I purchased 2 ponies last Fall (September) to save them from a bad fate. They did not come from the same place originally, but I know nothing about their backgrounds and will never be able to find out. The older (3 coming 4) pony has slowly come around with treats, some round penning, etc. I can halter and lead her, and touch her almost all over, although she would still rather I "not" but some of that is pony attitude. She is a treat monger so she will basically tolerate most things for a treat. To add to the fun, she had a surprise foal on March 25. I have imprinted him from birth so the baby is going to be fine and is way ahead of his mom and the other pony! Neither pony is mean (the little mamma pony is grouchy, not mean). They are both capable of being nice ponies for children (in fact my 9 year old neighbor is less intimidating to them and sometimes they are better with her than me!). Neither is mean whatsoever and have done nothing but try to get out of a scary situation when pressured.
The bigger problem is the other filly, who is 2 coming 3. She was either abused or had little to no handling prior to coming here. She came with a halter but has been able to rub it off and I haven't been able to get one back on her. She is very very very skittish. In the beginning I tried round penning her. I am an experienced horesperson although I have not trained a youngster from scratch since before all the "joining up" info came out, I.e. Many years ago and never trained a scared and possibly unhandled and/or abused horse that has major trust issues.
I felt that the round penning for her was not working. She got so stressed out that the minute I entered the round pen she was petrified and started charging around the pen, even when I stayed still and turned away from her with unagressive body posture. I know round penning is not about chasing them around but there was no chasing needed for her to continue to freak out and be drenched with sweat and still trying to run. I felt that she might be that one horse that just won't join up that way and have been using other means to get her to join up. After a setback when both ponies got out last winter and had to be lassoed to be caught, she regressed and I could hardly get near her for a month or so and I had to start from scratch. Lassoing was the last resort believe me, after 2 days on the loose we were afraid for their safety and they were completely feeding off each other and wild.
That incident was in February. Since then I have been working with her almost every day, twice a day. My routine is that when I feed her grain (on the fence, they have a run-in and no way to stall, although I am not sure that would be the way to go with her either, feeling forced and trapped), I hang with her and stroke her. She knows she has to "come after me" to get the grain. If she tries to back up I turn away but move the food farther down the fenceline with me and she does join up to come after it. I come into the paddock at least 3-4 times a day and hang and she always comes to me (yes I am always good for carrot slices - whatever it takes I don't think that's bad). I am finally able to pet her neck, shoulders, a little bit of the ears etc. I have laid the halter in her feed tub so she has to stick her nose through it to get the grain. I am so close to being able to toss it over her ears but I know how that would end right now. She lets me pet her while she is taking a bite of grain and then usually takes a step back unless I am not touching her with my hands. I should mention that she will let me touch her with my face all day long, I can kiss her nose and rest my face on her cheek) she is only scared of any action with my hands or of anyone coming at her and putting any pressure on her by looking at her or coming at her, even casually.
I know I am making progress but is there a point where she is getting the upper hand as far as calling the shots? I am afraid to push anything because there is no doubt this is genuine fear. I know there is no timeline on trust issues but is there a time when it's time to go with another plan? I don't want her to be forced into anything, BUT she needs her feet trimmed (not horrible yet but def. Getting there) and I want her to get her shots. I could sedate her but again, I want to break through but I am hoping it's not much longer until I can get the halter on her. I feel that until I get that breakthrough I won't be able to make any real progress. I was going to leave a grab strap on her like the baby and then catch her up each day and just slowly work with her. Altogether we are talking about 9 months of working with her (with a couple of major setbacks like the lassoing) already. I am willing to be patient, I just want to make progress but the right way. She exhibits the same skittish behavior with neighbors that stop by and feed and pet her through the fence. I have everyone that will come by playing with her.
Can anyone share their timelines (especially if you had a hard case that did come around :) and/or comments? Sorry this is so long but I thought the full background was warranted here. Thanks for reading this long post.