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PunksTank 07-08-2012 01:58 PM

Difficulty with a fearful mare (leaving her field)
I apologize in advance as I do get long winded, I'll try to keep it brief and descriptive.
I'm having trouble with my mare and her fear-problems.
Let me start by saying, I am a new (adult) trainer - I have been learning about horses all my life at a rescue. I've moved up the ranks and am now training the rescues, I help them overcome problems often caused by their previous owners. I've trained our rescues a-LOT of ground work, as most aren't able to be ridden (do to soundness issues), the few that are able to be ridden have never given me much trouble. I've started a few of our horses, never had any trouble with bucking or bolting, most of the horses I teach them everything they need to know for riding while I'm on the ground first anyway.
I was finally given the opportunity to get my very own horse (after far too long of waiting for this country kid raised in the city :wink:). Well of course, being broke and loving rescues, I decided to get a rescue myself. Well, I made the mistake we all too often make when we're getting our 'first horse'. I went, I saw her, I fell in love, the next morning she was in my barn. She was a 'free to good home' horse - now I know what that really means...
She is a 15.1 hand Canadian horse (well that's my best guess to her breed, if anyone knows better I'd love to know!). She's a Tank (like her name), she may be short but she's Very 'sturdy'! I love her more than anything.
Her previous owner was not part of her life, left her with 'the trainer'. The trainer told me she was halter broke, trained to give to the bit, accepts all sorts of tack and can be ground driven. So I thought it was only a matter of converting her into a riding horse. I was thrilled. She got home and was Clearly never halter broke. Clearly had never had a bit in her mouth and clearly had never seen tack before then.
Well, it's been a year! I took it as a challenge and a serious learning opportunity for me! A horse, who is all too forgiving of my short-comings, who will let me learn how to train her. I started by getting her comfortable with me, then the halter, then I taught her how to give to pressure - everywhere. She gives to the pressure of the halter, walking forward, backing up, moving her hind end away, moving her front end away, moving sideways away, moving to pressure from the halter turning away from me (with the rope all the way around her behind). She also does most of those things with verbal commands or just by pointing, I don't generally need to touch her unless she's feeling naughty :wink:. She had come a very long way. After getting her so as I can do anything with her on the ground I started with the bit, I found a french link full cheek snaffle (I like full cheeks for new horses as the aids are clearer and it's held in the correct spot in their mouth - in my opinion). I gave her time to get used to it, then began teaching her to give to the bit, turning in both directions and halting and backing. I got her comfortable with a harness and sort of ground drove her for a while (this is when I started running low on time and didn't have much time to really focus on her). I got her comfortable with a small English saddle and a girth. I've begun riding her in her field (bareback - I like to have the option to bail when I get on new horses :oops:). She's doing fantastic, learning to move off my leg, she walks and halts and turns now. I'm so thrilled with her!
Now here's the bad part. I've had extreme trouble sense the beginning getting her out of her field! I don't know much about her past, but she is very scared to be out of her field. The first time I had no idea what would happen, a few steps out the gate her whole body got tense, her head was up, she was breathing heavy and her body had turned to stone! Finally she would turn around and bolt back to her stall. The first time I got hurt, rope burn and a scraped ankle. It could have been much worse. I called a trainer the next day, one who works with draft horses... long story short, I've tried a whole lot of methods to get her out. Using other horses with her, using two people holding her and forcing her out (bad idea!). It's clearly fear, as far as I know she's never been in a barn before (she's in an 2 stall right now), and the barn right in front of her field is seriously scary (to her). Clearly she has very little - to no real respect for me, she does what I ask in the field because she's a good girl - she'll do what I ask outside too, but only until she explodes and bolts up to her stall.
After talking with numerous trainers and ignoring all their violent suggestions I finally learned a trick that seems to have helped a bit. I taught her to 'put her head down' on command. With pressure on the halter - now with my verbal command she puts her nose to the ground, according to multiple trainers (and it makes sense to me too), this shifts them out of 'flight mode' and into 'eating mode'. Well, this has worked substantially I have gained a great deal of respect, when I take her out I can get her half way up and down the driveway so long as I stay on the side closer to her field, not the side close to the barn - when she starts to tense up I ask her to put her head down and she calms down.
Now I'm moving, we're going to a barn with just her and her companion pony, and nothing but open spaces around us. Now that the slate will be clean and no more bad memories or scary barns to make her afraid I want to begin getting her to venture out of her new field. I have 3 turnouts I can move her between, but the riding area is not fenced, or have any borders, it's simply an area where there is footing put in to ride on (I'm renting so I'm not going to invest in fencing). I want to be able to ride her in the riding area and hopefully someday even in the open field behind our property. Anyone have any sort of constructive ideas as to how I can begin to venture her out of her little world? I realize much of this is do to my lack of knowledge and in-experience, but I can't afford a trainer and I really wanted to do it all myself - to really learn. I'd really appreciate constructive help (please don't bash me or my training styles, I'm just looking for ideas).

Thanks so much for letting me blab on, sorry I'm so chatty. This is her being a good girl :P (I know it looks like I'm too far forward, but I swear it didn't feel like that when I was on her o.O)

Thanks everyone! I'm very excited to join here, I've been looking for a fun place to 'talk pony' with people. :D

Foxhunter 07-08-2012 05:16 PM

She is well named 'Tank' and it would take a lot to hold her if she decided to set her neck against you.

Two things I would do. First would be to long rein her out and about. I would have a saddle on, the lines through the stirrups which should be down and tied together under her belly. I would drive her everywhere from the bit.

The other thing I would do is have her riding with the saddle and ride her out. I would not allow her to turn and would just sit her out if she refused to go forward.

However, if you are not experienced with long reining do not try it.

PunksTank 07-08-2012 05:44 PM

Wow interesting idea! I actually am pretty experienced with it (I love to drive!) - she even has a pretty green surcingle I could use. I should try that! That way- at least I'm at a safe distance. I don't want to hurt her mouth with the bit though if she decides to bolt, and with long reins that's a lot to get tangled up in.
The more I think about it, if I'm behind (slightly to the side of course) her I don't know if I'd even honestly get her out the gate. She is fearful of gates in general, she must have got hung up on one before (scar on her shoulder). But it took us much work before she would calmly walk through the gate - rather than leaping through it.
If she won't long-line out maybe riding her out would be the answer. Thanks for the interesting suggestion. Lots to think about now! :)

eventing2U 07-08-2012 07:09 PM

My advice to you would be the same advice that everybody gave you over on the Free Speach Forum.

Hopefully you dont pick up your toys and leave here in a huff, but listen to the good advice already given.

PunksTank 07-08-2012 07:36 PM

They didn't really give any advice, they really just rudely said 'get a trainer' but as I stated I can't afford one. I'd also rather do it myself so I can learn rather than just sending her away. I've already had trainers come to help me - but only with disastrous results.

I'm hoping once we move the open environment and not having a construction company next door will help. I'm also planning on getting started right away getting her accustomed to leaving her field, rather than waiting.
I did leave there because, honestly I can't stand rude people. At least here I can get some constructive criticism rather than just being insulted ;)

Another thought I had - soon I'll be getting a Belgian that I've been working with, he's a fantastic completely bomb-proof carriage horse, I've retrained him to be a riding horse. I was thinking about potentially teaching him to pony Tank in the field, then taking them out together. But I've never ponied a horse before, any ideas?


DraftXDressage 07-08-2012 07:43 PM

This mare really, really doesn't sound like she is ready to be ridden yet, with all the holes in her training.

PunksTank 07-08-2012 07:47 PM

OK - but what can I do to help fill those holes? Any ideas of how to make her more confident outside of her field? I guess that's what I'm really looking for. Does anyone have any idea how I can make her not be so afraid of leaving her field? Does any trainer know any good methods of helping a horse overcome this sort of fear?

DraftXDressage 07-08-2012 07:57 PM

Having never interacted with her, I can only go by what you have written, but to me, it sounds like she simply has you well trained to not make her do things she doesn't feel like doing.

PunksTank 07-08-2012 08:10 PM

My horse does what I ask when I ask no matter what better plans she has. In the beginning she was disrespectful - she would barge through her stall door as soon as I opened it, she would charge for her food, she invaded space. When she ran through her stall the first time without me being clear I immediately put her back in her stall and made her wait, any step she took without me cuing for her to come out she had to back up twice as many. Same thing for food - she needs to respect my space as I walk through her field and when we get to her stall she needs to go in and back up and wait for the food to be placed and for me to be out of the way before she is allowed to eat. She is not a disobedient horse and I am not a pushover.

When she leaves her field her head goes up, her eyes go wide, her breathing is heavy and her body completely tense. This is fear. This is not a disobedient or disrespectful horse, she tries her hardest to do what I ask until finally she is too afraid. Does anyone have any ideas or methods as to help her overcome these fears? Any training ideas I can do to work with her to help her feel more comfortable outside of her field? Putting her head down has been helping, we have made it much further up and down the driveway, but progress is slow as I stop when I sense the explosion coming. Of course when I stop outside her field I bring her back in and continue making her work inside her field. I have tried making outside of her field more enjoyable by letting her graze or letting her relax. I don't know what else to do - any constructive ideas as to things I can train her to help her overcome these fears?

MsBHavin 07-08-2012 08:15 PM

Can you have someone video her and you? That would be helpful for us to better understand the interactions and reactions to leaving her field

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