Rehabbing horses- Trainers only please
I just want to hear some opinions here. I have a clients horse who came to me, 8 years old, has 2 years of unknown history and the only knowledge prior doesn't appear to be the problems root. Last year, she bought this horse with the knowledge that he had had a wreck and bucks. No idea what happened.
SO. I offered to take him ( I normally do not do problem horses) because of his breed and knowing their minds as I've grown up with them. He was very fearful and is quite quirky. I noticed when he came, she had done some solid groundwork but that he grinded his teeth non stop when you were handling him. Great, so spent 5 days in the round pen getting him to play and socialize some and the grinding quit. Every time you asked something out of his comfort zone, that would be the only time you would see it. No big deal. Spent 3 weeks on the ground before I got on him. I have now been riding him for 3. He has moved along very nicely.. but that fear is still on edge and sometimes I worry it may trigger. He scoots when you get on, first off, as though assuming something is going to happen, so I just sit and ride it. The issue left appears to be mounting up. Some days he is good, other days I have to continue to work him before I go to mount. He has gone walk/trot/canter in the round pen, which is huge progress from the way he came and trot/canter has only been last week.
His owner will be coming out this week and we will chat about whats next. But my question is for you guys, at what point would you say that it is not worth the time and money to attempt to rehab a horse who may never truly be 100%? How long would you spend on a horse like him or suggest to the owner on spending? Suggestions?
I feel like at this point, its up to the owner for him. If she has the confidence and time to spend, great. He definitely wont be a 3 day a week horse for some time.
Hey! Have to say first, love the avatar pic! Is that your horse?
I wouldn't worry about *if* this horse is going to blow, but *when* by the sounds of it. He sounds like a time bomb. As a trainer, I wouldn't say a horse is not worth the time & money - that's the owner's call IMO. I'd make it clear to the owner what's going on though.
First & foremost, has he been checked out by a good bodyworker? Has the saddle been assessed to ensure it is comfortable for him?
I'd take the time it takes to get the horse *confident* with various 'steps' of training, rather than just getting them done. Eg. when pushing his comfort zones, push them only a small amount & work on that level until he's truly fine with it. Also don't constantly put stress on him, even 'low grade', but do lots of stuff he's fine with, interspersed with the more stressful things. If you work in this way, he should also start to trust you to do this & 'look out for him' so allow you to do more/quicker. But make sure it's still at his pace.
Eventer, have you tried working with him at liberty in the round pen? I like to keep it low key and ask for a walk only for the firt 4 or 5 days. I don't use a whip but a thin willow which will whoosh the air nicely if you need to add a little pressure. Take a chair, stool with you and set it up slightly off center. Have him circle a few times then go sit down and ignore him. Read something. He needs to figure out how much he can trust you. If he doesn't approach after a while, get him walking again, then sit down. You are building a mental connection, not a physical one with halter and line. After a few days approach with your saddle pad. If he walks off, set it down and ask him to walk a few rounds then turn your back to him. You are allowing him a say. When he approaches, set the pad on again. If he remains, remove it and walk away a few feet. Wait a few seconds then approach again with the pad. If he walks off, leave the pad on him. Then ask him to walk. Same with the saddle. I'll leave the horse to walk around or stand while I go sit, to let him sort it out. I'll do this daily for 5 days. The repitition does wonders. When it comes time to mount, barely put weight in the stirrup. Let him walk off, then same routine as the pad. Continue putting weight in then switch sides. When he stands still, unsaddle him and put him away. Do this for a few days then use a mounting block and start leaning over him. I think you get the idea. When he remains standing so you can mount and dismount, he thinks it's his idea without you making him do so. Horses, knowing they have the option to leave will often stay. If you have time, just sit in the pen and read with some hay nearby. Don't touch him or talk to him, just read and ignore him. Every notice if you were fixing fence every horse would be there to help, but walk in the field to catch one and they all take off.
Manage expectations. I would consider it my responsibility to help the owner make the most informed possible decision taking into account all factors. Her willingness to accept the idea of selling the horse will depend upon her level of personal and emotional investment in him. That's a thing that we all know is difficult to put a price on. It's assumed by your client that you are the expert so you want to wield that influence responsibly and guide her in a direction that will best serve all parties' interests. I wouldn't try to quickly change the horse into something he's not; it sounds like you've been doing pretty well so far. Let the horse be who he is and handle the client.
Personally, if the client was willing to throw in for the long haul I might look at this horse as an opportunity to make me better. ;D
This. The owner has to maintain realistic short term and long term goals for the horse.
Also, he may never be a 3 day a week horse, regardless of the amount of training.
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