The memory of pain. - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 32 Old 12-13-2009, 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by gaited1 View Post
you are all thinking like predators and how we think, not how horses think
horses live in the moment
am I being hurt or not
am I safe or not
survival comes first
extras are a matter of repetition and muscle memory
I WISH it would be true. But I've seen number of times when after just ONE accident or bad ride in trailer horse refused to walk there again scared to death. So took lots of time and patience to deal with it (and in some cases a really good trainer).
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post #12 of 32 Old 12-13-2009, 06:04 PM
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Horses are remarkably adaptable and they can and do get over all manner of insults to thier dignity and health. If the right approach is used horses can overcome whatever has happened to them in the past. I don't belive that every problem a horse has comes from intentional abuse. I have seen horses that are head shy because of a bad case of bugs in thier ears. Horses that are hard to bridle generally have not been beat about the head but rather have been bridled carelessly and the bit has banged thier teeth and gumms too many times. The evasions that are used be they kicking or biting or throwing thier head around are learned behaviors. The horse does it because it works. When it quits working the horse quits doing it. The easiest way to make your horse hard to catch is to fail to catch him a few times. The most effective way to bridle a horse that raises it's head up when youtry to bridle it is to stand on a stool and bridle it properly every time. As soon as the horse learns that raising it's head doesn't stop the bridle from going on the head will begin to come down. There are things that can be done to speed up the process but the horse must believe that it will be caught or the bridle will be put on in spite of the best efforts to evade.

There's nothing like the Rockies in the springtime... Nothing like the freedom in the air... And there ain't nothing better than draggin calves to the fire and there's nothing like the smell of burning hair. -Brenn Hill
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post #13 of 32 Old 12-13-2009, 06:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Marecare View Post
How do you deal with this with your horse and is it at all important to you?

Can horses have bad mental health?
Absolutely it is. And yes in my eyes horses can have mental health problems. It will be different than what we present with as humans, but thats why you get horses with bad habits and other behavior problems. All because of the stupid and idiotic things we do as humans.

Lack of understanding of a behavior, poor trainers, poor riders, ignorance, lack of patience, environmental issues, natural instinc, bad experiences and the list goes on and on.

Promoting the beautiful Canadian Horse
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post #14 of 32 Old 12-13-2009, 06:29 PM
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I agree with gaited1 and KevinsHorses.
You train/treat every horse the same. It might take more time to accomplish but it should not be any different. If you are thinking of the past and not the present you are hindering your horse. Not only that but you are setting them up to fail.
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post #15 of 32 Old 12-13-2009, 07:00 PM
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I have to agree with Kevin, gaited and crimson on this one. It's like with dogs; treat them like they are still being abused, or neglected, and they will pick up on that emotion, and continue to act in fear, anger, or pain. They live in the moment...they have too, that's how they would survive in the wild. They act on instinct, and when a horse has been abused, his fight or flight IS stronger, but that doesn't mean you have to ***** foot around him regarding training...yes, be gentle in your methods, but when he strikes or bites at you, teach him like you would any other horse that you are to be respected. That same horse can kill you just like any other horse who hasn't been abused.

Yes, we understand horse behavior much more than we did years ago, and I'm in no way saying that one has to be harsh in order to work with any horse, but to use that understanding as a crutch to not do certain things with a horse who's been abused? My own mare has a shadey past, and I know forsure she's been eared at some point, but do I not touch her ears and top of her head, just because she might not like it? No...I do it a little bit each time I handle her, so she someday realizes that 1)it's not hurting her, nor will it ever 2) I'm not going away.

"The ideal horseman has the courage of a lion, the patience of a saint, and the hands of a woman..."
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post #16 of 32 Old 12-14-2009, 07:43 AM
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Aye, but I think people are saying that you do have to treat an abused horse, or one with serious issues, differently than you do one which has had good training and treatment its whole life and is fairly mentally stable. Treating it the same as any other horse, like going into its stall to clean it as you would any other stall even though the horse is terrified of pitchforks and might freak out and kill you, is just daft. They do have strong memories of negative experiences -- they have to for survival. Being cognizant of such behaviour and working with it isn't *****footing around; it's being sensible. Yes, you don't avoid it, but you do wouldn't touch your head shy horses face the same why I would touch my non head she horse's face. You'd take things a lot slower.

I'm lucky in that I haven't had to deal with this sh*t for years as my horse has never had a day of bad treatment in her life and has her act together (with people anyway... other horses can be a different matter), but the horse I owned before her certainly had neurotic issues that I had to address directly before she could become a safe and sensible riding horse. It took a lot more time and I had to really think through how I was to build a relationship of trust with that mare since she came into the relationship thinking that humans weren't likely to keep her safe and secure. Gypsum on the other hand operated from the basis that humans were likely to keep her safe and secure and was more inclined to trust them. Makes life a lot easier.
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post #17 of 32 Old 12-14-2009, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by kevinshorses View Post
Horses are remarkably adaptable and they can and do get over all manner of insults to thier dignity and health. If the right approach is used horses can overcome whatever has happened to them in the past.

I couldn't agree more.

We have two at home that came out of hellish situations. One is a little 30+ year old POA mare that had her teeth smashed out with a boulder, as well as other atrocities done to her by a mother daughter pair. For the first 6 months we had her it was very clear that she really wanted nothing to do with me, but hubby could love on her all day. Slowly but surely I've gain her trust, she no longer views me as just another evil female.

The second is a little gelding that I've written about many times. At a year or so old he was boarded up in a barn, at the time he was a stud colt and we can only assume that he became a handful so they sentenced him into a tomb. It was a year on Dec 4th that he was pulled out. He's still a work in progress but he's come so far in year that it amazes me.

A few years back my older gelding was getting cranky when I went to mount him. He'd pin his ears, tighten his mouth and generally have an ugly look on his face. Got the chiro out and he was out of alignment in several places on his body. Even after a couple of adjustments and some time off he continued to make cranky faces for a few more weeks. His body was in good shape now but he was going off of remembered pain.

I have nothing to back this up, but I truly believe that their memories are cellular. Once something has caused them pain they never forget. They may forgive, but they don't forget!
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post #18 of 32 Old 12-14-2009, 11:43 AM
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Remember that horses remember in pictures instead of thoughts. The picture of the event that led up to the pain-fear etc is what triggers the response. You have to desensitize the picture to replace the response. It takes a while and consistency is the key.

Find the picture and work on it and things will get better--This is the first thing I do with a new horse--look for the pictures.
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post #19 of 32 Old 12-14-2009, 12:08 PM
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Originally Posted by 5cuetrain View Post
Remember that horses remember in pictures instead of thoughts.
I would love to see some scientific data that backs this up.........??????
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post #20 of 32 Old 12-14-2009, 12:54 PM
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Interesting topic. Horses do have wonderful memories, however, like gaited mention, they don't have memories like us. They are extremely forgiving, but not in a way that we would like to think. Horses are very specific in their thinking, they all tell their story in their own way, and its how we deal with it that makes it better. Its important to remember that the horses first priority is safety. Its not a solid stall and a good fence that makes a horse feel safe, but instead the comfort that the horse finds in its herd members and specifically the herd leader. If the horse has had a past in which people have always been the predator and never the herd mate, then that has to be the first step to overcome. Very often, I see people who can make that horse lose the fear of people, but in the same way that I don't fear a kitten. I'm not afraid of it, but I'm definately not going to let it be my leader. To be able to transition between the invitation into the herd and then placement in the herd with people is where many people may miss a step. Its not about sympathy, but about offering something solid. Its not sheltering, but teaching how to accept and enjoy the world. The mental health of a horse is something often ignored by imposing our idea of safety on them.

Horses are also specific with their memories. One horse that I had come in for training came in with a laundry list of mental issues, not entirely strong physically, and his owners couldn't figure out why he kept throwing them. He had connected the owners nervous energy around her children, and he became nervous around children. He had been mistreated in the past, and one of the first things to teach him was how to handle corrections without overreacting. I never sheltered him, nor did I baby him, but I did lead him. That was what he needed.

On another note, I do think that we tend to overlook some of the reasons behind the defensive behaviors. A horses behavioral issues won't only be seen as what we see as mistreatment through a heavy hand. I have seen people think that defending their personal space as abusive, but not seeing their horses insecurity, a poor fitting saddle, or a poor riding style as being harmful to the horse. A physically healthy horse is much easier to acclimate to change than a physically damaged horse. I think something sometimes looked at as "poor conformation" is often overlooked as poor posture that is affecting the way that the horse is going to react to stressful situations due to the strain on the fight or flight reflex. Many horses I work with are a combination of fixing physically at the same time as mentally. Another thing that we take forgranted is that just because the vet says that something is healed, learning how to use it again is a whole 'nother story. Horses are masters at disguising any kind of deviant movement. Unequal distribution of weight between the legs can cause many musculoskeletal issues that many people can't even see, they only see the behavioral problems associated with the horses defensive wall going up as its body is compromised.

So, to answer the question, yes, I pay attention to everything that my horses are showing, as well as every other horse that I work with. Its not about avoiding the memory of pain, but instead recreating it, and figuring out just what kind of pain it was, be it emotional or physical. Is it something they are hiding because they still see me as the preadator? I consider it my job to learn as much about their body as I can so that I can recognize what lies between the lines. Often times, only working on the mind can cause the horse to harm itself more as it only learns to escape any kind of pressure applied by the leader. When a horse comes to my barn, they are not my pet, they are not my friend, they are not some poor soul that I need to take care of, they are my family. They will need to rise up to a certain level of expectation, but I have no problem showing them how to get there, regardless of their past.
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