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demonwolfmoon 02-04-2013 10:41 PM

Advice on Fearful Pony Please!!*(Video)
Ok, well I'm at the point where I just want some darn advice. Could someone tell me if I'm screwing up or something?!

Some background: I got this pony a few months ago through a board member who lives in another state. She came from a guy who had a TON of shetlands running on two acres of concrete, not the best conditions.

This particular mare had probably never seen a farrier, did not lead etc. Anyway due to crazy life stuff, I finally started working with her a couple weeks ago. I am NOT a professional, I am NOT a horse god...but I did do fine with my other horse, almost 2 years old now, who was pretty much untouched when I got her as a 5 month old.

NOW this mare is 100 percent a different story. She shivers when I touch her, and up until today the most I got out of touching her to try to tame her down for feet is touching her upper leg. At first when I started, she tried to bite me a few times, and showed indications of wanting to kick.

I guess I'm worried. My BO and her mom seem to think I'm really making an improvement with this pony. SHE thinks the pony was abused at some point, as she is so shakey and is incredibly afraid of pitchforks.

ANYWAY it was commented that the person I got her from figured she'd be further along by now. I have not been able to see her daily, which I think is a factor.
So...advice please? I'd really appreciate it!!

Muppetgirl 02-04-2013 11:00 PM

Ok, I think you're doing fantastic. Keep doing what you're doing, ONE big thing I recommend is when she moves away just keep your hand on her until she stops moving so that she doesn't learn that if she moves - the scary thing goes away. Also, when saying good girl and giving pets to her, be sure to get your timing perfect, ie. she's done something reward worthy.

But the keeping contact is a biggie, run your hands all over and keep them there when she moves and just follow her movement and when she stops, remove your hands. She will learn that the reward is you removing your hands And giving her a 'good girl' when she stops moving.

It's really nice to see you have a helper there, it makes it so much easier with a timid horse like this.

Keep us updated:-)

demonwolfmoon 02-04-2013 11:04 PM

Thank you, Muppetgirl! I will definitely work on hand contact more next time I go out there. I'm going to try to go out as much as possible. I'm especially excited that I got so close to picking up that foot today!

PunksTank 02-04-2013 11:36 PM

First off I want to say - your pony is precious and it looks like you're doing a great job with her.
If the pony is really having trouble you may be best to tranquilize her for a hoof trimming so as not to be rushed. For a horse to give up a hoof is like putting their life in your hands - their feet are their everything, without them they can not fight or flee.

I have some serious experience with working with ponies Just like her. One in particular I had taught a young girl how to train this pony. This pony was terrified of everything. She had lived feral in a field for 16 years. When she came to us we had to leave a short rope on her halter, we'd have to back up to approach her and take the rope. She'd lead, more out of fear and confusion, not knowing what else to do - that and she was small enough to really not hold much of a fight.
Well we - the adults - realized quick we really scared her, but the kids she enjoyed, when kids sat outside her stall she'd reach out and touch them - if they moved she'd freak, but she was curious.
So one of our best young volunteers (who loved this pony very much) decided to devote some time. She sat outside her stall for several days, until the pony would let her touch her face and neck. At this point she and I worked together, I taught her the concepts of clicker training and supervised from the side.

The girl started just by teaching her click (we used a smooch noise, so we didn't have to carry a clicker around) sound means she gets food (usually some hay stretcher or bits of carrot). Then she learned she only gets it if she's standing politely, if she nosed at your hand or something she wouldn't get a click or treat. Then she learned she'd get the treat if she touched her nose to a target (a decorative riding bat). Then she learned that while touching the target she had to also accept being touched on her body by the girl's hand. First her nose and neck where she was comfortable, but then a little further down - just before she got nervous (feeling her muscles tense a little) we'd click and treat - if we missed the 'just before' and she actually got nervous we'd back up a bit to where she was previously comfortable - don't want to reward her fear.
After a few days the girl could touch this pony Everywhere! including cleaning her udder for the first time in that mare's poor life xD She Seriously appreciated that!! A few more days and feet were being picked up for a few seconds, then being cleaned. Trimming didn't come until far later when the pony had opened up to the rest of us scary humans (but she was an extreme case).

Now the girl is older but her and her pony still very much love each other - the pony is learning unmounted agility (much like dog agility) off lead too! She'll follow her little person anywhere! Even over crazy colored/decorated jumps!

I think all you need is more time, maybe if you want to speed things up look into clicker training to help encourage the correct responses. It helps give a clear 'Yes' as well as bringing them back to 'happy' mode when they start getting nervous. Make sure to use a bridge if you're going to use food rewards though, the bridge (click) is what makes the action you want to see more clear to the horse.

demonwolfmoon 02-04-2013 11:49 PM

PunksTank (and by extension, Muppet hehe)

I just wanted to say THANK YOU for your faith that we (the mare and I) can do this! I admit that I have sometimes driven away from the barn very discouraged, and wondering If I could do this. I have had extensive knowledge of animals, but her intense FEAR seemed to almost break something inside me. I mean, the idea that *I* as a human being, cause so much fear to an innocent animal. =( I don't want to screw her up even more than she already has been!

My husband for awhile there encouraged the idea of selling her on, because he thinks that the effort it will take to get her to be, well "useful" to us is more than she's worth. But I don't want to give up on her! My goal is to get her to where she can be trained by a trainer eventually.

tinyliny 02-04-2013 11:49 PM

First of all, I think you should turn her around so she can see the other horses with their heads out. She is worried about them behind her, so let her face them.

Also, let her move around as much as you can while you are touching her, at first. Don't expect her to both tolerate you touching her, AND stand still. and having someone hold her head will only make her shut down , tremble and maybe lash out. If she can move, I think she will feel that she has an "out". This is what she needs to feel; that even you touching her is only for a second, and thus is tolerable. So, touch her a bit , then remove your hand , then touch and remove. And like Muppet said, don't remove because SHE moved. remove when you want to, not her.

however. the more you can remove BEFORE pony gets to the point where she must act evasively, the better it will go. It's like now you ask your horse to stand once you stop him. he must stand until YOU say go,but the smart rider makes that wait short enough that the horse doesn't get to the fidget point. So, you help the horse be a winner.
So, pet, but get out before horse thinks she has to get out; you get out first.

let her walk around even while touching her and if you can do it safely, give her a bit more line so you aren't pulling her onto yourself.

demonwolfmoon 02-04-2013 11:55 PM

Tinyliny, do you suggest just a looser lead line? I ask because up until today, I was just grooming her in her stall. She can still move quite a bit in there. She tends to hug wall, and if she gets really freaked (halters are apparently not a favorite thing, she needs to be further desensitized), she will try to get away swiftly.

So is putting her on a lead too much at once?

tinyliny 02-05-2013 12:23 AM

Well, it's what you expect of her to do when on a lead.
she might not know yet how to give to the pressure of the halter and lead yet. Another thing to teach her. I would think it good to have the halter on.

I am no trainer either, so take my perspective as one who hasn't done this step by step, but just in general, think of working with this horse that everything you do with her, you do in small amounts to start with and "get out" before she has to get out. meaning, for example, if you need to put the halter on, you start by putting it against her and removing it before she demonstrates that she can't stand it any more. But you work to extend the amount of time that the stimulus is on her, pushing her tolerance, but always allowing her the option of retreat.
then you come back with the stimulus, retreat, come back and on and on. and always in a way that it's no big deal (as you've demonstrated in your video, you already have a good way with her in your movements)

Foxhunter 02-05-2013 02:18 AM

Get a bamboo pole about 4' long. Stuff a glove with anything so it is firm and tape it to the pole. Use that to touch her in the places she does not like, if she kicks when on her back legs push the hand through so it is touching the other leg. Only take the hand away when she is still.

Let her move away from it in a circle around you and just keep touching her with it.
As said, she would be more confident facing the other horses.

You are doing well, the hand will keep you out of danger as you can stand by her head and still reach anywhere on her body.

Be confident, do not allow your heart rate to change, let her fight against the alien feel so that she realises it is not going to hurt her.

Stop thinking that she was abused, that is past! I would say she has just not been handled at all.

Keep it up and she will turn right around.

Army wife 02-05-2013 04:00 AM

I don't have any experience with horses quite like this. But when I was desensitizing my filly, i worked on being able to touch her legs with my hand first, then the brush. After a while, I would put my hand about at her knee, and brush her forearm. It seemed to helped her anticipate the brush so that it didn't scare her so much. Maybe that would work?

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