Very nervous gelding, Can't seem to reach him

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Very nervous gelding, Can't seem to reach him

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    10-12-2010, 09:22 PM
Very nervous gelding, Can't seem to reach him

Hey everyone. I am working with an elderly Rocky Mountain gelding. His main issue is that he is very nervous while riding him but I'm going to give you a bit of a background on him first. He's an older horse and has had previous owners besides his current one and she believes that he might of been abused; I agree with her on that one. It seems like all he was ever taught to do is "go". When he is in the herd of the owner's other horses, he is always in the outcast group and gets bullied around. He's taken in at night and given extra hay and grain to make sure he's getting enough to eat.

As far as riding goes, he can be difficult to catch but in the end he will always let you catch him even if it takes a minute or two. Grooming, saddling and bridling up he is great, calm as ever. As soon as you settle into the saddle, though, he takes on a different role. He becomes very nervous and starts pacing almost immediately. He used to pace all the way into the arena and in there as well. It has taken me about 4-5 weeks of just making sure he is doing a four-beated walk. All in all, we've been doing a lot of walking and calming him down. He has gotten way better than before but I still feel like something isn't right.

For being a horse that is beaten up all the time by the herd, he is the most barn/pasture sour horse I've ever met. As soon as we turn in the direction of the barn he starts pacing. So I calmly take up on the reins and ask him to walk. He'll listen for a few steps and then pace again. He used to always have to be on a somewhat tight rein but I have been able to ride him on a loose rein now, which is great because it tells me I'm making progress. Even though we've made progress, I still feel like he doesn't completely trust a rider.

My question/s is what else can I do to help him put trust in humans again? I've tried recently joining up with him in the round pen. He'll keep his inside ear on me but show's no other signs of relaxing or when stopped, wanting to come to the middle with me.

Sorry this is so long, but I really want to help this guy out. He's just so nervous and wary. :)
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    10-12-2010, 09:35 PM
Some horses are very subtle in their submissive signs. Some horses are so domisticated, you won't see hardly any of the 'give-away' signs in Join-Up. When you ask him to come in, is your back facing him? Is your over all body relaxed?

Do you make him change directions? A lot of times, the horse will start running in closer to you rather than the fence when he wants to come in the herd. Those are the easiest times to get him to do what you want and come in to you.

To horses, when you are running them around the pen, you whole body facing them, you are confronting them. The horse will stop if you back up, but to get them to come up to you, I have found it better to completly turn from them. Remove all pressure, and they will be more willing to come up to you.
    10-12-2010, 09:41 PM
Yes, I turn my back to him after stopping him and asking him to come to my. I try and keep my body language as relaxed as possible facing away from him. Since it takes so long, sometimes I'll peak out of the corner of my eye and I'll catch him looking at me, yet won't come to the middle no matter how many times I do it. Do I just need to wait longer or keep doing it? I ask him to walk, trot, canter, stop, and turn around in the round pen. He does it all nicely, no questions asked but I feel like he doesn't want to be friends. I guess he's just used to being bossed around by people and no one taking the time to understand him.
    10-12-2010, 10:08 PM
As for the gigging to get home, trot him toward the barn and then work the living snot out of him. Trot circles near the barn for a good 5 minutes without letting him stop trotting. Then take him back away from the barn and let him stand and rest. Turn back toward the barn and repeat. Keep doing this until he finally figures out that there's no reward by running to the barn, only work and you'll suddenly find a nice slow horse instead of a jigging one. Good luck.
    10-12-2010, 10:20 PM
When I get a horse who is an outcast like your boy sounds to be, I will give him an opportunity to join with me. Heres what I would do, Join up wise.

Put him on the rail...he is probably showing signs so early that you may be missing them. A submissive horse will practically throw himself at you. Wait for the ear, it should come first. Take note of his head set when he first starts away from you. Some horses drop all the way to the ground...others will drop 6 inches...a change in body language that another horse would pick up on...but us dull humans wouldnt.

Chevy is very right about the smaller circle. That is when I start softening my approach. Go 'shoulder to shoulder' with him. When he stops, turn your back but not like "ABOUT FACE!" style...slowly. Keep your eyes down and give him time. After about 30 second, I will make it easier for him and cross in front of him with my eyes down and my body language soft. Listen really hard for hooves...most likely on the first pass, he will take one step towards you. The second he steps towards you, stop. If he takes another step towards you, and stops, its your turn. You take one small step backwards towards him. Wait for him to touch you first. Meet him with a gentle rub.

Follow up is 50X more important than join-up. Rub him everywhere. Under, over and behind. If he shows any issues with you touching him anywhere...persist. If he tries to move away, drive him away. Love, hug and praise him. Talk softly. When you take one step away, he should follow.

Another thing to try is the old lawn chair and hay trick. I will make a nice big old nest of hay in the middle of a ring. No grass around. Nothing else to eat. I sit in the middle and read a book. This should work well with your guy because he doesnt get to 'share' with other horses...certainly not other humans. Spend the day with him if you have time.

I also get a good bond with horses with massage. You can pick up a book on equine massage on amazon or you could get one of those three pronged human back massagers and rub him on his long, flat muscles like his neck, shoulder and hindquarters.
    10-13-2010, 11:59 AM
Originally Posted by MyBoyPuck    
As for the gigging to get home, trot him toward the barn and then work the living snot out of him. Trot circles near the barn for a good 5 minutes without letting him stop trotting. Then take him back away from the barn and let him stand and rest. Turn back toward the barn and repeat. Keep doing this until he finally figures out that there's no reward by running to the barn, only work and you'll suddenly find a nice slow horse instead of a jigging one. Good luck.
Thank you for your advice! With any normal barn sour horse, I too would take this route but from experience with him and his issues, doing that turns him into a big nervous wreck. This horse can go for miles and miles without tiring at a fast pace! I found this out the first few times I rode him. ;) Because he is so nervous and scared, working at gaits faster than a walk--unless he's working good for me--kind of make him block out anything I ask of him. He needs lots of easy slow methods. Doing anything like punishing him sends him into a frenzy and he thinks you are going to beat him upside the head.
    10-13-2010, 12:06 PM
Thank you Corinowalk. :) The moment I take him into the round pen and send him out, he's fine. His head isn't high up, he isn't rolling his eyes or doing anything to show he is scared. All he does is keep his inside ear on me and keeps his neck level with his withers. He does everything asked of him but doesn't really show any others signs of relaxing and wanting to be done like other horses, such as licking lips, lowering head way down, and even turning to face me when asked to stop. He'll just stand there and maybe he'll look at me.

I don't think he does it because he's disrespectful, I truly believe its because he's scared of humans and doing something wrong. Is this just his personality and how far he'll show signs of wanting to be with me?
    10-13-2010, 12:09 PM
I honestly think it has more to do with his position in the pecking order in the field than it does with any abuses. He sounds like the low man and a loner. They can be hard to reach but in the end, they bond the strongest. How long are you trying to join up with him? Are you activly driving him away?
    10-13-2010, 12:13 PM
Yes, he is a loner and a low man. I've only tried joining up with him once and was at it for about 30-45 mins. I eventually quit when he would let me walk up to him and pet him all over instead of him coming to me. When I would walk to him and rub him all over, he would turn and follow me and really enjoyed the attention. The times when he wouldn't follow me, I'd send him away again and make him work until when I asked him to stop, he would and then I'd approach him again and do the same things I mentioned before.
    10-13-2010, 12:34 PM
I think progress will probably be pretty slow with this guy. He sounds like a good guy who wants to do right for you. I think you are on the right track with him by not pushing him too far. Being an older guy, he may have had many homes. Horses like him don't bond fast because of all the change. Good luck with him. Keep us posted!

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