Training abused and/or abandoned horses
I am doing a school project on helping abused or abandoned horses naturally without without force or anything bad like that. I am first doing your five senses: Smell (aromatherapy), Hear (soothing talking), See (let him see what you are doing so it will be less shocking i.e. if a horse is scared of the saddle show it to him), Touch (touch what he is scared of like a saddle calmly on his back before even trying to place it). I don't know any for taste yet. I would love it if you added more to the list because I have never really looked into this field and I want to learn as much as possible!:D
Have you trained an abused horse before? What experience do you have to bring to the table?
I would have thought taste would be the first thing people would think of. Lol!
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De-wormers for taste! They'll help abandoned horses and taste not so great, I'm sure!
I spent a good portion of my life re-schooling Widowmakers and by that I mean horses so "out there", even the 6' tall, football playing, trail riding guys I grew up with, wouldn't go near them.
If you're going to get serious about this school project, it's not as simple as "theory" and what "seems/sounds" like the right thing to do. Each horse is different, just like humans are different and will react differently to the same source of abuse.
Honestly without the experience to speak first hand on the subject, the project might be better switched to title "how to nutritionally rehab an abused/neglected/abandoned horse. It's a given the bulk of abused horses are also not being fed properly. If the owner doesn't care about beating them half to death, they sure don't care about feeding them.
I never did anything with a horse when I brought it home except turn it out to pasture with my Keeper horses, just as soon as the vet said I could.
The pasture and my horses were its safe haven and my horses were the first "therapists". It learned the feeding rules first and foremost.
The horse always told ME when it was ready for something extra. If hooves were in bad shape, I did start working with the legs/hooves right away so neither myself nor the farrier got kicked in the head.
Never push an abused/neglected horse - that delays trust. Saddle? worrying about saddling the horse was the last thing on my list. I was not under a timeline to hurry and get things done. The horse made progress mostly on his terms; the exception would be if I sensed the horse wanted to do a task but wasn't quite sure.
That segways into "having a sense" for what the horse is ready to do next. Without that Sixth sense, the person attempting to re-school an abused horse might just as well hang it up, for the most part. Granted there will be things that will stump the human but they should be the exception, not the rule.
Bottom line is, don't attempt to rehab a horse unless one has a lot of experience working with horses --- brushing, picking hooves, saddling to ride excluded. It's not a black and white "I am going to do THIS and you should respond, in kind, because it makes sense to me".
Horses are not machines, they're 1000 - 2000 pounds of possible danger if the human can't look six plays ahead in the re-schooling Game of Chess:-)
The best thing to do is be fair and be a leader. The alpha mare will correct behavior and then move on. Sometimes the horse will be afraid of loud noises, being smacked about the head, there's usually going to be a more sensitive area than the others. That does not mean I won't tell a horse off for biting me. Too many people make excuses, but it isn't helping the horse.
And because I used it as an example, if your rehab is prone to bite, keep something like the handle of a hoof pick around and let the horse run its face into it when it tries to bite. I think it's a good way too reprimand without being over the top.
So I think things that need to be on your list are being fair, being calm, and being a good alpha. All things that will be heard by the horse. And drop this "nothing forceful or bad like that," mentality.
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Good post Cherie. What I really take away from your style is consistency, and an attitude of not sheltering/babying the horse. Though I'm a little different in that I think there's an acceptable middle ground of making a horse into a pet if the horseman is consistently clear about expectations, I would personally rather sell a horse to someone like yourself than someone who leans more toward babying one.
myhorsesrule: In your position I might think of working with the horse on a level that continually challenged you both to improve without being overwhelming, or being so low-key that you just end up boring him. Think of what you can do with him without feeling too much anxiety, and "rig the game in your favor". In other words, take on challenges that you know you and your horse can meet. And don't take on a horse that you're not willing to keep forever, because it's a heck of a lot easier to get one than to get rid of one. ;]
Step #1, forget the horse was ever abused.
Step #2, apply good training principles (with consistancy, understanding and kindness).
"Naturally" and "without force or anything like that" are odd terms.
This is a boss mare teaching my yearling to respect her space "naturally". You can see there is force, but not without warning signs. She pins her ears first, then she shakes her head, then she runs at the baby and will either bite or kick. There is force in what is natural.
What constitutes horse abuse is the force without reason. A person hurts a horse without warning or reason, neglects the animal, and the horse does not know how to react. By treating the horse like a normal horse again, I think is the best way. And it may involve force, but the difference is allowing your horse to see the signals. If an abused horse won't get out of my space when I put up my hand, pat the air with my hand, you can be sure I will cheek-bop the horse with my hand to back up the idea that my actions have consequences. It's re-teaching the horse to be sensitive to the normal way cues work. By refusing to apply discipline to a horse simply because it is "abused", is humanizing the animal and potentially making the problem worse.
You also need to be able to distinguish the difference between a horse that has been abused or one that has the appearance to the unskilled of being abused. By that a horse can figure out a person's confidence level in a heartbeat and the horse will display all sorts of undesirable behaviour because he can and gets away with it. We all too often read "My horse was abused". In the majority of the cases it wasn't, it had figured out what it could get away with. In either case, talking to the horse does nothing for the horse. We do it from habit from assuring children
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