What to do for a headshy horse
7 months ago we got a 5 year old mare, very gentle, not pushy..already broke to ride but had not been under saddle in a year. she seems nervous or fearful of touch...mainly her head and neck. you approach her and let her smell your hand, move slow and everything but the second you touch her forehead, neck, cheek...she jerks away...she always comes back, and eventually you can give her a good rub. but every single time its brand new and she jerks away. is this nervous nature, bad early training, or just something i need to be patient about and she'll trust us more later?...we never had horses before these two
Clinton Anderson has a great video on working and training a head shy horse. Try to not treat her any different from other horses. Try just to stay more in area that she will allow and work your way up to her area she does not want to be touched at. Most horses that are like this have been beaten some point of time. A lot of older trainers why back when thought if the horse would not do what you wanted beat him on the face till he does. I have seen this, not cool. Anyway check out that video. Its great.
Sometimes he has it here Downunder Horsemanship TV
If I was brought this horse. I would first take her into the round pen and not even bother to even try to touch her. I would get her mind back on thinking and not being so scared. Next I would work on picking up all her legs, tail, rub her belly. Work my way up her body to her neck, rub and rub. Then give her a treat. Leave her be and walk away. I would come back and ask her to move around the round pen. After doing this for sometime. She will get it, that running is not fun. Standing here and getting rubbed is. If she takes a step or throws her head any thing like that. Send her around the pen a few more times.
i assumed it had to be with training because putting a halter on her is not hard at all...a bridle she lifts her head alittle but doesnt fight it and never seems afraid of either...but to be rubbed or have your hand come too close to her face is scary. she stands to be shoed and grooming is ok if you go slow. its like she'll hold still for work...but for affection its foreign i guess. we'll work on those ideas and be more patient.
My Spirit came to me head shy. She even had a scar between her ears about an inch long. I thought it was a permanent scar but it's covering up nicely with the winter coat coming in. Someone beat her. I took it nice and slow and earned her trust. Initially she would always avoid my hand or anything coming near her head. Much better now and she loves to have her head and ears rubbed. Every now and again she'll move her head away. It takes time. I've been at it for 9 months.
Clucker training (done with the tongue instead of a clicker) works well in these situations. There are videos on youtube that explain this. She will first learn to touch a target. When she touches it you cluck and give her a treat. This is what you practise with for a few minutes four or five times a day. By then she will fully understand that a treat follows the cluck. She will also recognise that you cluck immediately when it's the right action and that the treat is coming. Then begin by placing your flat hand held somewhat vertical so she accidently touches it. You can direct this with your hand with the treat. When she touches your hand be sure to cluck immediately even if she flies back and offer the treat. Continue to encourage her to touch your hand. Be sure it is her touching your hand and not you going to her. She now is beginning to understand that she has to touch your upright hand to get the cluck and treat. Change the position of your hand, sideways, higher, lower. It gets interesting as the horse tries to figure out how to get the cluck without feeling your hand. She will come to realize that without the touch there is no cluck nor reward. Sometimes they completely capitulate and allow you to rub the entire face. Do this daily if you can, just to be sure she's still ok with it. She may test you in a week, month but that is normal. Just repeat the exercise as a reminder and be sure to have a treat.
she seemed more calm today...maybe she knows i'm trying to do right by her. we both got to give them both some cheek rubbing and she didnt dart her head away...she put up with it for a bit. we're tryin to rub the shoulder first and then up the neck to the cheek and she seems to like that better
Good to hear. Horses due have that "fear" around there head and some are more so then others. Arabians are vary well known for this, as they like to do the arab flip thing in the air. Just start at her shoulder and go up from there. You may need to do this for a few weeks, then later on. Start at her neck. It could take many years for her to get over this head sky thing.
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