Helping a Head shy horse?
So my boarder gave me their unbroke 6 year old gelding. He's a nice horse, he really is, I've never had trouble with him. He's curious, responds well and is a quick learner.
I've tested his ground manners and for a boy who hasn't been handled in 3 years, he remembered things very quickly.
BUT he does have ONE issue that bugs me, he's head shy. Does not want someone to touch his face. Putting a halter on him has been a pain in my bum to say the least. Once you get it on he's 100% fine with it, unless you try to touch his face. Then he will back up, pin his ears back and if you keep you hand on his nose he will rear up. Which I think I have corrected as he was reprimanded for rearing. Hasn't done that since, but he still pins his ears back and backs up. Which he has gotten worse with the face touching since he was kicked in his eye, which needs to be cleaned daily but what should be a quick five to ten minute thing takes me fifthteen to twenty minutes.
I'll tell you how I go about dealing with this. When he lets me touch his face, he gets rewarded. Usually (which is his favorite thing) he gets to play with his jolly ball for a few minutes. If he won't let me touch his face I scold him. Usually a harsh No and a good firm tap. Then repeating till he'll let me leave my hand there for a few moments, with praise of a toy, or a scolding for not letting me.
By the time I am finished (usually I spend 10-15 minutes doing this or until I feel we've accomplished better than the day before) Then usually I can get him a rub on his nose or even the top of his head.
Well that's how the day ends, when arrive the next day I literally have to start all over. :|
So Sunday I inquired why he didn't like having his face or head touched. Apparently when he was still a stud, my boarder's father in law would punch him in the face, whether he pinned his ears back, or just wouldn't move. But it started from a very early age until he was gelded at age 3 when he just learned I need to stay out of way. So I now know that he's probably head shy from abuse and has learned someone touching my face is a bad thing.
I need help, some better advice than what I have. I've been doing what i did with my TB mare when I bought her back in March with her it worked wonders, except her praise was either a piece of carrot or an ear rub. Both are her favorite types of praise. With him, its like it works, then the next day its like I never even tried.
I can do virtually anything else with him, ive even put a saddle on him and tighten a girth and all he did was bend his neck around sniff like "Oh watcha up to back there?"
I've even done two sheath cleanings (he'd never had it done before) an he was more curious about the garden hose :|
His face issue is frustrating but I've learned to hold off my frustrations till I'm not in direct contact because I know that he would sense it and respond to that.
So? Can anyone help me?
He's a Cowboy Casper colt, he is lean and I've been putting weight on him for some winter training. But he's 16 hands and 800 pounds despite the lankiness he has.
The photos below are slightly old specially the ones of grass, the second image is him in the summer and he's doing that face shying thing.
I would quit trying to approach his face straight on. I would stand at his shoulder and rub all over his neck up and down closer and closer to his head. As soon as he starts to tense up or pull away, rub back down towards his withers and give him a good scratch. Keep rubbing up and down and work your way closer towards his head and retreat back down his neck. As he starts to relax, rub onto his cheek and back onto his neck. Keep rubbing more and more of his head and face until he's figured out he won't get punched anymore.
It shouldn't take long for him to get the idea that hands feel good scratching and rubbing. Don't force him, retreat quickly to a less sensitive area of his body before he has a chance to get really upset about it.
To put the halter on, do the same thing. Stand beside him, rub across his chest with the halter in your left hand and reach over his neck to catch the crown piece with your right hand. Rub your left hand up his neck and try to slowly raise the halter up and catch his nose in it and gently bring it up and buckle it. Go slowly and retreat to a comfortable rub on his chest or neck if he starts to fret. EDIT: to add, if he is too scared for the halter at first, just use a soft rope and work on putting it around his neck and work up to his head. Once you can use the rope, start trying with the halter again.
It will take lots of time and patience, but if he's a "thinker" he should come around fairly quickly with this method.
Good luck with him, he sure is a cutie!! :-)
Well in that second picture, it doesn't look like that approach is helping this situation at all. From that point, and from the horses point of view I'm sure, it looks like he's gonna get puched again. Any kinds of hand motion in the above your shoulders like that is only going to hinder the situation. I would work with the horse in a round pen. Keeping your hands below your shoulders at all times! Now, approach the horse calmy and quietly, do not halter him. Scratch him all over the front half of his body, shoulders, lower neck, chest. Carefully work your way towards his head. When he gets nervous, immediatly return your hands to a more "comfortable spot" and start over working towards his face. This may take, weeks or even months. But consistant gentleness is what the horse needs. And when he accepts having his face touched for the first time without uneasiness or fear, Walk away from him for a few seconds, removing all pressure and giving him a moment to think about what just happened. Work through this and have patience. This Method has never failed for me.
I do try to stay at his side, he's very unsure about everything, usually falls into step with no issue. But he is unsure I think it's because of his past "beatings" he just hasn't found the right place with people.
Thanks for the tips :3 I will start applying them with my training with him. Hopefully he will soon know I'm no threat to him <3
IMO, you have to commit to patience...extreme patience. Horses are naturally protective of their face - as are most all living creatures. Couple that w any "additional" reason - and you have a highly predictable "automatic" and understandable overly protective "response".
I assume you halter him from behind (i.e., w your right arm over his neck). Anything else is "aggresive" in nature.
Where you stand, and from what angle you touch his face really matters. You have to consider his "anxiety", and work to reduce or eliminate it as opposed to just insisting that he allow his face to be touched whenever and however. You should be "considerate" when and how you approach any horse's face, if they are head shy...you have to be extremely "considerate".
I don't see any value in reprimanding him for not allowing you to touch his face. If in fact he was abused, that isn't going to relieve his anxieties at all. ALL you want is for him to trust that you will not hit or injure him given an opportunity. That will take time and slow, calm, consistant and steady approach.
Other than doctoring him, why do you need to touch his face after he is haltered right now, can't it wait until after he masters readily accepting the halter? You can't go from highly head shy to - halter, rub all over, doctor or pat anywhere w/o any problems in one day. For example, repeated and patient haltering over time should eventually reduce his resistance which is an accomplishment and will lead to "bigger things".
If you want to get him over it in a hurry ...use clicker, it will speed it up tremendousely. In light of the fact he needs to be doctored, I would use clicker right away. It will allow him to immediatly "understand" what he is being rewarded for and lose his fears more readily. But, it will still require patience and consideration of his fears and respect for his "space".
I will agree with the advice given so far to a point. Start at his comfy zone and work towards his head. When he starts to tense and get nervous, DO NOT remove your hand or move it back to his comfy zone. This is only rewarding him for getting tense and nervous. Rub that spot, or as close to it as possible if he moves away, until he stops, stands still and relaxes. Then remove your hand or move it away from that spot and start over. Reward the behavior you want and not the behavior you don't want. You don't need to scold or reprimand unless the behavior endangers you like biting or kicking.
Another thing to do, or actually not do, don't focus your attention on his face. Look at his front hooves. Look in front of him or at his butt. Don't look at his face. Looking at his face is actually putting pressure on it and he will naturally move away.
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I disagree with the above. The horse doesnt have a behavior problem, he has a trust problem, the horse should feel comfortable at all times, I dont agree with rewarding horses with the wrong behavior, but any step in the right direction with this case is leap forward. Even if he allows you to touch his jaw or bottom lip and then pulls away, he should still be rewarded. You have to build trust from the ground up with this horse, It isnt because he has bad behavior or is spoiled, he just doesnt know any better. Hastily forcing the horse to let you touch his face will only make matters worse!
Honestly, the advice given to me first off makes the most sense.
I do stand to the left of him, and use my right hand over his neck to approach putting a halter on.
Other than doctoring, I don't need to touch his face atm, but with his eye draining and the vet said to put some moisturizing drops in it to help flush out the crud and gonk out of it. With him being head shy, he's fighting me on it. Sometimes after some work I can get close enough to almost get the drops in, then he moves and i waste the drops. It has to cleans at minimum once a day. I'm usually there for a few hours a day so i try to do when I get there, once for the middle of my visit and just before I leave.
I've never clicker trained a horse... I've clicker trained all my dogs. But not my horses... so unless its similar to dogs I wouldn't know how to go about it properly
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