and then she gets to go home. That is why it is important to start with very short walks at first.

I hope this helps out a little, I'm not the best at explaining things. Maybe someone else here will have something better to share.
    03-27-2012, 10:16 AM
She respects my space in all of her familiar areas. I have worked on the ground, she steps away, backs up and follows when prompted. I have ridden her up to trot in the paddock and she is as calm as a green Saddlebred can be. Definitely not panicked. I actually thought she was coming around quite nicely till we had that walk with her. I will definitely persist with walking. May have to bring some treats with me next time and see if I can take her mind off of how scary things are.
    03-27-2012, 11:37 AM
It sounds like you are doing well with her in the areas she feels safe in. You will just have to work towards getting the same feeling away from the safe areas. How soon after you leave the paddock or roundpen does she start to show signs of becoming unconfident? Watch for the slightest signs, if she shows signs of starting to lose her attention on you, ask her to do something that you know she already does well to get her attention focused on you and then reward her. What you ask her to do doesn't have to be 100% perfect, but she should show signs of trying and most of all be focused on you. You may choose to head back at this point and call it a day. If you are consistent about doing this everyday and really pay attention to the most subtle signs that she is showing you and take care to get her focus back before she completely loses it you should start to notice that you can go further each day without much trouble.

Take your time and really try to see the most subtle signs of losing her focus on you and take care of it right away by asking her to do something she does really well and reward the slightest tries.
    03-27-2012, 04:13 PM
She starts doing it the second she steps out of the gate. It is that bad. :) Thanks for the advice.
    03-27-2012, 04:32 PM
Are you getting nervous in anticipation of the projectin
Of a problem?
It's amazing how much they can pick up from you.
Good luck Clear your mind and anticipate success ypur horse will follow....
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    03-27-2012, 06:33 PM
No, I am not nervous. In fact, when I first took her out, I did not even think it was an issue. She shocked me by her absolutely nutty behavior.
    03-27-2012, 06:47 PM
If she is starting as soon as she steps out of the gate, then just work right there with her. Stay there until she is focused and respectful and then you can take her back through the gate to the paddock. I would do this a few more times but don't overdo it either. See if you can get her to stand there quietly for a bit, don't ask for too long though, quit while you are ahead if she can stand patiently and stay attentive to you for just a little bit and then go back through the gate to the paddock. If she tries to push forward get her to back up, if she pushes the front end into you move it away from you, etc and be aware to notice the smallest of pushes into your space and correct them immediately. It is difficult to advise what exactly to do without seeing what exactly is happening, but my best advice is to #1 for yourself to stay calm and patient but determined, and #2 be very aware of your horse's body language, where her attention is focused, etc, and correct any unwanted behaviour before it escalates. It is also important to reward any type of try that she shows. Reward can be a simple as the release of pressure, this MUST be done as a reward and can be the only reward, but saying good girl, or giving a rub or a scratch at the withers can be added. I think that a lot of horses really like that sort of thing and tend to try harder for you. The most important reward of all is the release of pressure, and the better your timing with it the quicker she will learn.

I hope this helps and good luck with her.
    03-27-2012, 08:25 PM
Yeah, there is absolutely nothing subtle about her pushing :)) I will definitely just start right outside the gate then. Good tip. I was also thinking of trying to feed her outside, that way she will a) have something to distract her from being scared b) associate outside with something good. What you all think?

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