Opinions on a miserable Arab? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 01-01-2011, 11:49 PM Thread Starter
Green Broke
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Opinions on a miserable Arab?

For the most part at this point, Shay-la is pretty much taking over working with Zierra because I feel like I'm just going to lose my patience with her and do something I regret. This post is moreso for general opinions on what could be causing this behavior.

Quick back story for anyone new - I've owned Zierra since she was born. I trained her from the ground up myself, and she's been an angel since the day she was born. Easy as pie to train, gentle as a kitten, and a great mount for beginners. I went through a very stupid teenage phase and thought racing was fun and basically managed to ruin the 5 years of training I'd put on her (some professional Dressage/jumping) by racing everyone in sight on the trails. The last few years have been spent trying to de-program her on trails that we DON'T have to gallop everywhere. This progress has been continually halted by a series of front leg injuries that have left her with the better half of the last 2 years with time off. Corrective shoeing is gradually fixing the problem.

Fast forward to now, where not much has been done with her except grooming and feeding. She still gets love and attention, but is in a period of "time off" while we wait for the latest injury to heal completely. My beloved mare has turned into a demonic monster.

She's constantly "angry". Her ears are always pinned, she doesn't want to be touched, she doesn't want you to ask anything of her, she only wants to be fed. She is firmly convinced that humans exist solely to serve her. Any sort of physical punishment is met with what can only be described as disdain. I have begun doing groundwork with her to give her something to do, and it's like dealing with a spoiled child. During a session last week, I was asking her to yield her hindquarters and she decided pinning her ears, squealing and jumping up to "threaten" me with a hind leg was a good idea. Needless to say, it is probably VERY good the next 45 seconds were not caught on tape. I do NOT tolerate dangerous behavior from my horses. The result? She tried the same thing TWICE more. Each time, she got the worst licking I know I how to give. By the third time, I was at a loss as to how much more I could show her I meant business.

We decided to lay her down as I was obviously getting nowhere with her. This resulted in a massive battle. She pitched multiple massive tantrums that would have put a Mustang to shame. She finally went down by rearing high enough to fall backwards. Shay-la had taken over and I had to walk away because I was in tears. We only use this method when we're at a loss, and my horse displaying DANGEROUS behavior is about as "end of the rope" as it gets. We finally got her down, she finally gave up and I spend the next while running my hands all over and having a "heart to heart."

It changed nothing. I've virtually stopped handling her because I'm worried what kind of fight we're going to get into next. She had a farrier appointment last week and I was holding her, and for the first time ever she went to paw and nailed me in the knee while I was talking to the farrier. She also spent the better half of the appointment getting shanked for pinning her ears and trying to snake after the farrier with her muzzle. Shay-la worked with her last night on groundwork and she did technically good but spent the entire session with her ears back and shaking her head and just generally doing her best to "menace" Shay-la. Shay-la is opting to simply ignore it since disciplining her for it isn't working.

I really am ruling out pain because she's absolutely fine if you're doing what SHE wants. She's also carrying good weight, so I have cut her off all food supply from humans. She does just fine on hay and doesn't need to be fed when we go out as it's obvious she expects to be brought in just to eat now. Just from owning this mare for 12 years, it is blatantly obvious to me she has ZERO respect for humans at this point and consequences have ceased to mean anything to her.

I am hoping Shay-la working with her will remove the emotional part, because as my "baby" I am having difficulty seeing over that hump right now to deal with her in a rational and logical manner. We are attempting to look at her as a completely green 2 year old and start over. I know the last couple of years have been chaotic with her time off, but I have never "abandoned" her, she's still handled and groomed but the years of "idleness" seem to have given her a complex and understanding that she enjoys the "lazy" life and wants nothing to do with this "work" crap.

Dear god, I'm sorry for the novel. I'm just at a bit of a loss right now. I understand it's MY fault, I am just unsure how to fix this. Any suggestions would be great, not to mention MASSIVE kudos if you actually read all that. I think it helped just to get it off my chest!

I hope God tells her to smash her computer with a sledgehammer.

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post #2 of 22 Old 01-02-2011, 12:02 AM
Green Broke
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I'm sorry you're having to deal with that sort of behavior. I know it can be extremely frustrating to work with a horse, especially one you love, who has that I-don't-care-about-you-and-I'm-gonna-do-what-I-want attitude. That is by far the most trying "stage" I have had to deal with(and am still dealing with) working with my youngster.
Sunny is also one of those horses whom is only made angry by physical punishment. It really tries my very limited patience.

I don't have any real advice to offer, aside from just do your best to remain patient, and if you ever get too upset just take a moment to compose yourself, like you did in that one situation you mentioned.

Keep your chin up, girl. I'm sure she'll come around.
Be sure to keep us updated on how she's coming.
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post #3 of 22 Old 01-02-2011, 12:32 AM
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How much exercise does she get?

Her behavior sounds very similar to what Lacey was like when I first got her. Basically what I did with Lacey was to start to lunge/free lunge her everyday. I'm not sure how it worked, but now she LOVES being lunged and she's a whole lot more respectful than she was. She seems to like "showing off" for me and in return, she gets her energy out (she's very laid back in the pasture but she's your typical high energy Arab so that energy needs to come out somehow!). The free lunging especially helped with her respecting me becuase it taught her to pay attention to my body language really well and to respond to me giving her very small cues. The thing that really seemed to get her when we'd free lunge was when I'd force her to stay in one end of the arena solely by turning my body one way or the other.

Another thing I've learned with Lacey is that I cannot get emotional with her. If I do, her behavior gets SO bad. So what I've learned to do is when she does something that causes me to start thinking emotionally, I take a deep breath, let it all out, and correct her calmly without getting physical beyond a smack on the neck because she will meet me and fight me until she wins.
She sounds like she possibly feels like she doesn't have a solid human leader in her life. Have you changed your behavior towards her in the time her behavior has gotten worse? Maybe you've started to be more correction-based in the recent past where you'd always been more relaxed before? Are you more stressed?
I like to call Lacey my attitude barometer. She'll be all sorts of crazy-bonkers if I'm acting spastic and jumpy (my normal general personality) but when I calm it down and put on a "go with the flow" type attitude, she's perfect. If I'm around her and I'm thinking about everything and nothing at once, she goes crazy, but if I'm just thinking blank nothing, she's a dead head.

I'd definitely consider your attitude/mental state in conjunction with hers, I know that she's very in tune with you so I'd bet that there's been some change that she doesn't know how to handle.

Also, you say she's been having physical issues, have you considered having a chiro/massage therapist out to look at her? I thought that sort of stuff was all baloney, until I had a equine massage therapist out to see Lacey last May. Her personality changed so much for the better once he was done with her. She had previously been very "please don't touch me, I don't enjoy scratches" but once he was done, anyone petting her was met with joy. He said that she was pretty tight everywhere, which made sense since she's been through a lot of stress in the last 2 years or so. But anyway, I'd maybe look into that and see if she maybe isn't "out" somewhere that's causing her pain.

Don't give up! I know you love her and she adores you, just keep hope! Your girl is just trying to tell you something. What that is, only you can find out. I'm sure you'll get through this! Lacey and I send you big hugs!

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

Rest peacefully, Lacey.

Last edited by Wallaby; 01-02-2011 at 12:34 AM.
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post #4 of 22 Old 01-02-2011, 12:35 AM
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Don't take this the wrong way, but To me she sounds exactly like a horse who's sat around and been spoiled for a long time. I know when a horse has had injuries it can be hard to correct bad behavior when it comes along, but in the long term NOT correcting something the instant it makes an appearance ruins the horse's veiw of you as his leader.

Your mare needs someone who can give her a "come to Jesus" meeting, in a sound mindframe, not in an emotional mindframe. You could do this yourself, but you have got to shove all of your "she's my baby" thoughts aside and focus on the fact that she is a confused and frustrated horse who needs a consistant leader.

Without seeing her actual behavior, I can't say exactly where I would start, or how I would proceed, but I would most likely go back and start at the beginning; I would establish respect for my space (think along the lines of Clinton Anderson's hula hoop exercise, where you make the horse stay out of your personal bubble unless you ask him, and when you ask him to move out, he moves out NOW!).

Keep positive...yes, you may have made some mistakes along the way with her, but she can relearn new stuff, she just may take a bit longer because she's older, and she's habitual in alot of her actions.

"The ideal horseman has the courage of a lion, the patience of a saint, and the hands of a woman..."
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post #5 of 22 Old 01-02-2011, 12:44 AM
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I think that pain has to be a major factor here. Such a a change in the horse's personality sounds like pain. Other than that, I have no advice to give 'cause I have never been in your shoes and would be even more baffled than you are if I were.
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post #6 of 22 Old 01-02-2011, 01:13 AM
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Just as a last precaution, I would have her checked for stomach ulcers or the like. She can appear to be content when she's doing what she wants, but it might really pain her. I don't think this is the case, however, because it has gone past refusal--it's aggression now, and that's the worst place to be. No experience in this area, so I'll trust others have great help to offer. It's great that you're able to admit your mistakes, it's all part of the learning process.

Best of luck, keep us posted!
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post #7 of 22 Old 01-02-2011, 08:37 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks a lot you guys. mom2pride no offense taken whatsoever - I KNOW that I've inadvertently caused this by simple lack of attention. Because she's older and already has her foundation, the behaviors really weren't surfacing when all I was doing was grooming and feeding her. I stupidly assumed she would be fine for her layoff, and began asking virtually nothing of her other then to be a pet. It's not so much that I allowed the bad behavior, as I've allowed her to be a "pet" for so long now that she has developed a rather high opinion of herself and NOW that we're asking her to be a work horse again, we're getting the major attitude. The ear pinning and aggression only come out when being asked to work, otherwise she's like any other snuggly and affectionate beloved pet.

I will definitely keep pain in my mind, but at this point I'm not going to throw a bunch of money to a vet. Having owned this horse her entire life, I am fairly confident of this being behavioral in nature. She has ALWAYS been rather strong willed and opinionated, and we've had minor problems before - they just used to be directed at other people, not me. And with that point mentioned, I AM considering the possibility that someone is mistreating her. It's a bit "far fetched" as she's in the outdoor pen and shouldn't be handled by anyone whatsoever, but within the first week of being there the jerkwad we got fired went after her with a whip because he somehow managed to mistake her for a gelding (who comes in at night). The only other time I've seen behaviors like this surface was when she was mistreated by a pair of vindictive boarders a few years back. As mentioned, it surfaced more of a general distrust and dislike of strangers that WOULD escalate to aggression if she felt defensive. I've never had her actually hurt anyone (and at this point, she hasn't yet either).

So I can think of ZERO reason for anyone handling her, but I have taken it into consideration. However, if she was being mistreated, I would expect the results to surface in ALL areas of her life, no? She still comes trotting happily to me in the pasture, enjoys whuffling my pockets, and being fawned over, I've seen absolutely NO change in her general behavior, just her work ethic.

As for exercise, at this point it's fairly limited. She has a fairly large pasture with plenty of room to move and get even a decent gallop if she wanted. Because of the leg injury, riding and lunging aren't exactly an option although we are looking into light exercise again as she's had several months off and the leg appears good and hasn't had any issues all winter. She's brought into the arena regularly and turned loose for a good roll without her blanket and the chance to move out, she's pretty quiet and usually keeps it at a prancy jog even if the others are racing and bucking.

Thanks again for the advice, I know I have to just CALM DOWN. I'm usually so rational around horses, and for some reason I'm just having difficulty with this one. Zierra has spent a great deal of time being much more then just a horse to me, and I owe it to her to step back and relax before I attempt to tackle this. Shay-la is able to look at her objectively and as a horse right now, and she handles much the same way as I do and is also one of the few people Zierra is ok with so I think her taking over for now is the best option. I'm standing as an observer and just watching so I can get a handle on her behavior.

I definitely won't rule out pain, and I actually *may* have to call the vet soonish as Jynx has developed a rather unsightly growth on her face which I'm pretty sure is a wart of sorts but seems to be growing fast. We also have a horse who needs their teeth floated so we'll try to coincide the appointment to be most cost effective to everyone!

I hope God tells her to smash her computer with a sledgehammer.

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post #8 of 22 Old 01-02-2011, 09:38 AM
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On the line of free-longeing and Clint Anderson's hula hoop exercise, you could also see it as a bit of a Monty Roberts join-up. I'm not sure what you think of the whole join-up process or how much you know about it... but basically the idea (as I understand it) is to drive her out and around until she displays less aggression and more of a desire to stop having to work so hard while being a brat and be your quiet friend instead.
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post #9 of 22 Old 01-02-2011, 11:33 PM Thread Starter
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We actually do employ some natural horsemanship techniques and in this case, the essence of "join-up" doesn't exactly work. Zierra wants to be close to you, she wants to seek out affection and goodies, so when trying to do any form of join-up the second you turn from her, she will beeline straight for you happily. She will "fake" the signs because she has learned that is what she should do to make me turn around and allow her to come into me which is what SHE wants. We've encountered this issue a lot over the years, where join-up seems to have a lesser effect on older trained and very domestic horses. I find it a great tool with youngsters, not quite so much with older and more trusting and playful horses.

On that note, Shay-la rode her lightly today and it went brilliantly. I was in shock - she had a relaxed horse the entire time who walked happily on a loose rein with her head down, and even did some light jog totally relaxed and on a loose rein. It made me feel much better to see SOMETHING going right with her lately. Maybe it's her loose way of saying "enough with this ground work, get on me already and let's WORK!"

I hope God tells her to smash her computer with a sledgehammer.

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post #10 of 22 Old 01-03-2011, 12:15 AM
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I'm glad to hear about the upswing in her mood and behavior while being ridden!
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