abused horse - how do I teach her I'm OK - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 07-12-2010, 07:56 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Australia
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abused horse - how do I teach her I'm OK

I have had this horse for 3 years now, she's an arab type and 16yo. She is extremly hard to catch but can be run into a yard and will be caught then.
I've tried sitting with her and seeing if she would come to me and walking up with food in buckets etc, not only catching her to ride but also catching her to brush or eat only as well. My farrier does the catching fine in a little paddock, with the pressure on off method.
I seemed to make headroads after 1 year, I could walk up to her in the paddock, and then, for some reason she has been difficult to catch ever since.
I have not ever hit her, she came to me hard to catch and headshy. I'm just wondering if I ever did know what to do would she ever come right or is she always going to be a poor scared little mare? Once caught she has excellent ground manners. And she is extreamly easy to train on the ground with things I do teach her. Should I just keep herding her into the yard by putting food in there and trying to desensitise her head? Or is it a lost cause. I guess it's really two issues i'm looking at, the telling her I'm ok and the catching.
After 3 years I don't seem to be getting through at all, you would think she would know that she is safe here. Any ideas appreciated. Thanks
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post #2 of 8 Old 07-12-2010, 08:25 PM
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Its possible your mare doesnt view you as the one in charge. She was abused before, which meant in her eyes she had a leader who was unfair and mean. You have to be the lead 'mare' still BUT you need to be a fair kind leader.

You might try lunging for respect, possibly try a 'join up' if your game and have the knowledge to do it properly.

You also need to spend quality bonding time with her. Just feeding, brushing, and working her wont do that. Spend quality time, possible hand grazing, just going and being in the same area, you could just go read a book in the pasture with her while she goes about her business...your just there, or approach her without a halter at all and just scratch on her? play games with her if you can?...example: My mare hates mud so we will actually play tag after it rains...Ill run for the mud and she will stop and snort because she cant get me. My friends mare will play tag with her for treats.

Another thing would be to bring on the treats...horses become much easier to deal with if they associate things with positive things like treats. My mare use to be hard to catch like yours...now she walks up to me. I would just take a can of treats/grain with me and shake it while I walked out. If she let me walk to her she got a treat, rope around the neck = treat, halter on = treat, walked quietly in = treat. She began to associate being caught with getting a treat and now she comes running and I only give her a treat once Ive got her in the barn. That worked well as the positive reinforcement...if she ever ran from me I ran her around the pasture until she didnt want to run. Then I would catch her walk some and then let her go right after.

It was sorta like making her think "Dang I did all that running for nothing..." and when she let me catch her it was like making her think "Oh boy! I get a treat just for letting you put this silly thing on my head?!"

Horses will usually go with the easiest course of action in my experience. lol.

Im sure someone on here will have better advice but that is what worked for me on the catching and bonding ie. letting her know your ok. I had to bond with my mare too because was a brat didnt want anything to do with anyone...she is my sweet girl now lol.

Good luck!

Horses Will Listen...Even When No One Else Could Possibly Understand...
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post #3 of 8 Old 07-13-2010, 07:20 PM
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Florida
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We recently got a horse in that had been at another rescue for 3 yrs. In that time, the mare was extremely headshy, hard to catch, and they were still riding her. When she came to us, she slammed one person against a wall, was impossible for most to catch in the pasture, and took off from people who had her on a lead line.

When I started working with the mare, within 3 days of doing nothing more than catching, bringing in, turning out, and grooming, spending less than one hour per day with her, she was walking up to me willingly to be caught in the pasture and in the stall. Others......not so much. There was no lengthy bonding experience, no getting through the barriers of what some horrible human did to her so I could prove I was different, I just went on about life and she quickly realized it sounded like a good deal.

What we expect of our horses is often what they give us. Horses are often stuck in a rut because of the labels we give them. Another horse is not going to care about what experience she had in her past, they are going to treat her like a horse. I've found that when working with an abused horse, if I treat them like a horse, they act like a horse.

You want to know how to teach her that you are ok? Think like a horse, another horse would care less if she thought they were OK or not. The "love story" is very human. Horses want stability and safety. The neediness of people to be "liked" by their horses is often the biggest weakness that makes the horse think "anything that needy can't be a leader". A good lead horse is followed, they don't have to go looking for members.

Be confident in who you are, your horse will become confident in you too.
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post #4 of 8 Old 07-20-2010, 10:49 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Australia
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Thanks for the reply's.

I have spent many hours with her doing pleasurable things with her, ie the hand grazing, reading, being with her etc, not alot has worked.

I'm working with the pellets in the tin can and can see it is something she doesn't have any associations with so, she seems to think it's ok for me to call her name, rattle, walk up and treat her. Maybe it is because there are no bad assocations with that process, thanks for that idea.

Maybe it's possible she just doesn't trust humans full stop. And I am open to the possibility that I maybe doing it all wrong with her. Once haltered she is very compliant and I find her very easy to do things with. But unhaltered, and therefore uncaught, very hard to catch and she has her mind on whatever she chooses, which is definately not me!

I'm not really full bottle with join up, I just know you chase a horse around and when it stops, you turn and i'ts supposed to follow you as you walk away. So unless I can see it done, and am happy I can do it well myself, I guess I don't wan't to ruin her any more than she is, by doing it incorrectly.

I do not have a need for her to like me, I realise I am a walking food dispenser in her eys, and that is fine, I would like her to realise I'm OK and trust me I guess. I am confident around her and my other horses. And I believe I get along with life with her and the other horses, but she hasn't just quickly realized she has a good deal here. Wow how I wish it were that simple.

I do hear stories of abused horses getting over their fears, but this hasn't happened here, so like I said before, It could be that I'm doing this all wrong, and I havn't been able to teach her I'm ok. That's why I'm here asking for some help and ideas.

There have been improvements over the 3 years, I did get her to the stage where I could just walk up and catch her in the paddock, but that stopped happening last year, and for the life of me I can't think what could have made it stop happening, maybe spring, she's a mare, new green grass? I guess there is a reason it happened, but I can't figure it out.

Thanks for your thoughts.
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post #5 of 8 Old 07-22-2010, 11:13 AM
Join Date: Jul 2010
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I'd also recommend Join-Up. It really works. If you want to try it, I'd watch an instructional video first just so you'll have more confidence...even if you don't get it right on the first try, IMO you haven't "ruined" your horse by trying. All you've been showing her is that you will make her go away if she doesn't want to come, thus helping her to understand that you to a degree control her movements. If you can get it right, and she joins up with you, she'll see you as her leader and someone that she can trust. The important thing about Join up is not giving up. Some horses take longer than others. Good luck with whichever course you decide to pursue!
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post #6 of 8 Old 08-19-2010, 01:21 PM
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My horse was also abused and head shy when we first got him. Try sitting out in the pasture and just letting her check you out. Just sit there and read a book and don't move. In a sitting position you are much smaller and may seem like less of a threat to her. It may take her many tries for her to come and investigate you but just be patient. You just want her to be able to check you out completely on her own terms. That really helped us.
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post #7 of 8 Old 08-25-2010, 03:32 PM
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Location: Ontario
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I also recommend Join-up its the best thing i ever did with my horse. Umm I also have an other suggestion you can try the Reiki method. Its very simple actually all you have to do is ask permission to your horse. So when you want to catch her ask her to. I know it sounds real funny but by doing this your body language changes and tels her that you respect her. It will take some time but eventually you should get her. This method works really well for everything and anything even before mounting you should ask your horse permission.
Frankiee is offline  
post #8 of 8 Old 08-31-2010, 09:21 PM
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If you have access to a round pen use it. Teach her that you can make her move her feet, how fast and in what direction. When she acts like she wants to stop, keep pushing her for a little while, then when you ask her to stop, step in front of her drive line, say "Whoa", and take a few steps back. This should get her to come to you, or at least look at you. As long as she is at least looking at you, let her relax for a little while, then start over again. Keep doing this, and she will eventually join-up with you. Some horses take longer than others, but you should be able to do it in one days trip to the barn.

It can be done with a lounge line, but it is more difficult because you are able to pull the horse to you, instead of allowing it to come to you.
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