Today was a very frustrating/infuriating day. My mare has ALWAYS been terrified of leaving her paddock at our last home. I found many excuses for her behavior about her past, about her fear issues, then I settled that it was because there were too many scary things outside that barn. I moved to a new house where I could keep her and there is nothing around besides grass, grass and more grass. The only potentially scary thing is the dumpster for the manure. She has her friend, a pony, living with us. With a great deal of work she is no longer herd bound. I walked him out in circles where she could and couldn't see him for periods of time progressively making the time she couldn't see him longer until she just didn't care anymore. I can now take the pony out for hours on hikes without any fuss from her.
Now when we first moved to our new house I said "I am nipping this no leaving the paddock thing in the bud!" The fourth day she was in I marched her giant patooty outside her paddock, past the dumpster and found a good place to let her graze. She calmly walked out, calmly ate grass and then coming back she got a little nervous of the dumpster (odd because this time I was between her and the dumpster) but we walked past it back and forth about 10 times until it no longer phased her.
Then the past almost 3 weeks the bugs have been SO completely miserable I've only been able to put her out long enough to do her stall, or not at all. She has a serious allergy to bug bites and it's been awful lately so I didn't want to risk letting her out much. But we practiced all our basic ground work techniques for a few minutes every day. Yielding her hind end, front end, backing up, leading and halting in turn with me, turning to and away from me without ever invading my space. She has been doing incredibly well with all these skills. She has learned to put her head down with just a tiny amount of pressure on her halter, even when we are walking by a scary object she'll put her head to the ground.
Well today was pretty cool and there weren't too many bugs so I decided today would be a good day to venture out again. We practiced all our ground work skills until she was very light, as usual. I opened the gate and she backed violently away from it to the end of the lead rope before I managed to stop her backing. I immediately made her lunge in a tight trot around me until I got lip-licking. I marched her toward the gate BOOM she's backing up again!! So I do what a number of trainers had told me and backed her up more. I backed her until she was all the way at the other end of the paddock. And that's where we stayed for a good 20 minutes. She would NOT move any forward steps AT ALL. I was pissed at this point and was yielding her hind and front end quite aggressively. She was spinning till she was dizzy - but STILL wouldn't take a step forward. I decided forward wasn't the way to go, so I zig-zagged her accross her paddock, whenever she stopped I changed direction but still walking a tiny bit toward the gate. This took about 30 minutes of me getting more and more furious and repeated yielding practices. Finally she got to the gate opening. At this point I was exhausted and furious and I was willing to take ANYTHING she'd give me. So I went as far as the rope would reach and stood there holding all my strength on the rope. I just waited. After about 5 whole minutes she took 1 step forward. I let her eat some grass and while eating she meandered a few more steps out of her paddock. She got the front half of her body out of the paddock and then started to graze backwards so I decided to just call that a day.
I turned to walk her back to her paddock and she lunged past me scared of something, god knows what. I turned her around and marched her back to where we were grazing I was NOT going to let it end on that note! She went back, ate some more and we turned back more slowly this time I made her face the wall that she was now suddenly afraid of for no reason. We looked at it, walked by it, turned and walked by it in both directions a few times - then went back home.
I'm exhausted, furious and my back is killing me.
I have asked for help from a number of trainers and had a few come to help me. One was a big cowboy who tried forcing her out and had essentially the same story as what I just posted. Another tried bribing her out with grain, which she just didn't care about. Others tried all the same ground work, repetition - no go. People have suggested just about everything to me but NOTHING has worked. What do I do?
Do I just keep doing what I did today pushing a little further each time?
Clearly trucking her to a trainer wouldn't work as this issue restarted every time she moves. And clearly no trainers in my area seem to know how to fix this. -.-'
I'm going to ask a woman who delivers my hay who worked with draft horses to see if she has any ideas. I'm out of options. I'm at the point where this horse will just be a complete pasture ornament, because I KNOW she'd never be able to find another home, not that I'd want to give her up anyway regardless of whether or not she can leave her paddock.
I kept reminded her ALL day today the only reason she wasn't on a truck to auctions was because she's SO freaking pretty!