Training a horse that has been abused.. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 31 Old 10-28-2013, 10:57 AM Thread Starter
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Training a horse that has been abused..

I've had my girl Flame for little over a month now. She came to me with little planning ahead, and little thought involved. Her old owner was going to send her to slaughter for her being a "bad bad horse". He created the "bad" horse though. She was untouched up until 10 years old, and only had a little halter training at 2. He brought her home, intending to train her "naturally" (not even) and have a grand ole horse. Well, here is where he started problems:
1. If she would just step sideways or backwards while she was supposed to be standing perfectly still, she would get hit. Either smacked in the head or what I'm assuming, punched in the neck.
2. She was scared of him, so she resisted being catch. He took a pitchfork and would chase her in her small run, and corner her in the run in to halter her. From how she acts by her hind, I'll assuming she was poked numerous times.
3. He rushed her training. One day he grabbed her out, smacked on ground driving tack and pushed her to go. She panicked at the bit, and threw herself to the ground.

Since then, I have started ground work to get her to respect my space, and listen to basic commands (walk, trot, reverse, back, pivots, etc). I have saddled her, and ridden her in a halter. I'm taking it slowly on the bit. I will not ride her with a bridle until she is giving to sidereins while lunging. So far, her nose is stuck in the air fighting it, which is typical whenever I start horse in the side reins.
Now here's my problem. I was riding bareback the other day, and she started bucking. Whenever I would ask for a trot, or stop, she would but her head down and try to buck. I'm thinking that she is in pain because her topline is so weak. (i only thought this after I got off and thought about it) But regardless, I do not allow a horse to buck, especially since I'm training her to be kid safe. When she decided to buck on this specific ride, and not quit when I told her whoa, I smacked her neck while shouting quit. She stopped bucking, but she threw her head up and rushed forward. I seen the fear in her eyes.

On this forum, I've seen that you aren't supposed to treat abused horses any differently than normal horses, but should I have smacked her? I don't want to do nothing and let her get away with her bad behaviors, but I don't want her to live in fear when I ride her.

Any advice? Where to go next with her?
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post #2 of 31 Old 10-28-2013, 11:03 AM
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If her topline is still so weak that you think it might have been hurting her to ride bareback (VERY little padding/protection for her...chances are it did hurt) you shouldn't have been riding her bareback in the first place.

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post #3 of 31 Old 10-28-2013, 11:12 AM
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if she is bucking out of pain or fear, smacking will make her worse.

Why are you riding bareback? It can shock a young horse to have a rider come off if they jump or spook at something, riding in a saddle that distributes the weight of a rider and gives the rider more security makes ALOT more sense.

When training a young horse, perfect a step and move on. She is not giving to the bit, so she needs to work on that before you get on her. You cant get half way through a step and get bored and move on.

Training an abused horse is no different that training a non abused one. Same principles, exercises and rewards. Best thing you can do is forget her past and move on. some horses are fear based, they need lots of work on being desensitized to things on their back, and learning to accept pressure without panicking.
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post #4 of 31 Old 10-28-2013, 11:15 AM
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Bareback riding is not always comfortable for a horse. My OTTB, great topline, BTW, I got on him bareback and he just about sank to his knees. My two butt bones just poked into his back and was very painful for him. As much as I missed it I never got on him bareback again.

As far as hitting your horse, I think he has been hit enough, Certainly you can find other ways of disciplining him.
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post #5 of 31 Old 10-28-2013, 11:15 AM
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I'm with Endiku. It's probably wise not to ride her bareback for a while because it's hurting her. In your case you couldn't let her continue buck so I think you were justified in that respect. That being said I feel it necessary to say that while you don't want to treat an abused horse any differently; you still need to work through their issues.

For instance, if she's head shy (just as an example), work through her being head shy before you speed things and movements up around her. In my experience it teaches them that you're not there to hurt them, gains their trust and when you go to punish makes them less afraid. My gelding had been beaten so whenever he was smacked he blind bolted, I just did slow soft smacks to get him reused to it and eventually he got the message that it only hurts and gets hard when I've done something wrong, so now he doesn't bolt. I find that working through their little tics first makes every thing much easier, and rebuilds their trust, and makes it easier on me by about 110% lol.
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post #6 of 31 Old 10-28-2013, 11:25 AM
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my gelding was beat about before i got him, and would literally turn into the devil upon hearing the jingling of a bit and bridle. he reared if you tried to put one over his head, bit if her saw it in your hands near him, and would just generally throw an all out tantrum. he was hit in the head frequently when he would get into these fits so he became a very head shy.

i restarted him in a hack, to show him that not all things that jingled went in your mouth and hurt. he went out to pasture for six weeks vacation, then when i brought him back, we started with the bit and bridle.

at first, we only lunged at the bit with no reins. let him get used to it in his mouth and get comfy. then we tried side reins to bring in some contact. he did the same thing your horse seems to be doing when in side reins, throw his nose up and run blind. so we switched to what ive been told are called drop reins. basically, you take the reins that would normally be tied to the side of the saddle or surcingle, and tie them between the front legs at the girth. he would bump himself every time he tried to throw his head up, and learned to stretch down to take the pressure off. he can drag his nose along the ground if he feels like it without any pressure on the bit, but will bump himself if he tries to go UP. and UP is tobys go to move.

getting your horse to stretch down and really use their back and butt will help that top line. which may solve your bareback bucking problem

for the bucking in general.... disengage the hind end. dont get into smacking and yelling. when she humps her back to buck, turn her and get that butt going sideways. dont give her the option to throw her feet up, she'll need em to move under herself. small circles, and then push her forward again. she figure out that bucking means working harder, and she'll start focusing on what your asking and doing her job instead.

hope that helps. Good Luck!
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post #7 of 31 Old 10-28-2013, 12:26 PM
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Horses remember pain and fear far more than they remember all the good things
At least this mare you have hasn't become aggressively defensive
You have to treat each horse as an individual if you want to get the best from it and right now this one needs to learn she can trust you
There are ways of reprimanding with your voice and just by being firm and insistent that work better with a nervous horse than resorting to physical stuff and I would stick with that right now because nervous distrustful horses are really hard to work with
I agree on the bareback thing - give her time to settle into work with a saddle and then you can ride bareback if you want too later on when she's 100% confident
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post #8 of 31 Old 10-28-2013, 12:44 PM
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You said: "On this forum, I've seen that you aren't supposed to treat abused horses any differently than normal horses, but should I have smacked her? I don't want to do nothing and let her get away with her bad behaviors, but I don't want her to live in fear when I ride her."

You are right to a point, when dealing with "abused" horses I feel it is best to forget about the past abuse, and move forward into better behavior. That being said, you can't forget about the abuse totally that would be like not taking into consideration fear when training a horse. Remember Fear is a big part of training horses we are training our horse to better understand fear and how to respond to fear. So with an "abused" horse fear is a part of the training proses. So if there are things that "set your horse off" you need to retrain those things.

Now about the hitting/smacking, there was a time in my training past that I used hitting/smacking and kicking as a big part of my training methods reward and punish right. Now, I have to say, I have to a large extent stopped using hitting/smacking and kicking. I only us it now as a HAY!!!! YOU"RE WAY OUT OF LINE!!! AND NOT HEARING ME!!!!! I have found there are much better ways to punish bad behavior then hitting/smacking or kicking just getting their feet moving, making them work harder is way for effective for training a horse.

Its already been said, riding this horse at this point was a little premature in other words the bucking was more your fault. In the future when you are riding this horse smacking and hitting "might" not be the best way to deal with bucking. Bucking is a reaction to something fear, anger, loss of balance, frustration, pain. Before you try to deal with the bucking you have to understand the horse and what might be reason for the bucking.
I have riding horses that smacking them with the lead rope or the tail of my reins stopped the buck. I have also ridden horses that smacking them only made it worse but grabbing a rein and bringing their head up and around to one side did stop the bucking.

For you today, I would say keep working on ground manners and putting weight on your horse before riding again. these two things "COULD" fix the bucking issue. Good luck and Great questions. Keep asking good questions.
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post #9 of 31 Old 10-28-2013, 01:46 PM
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As far as the "abuse" - did you witness any of it? You used the word 'assume' several times.

She truly sounds like a stubborn horse that is used to getting her own way.
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post #10 of 31 Old 10-28-2013, 01:57 PM
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I would suggest, going into the winter, that you spend the entire next six months on ground training. She must do several things, including NOT be afraid of a whip. You would leave welts on a human with a whip, but you'd have to be a muscle man or crazy to do the same to a horse. She needs enough work so that she sees a whip as an extension of your arm and a signal to move.
If she has been abused it will take 10x-20x as long to train foundations than an unspoiled horse, so plan for that.
Start with perfect leading, perfect backing, perfect standing while tied, perfect foot behavior, perfect lunging, and any other things that you want your perfect horse to do on the ground...perfectly.
My older herd was pretty much perfect. When your horse can be trusted they are truly a joy to handle and ride. It takes time and trust. Truthfully, I am too old to work with an abused horse, but you sound like you're up for the job.
Good luck, and keep us posted. =D

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