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Horse project

This is a discussion on Horse project within the Natural Horsemanship forums, part of the Training Horses category

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        03-18-2014, 11:47 PM
      #1
    Foal
    Horse project

    This is more of a discussion I would like to get opinions. I have recently purchased an 8 year old gelding that has not been ridden by anyone that really had any horse knowledge. They were very much controlling the horse with fear. Some examples are they used a correction bit but had extremely rough and heavy hands on the reins. To get the horse to back up was pretty rough to watch. Also they used spurs to get the horse to do pretty much anything. They were scared of the horse and figured to make him fear them more. They would run him for miles to tire him before they would get on him. I saw potential in the horse and thought it would be a great learning experience to work with and try to turn this horse around. So its been two weeks and I've made great progress with the horse but he has his issues. He has great lateral flexion and is gaining confidence in vertical flexion. He will turn his haunches away from me very well. Which is were I have concern. He is having a tough time determining when I want him to move his haunches away and when I'm moving up next to his shoulder. I will continue to improve my body language towards him so not to confuse. However his mentality is to not trust humans. Which I am continuously trying to strengthen our bond. Day two of our training I was bitten twice, kicked in the wrist and he decided to jump over a panel fence when he was put up for the night. How he did it without hurting himself I don't know. The people who saw it said he just backed up ran at the fence and jumped over. I have since then gained some of his trust and respect but as we progress and I ask him to do more and more he tends to test his boundaries.
    Although he has good lateral flexion and is supple in his ribs and hind quarters he is very difficult to rein. I believe this is do to him having such an aggressive bit and people riding him who were very pushy and jerky with his mouth. I am using a chris cox snaffle bit that is very gentle on the mouth. Also I am trying to teach him leg cues with correct seat position to transition gaits but do to how much he's had spurs used on him this is proving to be challenging. The horse has a willingness to learn and has come leaps and bonds since day one. Anyway your thoughts, critiques,and questions.
         
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        03-19-2014, 12:34 AM
      #2
    Super Moderator
    Now, whatever I say comes from someone who has NEVER dealt with a damaged horse. But, what if instead of driving him, you worked a bit on drawing him? Like in a round pen, or leading him around, worked on getting him to willingly follow you, though you can also get him to respect your space by moving him off and letting him rest away from you, like 6 feet off.

    I'd work with getting him to do the things you want him to do while on a halter, instead of with a bit, for a bit.
    loosie, sarahfromsc and Blue Duck like this.
         
        03-19-2014, 12:56 AM
      #3
    Foal
    I believe that may be the approach I have to take. I usually work with him for an hour or so on the things you mentioned. He definitely has room for improvement but is actually doing what I would consider pretty good as far as staying out of my personal space. If I am in an arena with him he will do the majority of our ground work without a lead. Now it is a different story if I take him out where there is grass or food to tempt him. Maybe a mistake I make with him is I tend to put pressure on him when he loses focus and that could be causing more harm than good.
         
        03-19-2014, 07:08 AM
      #4
    Trained
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Blue Duck    
    He is having a tough time determining when I want him to move his haunches away and when I'm moving up next to his shoulder.
    Do you mean that when you're at his flank he understands when you ask him to move, but not when you're up closer to his head? Sounds like you're possibly asking a bit much & stick to what's 'easier' for him for a while longer first, before *gradually* teaching him it means the same thing when you're in different positions. Horses are hyperspecific & don't generalise well, so he hasn't learned it means the same thing when 'different'.

    Quote:
    However his mentality is to not trust humans. Which I am continuously trying to strengthen our bond. Day two of our training I was bitten twice, kicked in the wrist and he decided to jump over a panel fence when he was put up for the night.
    I find it hard to explain, but in working with a 'damaged' horse I wouldn't necessarily do things differently with regard to training. Good, consistent, clear & effective training should help him gain trust & respect in you. But I would be striving to make everything as Good & positive as possible for him, as well as easy, non stressful, non confrontational. You might find learning the principles behind 'clicker training' is invaluable.

    He also sounds like a possibly quite 'assertive' guy, who by 'temperament' or experience, may have more 'fight' than 'flight' about him, so needs to be handled carefully to keep that below board.

    Quote:
    quarters he is very difficult to rein. I believe this is do to him having such an aggressive bit and people riding him who were very pushy and jerky with his mouth. I am using a chris cox snaffle bit that is very gentle
    How well does he yield(respond softly & reliably with understanding) to pressure elsewhere aside from his hind quarters? I'd be spending more time making sure that was all good before riding.

    I'd also ditch the bit, for now at least. If he's had so many terrible experiences with it, those associations will be really getting in the way of his learning & accepting. A snaffle is not really a 'gentle' bit, and any bit can be as harsh as the hands on the reins & training - meaning you may not be 'heavy handed' but if his training/associations is getting in the way, you may not be able to be 'light'. Get him going well in a halter, bosal, bitless bridle, which should be different enough in feel that previous experiences/associations won't get in the way so much.

    Quote:
    Also I am trying to teach him leg cues with correct seat position
    Don't blow his mind. You've only had him for 2 weeks & he's had a bad start. Start & work at where HE is at, teach him the basics first & one thing at a time, not try to do it all at once. I'd also be getting him great at yielding to light pressure where your legs will be, when you're on the ground first.

    Quote:
    I usually work with him for an hour or so on the things you mentioned. ... I tend to put pressure on him when he loses focus and that could be causing more harm than good.
    Putting pressure on him when he loses focus could indeed be a bad move. Or it could be the exactly right thing to do. Depends on the situation & his attitude. If he's worried/frightened, putting more pressure on him is not great, but being assertive if he just 'ignores' you is different.

    Re the hour sessions, sounds very intense & intensive. I'd be cutting down to about a quarter of that time or less per session. Of course there's nothing to say you can't d 4 or more shorter sessions daily, or do 5 minutes 'work' & 5 minutes hand graze, groom or feed him in between 'sessions'. You'll get more 'bang for your buck' with short, easy & positive sessions rather than one long, tedious one.
    sarahfromsc and Blue Duck like this.
         
        03-19-2014, 08:13 AM
      #5
    Weanling
    Everything Loosie said and I want to add do not think of him as a damaged horse. Treat him like a horse that knows nothing, start back at the very beginning and train him like you would train a horse that was just starting. I would not be riding him right now, I would be spending a good few weeks on ground work only, teach him everything he needs to know in the saddle from the ground. Get control of his head, neck, shoulder, rib cage and hind quarters from the ground, it will all translate to the saddle when you ride. Once he gets good in an enclosed area take him out and do the same things work him in the open, new space = new challenge. He needs to learn to respect you and trust in all environments. When he gets distracted change his direction, change his speed keep him guessing what your going to ask for next so he does not have time to be distracted. Look for baby steps, teach in small increments one step at a time.

    It is easy to take an older horse and say to ourselves well he has been ridden he should know this and expect more then what they are capable of. He has holes in his training go back and fill in the holes by starting over, in the long run it will take less time to start over then to try and fill in the holes one at a time.
    loosie and Blue Duck like this.
         
        03-19-2014, 11:08 PM
      #6
    Foal
    Loosie, so about his confusion when I approach his shoulder. I have made a distinct difference with my body language when i'm asking him to move his hind quarters. I never go past 90degrees off his shoulder when moving his hind end. He from time to time wanted to move his feet as I approach him in a relaxed manner to praise or just enter his space. He actually did really well today. I did not drive him as much. I focused on gaining his trust and having him lead. He followed me without a lead around the arena. I would make random stops and he respected my space he also would move his hind quarters away without me having to ask. So he is definitely understanding and getting better. I believe the problem may not have really been confusion but maybe, do to me doing to much to fast and him trying to respect my space he was moving to give me that space.

    I have heard of clicker training but do not know anything about it. I will research it. One of the things I have done is try not to apply a technique that is new to me and i'm learning and teach him at the same time. My mindset is I would like to try to become as efficient as possible with what I have been exposed to and have a good understanding of and approach. To give him that knowledge. (Hope that made since.) I am constantly studying and practicing different methods. But I have always done it once I have a good base with my horse.

    As for the leg cues and yielding softly. I should have worded the leg cues and seat position quote differently. Our rides are very relaxing and meant to be enjoyable. My primary focus is to pay attention to him and how he is responding to his surroundings. If we approach an obstacle in our path ie. A log or object that gains his attention I let him figure it out and realize it isnt going to eat him. The leg cues with seat position I was referring to were simply applying pressure with my lower leg while seated in a more forward position to get him to associate the to with a change in gait. Once I return to my center seat I would like him to maintain that gait. The problem I was trying to solve was doing this without spurs. He has had them used so heavily on him he is really desensitized.

    I will ditch the bit and see how he responds.

    The way I started him was with what I've always had success with. He responded very good to understanding my personal space so I added a little more from the ground which included, but not in one day lateral flexion, turn on the forehand or disengage hind quarters, direct and drive, giving me his feet for cleaning or whatever, when I ask. Allowing me to touch him anywhere. I wouldnt progress this fast usually but I was evaluating him and once I earned some respect he picked up on most of these very quickly. He is very willing to learn. I am not of the belief that a horse either respects you or he doesnt. I believe a horses respect for you grows and has boundaries that you can cross. I like to build a horses confidence and gain his respect. Then push him or find situations that challenge his confidence and his respect for me. However I do not break his trust in me. I stop just before that. Then I assess whatever the situation is that caused this. I figure out exactly what I want or how I want him to respond. Then I approach that hurdle in a manner in which he will have success and eventually gain more respect for me. I simply judge this off of when I can present him with a scenario he has had a problem with and he does exactly what I had envisioned him doing.

    Ok that's enough from me. I really appreciate y'all talking through these things and even if I didnt respond directly to a point that was made, I write all of them down in order to remind me what you all have said.
         
        03-20-2014, 02:12 AM
      #7
    Trained
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Blue Duck    
    problem may not have really been confusion but maybe, do to me doing to much to fast and him trying to respect my space he was moving to give me that space.
    Yes, if you're asking for too much too quickly, he may not get what you mean when you move like that... in other words, he's confused about what you want

    Quote:
    One of the things I have done is try not to apply a technique that is new to me and i'm learning and teach him at the same time.
    I agree that's a sound principle. And you might then choose not to start the whole 'clicker training' method/exercises now too, but the *principles* behind the method are basically the principles behind ALL effective training/teaching & apply to whatever you're doing, whoever, whenever you're teaching - they are the 'Laws of Learning' & invaluable to learn IMO.

    Quote:
    The leg cues with seat position ... The problem I was trying to solve was doing this without spurs.
    Yeah I think you're aiming for too much without getting him good at the basics first. So I guess now, he's learned to grit his teeth & put up with/try to ignore the pain in his sides? You need to teach him that it's now meaningful. I'd start this on the ground, teaching him to yield to fingertip pressure in various ways.

    When riding, I'd just be using leg & seat cues along with other aids. Don't make a big deal out of it now. So use your voice, a crop, someone on the ground while you're lunged... whatever is effective & practical to get him to do what you ask, and use your legs & seat consistently at the same time. Then once things are going really well, THEN you can 'test' it by trying seat/leg cues first & backing it up with other stuff.

    Quote:
    I wouldnt progress this fast usually but I was evaluating him and once I earned some respect he picked up on most of these very quickly. He is very willing to learn. I am not of the belief that a horse either respects you or he doesnt. I believe a horses respect for you grows and has boundaries that you can cross. I like to build a horses confidence and gain his respect. Then push him or find situations that challenge his confidence and his respect for me.
    I agree with what you say above. Regardless how willing he may be, sounds like there is a lot of 'well trained' bad attitude there, so especially if everything isn't going perfectly, I would be slowing down quite a bit & focussing more on the emotions, the attitude, more so than the specifics for now. I probably wouldn't be 'pushing his boundaries' too far at all just yet.

    Hope that helps!
    Blue Duck likes this.
         
        03-20-2014, 07:05 AM
      #8
    Yearling
    This is just a quick comment on something I found useful 31 years ago when I was dealing with my Arabian mare when I bought her as a yearling. She had been halter broken quite roughly prior to purchase by a person who subscribed to the "tie the horse up and make it learn it can't get away and that you're the boss" method. Her first contact being handled by people was therefore being tied to a pole in a strong halter and rope and being flapped with an oilskin until she foamed with fear. This resulted in a lifelong claustrophobia around people she didn't trust. I too had to gain her trust, and it wasn't easy. One thing that helped her was walking her on a lead lots like a dog, and going places together for hours, with bits of carrot in my pocket for every now and then, and lots of conversational talking about the things we were encountering, and trying to model calm and reassurance. Also teaching her things and lots of praise when she learnt. I think I ended up being her favourite honorary horse, and she still prefers me to other horses even now. Also she was a fabulous riding horse for me for over 20 years.
    Blue Duck likes this.
         
        03-20-2014, 06:47 PM
      #9
    Showing
    When I bo't a 4 yr old Welsh type pony he was one little hellion. He was dubbed the red devil. He'd turn on me in a heartbeat, ready to do battle. It was when I was getting hay, the seller at the time asked me if this pony was now at my house. He proceeded to tell me how it had been treated by someone who had no patience whatsoever with ponies, and he went on about what he seen of how this pony was treated. OK. Armed with that knowledge, I realized the pony had never had any training except for a clout or two with a board upside the head. I began by teaching him to lead correctly, forward, back, side to side and stopping. I never took anything to the next step until he was good at it. I wanted no holes in his training. I was in no hurry, no agenda and he developed into quite the character and kids had a lot of fun with him.
    SueC and Blue Duck like this.
         
        03-20-2014, 10:11 PM
      #10
    Foal
    Things are heading in a good direction with the horse. A little history on him. He was originally "broke" as a two year old correctly or in a way that was not detrimental. The fellow who originally worked with him actually wanted to buy him as a stud. He wasn't for sale and went to the original owners and was ridden occasionally. The trainer introduced him to cows and he would lock on a cow good and was very responsive to reining and leg pressure. The problem was he was a more advanced horse than the individuals riding him. They took his alert, and very responsive to reining and leg pressure as he was jumpy or hard to handle. Which he probably was for them and the kids they wanted to ride him. So he got put in a pasture for multiple years and wasn't really exposed to many things outside of his pasture. Then as of about a year or so ago they wanted to ride him again and obviously he had grown accustom to his easy life in the field. That is when he was by no means abused but handled incorrectly. Imagine that, a 6 to 7 year old 1000-1100lbs QH who hasnt been handled by humans for 3 years being a little hard to handle. Shocker. This horse doesn't have mental issues outside of trust and respect. The mistakes I made initially could have been easily avoided. I took him from his home or comfort zone. Brought him to a new area, around but not kept with other horses. Put him in a stall not his usual pasture setting and at the same time started him on training. This is why at first he was a problem. However I have reoriented our path and we our making acceptable progress. So what have I learned or at least been reminded. Every moment of a horses life he is learning. Not just when I think ok we are training. I forgot this. I guess I got looking to far ahead at what potential he has. A horse has a comfort zone and when you have him there he is ready to learn more. Get him out of that zone and he can still learn but only if we don't push them. We let them take in and get back in there comfort zone. I did not apply this to the simple fact that moving him to a new area which happened to be a stall surrounded by new horses that he was outside his comfort zone. So when I did simple task to me and I thought for him it was actually putting pressure on him even though I was considering it not even training. I really compounded it when I started training him and put pressure on him for incorrect or no effort. This is why he kicked, bit and jumped out of his stall after being put up for the night. He had no way of actually getting away from the pressure. We now are doing nothing more than basic weanling or yearling tasks until he is ready to move on. I am really enjoying talking with you guys and thanks again for your thoughts and advice.
    loosie and SueC like this.
         

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