How to establish leadership with difficult horse
I'm having some trouble with a horse here, she's a 6yo thoroughbred mare, was once trained to race but never raced, then more or less abandoned, her next owner meant to train her but never had time, so she's been left to her own devices as paddock mate to a youngster for 2 years before we got her.
That's how she likes it. She is very independant. She is very headstrong.
She was supposed to have been trained by someone who was 'kind to his horses', but she does show signs of having had some rough handling.
When we viewed her, she was pretty much fine, slightly stubborn, a very little headshy, but no biggy, we picked up all her feet, led her round, did a little backing, all went pretty well really.
After we got her however, things changed a bit. She had very bad thrush/rot in her feet ... we set about fixing that up first, as it was deep and cripplingly painful. Of course she didn't want us picking up and cleaning those sore feet, and her lack of handling showed, she'd jump around a bit.
The first real problem arose when we packed copper sulphate in to fix the thrush ... it stung apparently ... we used borax the next time but she didn't want to trust us with her feet after that, it was a very bad note to start on.
Each time we were doing some groundwork with her to get her to soften and relax before going for the feet, leading, backing up, very basic, she hadn't ever been backed so that was all new.
By the time we'd got the thrush fixed up, she was becoming difficult.
She'd never liked to back, but she was resisting it more not less, and has no respect. She doesn't like people, seems to expect bad treatment from the near side, and will kick out if touched on the near flank.
When we back her, she will resist, refuse, hype up, head high, push past to the left, actively try to get you back into her kick zone on the near side, drag around in a circle, etc. We then turn her to disengage the hind quarters (and not so incidentally keep them away from us), face onto her, and do it again.
After a couple of repeats she will then give in and back nicely a few steps, we stop, pressure off, praise, repeat.
As she is pushing in close into our personal space, and trying to get us in a position where she can kick, we're changing simple backing into the whole back up get out of my space respect routine, and are making some progress there, but little, and she's not buying it, she tries to push past us all the time, and never gives as much space as I'd like.
How to establish some leadership and respect here? All my research only comes up with back up establish personal space, which I think is the right thing to do, but how to make it more effective?
She won't respond to waggling/snaking the leadrope, she hypes up with rhythmic tapping with stick on her chest, we're currently holding hand in front of her face and spinning the end of the rope to back her, but it only really works in close quarters ... I'd like to see her backed to a respect distance of 6 feet but she's only giving half that.
Maybe I should try waving a stick with plastic bag on the end to back her further?
Has anyone got any ideas? I really don't want to give up on this horse, but at this stage I'm struggling to make any real progress.
She's got no major problems we can't deal with if only we can get a start, but as yet we simply haven't had a chance to get in the position to make progress. She's big, solid, pushy, independant, headstrong, and knows it. She's scared too. She loves moving our feet around ... we always manage to move hers right back, but its an even battle right now and that's a situation we shouldn't even be in.
Last edited by Barnes19; 06-04-2013 at 01:02 AM.