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My horse is afraid of his own shadow!

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        01-20-2013, 10:36 PM
    Thank you to everyone who's posted on here! Overview of what I did when I went out there day: Usually I bring grain out with me because Scout is completely food driven, he'd probably do a headstand to get his yummy sweet feed, but I decide to start feeding him in the area I work him so he would hopefully come to me when it starts to get colder out, so I didn't bring it with me today. Once he saw me, he happily came up to me and stuffed his head in the halter (Probably knowing sweet feed follows the halter- always). I did some yeilding exercises with him while he was still in the herd. Pressure on his nose to back up, side stepping, yeilding his hind quarters and walking large circles with him a solid 4 feet away from me. I then lead him through the herd where he was perfectly at ease, though clearly curious as to why he hadn't been fed yet. After we were about 10 feet from the closest horse, he began to act out. I proceded to repeat the same exercises I had done with him while we were with the other horses. He calmed down some, and we continued until we got to a wood pile. He was skiddish and on high alert, almost to the point of being completely unmanagable, however after 10-15 circles, he chilled out a little. I decided to lead from his right side so I was putting myself between him and the wood pile (I don't know if this is what I was supposed to do, but it worked) he immediatly calmed down and while he was still pretty nervous, followed me willingly and respected my space afterwards. One of the BO's sons was working with some sort of super loud lifty thing (sorry, I have no idea what it actually was, just that it was loud and really bothering Scout) close to the flat area we do most of our ground work. While he worked, I decided to prove to Scout that the machine was harmless and after probably 20 minutes of walking circles, making each one slightly larger, Scout was walking past the machine like it was nothing. His head was down and when the BO's son turned it off, Scout even tried to nudge it. After that we spent about 10 more minutes working on simple stuff he already knows and he was a complete dream. I let him go after that and for the first time in a really long time, he stayed at the gate and watched as I put away all the tools we'd been using. He seemed much calmer and more like his usual self, but will it take nearly 45 minutes to convince him i'll keep him safe tomorrow? Isolation isn't an option and the other 9 horses have different owners so I can't exactly do much with them.
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        01-20-2013, 10:49 PM
    Don't take this a me being mean ok I don't mean it that way. I'm just going to be blunt and honest with you to help your relationship. It honestly sounds like he totally has your number. He's got you trained more than you got him trained. He's got you trained to do exactly what he wants bring him food and keep him near his herd mates. And circles for ten minutes honestly it just sounds like he got so bored of being there and doing circles he finally said ok let's go already. So who's leading who here? You need to go get this horse out of the pasture after he is haltered give him a small treat if you want but then take him straight out of the pasture and to your training area no more circles and circles. Your getting more of a work out than the horse. He gets nervous put his focus back on you and you make him walk on. How can he respect you as a leader if you don't lead him?
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        01-20-2013, 10:50 PM
    Sounds alright, like you are getting him moving when you want him to move, just work him with a confident, but not aggressive, attitude and it can help. As for the other horses you don’t have to do any work with them to get the better of them, just think about what the dominant horse would do, basically “get out of my way or I will MAKE you get out of my way”. True, that’s putting it little simply, but you should get the gist of it, and so will they. I wouldn’t worry about the crowd who tell you that horses are smart enough to know that you aren’t a horse so don’t act like one. That entirely misses the point, of course they know you aren’t a horse. The point is to do things in a way, or language if you like, that horses understand easily.
        01-20-2013, 11:05 PM
    Peppy Barrel Racing- honestly, a month ago, I would have probably said the exact same thing you just did. However I've gotten to know him much better and I can tell you, that horse is scared. I know when he's just giving me attitude (it happens a lot) and a good smack with the lead rope always gets him back in line when that happens. When he gets scared his nostrils flare, his eyes go crazy, his ears are pinned back, he paws at the ground and straightens his neck so he's suddenly three feet taller than me. I've made the mistake twice now of thinking he was lazy when he was scared and twice now, I've barely avoided serious injuries.

    AnrewPL- I am familiar with the other horses and know which one is dominant etc., but what is my horse looking for in me that shows i'm confident. I mean body language kind of stuff because what i'm doing right now clearly isn't cutting it.
        01-20-2013, 11:20 PM
    Hmm well then I'm still going to say ignore the scary objects and keep trying to keep him moving which is what your doing with the circles. But maybe as you circle go more and more towards your destination that way you can get there in less time without wearing yourself out. Have you thought of maybe lunging him in the area's that bother him the most with lots of lead changes? Instead of you doing the work make him do the work instead. Show him using all the nervous energy and being scared is lots more energy consuming and tiresome than just walking on. Then try to walk him on calmly if he goes give him some rubbing and a good boy. Horses typically like to take the easy way out so that might work for you. Do you know how to lunge on a line without a pen? I don't think he's being a butt completely he sounds legitimately scared but don't baby this boy either, I don't want him to hurt you and he definitely could. It's going to be a slow process but you gotta make this horse trust your lead. If its possible try taking him out of the pasture more than once a day. Maybe just take him out pet him for a bit then put him back and the next time work him or ride him whatever.
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        01-20-2013, 11:36 PM
    I've really been working on lunging with him, but it's slow going. His old owners only used it as punishment so it's difficult to prove to him I'm trying to correct him, not punish him. I'm trying to avoid babying him, but there seems to be a very fine line between being patient and empathetic and being a complete pushover. I'm not naive enough to say he wouldn't hurt me because when he's scared, he's a prey animal, his only instinct is to get the heck out of there and god help whoever tries to stand in his way- thus the circles. It's helpful because he gets short little breathers from the scary object and puts me slightly more in focus. I try to use my training stick to keep him away from me so it's kind of like lunging, i'm just actually leading him in a circle that's much larger for him than for me.
        01-20-2013, 11:47 PM
    Have you ever seen Clinton Anderson when he's working with fearful horses he makes the horse pass through between him and "scary things" change directions and pass back through again over and over. I don't know if I'm explaining it well I'm sure there's a better name for it but it's eluding me at the moment. Do you know what I'm talking about?
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        01-20-2013, 11:51 PM
    I think I know what you're talking about, they do something similar in Parelli. It sounds similar to lunging for respect, just doing it close to the scary thing. I usually start by putting myself between the scary thing and Scout (thankfully I taught him how to lead on both sides when we first got him) then once he's chilled out I make him pass through it on the closer side. I rarely repeat this though, perhaps a little repetition will do him good!
        01-20-2013, 11:53 PM
    Originally Posted by Sydda    
    I think I know what you're talking about, they do something similar in Parelli. It sounds similar to lunging for respect, just doing it close to the scary thing. I usually start by putting myself between the scary thing and Scout (thankfully I taught him how to lead on both sides when we first got him) then once he's chilled out I make him pass through it on the closer side. I rarely repeat this though, perhaps a little repetition will do him good!
    Yeah I'd give it a shot perhaps the usual boringness of repetition will chill him out.
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        01-21-2013, 03:18 AM
    OP, putting yourself between him & the "scary thing" was good, as his calming down proved. You showed him that you won't put him between you & the thing! Good work! Plus, the fact that he stood by the gate for a long time when you left is HUGE! Your good work caused him to want to be with you more than anywhere else!

    A few further hints/underscoring what others've said:

    On keeping him too busy to be focused on the thing, instead cause him to be focused on you: I suggest that circles aren't good for that, as some horses on adrenaline will circle endlessly & perhaps hurt themselves thru not handling themselves well while high on adrenaline. Instead, use obstacles which break up circles & straight lines: go around that, squeeze through there, go over this. Have the attitude of "Go ahead on adrenaline, I'll help!" instead of trying to squelch it; he'll then get sick of being scared & quit. :) This is a great reverse psychology tool, & there are many reverse psychology "moments" in horsemanship.

    *Horses do intuit a human's savvy level; many scared horses calm right down when an advanced horseman merely approaches them. The only way to get this inner potency is by experience, "perspiration & dedication", as Pat Parelli says.

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