Spooky horse+herd bound - did I do the right thing? - Page 3 - The Horse Forum
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post #21 of 25 Old 08-20-2012, 10:21 AM Thread Starter
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Those are both great descriptions. I think it might be worth trying it with her. I'm going to look around for something sturdy to tie her too.

Is there anything else I can do as far as training to help her? We have an old Arabian at our rescue who puts her head down whenever she gets scared, a trainer taught her whenever she feels afraid to put her head down to shift out of flight mode. I have no idea how to go about teaching her something like that - anyone else ever done something similar? She knows how to put her head down, and it works for about .2 seconds.
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post #22 of 25 Old 08-20-2012, 04:51 PM Thread Starter
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Ok I've thought on this Very long and very hard. I've read a number of articles regarding herdbound horses and I'm coming to realize every single one of my horse's issues are a direct result of her severe insecurities while she's alone and while she's alone with me.

I have 2 thoughts on tying her to a tree and letting her just sort it out.
1: this will force her to face up to her fears, look it dead in the eye and realize those fears are not realistic. She will learn to cope alone.
Well that would be fantastic!
2: This will force her to face her fears and she is not ready to face them, she will have a complete meltdown, potentially injuring herself and IF she comes out of it alright she will have an emotional breakdown and just shut down. There's no point in telling me horses don't 'just shut down' when they're scared. People have said 'they don't just shut down when being chased by a predator'. But on the contrary, in fact they do, it's called shock. Horses and most prey animals have this amazing skill, when they know it's all over and there is no point in fighting you can watch as they simply go blank with fear and often pain. Having been through a number of traumas in my life I know what it feels like to go numb, to stop feeling all that is around me. I do not want this for my horses. I work with a number of well broke therapy horses, some of them are loves and are perfect, others are just broken, they don't fight because they know it just isn't worth it, but thy are not happy nor miserable - just numb.

I do not know which of the two results my horse will come to if I tie her up. I don't think this is something worth the risk in my opinion I'd rather accommodate her than break her (using break in the worst sort of way, not the training way).

That being said I'm not jut going to give up on this issue. I am going to take a different approach. I have two ideas and I'm going to do both of them repeatedly and see how they work. If I have no results after some good time trying this I will reconsider tying her out. Now she has no typical tying issues - I can tie her up and do anything I want with her, leave her and come back, she will sit as long as I want her, so long as she's in a place she feels safe. This is the first week in our new home and she does not feel safe here yet. My goal is to make her feel safe wherever I am.

My to methods I'm going to try is:
1: pony walks. I'm going to put my mare in her field and take my pony out next to her field. I'm going to take him for walks around the house. This will have us walking within her sight for a few minutes then walking out of her sight for a few more. I'm sure she'll uproar once he's out of sight, but he'll be back a few minutes later. We will keep doing laps until she gets the point that he IS coming back and that she IS safe alone. I will practice this for a number of days until she doesn't even raise her head when he's gone. When we achieve this I will take her for walks. Teach her to be the one to leave and come back.

2: I will work on making the scary place happy places. There are a few corners of her field she is not comfortable. I'm going to work on making those areas more pleasant by using them for grooming and belly rubs and other wonderful things. I will progress this out and about when it's her turn to go for walks.

I'm hoping this works, if it doesn't I'll reconsider the tying thing - my heart just doesn't seem confident in that idea. I want to try less severe alternatives personally. Thank you all for your help and if Anyone has any more ideas or suggestions I'd be happy to hear!

Also I've called my friend, a cowboy type trainer (no not the buck em till they break type, the quiet mannered communication type) - he's going to help me out too.
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post #23 of 25 Old 08-20-2012, 10:46 PM Thread Starter
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So if anyone's still following this xD I am MORE than Thrilled to announce how today went!!
I let her out to her field, walked her all around, each time she got a little nervous I made her put her head down and relax. When she was comfortable all over I let her go. She went about eating. Her pony is in his stall where he usually is and she knows she can go into her stall to see him so she's not concerned. I took the pony out next to her field where I usually graze him, where she's still comfortable. Then I walked the pony around her field and then kept going out to where she could hear us but not see us, then out to behind the house where she could not see or hear us, then back to her paddock. Our first 'lap' around she called to us and paced a bit, the second lap she watched as we went by, the third lap I got stopped by a neighbor wanting to talk, where she couldn't see us, 20 minutes later I got back and she's still quiet and calm!!! She knew he'd come back and she wasn't afraid on her own!

I am SO proud of her! and me xD
Next time I will begin working on having her leave her field and travel around without a buddy. :)
Here's her reaction when I took the pony for the second lap, I was expecting you guys to get an air show but I'm happy to show you a video of my horse grazing xD

Last edited by PunksTank; 08-20-2012 at 10:53 PM.
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post #24 of 25 Old 08-21-2012, 02:30 AM
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I'm glad that your pony walks are showing some progress and it's for sure that you will help her to feel more comfortable with him being absent. However, I just wanted to comment on what you were saying about the shutdown reaction that horses and other animals can have.

This is exactly the effect you're wanting. As far as I can understand, it's one of the things that makes lying a horse down potentially effective, if it's done correctly (and I've seen it myself using rarey hobbles). The logic goes something like this:

  • Every horse knows that its eventual fate will be as supper for a tiger
  • Its flight reaction is designed (for want of a better word) to delay being a tiger's supper for as long as possible
  • When flight is not an option, it will eventually give up and wait for the tiger to come and put it out of its misery
  • If the tiger doesn't, in fact, come and eat it, the horse is perplexed.
  • It is forced to confront the fact that the unpleasant thing / scary clippers / saddle / whatever isn't in fact a tiger and won't in fact eat it.
You can therefore use this knowledge to get a horse to accept something that it instinctively doesn't like.

There are some interesting discussions about lying a horse down and using restraints on the forum. The key, as with everything, is how you do it. A tool is just a tool...

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post #25 of 25 Old 08-21-2012, 08:25 AM Thread Starter
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Yes, you could do it this way, but notice you're referring to the human in this case as the predator. If I have the option I'd rather be alpha-mare. Yes you can lay down a horse, you can tie them to a tree, you can buck em till they break. Those methods all work. But you also get dull, broken horses. I can see the difference in horses trained with the predator method and horses trained with the herd leader method. I personally like my horses to be awake, to know how to think and to be able to function without my personal assistance. The horses trained in that fashion I feel like the horse is asleep, all the time. Not that they're lazy, but simply blindly obeying.

I have a MFT at our rescue who was broke by a very harsh man. He is the best horse in the world to ride, you get on and he goes like a dream, but he will also walk directly into a fence if you don't steer him away from it. This horse sucks on trail rides because he won't do anything you don't ask him to. following a narrow path in a forest shouldn't require all that much human steering, most horses have the common sense to walk where there are no trees.

Personally I prefer my horses to think through problems and figure them out. I want my mare to realize that being away from the herd doesn't kill her - but I'd prefer she did it without having a complete physical and emotional breakdown. Having been through emotional breakdowns, it's not something I'd wish on my horse. And is precisely why I'm doing this desensitization. I don't want her to be terrified when the pony leaves, just as I don't want her to be terrified tied to a tree for a day.

I will ALWAYS take the path of least resistance, so long as the path always leads me to the same place. If I can teach my mare to be without her pony without traumatizing her, that is the route I will go.
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