Socialising under saddle issues - help please!
My mare Honey and I in 2009 had a freak accident that involved me shattering my right leg and becoming part bionic. She was left traumatised from the event, and to date we are now the strongest we have ever been. Except for one thing.
The accident happened whilst learning to socialise.
Fast forward to now and my best friend and my desire to ride our mares together. They are paddock mates, Seoul was gotten because of Honey's loneliness and my best friend wishing to learn how to ride and own a horse. We would love nothing more than to plod around the farm together. We're not interested in anything more for now, and this itself is a big enough ask for Honey.
We attempted working together, by introducing Seoul on the ground whilst I was riding Honey... apart from being a tad nappy about it, she accepted this. Seoul was previously ridden in company and if anything she's so unphased by it, she'd rather sleep than move :lol: However our first attempt of Honey and Seoul being ridden together was a mess.
I am aware most probably without realising it, my body language may have been defensive and gave her reason to freak. But I personally felt very calm and in control. Meanwhile, Honey was snorting fire, trembling, and dodging going anywhere near Seoul. A large gap was still too much for her to handle, and she was glued to watching Seoul's legs to make sure they wouldn't be coming near her (how the accident occurred) despite not even being close enough. In the end I managed to close a gap on the space and get her walking forward - albeit quite fast - without lurching passed Seoul in fear. This was done by a lot of encouragement, some coaxing and a couple of "I'm here for you so trust in me and go forward now!" moments.
Unfortunately this attempt happened several weeks ago, and from there our horses were on a break due to personal reasons. They have recently seen the chiropractor and have a fit bill of health to return to work. Again, we have paid close attention to riding around the other mare who isn't under saddle, and they barely blink at it. I'm hopeful for the second attempt to not be as foreign or scary for Honey. Seoul as I've explained, isn't worried about Honey's reactions - which I find relieving as one stressed horse is enough.
I want to make it clear I don't want to force her into something that frightens her to the point of a breakdown - she is sensitive and things like this she does speak up about quite quickly. However, I don't want her fear to overrule her either. I've had to get over many fears since returning to riding and she's helped me, so I wish to do the same for her. My long term goals for Honey is dressage, so whilst the arena will be hers for the duration of tests, she has to deal with other horses doing what happens at competitions. And if she cannot handle riding with her best buddy, I'm at quite a loss here.
Are there any ideas or advice anyone can give me to help me reintroduce company under saddle, and tell Honey its okay and we're going to be safe? She's normally the bravest little thing, but some things still really bother her and I'm surprised that I've stepped ahead of her in some areas.
Thanks in advance.
what happened in the accident? were there other horses involved?
if not then I would not be *****footing around her.
I know it is easier to say then to do but get out there and just ride them. rather than in an arena etc find a nice enclosed path or in a closed off field and THINK positive. Ride her forwards and try and ignore the hysteronics. The only time you need to actualy do something is if she is putting herself/others in danger, otherwise ride her next to your other horse and ignore the snorting fire breathing dragon impression.
If you stop everytime she has hysterics about something then you will never teach her to accept it.
Incident occurred when she realised her buddy had left her to go elsewhere and attempted to catch up. Buddy kicked her and she went into panic mode and bolted away. So yes another horse was involved and that is the issue. I personally don't have the issue myself that I'm consciously aware of.
I have been firm with her that she can walk past Seoul without dying. But I have not made the situation uncomfortable for her by growling kicking or slapping - that would only stress her further and is not how we work. I hope I'm not coming across as soft - I growl with her and give her a good boot when she gives reason for one - usually when being a tart. I also never backed down until she was walking past Seoul without lurching forward. I'm trying to install good, relaxing thoughts when it comes to socializing and removing the negative issues she has.
We ride in an encased large paddock together and aim to ride over the small farm in future once they are sorted together.
Thanks heaps for your message! :)
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It sounds like a big lack of respect, with both horses treating you guys as passengers.
Many horses get worried about being left behind on the trail, that takes one to fix. If she charged up to the other horse, she came up too fast and too close - you as the rider have to control that. The other rider needs to be more proactive about preventing kicking by circling or disengaging the hindquarters. I think both horses need lots of groundwork and a more no nonsense approach. If the mare gets into throwing a tantrum, it may just be her and it may just. E that you're a bit too soft. I totally think this is fixable and will end up with both of you having better relationships.
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If you are attempting to be able to ride alonside another horse this is unnatural for horses to do this. One horse is always dominant and from Honey's reaction, Seoul is the dominant one. Therefore Honey's place is behind, not beside and not passing. Don't force her to pass as the fear of getting kicked will always be there. I had a gelding that always had to lead while leaving the yard and would kick at his buddy if the rider tried to pass. Once we were on the back road he didn't care who was in front. Let the horses work it out, so much better than forcing the issue.
You need to have her ponied eventually while you (or someone else) is/are on another horse.
Start with leading them together, lunging them together, then hopping on and ponying her, and then having another person riding her with you.
It'll be a long process..
I agree with Sky.
I would ride the other mare and pony her without tack, then tack her up.
I would then ride her and pony the other mare untacked and then tacked.
It is a lack of respect for you that she is being silly over this matter especially as they are pasture buddies.
Be a lot firmer with her and if she starts being silly get 'cross' with her, give her a good boot in the ribs and make her get closer to the other horse.
Ride in an arena passing each other and also from behind just so that she knows it has to be accepted.
Ok, so... you aren't telling us what this "accident" was? How are we supposed to help you if you won't tell us why she's supposedly scarred for life?
Anyway, I think I see a bigger issue: your horse doesn't know how to be social anymore. There's one easy solution: toss her out into a large herd on a bunch of land. She doesn't know how to communicate properly with other horses. If you never let her figure it out, then she'll never learn.
My friend's horse was a school horse for 17 years. He never once got turned out with other horses. Now that she has him, he's out in the herd and he really has no idea how to interact with other horses. He'll go up trying to make friends, and the other horse will threaten him, and because he doesn't realize he's being threatened, he gets kicked.
Your horse might end up like that if you don't allow her to be social with the other horses. Yeah, she might be scared at first, but so what? She's a horse. She'll get over it.
And I think you might be portraying your own emotions over her. She's a horse. Are you sure she's actually scared of the other horse (whom she's turned out with and has no problems with), or is she just feeling you tensing, and becoming unsure of herself? Or is she just being a brat and walking all over you?
I think she can handle walking next to another horse.
OP, I think you have the right idea, just keep at it slow and steady. By your story, it seems like it was starting to work, but then you had to quit for a while. Just start again slowly and do lots of circles and serpentines near and around each other. Stay all the way on the other side of the pen at first if that's what it takes for her to stay calm. Just keep moving slowly towards and away from each other until you are eventually moving closely around each other.
Good luck, traumatic events can be hard to overcome, but it can be done. :-)
In addition to Faydesmom's advice about doing a lot of circling and serpentines near and far from each other, consider the opposite approach from what a person would use for a barn sour horse;
Work the horse where it WANTS to be , rest the horse where it DOESN"T WANT to be. So, Honey works far away from the other horse, then you move her into position (which ever position is the one that you have trouble with. I wasnt' sure if that was realy specific, or if any position near the other hrose was an issue) and let her rest. That might condition her to think that being near the other horse is best.
Also, when travelling on a trail, use the "leap frog" method; the leader leads for a few minutes, then "peels off" (means turns sharply 180 degrees) and goes back behind the following horse . That horse becomes the leader while the former leader 'peels in" behind him and they walk on. Do this over and over and over.
It is sometimes easier for a horse to change into the leading position if the leader turns and passes him going the other direction, than for him to be forced to overtake the leader from behind.
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