Need advice for working with Baby - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 3 Old 07-14-2009, 08:38 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Orange County, NY
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Need advice for working with Baby

Dawn is a 1 (as of May 10th) year old oldenburg filly. She has had very little handling, just walking from the stall to her field and back. As long as shes somewhere familiar shes very willing, sweet and fun to work with, but as soon as you take her out of her little section of the world she flips out. I offered to work with her because I don't want to just see her sit. The farm owners father is in the hospital and shes very stressed out right now.

Anyway I need some advice for working with Dawn, shes unlike anything i've worked with before, I've worked with babies but they were all handled regularly from birth. Today I just took her for a small walk, it took us 15 minutes to cross a 6" stream of water. Everything spooked her, she kept spinning and running into me, shes disrespectful. a basic bratty baby. Any advice for working with her, getting her used to being handled and going new places, thats safe for both her and me? Any help would be appreciated!

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post #2 of 3 Old 07-15-2009, 12:47 AM
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Firstly, she's not being 'bratty'. She is 'disrespectful' to you because you obviously haven't *earned* her respect yet(not judging you at all). Perhaps you haven't yet taught her her 'manners', but even so, if you put a horse into a too stressful, confrontational situation, they generally get 'right brained' to some degree & stop thinking & just react - including running people over for eg. She's just being a horse.

To different degrees they are all nervous of different people, places, things they haven't become accustomed to. If she were a new baby, it can be easy to introduce them to all sorts of stuff, but the older they get without this education, the more they're likely to be stressed & reactive in different situations. They are also herd animals who need to be in the company of a good, trusted leader to feel safe. If she's a year old & hasn't yet done much regarding the above, I'd expect to need to go extra slowly & patiently & expect it to take a HEAP of repetitions for her behaviuor/attitude to become reliable.

So, for a start, I would only play with her in environments that she's comfortable for now. I would develop a good relationship and communication there first, so that you earn her respect and role as her leader, before you test it out by taking her out of her comfort zone & ask her to trust you.

I'd be doing lots of 'approach & retreat' type exercises with her, to get her gradually desensitised & confident with stuff, without being confrontational & pushing her over any proverbial cliffs. I would be using lots of positive reinforcement(rewards) to 'train' her attitude & getting her thinking playing your games is a Good Thing & worth her while.

I'd be teaching her to yield in all directions, first with direct(fingertip for eg) pressure, then with indirect(rope, stick, bodylanguage) pressure, so that you can control her with gentle pressure. I'd also be teaching her the 'manners' you expect of her - eg. 'respecting' your space, no mugging, etc.

Once she's learned all the basics & trusts you to look out for her & be a considerate & consistent leader, then I'd think it's time to get her out & about. Use approach & retreat again, to get her *gradually* better in different situations & environments, rather than putting her in 'sink or swim' type situations & overfacing her. This will reinforce her trust in you too, which will help with subsequent lessons. Again I'd be using a lot of positive reinforcement to help her develop a good attitude about these things.

Oh & being a hoofcare practitioner, I cringe at the thought of unhandled young horses, as it generally means their hoofcare has been neglected as they've developed. So if she's not already, for the sake of her health & soundness, spend time getting her great with her feet!
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post #3 of 3 Old 07-15-2009, 01:22 AM
Join Date: May 2009
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Good advice from loosie I can't really add much as I would agree with what she says, and she is absolutly right about the feet.
NOW is the most important time as far as feet are concerned - the bones of the legs are still soft and growing and any imbalance in the feet can cause irrepariable damage

Time spent with her is time well spent - the more time you are with her the more she will accept you. Do you have scary objects you can take into her field, she already has a place she knows is safe - and when she accepts you as safe you should be able to lead her to various objects in her field, she should learn that you are not going to put her in danger.
Work with her both in a halter and loose , she needs to learn to be lead in a halter but you also need to learn where she is comfortable with you and you can't do that if she is restrained - again her field is the best place for this

Good luck
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