Nervous Horse, What can I do? HELP - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 19 Old 11-21-2012, 03:29 PM
Join Date: Nov 2012
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I ride a very nervous Connemara mare, and lungeing her daily has helped immensely! She can sense when I get tense, and then tenses up even more, so I use our lunge time as a way for her to relax as well as myself, so we can be in tune with each other. I've lunged her daily for a couple weeks now and it has made a world of difference. I've found the "desensitizing" hasn't worked well with her, but she is learning to trust me and I am learning what I can do to help her relax more. When in the saddle, keep yourself calm. I'm a firm believe that a horse can sense when you are anxious / nervous / tense / mad /etc when in the saddle, so I think it's essential you keep yourself calm. When something is going wrong or the horse is beginning to act nervous, remain calm... I believe that if you act nervous, it will reassure the horse that there IS something to be nervous about!

Best of luck, keep us updated!
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post #12 of 19 Old 11-21-2012, 03:36 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Minnesota
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We took an old saddle pad last night and sacked him out with it. At first he was jumping everytime we rubbed it on him. We spent a while doing it, and by the end, he wasn't jumping as much and we could even wave it at him a little. I am going to try slapping the stick on the ground, that was posted, and I am going to watch some clinton anderson videos also.
We are also just teaching him to lunge, which is hard because he gets even more nervous with the lunge rope, whip, and just the concept in general. We will keep working on it, and I will keep you posted on his progress
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post #13 of 19 Old 11-21-2012, 04:08 PM
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The main idea with desensitizing is that you want to take away the scary object the moment he shows a sign of relaxation.

For example:

You've got your saddle pad in your hand. When you are holding his lead rope, do NOT hold him really tight or short. You dn't want him thinking you are forcing him to stand there, so go ahead and give him some slack in the leadrope.

Start by standing a few feet away from him. Then slowly move your arm and bring the saddle pad closer. If he starts to move away, LET HIM. But do not bring the saddle pad any closer; nor do you want to move it away from him. If he is moving his feet away from you, maintain the exact same distance from him. Continue to "hold" until the moment he stops moving. THEN is the exact moment when you need to turn around the take the saddle pad away. Timing is very, very important. By doingn that, you taught him that when you stop moving and relax, I will take the scary object away.

Eventually he won't move when you bring the saddle pad closer, but watch his facial expression and body language. Once he tenses, or raises his head, or shows any signs he is nervous, do NOT bring the saddle pad any closer. Again, hold your position steady. The very instant you see any sign of relaxation (licking lips, blinking, moving ears around, lowering head), you need to immediately turn around and remove the saddle pad. Again, you just taught the horse that when you relax, I take away the scary object, so it's no big deal.

That's the idea of the desensitization method. And you can use any object as something to work with. TIMING is the very important thing. You have to really watch your horse and watch when they are tense and watch when they are relaxing.

If you can get a hold of any Clinton Anderson videos, he does a great job of explaining this.
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post #14 of 19 Old 11-21-2012, 04:16 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Minnesota
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He is a weird horse, he doesn't try to jump AWAY from stuff, he just jumps in place. He had as much slack as he needed to get away. We took the saddle pad and just rubbed it all over him, and he flinched a few times, but not to bad. He got treats after he calmed down and we took the pad away. I am going to look up the clinton anderson videos soon!
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post #15 of 19 Old 11-21-2012, 09:13 PM
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When you introduce anything new, be it a whip slapping the ground or a flapping umbrella start off with the horse on the lead and give him about 6'. Walk ahead and beging an up and down motion with whatever tool you are using, and walk around with him in tow. He'll likely be fine with this as you are a barrier and the obstacle keeps moving away. Then up the pressure a bit and now do it left side right side as you walk away. That may get a reaction because it's a little closer but ignore it and keep going. Now turn and walk backward doing the side to side, Be sure it goes over your head rather than closer to him. It is closer but still leaving. When he's ok with that step to his near side with the lead in your left hand and obstacle in your right. Now make the motion forward and back, forward and back. Again on the other side, switching hands. Walk slowly and the repition is important. He can remain stressed only so long and we want to him think "oh that ol' thing". When you are done, set the obstacle down and walk to the end of your lead in front and turn your back to him for two or three minutes. This is his let down time. Don't even think about him or what to do next.. If you have a round pen, this is the time to remove his halter and leave the pen. He may follow you but ignore and depart. With a horse like this what ever you do, never lose your temper or hit him unless your life is at stake. Be patient and do these exercises as often as possible at first. When it comes to the pad, same exercises first, then place it on his neck and withers. Pop a treat in his mouth, Then encourage the pad to fall off. You want him to experience something falling like that and realizing no harm done. Do this until he will tolerate it falling off his rump from both sides. He gets the treat only if his feet don't move when you place the pad on him. I know you've gotten the pad on him but you've left some important steps out.
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post #16 of 19 Old 11-21-2012, 09:19 PM
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The reason he suddenly jumps is he has zoned out and scares himself when he comes back to reality. Completely unpredictable. These horses need a lot of repitition mixed in with things that will challenge them. And sometimes just hanging out can be positive. Grab a book and something to sit on and read, just being nearby and part of his life. Don't touch him but do let him check you out.
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post #17 of 19 Old 11-21-2012, 11:06 PM
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Brandon, Manitoba Canada
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My mare when I got her at 3yr. was scared of everything!! I did alot of ground work with her. I also use sound effect CDs, it has every sound imaginable on it and at first the horses were scared of it but now ignore it. I am able to shoot a cap gun while sitting on my mare now, slap the stick/string beside us and drag logs/'s alot of time but well worth it in the long run.....

My horses are the joy in my life.....
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post #18 of 19 Old 11-22-2012, 12:14 AM Thread Starter
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Oohhhh...ok. That makes sense!! I will see what I can do with noises and just letting him get used to people and stuff around him
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post #19 of 19 Old 11-22-2012, 12:39 AM
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I have a very respectful but indefinitely high strung mare. It's just her personality; you have to find ways to work with it and around it.

Desensitizing is great. It helps horses learn to deal with their emotions. Creates a controlled "life threatening event" and gives a horse confidence when they don't die.

I've found a couple of other things that have helped with my mare. It's good to have a bag of possible solutions with naturally nervous type horses. YMMV, but might be worth a try:

Firstly, I made the mistake of asking my horse to stand still when she's nervous. Sometimes, when a horse is having an emotional crisis, you have to work with them. My mare hates disobeying me. She knew she wasn't suppose to move, and that knowledge made her "claustrophobic". She couldn't get away if she felt like she needed to. This just made her more nervous until she exploded. When you start noticing your horse is getting nervous, lunge him in a walking circle around you. Sidepass. Back a couple steps,go forward a couple steps, back a couple, forward a couple. Whatever. Get those feet moving with PURPOSE.

Teach your horse to lower his head. Lowering the head naturally promotes calming in horses. Do it on the ground and under saddle (but I've found it more useful on the ground)

I'm going to sound crazy for this one. "Ground" yourself. Standing on the ground, imagine a flow of energy moving from your chest to your feet, dissipating into the ground and radiating outward like tree roots. If your in the saddle, imagine that energy going from your chest, though your horse's legs, and into the ground. Breathe. Look at the ground. Nutty, eh? But it works. Horses are very in tune with body language. I suspect that's why. They communicate very subtly among themselves.

Always keep the head free. Never restrain a scared horse by taking away the mobility of the head. On the ground, don't hold him back by the halter if he's trying to walk away. When you're under saddle and he's nervous, never use two reins at once. If a horse thinks they can move if they need to, they are way less nervous. It's like being in a room and knowing the door is unlocked. Even if you have no desire to leave, knowing that you COULD is comforting. Lock that door and all you'll want to do is leave.

I have tons more. If you think the above might help, I can write a more complete list. I come up with new stuff almost daily. The life and times of being a the owner of a horse judges frequently refer to as "Nutter Butter".
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