"Noodly" Horse In Training

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"Noodly" Horse In Training

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    09-09-2011, 02:23 AM
"Noodly" Horse In Training

So I have been given the responsibility of retraining this 20 some year old Brood Mare. Her name is Tana, and she is an Arab who's fairly large.

The thing with Tana is, she had a previous owner who did not treat her as a horse. Instead of training her, and treating her as a horse, she was a 'pet.' She would be allowed to pop her head through the window, she'd be fed treats out the ying yang, and the male owner would even wrestle with her like a dog. She had no real training, and she has absolutely no manners.

Tana is a sweetheart. She loves attention and being loved on and otherwise treated as a pet. However, when it comes to leaving her comfort zone of the pasture, she goes from a warm hearted lovable beast, to an absolute freak.

Supposedly, she had a man who worked with her before, and did the basics with her and eventually even rode her. However, due to her spooky nature and the fact that she was never truly treated as a horse, she had an episode and the rider had a bad accident. I don't know the details, but from what I have head [and experienced] about her, is he fell off, and she had a blind episode where she ran him over.

Throughout my work with her, this is how she normally behaves:

She lets herself be caught without much hassle. But the minute she actually gets past that gate, she's very nervous and tense. The nose flares, her head is bobbing everywhere in search for things to spook at. It doesn't take a lot for her to see something in the corner of her eye and jump, when there wasn't anything there. I have been working with trying to keep her preoccupied the minute I get her out of the pasture by making her move off my body, doing side steps, and backing and the sort, and in various places where she might 'spook.' So far the walking seems to be fine as long as I don't necessarily act like there's anything she should spook at.

When we first brought her out, she did fine being tied to the post until we brought out a western saddle. She reared and started, and it took a while before she settled down enough that we could present the saddle to her to examine and realize that it wasn't going to hurt her. Since then, I have switched to using an English saddle due to its lightness and the fact that there's only me working with her so if she spooks, I need to be able to handle her with the one hand instead of using both to hold the saddle. Since then, she's only slightly startled when the pads and saddle have been presented to her. It's not often that she has a fit now.

After that, we move on to ground work. For the most part, she does really well. I have tried desensitising her, but for some reason, she just doesn't seem to understand what I am trying to get through to her. Because she's so green, and doesn't have the same mindset as a regular horse, it can get dangerous and equally exhausting to have to fight with her all the time to get her to realize what I want. I use a whip, and I follow some things that Clinton Anderson does. I get various objects that look like scrary monsters, and I move them around constantly until she settles and relaxes a bit. With everything so far, she gets upset, then settles except when it comes to the whip...

I bring out the whip, and I just have it hit the ground, I constantly move it, but she always thinks I want her to lunge. I don't want her to lunge, so it's dizzying and exhausting to have to follow around in circles to try and get her to stand. That is basically problem number one. I think she was only lunged as part of her 'ground work' and associates the whip only as such.

Major problem number two, is if she doesn't move to the side, she will run forward and invades space. This becomes dangerous, especially when she majorly spooks. I realize that it's instinct to run, but I try to get it through to her that she can't run forward. I've tried lunging her in response to it, as a form of me reprimanding her, I've made her back and stand still, and wait till I make her come forward. None of those techniques make her realize that I have space she needs to respect.

Problem three is she doesn't back up when I invade her space. I act big, and I act as though I was the one in charge and that she was to respect me, but it never gets through to her until I'm at her head. Part of it is, I think is that she drags her feet. She's not a very athletic horse, so that in part is kind of what drags her response time, I think.

Prolem four is when it comes to tightening the cinch, she moves off me when I don't want her to. It's good that she realizes that she needs to move off me, but she doesn't stand afterwards when I want her to. After doing ground work with other horses, I noticed the same thing, however, they eventually understand that I want them to stand still so I can do what is necessary.

So.. I apologize for my very long post, but I would like your thoughts and advice in how to work with this horse who doesn't act like a normal horse, and is extremely green and has dangerous tendencies.
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    09-09-2011, 02:50 AM
Super Moderator
Tana sounds eerily similar to how my current mare (a 26 year old Arab mare) behaved when I first got her (she was 23).
If it gives you any hope, my mare is now pretty reliable and not nearly as dangerous as she once was. :) She still has her moments but they're nothing I can't handle so I'm ok with it.

One thing that took me forever to discover with my mare is that she NEEDS a supplement called "Mare Magic". Basically, it helps level out her extreme ADHD-ness to a point where she's relatively reliable all the time. It seems to help her think before she acts, instead of just acting in the heat of the moment. Take her off the Mare Magic and we're back to crazy town.

Another thing, take this with a grain of salt-maybe CA and other really dominance based training methods will work for you, is that I tried CA with my mare and it just freaked her out more. I interpreted her freaking out to be her defying me or not getting it but it was really her way of saying "I'm mentally overloaded and scared by what you're doing, please stop". It seems like it was too black and white for her, or something. I ended up kind of creating my own method based on my mare that really seems to work for her. I started looking at her from a "she's trying to understand, I just need to find how I can communicate with her the best and have her succeed in a very obvious way, every time" standpoint vs a "there are these things I need to accomplish and she's being so darn defiant, what am I going to do with her" standpoint. I didn't realize I had the second standpoint to begin with but looking back, I definitely did. I didn't intend to, that's just how I had been "trained" to look at things by my other equine experiences.
To the end of making her successful, I started just lunging her daily since that was something she was very confident about and it was something that I could use to build a relationship with her through (to this day she LOVES being lunged, it became a way for us to bond and enjoy each other more than anything else). I ended up just lunging her every second day or so, as well as grooming her daily for about 5-6 months. That was all I did with her. Just lunge/roundpen and groom. Once I taught her to be confident with me (through the use of something she already excelled at) I was able to transfer that confidence to other things. Once I had her confidence, she must have decided that I was the one good "guy" in a world of bad guys because pretty much all her spookiness vanished (however, as soon as someone she doesn't know is handling her, the scary things reappear).

Gaining her confidence was the key. After that happened it was pretty much smooth sailing from there out. Of course, there have been a few real hiccups but nothing nearly as frantic or dangerous as when I first got her.
It turned out that while I thought that the problem was a problem of dominance, the problem was really a problem of confidence and dominance. She wasn't about to let someone she didn't feel she could trust (since I was a stranger to her) be dominant over her so I had to prove that I was worthy of her confidence, then she willingly allowed me to be dominant.

Hopefully this all is something of a help to you. It was a process of trial and error that involved many tears. I'm just glad I stuck with it because I now have a ridiculously trustworthy mare.

Good luck! And kudos for taking her on knowing what you're going into. :)

[and sorry for the novel]
tinyliny, outnabout and Annnie31 like this.
    09-09-2011, 02:53 AM
I personally would refuse to try to retrain a 20 something horse. Not that they can't learn but their old habits are so ingrained, I just wouldn't think the investment of my time and effort would pay off well enough in a retrained horse to make it worth my while. She's got 20 plus years of doing EVERYTHING you and I would normally school a young horse out of doing and she's been encouraged in it.

The only possible way I can see to work with her would be to take her allllll the way back to pretending she's never been caught, never been led, never been taught about giving to pressure (obviously she hasn't) and never been taught about invading personal space, etc etc etc. Pretend she's a 3 day old foal and start completely over. Depending on how successful you are with all of that, you MIGHT eventually get around to getting back up on her back but I sure wouldn't count on it. Based on her history, I'd leave her as a pasture ornament.

Sorry, I know that's not what you wanted to hear.
    09-09-2011, 03:05 AM
Wallaby, I think that's what's happening. There are times when I am working with her, and I think I'm simply giving her a sensory overload. I'm having her do all sorts of things at once, that I'm confusing her and the only way she has to express that is to well. Fuss in the way that she does.

Part of the reason why I use his techniques, is so that she doesn't try to take advantage of the situation such as try and run back to the pasture due to her freaking out. With some horses, I think there is a time and a place for said techniques, but I do think they have their uses.

She trusted the man who rode her, she just didn't trust the saddle that was on her back. I don't know exactly all that he did, but from what I heard, he just liked her. That was it. He liked her, so he wanted to ride her and he didn't really work enough on the actual basics to gain her confidence. Which is a shame, I think.

As for the other poster, the reason why I work with her is because she -wants- to work. Every time the other horses go out, she throws a fit. She wants to spend time with them outside of the pasture, she wants to work. She does nearly everything that she understands with ease and I think she loves it even more because she's getting the attention that she never gets.

I do it not just for me, but for her so she can have at least some sort of normal horse mentality. She's overweight because no one works her, she's miserable because she's not given attention. I think she's owed it despite her age and the fact that she's a bit noodly in the head.
    09-09-2011, 03:41 AM
I agree that a 20 something horse is a bit late to start trying to ride if she's never been ridden are you sure her back and joints are up to it? If you do start riding her at first ride her for very short periods she going to have to build up some serious body strength. I've been training horses for over 15 years so I'll give you advice from what I've learned and you can take it how you want. If you need more help feel free to PM me here.

First of all for problem number one and a lot of your other problems is that your sending this horse mixed signal and it sounds like your getting in a hurry. For your first problem don't thrash the whip and front of her. You need to treat this horse as if she has never been messed with. Show her the whip rub her with it all over. Read her body language she's scared and nervous she has no clue what your want so she goes into flight response. She has no idea what your wanting you need to give a horse straight forward signals. All she sees is a whip flopping around she doesn't know if your lunging her or going to beat her. Don't get in a hurry do everything slow, show her whats scary let her look at it make her confident in you. If she freaks out to new stimuli take it away and then slowly introduce it again. When she gives a relaxed unfearful response praise her.

For problem number two get a rope halter. They are super handy and they give great nose pressure and to me they are much safer. If she is stepping all over you (a form of dominance), you can correct with a quick snap or two down with the lead rope it will get her attention without hurting her and back her off. This may make her move off with just this motion if not push her off manually a bit and praise her when she walking in the correct space. Every time she starts pushing on you correct immediately she get the message with practice.

Problem three food, nose pressure and patients will fix this problem. Push her back with her lead which applies nose pressure even if she backs up a step or two small treat and praise her with kind words and petting. As you back her give her a voice cue like back or backup whatever eventually she will associate the pressure and/or command for food and praise and will give you what you want. Again take your time and don't get in a hurry.

And your last problem tighten the cinch in increments. Your going to tighten 3 different times. Tighten it kinda loosely let her and let her sit with it if she gets goofy reassure her with petting or you can also walk her around let her get the feel. Now once the horse is in a relaxed body position (head down with relaxed body posture) tighten again this time closer to what your final tightness should be. After that repeat as a said before. Then finally after relaxing again finish cinching. Let her walk let her move it in reassure her that she's ok take this cinching thing really slow you don't want to make her sour. Also she is not supposed to back off of you when you saddling she is being fearful.

But like I said you sound like you need a bit younger horse to ride that is already broke. I can tell your new to horse training and I can tell that you are learning aswell. So before anything is done before you start working with her take her out don't immediately start her training walking her out and round and maybe brush her a bit. Also don't try to teach too many things at once. Right now I think your main priority is ground work and also learning to read your horse and give her crisp signals that she can understand. If you would like some video tips try out rick gore on youtube he does natural horsemanship and they are great videos to learn about reading your horse and training. Hope I helped some and be safe while training.

=D Noelle
    09-09-2011, 03:43 AM
PS. I do think its great that your working with her at her age though, even old horses need tasks and love and attention. Just don't overload her.
    09-09-2011, 04:02 AM
You are correct in your assumption that I am learning. I was presented this because of the learning experience that I would give, and that Tana would benefit as well from it.

I don't plan on riding her very hard, considering that she does have a bit of artheritis in her back leg. As we progress in our work, I plan doing some excercises for her leg so as to ease the pain. But for now, since she's so spooky at the moment, I'd rather gain her confidence first.

I have caught myself trying something, and then minutes later, find myself doing something completely different than what I had intended to do in the first place with her due to the fact that something happens, and I get side tracked. I think I need to have a bit more personal discipline to stay put to what I want to achieve, instead of running all over the place. When we first brought her out to work her, we had lunged her at the end of our work. By the end of it, she was dripping with sweat because she worked herself too hard. For example, we'd put the lunge rope on her, ask for a walk, and then she'd just start at a full canter and she'd not relax. We'd ask for a walk, and we'd try to get her to walk, and take it easy, but she was so fearful of the whip.

I think I might take away the whip when we work and try verbal cues, mixed with other things so that she's got the right idea. So far she's not too terrible about it now, and she's relaxed enough to take an easy trot, but she's still in need of learning that the whip does not equal being hit. I worry that she may have actually been hit with the whip when she was originally 'trained.'

We've got a rope halter, so I'll put that on her tomorrow. I don't normally use it because I fear the rope will come loose due to its stiffness. However, that may just be due to lack of use. I will definitely give it a try though, and see if she's any more responsive with it.

I don't like to treat horses, because it leads to them nosing for treats, and overall being disrespectful. Putting treats in the food, I will do from time to time but that's only if the horses have worked for it. Every now and then, after a good work out, I'll treat Tana after she backs up for me nicely, or side steps, but that's at the end instead of during. What I want to do, once they are prepared, is work on her athleticism, by working with her to kind of picking up her feet through stepping over logs.

Due to the fact that she's not a regular horse, I might have to rethink how I work with her completely, or have a bit more training on my part. I have people to help me, but their thoughts are simply that it's my project, thus, I need to do it whether or not there are people there to help.

As for riding, I've been doing a bit of riding since I was twelve, then lessons ended when I was 14, and when I was 17, I did a bit more riding for a summer. From 18 to present, I have been doing some serious riding so I'm not entirely experienced, however I do have the experience. The riding is nothing new, however, the ground work is.

Edit: I try my hardest not to overload her, so when she starts to get fairly sweaty, I tend to end it there with a nice hose off to cool her down during the heat of the day. She's a notorious cribber though from her boredom. She destroyed a wooden fence.
    09-09-2011, 04:16 AM
I think your doing ok the best way to learn is trial and error you just got to get a system. And you can still use your whip you need to desesitize her to it. Everyday for like a week or two rub her with that whip then put it away. As for the treat thing it doesn't necessarily have to be food, praise and attention can be just as good. Give a treat food wise to start here an there at first just don't overload her the treat thing as they the progress I take way treats it was to just get the action started. For now try to work on one or two things on a day of training. Once she gets solid in that move on to something else. Make sure you tie the rope halter correctly if your unsure google it :).
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    09-09-2011, 04:23 AM
Yes, definitely. I had issues with side passing her next to a fence, and randomly when I was trying to do something with her, she started side passing with ease as I stood in front of her. It caught me by surprise considering that we had so much trouble before with it.

But yes, I agree. It definitely is a game of trial and error. There will be mistakes made, but I don't think it will be anything to damaging as long as they are corrected swiftly and have the focus mainly on how things are to be done correctly.

Tomorrow, hopefully, I will get a bit more critiquing on what I could do to be better. A lot of error when it comes to horses, I come to realize, is user error. Not horse error.
    09-09-2011, 04:31 AM
Sounds like this horse is a good experience and learning process for you. I like to learn about differnt horse training techniques all the time. If you ever need some training visuals YouTube is usually great for that. Look at different examples on how each person trains and adapt it to yourself. You can learn something new all the time. Also when they are near by check out a local training clinic pick up some new stuff to utilize. Post here tomorrow after you train her a bit see if it goes better. You said you've been ridding for years so you know a horses body language. Pay attention to what she's telling you.
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