Working with a headshy horse?:(
Okay so i recently got my first job! im 15 and i got a job working with green broke horses. I have got 2 of my bosses horses pretty much done and now working with the 3rd. This horse has 2 blue eyes and he is 8. He lets you get on him and will walk around so thats good progress.... but one problem.. he is reallllly headshy.. just around his ears. recently i have been making good progress and i have been able to touch around his ears with my hands. but when i go to put the reigns around his head he flips. i have been working with that and with time he will let me eventually put them over his head. But the thing is he is going to be a dude string horse so i need to get him so i can flip them over his head and him just sit there.
Also, another problem is he is able to be tied up but if something scares him a little and he has the halter pull a bit right there above his ear he pulls back and pulls back on the leadrope for ever.. how can i get rid of these problems.. also and sacking out tipes for a spooky horse?:D
any tips would be appriated!
probably something in his past was very unpleasant or down right painful in that area. My rescue was beaten with the brass clip side of a lead rope in that area. I've been working with her for 2 years about this issue. I have found no quick fix if that is what you are looking for. Just patience & persistence. I pet, scratch & play with her ears any time I am near her even at feeding time to keep her used to being touched there in a pleasant way that is not related to bridles or halters. She drops her head and luvs it but the minute you have a halter or bridle she is on alert for something "bad" to happen....throwing the reins over her head in a quick motion still down the road for her! good luck!
You might have someone check for a foreign body around the base of his ears. My trainer had a headshy mare, only around the ears, and eventually found a 2" splinter behind one. Just a thought.
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I taught one horse to touch a target through clicker/treat training. Whether held high or low when he touches the target he gets a treat. Mine was the end of a riding crop. I'd stand facing his neck/jaw and when he reached for the target, I'd place my other hand on his neck. When I clicked (using my tongue) I'd remove my hand and treat. This was repeated many times, barely inching my way toward the ears. I'd work on this for maybe 10 min. then return later to repeat. He may move his head up and down but keep your hand on until he reaches for the target. Try to keep the target at a height that would be comfortable for you to bridle him, his muzzle as low as his knees. When you get to his ears, don't touch them just yet but rub the area at the base of his ears. When he's finally ok with that place the palm of your hand on the back of his ear and add a little pressure. Don't use your fingers as he'll worry that it's something trying to get in his ears.
Do LOTS of sacking out. You can use the reins to do that too. Continually spin them in front of his head (a lead rope works too) until he just sits there calmly. After he shows signs of relaxation stop and reward. It's probably best to do this with a lead rope in the beginning because it will scare him, but you won't pull on the bit on accident when he backs up. If he runs from it, keep with him until he is calm. And do a lot of sacking out when he is tied too. Get one of those rings you can loop the lead rope in so if he pulls hard enough he will just be free. It's the safest thing for him. You can use plastic bags, tarps, clippers, just a lead rope, and while he is tied you can use your own body. Walk at him fast, then walk at him stomping your feet, then run at him, blow at him, make noise, flap your arms... Many things you can do. I have to do A LOT of this with my gelding because he is very spooky. I even had to desensitize him to buckets... It's quite entertaining :) And for his ears, just desensitize him to your hands. Wave them around near his head closer and closer until he stands still, then eventually you will be able to touch them.
My mare used to be very shy of having her ears touched. Im not sure why, but her past owners were very rough with her, so who knows. But i would stand on a bucket and just rub her neck, the base of her mane, her jaw, and then i would slowly work my way up to her ears. I would rub behind them near her bridle path, and go up. If she shy'd away from that, i would go back the place i was at before i touched the spot she didnt like. then i would work my way slowly up again. Just a matter of trial and error, patience, and they have to learn to trust you when they dont like them bein touched. My mare's still a bit shy of her ears, but deffinently not as bad as she was.. now we can actually get a bridle on her! Lol.
It just takes time, keep on doing it. No worries.
Like Sky said, it just takes time. The horse will eventually learn to trust that nothing bad is going to happen and then, as mine did, learn to enjoy it immensely!
The mare I'm working with at the moment is ear shy with just one of her ears... I do pretty much the same as has been suggested. Violet's not bad though, just wary of the one ear. I think there's a good chance she was ear twitched - she is a TB and it seems to be the done thing with TB's in my area. Plus that one ear is significantly thicker and harder than the other, and it flops. Something awful has happened to that ear.
Time, persistence, repetition; everyone is right. I would only add that you touch her ears like its no big deal. Start somewhere else, go over her ears and move on to another place, like the ears are not the destination and touching them was accidental.
My mare could not be touched on the head or ears when I got her, and couldn't be bridled. We are still working on her letting me touch her mouth. She can also pull back when tied. But now she LOVES her ears rubbed. And one thing that really helped was teaching her to lower her head. In a halter and lead, hold the lead in one hand and press on poll with other. Keep pressure on until the horse lowers head, no matter how little, then release pressure and praise! Repeat. My mare now lowers her head for me. I continue working on bridling and unbridling only when she is calm with her head down. Sometimes I have to move her feet for a few minutes before I tack her up to get her attention first, but as long as she will lower her head she is receptive.
I also use a blocker tie when I tie her up, as someone else suggested. These will allow the rope to pull out with high pressure, but if you use a long rope they dont get free and you just pull the rope back up short after they calm She rarely pulls back now when tied because she never gets free by pulling back.
I would guess that this horse is also claustrophobic, so using the blocker tie on a solid wall, tie horse to the wall. Desensitize by swinging rope, hands, bags etc around him until he relaxes then stop and praise him. When he is doing well with that, attach a second long rope. Use the rope to put pressure on one side of the horse, and release when he is still and calm. As horse tolerates more, increase the challenge by moving horse against the wall on one side and gently "squeezing" with rope on other side. This helps with many other things like trailering, tacking, sending, and confidence.
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