Training help with my fidgety horse!
I'm new to this forum, and I've been seeking some advice about training my horse.
A little bit of info... I'm 20 years old, I've had a little bit of experience, but nothing consistent. I recieved my boy in the end of Feb, this year, for free from this really sweet lady who got him from a rescue for her 16 year old son who was completely uninterested. I worked with him for a few weeks before taking him "home". I put him directly in with a trainer at my stable, but only for 30 days to "work out the kinks" and give me a little direction. I got enough training, but I feel like a lot of ground work was... over looked. After having him for about 8 months, I've learned to live with his behaviors, and I can safely ride him, but theres still some things I would like to learn how to improve. Oh, and by the way, he's a 16.2 hand, 11 year old, Warmblood x Morgan who has an abuse history and apparently a prior hunter/jumper.
So, my issues include...
When I tie him, for saddling, grooming, or anything... he is just completely fidgety! He moves a lot, fiddles with the lead rope, sometimes scoots his front hoof across the ground (although I stop at him every time he does it and he usually stops. This has gotten less frequent and less frequent), paces side to side. The guy just doesn't sit still. I've tried backing him up when he does this, or giving him a slight smack on the behind, but none of it really seems to work. I've really strayed away from any sort of hitting or violence, because I really don't believe in it. I always feel bad, even after a smack from a small girl like me. I'm wondering what I can do to improve this behavior, so that he can tie and be statue like and easier to maintain.
My other concern, also with tying, involves picking his feet. Every time I pick up his back left hoof, he always gets really tense, pulls it up really high, then almost "falls", catches himself with that foot. Then, he lifts up his other hind leg, and sometimes has done a little "fake" kick. It's really frustrating. I've tried going slower with him, holding it in another place, and what not. I'm wondering what advice you guys might have?
I'm sure there a few more things here and there that he does, but I'd really like to make progress on these two things. Please let me know if you have any input! And thank you, even if you don't respond! :D
Subbing... I ride a horse who does these things as well and I am at a loss for how to 'fix' this behaviour. I have tried everything you have mentioned. She likes to toss her head and make the cross ties go swinging. (I assume from boredom)
Glad I'm not the only one! Hope we can get some answers!
Some horses fidget in cross ties. These are horses I tie with a hay nect in front of them. You can also try rewarding the horse for not moving any feet... start out with a few seconds of still.. and eventually add a cue to it. Reward for standing still may not associate well but you can try it. I would start with the horse on a lead line and work up to cross ties.
When this horse is in cross ties is a lot of other stuff going on (other horses and so forth)? That can add to the fidgets.
The hind foot snatching is a bit more concerning and sounds to me like it might be Stringhalt.
For horses that don't like to stand when tied....they get tied to a tree all day everyday until they figure out how to be patient.
For a horse that doesn't like their back feet worked with....that is when I break out the foot rope so I don't get my head kicked off. I can safely pick up their feet and move them around while being a safe distance away and if they want to act up they can and won't be able to get away. But a horse that acts like they are going to kick or holds a leg up like they are going to when I am hands on gets a boot in the belly....I will NOT tolerate that at all. I don't tolerate a horse that is pissy and doesn't want me messing with their back legs. If you don't do anything they will keep doing it because they know they can get away with it.
To me....it sounds like the horse is lacking some manners and could use some groundwork and getting his respect.
First off, have him checked for pain associated with that rear hoof (or the opposite fore). It sounds like either he has pain issues there, or he may have had previous pain issues that weren't dealt with properly, so now he associates having that particular hoof picked with pain. It honestly doesn't sound like Stringhalt to me. I worked with a horse with Stringhalt and it was totally involuntary and would happen even when he was just hanging out in the pasture. This sounds like it is an intentional warning.
As for getting him to stand still...when he wants to fidget while tied, untie him and make him work in that spot/area until he submits (lip licking, etc)....then work him some more. Once he's good and tired, tie him back up. If he fidgets again, make him work. Soon he'll associate being tied with rest and will realize that if he fidgets, he has to work. The gelding I had before my Aires was a complete busy-body and absolutely would not stand still while tied. Did this with him and within a week he was standing tied like an angel. By work, I don't mean backing up. I mean lunging in a small circle with all his focus on you.
Lastly, you need to be doing mostly ground work with this horse before thinking about riding him. It definitely sounds like he doesn't respect you, and if he doesn't respect you on the ground, he won't respect you in the saddle where you have less control.
Ugh! It's annoying isn't it! I get mad with fidgeting, I untie the horse and EVERYTIME he moves I give him a good sharp tug downwards with the lead rope.....seems to wake em up! Then I let the horse stand there untied while I do my grooming and tacking and each time he moves he gets tugged on.....and if he really annoys me, I leave him tied and go have lunch!
We have a horse boarded here that injured his left hind leg from jumping in/out of a round bale feeder (we don't use the feeder anymore because of this), he must have went to jump out, slipped and degloved his leg right to the bone! It was months of having to clean his wound, do dressing changes, etc........after a couple months he was getting pissy about it and would move or make a kicking motion when we would go to clean it. So one day I told the lady (she kept jumping back when he would lift his leg) that was helping I would just do it myself. I did not tie him, I draped his lead over my arm, bend down to remove the bandages (which I knew didn't hurt him) and when he threatened by lifting and moving I would take the rope and smack his butt, pull him around to give me two eyes......it only took twice for him to get the message to stand still.....after that I could take the stuff out to the pasture and clean it out there without having to tie him up......alot of times it's the horse just sticking his nose in the air at you and telling you to get lost.
As for moving while grooming or picking hooves, I tie them up and if they don't stand still I go and move them back/forth a few times, then continue to groom them and if they still move then back/forth they go.....after awhile they get tired of moving back/forth they stand there nicely for you.
Nothing is worse than a horse that won't stand still when you go to mount them, I've trained all our horses where they stand perfectly still until I ask them to move. How I did that is if they moved I moved them by lungeing them around me, then tried again....didn't take them long to figure out it was easier to stand still than to move around. Also when you get on, don't let them walk off with you.....when you stop them with a whoa always wait at least 10 secs to signal them to move forward.
I am working with starting my 3yr. gelding Street, he does not move until I am settled and when I squeeze my legs to move.....
My gelding is like this because he's busy (yours being part Morgan, many of them are busy too) may just be how he is. My guy didn't used to be, but became this way when I lent him to a friend for a bit.
Anyway, my guy LOVES when I say "stand!" or "stop!" or smack him, because it's attention. When he fidgets, I just walk away to where he can't see me anymore (I can hear him, it's just around the corner in our barn) and when I hear he's standing still, I come back and praise him and go about our business, rinse, repeat.
As for the hind leg business, he may be stiff or sore, especially if you just took him out of the stall. Try it after a ride and see if it makes any difference. My mare can be stiff in the hind end in the winter months, so when I pick her hind feet, I only lift them a few inches off the ground. My after ride hoof cleaning I can pick them up all the way because she's warmed up. I will usually longe her before the farrier comes too so she is more comfortable.
Thank you everyone for your great replies! I will have to try a lot of these things with him, and see how it goes! Hopefully we can figure something out :)
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