Spooky horse+herd bound - did I do the right thing?
Sorry in advance if this ends up long winded.
My mare has been an air-headed spooky space invader since day 1. With a year of work now I am confident she will Never invade my space. Even when she spooks she'll gallop around me dancing at the end of the lead rope, without coming within a foot of me or pulling on the rope. But she STILL spooks over everything!! I've got her spooking safely now but I'm still sick of it!
We have just moved to our new home. We came from a rescue with 17 horses, we moved to a tiny at home barn with just her and the other pony in her two stall from the rescue we were at. She loves her pony, though she's awful mean to him. They aren't allowed out together because she's far to big and would easily kill him by accident. But she's happy enough so long as he's within sight.
Welll.... 2 days ago my friend was over and we decided to work on teaching the pony some basic manners. I lead him out of the barn and my mare (Tank) threw a tiny hissy fit until she found him on the other side of her paddock. When we brought him over to the sandy area I can train in without a grassy distraction she couldn't see him. She had a total melt down and bombed around her field. I decided to make it a day of teaching her to be without her pony. I got her lunge line and headed out - she was Still worked up, despite her pony being next to her field now, when I finally caught her she was Soaked in sweat. She doesn't work much so that much exercise was too much, besides being 95+ degrees out. So I decided to just hold that lesson for another day. I've learned sense that she's fine being without him so long as I'm with her, so me and her can leave him, but not the other way around. My plan was to lunge her while the pony was around and let her rest when the pony was out of sight. I didn't get to work on that yet though - is this a good plan? Is there a better way to teach her to be alone? Can she ever get to the point where she could be alone in her field? I like to think our abilities are limitless but I've been told it's cruel to leave a horse alone, but at the same time I can't just never work my pony because she gets upset!
Now the next thing to mention, today I heard her galloping around downstairs (she thunders so much my whole house shakes!). I went to her stall door and called her in, I got her to come over so I could put her halter on with the door shut.
I went out with her and soaked her in bug spray, assuming that was why she was all worked up being eaten by monster bugs.
I began to groom her, I'm trying to make the paddock a more pleasant place for her, as of so far it's a pretty scary place whenever she's in it and everytime I've caught her in it I've needed to make her work for one reason or another and haven't had a chance to make it pleasant.
Well turns out it wasn't the bugs that were upsetting her, she had her neck all arched and was snorting and puffing herself up HUGE. I couldn't see anything, there was a new red car parked in the neighbor's driveway, but she seemed to be looking past that. I made her go over to the fence where she was nervous, she puffed and would pace up to it then as far as the end of the lead rope and back and forth puffing. Then I realized there was a horse a good 200 yards away in the neighbors paddocks. She didn't whinny or call to her she just puffed and huffed and paced. Then the red car moved and she had a little meltdown dancing around at the end of my lead rope. She has had a number of cars pass her previous paddock, right up next to her gate. Cars and trucks with no issues. When she was totally worked up and couldn't stop dancing I got her to the middle of her area (the only area clear enough of grass for us to move through easily) and made her do some simple lunging in both directions. She kept making D's while lunging instead of circles, coming in away from the scary corner. I lunged her until she made circles more smoothly in both directions and had her attention on me not the scary thing and until she really didn't want to keep working (just walking/trotting).
Then I walked her toward the 'scary' places in her paddock, each time she got nervous (threw her head up, started snorting, wide eyes) I made her put her head down. I did this until she was calm in each area of her paddock all around.
I'm so fed up honestly I love this horse more than anything but if she gets THIS stupid while just being in her paddock how am I ever going to do Anything with her? I just need her to become a pleasure horse, nothing big, but I'm just so frustrated with her. I ended our lesson by grooming her in one of her 'scary' spots. Then I put her away but left her top outside door open so she could continue to watch the outside world.
What are some methods I could try to help her overcome her fears? Or more like teach her how to better react when she is afraid? Honestly she's scared of so much I'd rather teach her how to react than teach her not to be afraid of every individual object she may ever encounter. Thank you all :) The more specific you can be the better.
Also - this may be helpful - this is the first time in 13 months she's Ever been noticeably in heat. I work with her Every day and she's never had any noticeable heat cycles. I was told she was "7ish" her teeth tell me she may be younger, but I'm no expert. She was exposed to a clyde stallion before I got her, so I though she may have been pregnant, but 13 months later I'm guessing she's not. She wad near our OTTB stallion at the rescue, but in the 18 years we've had him he's never known what to do with a mare, even when his previous owners tried to breed him. But she never showed heat to him or any of the geldings. Now all of a sudden in our new homes she's come into a really noticeable heat, leaking and her bubbies are dripping a sticking, watery milk. She hasn't been eating much the past couple days - she'll finish her grain but not always her hay which she normally vacuums. So I'm thinking she's pretty crampy.
AHHH I don't know! There are so many things, maybe she need more adjustment time, maybe she's in heat, maybe she misses a friend, maybe I'm being too hard on her, maybe I'm not being hard enough on her. I am just at a loss right now...
Why on earth would it be cruel to leave a horse alone?
I think it is very necessary for a horse to accept being tied in a safe place and left alone for as long as it takes for the horse to accept being left alone. Tying her like this in a safe place would do a lot to get her over being herd-bound.
It would probably be very helpful to tie her out when she gets all stupid acting and very spooky. I think it is really counter-productive to go rescue one and longe it every time it gets reactive. I think it works a lot better to just tie one up until they settle down and are NOT reactive. You are not going tot each a reactive horse much of anything. Once they settle down and become responsive, they are receptive to learning.
That's a very good idea - I think tying her when she gets nervous is very smart, wait for her to calm herself then how would I go about introducing those scary things again? just tie her up again every time she gets reactive again? I was always told when they act wrong make them work, when they act correct let them rest. So once she's calm how do I move her onto seeing the scary thing and not becoming reactive right away again?
As for tying her without a friend - I love this idea. I will try very hard to find a way to do this. Now do I just tie her and take her friend away and wait until she stands quietly without fussing anymore? Now my other problem is she's a 1400 pound draft horse who knows how strong she is. I have a halter and lead rope with a swivel clip, but I don't have an object strong enough to tie her too when she's going to flip. She ties Very well to an eye bolt on the side of the house and the eye bolt in her stall. We worked a very long time on that. But both of those places she could easily rip that eye bolt out of the wall, or even rip the siding off my house. The fencing really isn't very secure but she's respectful of it regardless, I'll be adding electric wire later when she's cleared the grass. But that also isn't strong enough to hold her. The only trees on my property are black walnut, which my horses are Never allowed anywhere near ever (it founders horses).
Any suggestions on what or how I could tie her without her being able to just break loose? I also don't know if I'll be able to stand listening to her calling to him like that without feeling bad >.< Should they be out of ear-shot of each other so that they can't hear each other calling?
Could I lock her in her stall and take the pony away and let her sort out her differences in there? Do you think she'd hurt herself? How long should I take the pony away for once she's finally settled down?
Could I use her stall instead of tying to let her calm down when she's nervous?
Sorry just thought of those things after. Also - the person I'm referring to mentioned it's not right to leave horses alone because they're herd animals. Which I'm conflicted about. I understand it's a bit traumatic for a horse to be alone. But she also needs to be functional. Her friends aren't gone forever, just an hour or so. Which she doesn't understand yet.
Locking in a stall does not work. They need to be taken out and tied completely away from other horses and people. They need to stand out by themselves until they are quiet and stand resting a hind foot.
Is there a big shade tree around somewhere? My favorite place to tie a horse out is an over-hanging limb that is at least 8 or 10 inches in diameter. I use a strong nylon rope with a big swivel bull snap hanging about wither high. They have these big bull snaps at the draft horse and buggy auctions or an Amish harness maker will have them.
I have a good rope and swivel snap that she can't break, but I don't have a tree to tie her to. Why wouldn't a stall work?
I guess I'm trying to think through the psychology of this, horses are all about association. So if I take her out to a tree (I don't have) and tie her up, she'll learn that tree Sucks - she has to stand calmly to be taken away from the tree, but that I don't think would fix her issue of me taking the pony down to the ring, while she's alone in another area she's never been alone in. I guess I want her to learn to be alone in all sorts of situations, even where she's used to having company.
I'll be curious if anyone has a suggestion for those of us without trees...
They have to be taken out and away from their comfort zone. A stall or pen does not work at all. [Been there -- done that -- didn't work at all.]
They do not make the kind of associations you are making. They do not learn to dislike the tree, or the place, or you or anything associated with taking them out. They just learn to adjust to it and accept it. They live 'in the moment' and just do not make complex associations.
I think if you find or make a place for this horse to be tied out, you will solve a lot of spooking problems also. It just really settles one down.
I'm happy to try it if you have any suggestions of how or what I could use besides a tree. But I am concerned that she'll learn to be comfortable out by that tree, but will still be upset when I take the pony away while she's in her stall? It's definitely worth a try if I can find something to use.
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