New Horse - advice - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 12-05-2009, 12:37 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Canada
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New Horse - advice

Hi All,
I recently adopted a young standardbred, off the track. He is very willing reliable and well behaved. He has only been at the new stable for about a week but seems to be settling in well. However he's always been a total doll, loved having his scratched, brushed, etc when i had been visiting him for a few weeks before i adopted him and the first week he was at the new barn but the past couple of times he's been agitated about me going near his face and i'm not sure why. I haven't been handling him roughly or given any meds etc. And he is still very willing, he walks up to me in the field when i go to get him but once he's in cross ties he just sniffs me and then puts his ears back and throws his head up. Is this just frustration from not yet being excepted into his new paddock? or is it something with me?
Also he is not a huge fan of the bit, he has a very soft mouth and fusses alot with the bit and sticks his tongue out the side of his mouth, so i was thinking of trying him in a KK training bit... what is the difference though between the training and the ultra??
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post #2 of 5 Old 12-05-2009, 01:06 PM
Join Date: Sep 2009
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My OTTB also does this some days--for a few months after I brought him to his new home, he was very particular about me stepping in to his neck region (his "head space") As long as I stood at or behind his shoulder, I could touch him, brush him, etc but if I tried to stand in line with where I was brushing, he would pin his ears and give me a stink eye, which later turned in pinning his ears and giving me a warning head turn.

The combination I used was time and firmness. I get him some time to get used to me, so for awhile I respected his wishes and was careful around him, and then when I thought he should be respecting me, I started giving him a very firm NO and tugging on the cross ties to wake him up. When he was persistent, I would poke him in the shoulder.

My OTTB also did the same things that you're describing with his bit. I used a plain snaffle, and he would yawn and gape his mouth, wag his tongue, put his tongue between his teeth when he closed his mouth and try with all of his might to push the bit out once I finally got it in. I switched him to a hackamore and he's perfect now. Before I decided to use the hackamore though, I was contemplating getting him a bit with a port to allow some room for his tongue and see if that helped any.

To this day he's still not a huge fan of me touching/rubbing his face though, and he hates to have his muzzle touched or played with.
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post #3 of 5 Old 12-05-2009, 10:34 PM Thread Starter
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I don't know what to make of his behaviour. It only occurs in the cross ties, in the ring on a lead line or when i go to bring him in from pasture he's fine. And handling his head to put on or take off a halter he's fine but when i try to be nice and pet him he pins his ears and throws back his head. Then a minute later he will put his head down and cuddle into me. I'm not staring him in the eye when i do this either and as i said its not that it doesnt like it because he did before and he does outside of the cross ties, and its not just me he does it to either. He's fairly inconsistent, else i cannot pick up the pattern of what is "setting him off". He's not a dominant horse, the only thing i can think of is that he used to be tongue tied when he raced so he is expecting that? I dunno... maybe he just needs some time...
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post #4 of 5 Old 12-05-2009, 11:17 PM
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Yes, thats exactly what my OTTB did. It was a mild form of testing me. Basically his thought process was "so if i'm mean, she won't bug me, and if I'm sweet I can kind of get away with stuff". At first he would just turn his head, then he would toss his nose up. Later it evolved into aggressive teeth baring and biting.

Just because he's not dominant doesn't mean he won't try and dominate you. I'd give him another three weeks and see if he warms up to the new environment and to you. If he doesn't, be prepared to start getting firm with him especially since you said he was young, which means at anytime his brain is likely to fly away from him, lol.

I'm not much help on the bit situation, I'd say just continue with the bit you're using....It might take some getting used to for him. Does he respond well to it when he's not being silly?

Last edited by justsambam08; 12-05-2009 at 11:23 PM.
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post #5 of 5 Old 12-06-2009, 12:00 AM Thread Starter
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Ya, hes very willing and sensitive and listens to the bit quite well considering he's only been backed about 10-15 times. He doesn't toss his head too much just overactive in the mouth. Was just thinking of trying a more soft bit as he is so sensitive to it. Would like to try a bitless bridle but having never ridden in one i dont know if i would be comfortable doing training in it. Plan on switching over once we at least have the basics down :)
It's so true about the dominance thing! I'm just worried I'm miss reading it, as its pretty much a cross-tie only problem.. but he has only been there a week and most people say it takes at least 2 for a horse to get completely comfortable. i just dont know... he didnt really do this before at the other barn when i had him in cross-ties, he loved having his forehead rubbed and a scratch behind the ears; i choose him because he was such a sweety. hes gotten pushier with treats too though come to think of it - as everyone wants to give the new horse a treat :S... spoiled rotten maybe? lol...
He was flicking his head against the cross-ties too but he has stopped that as i would tell him NO then hold (not pull) the crosstie taught until he released the tension then i did, that seems to have done the trick for that.. but what should i do to get him comfortable with having his face handled again?
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