"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.