Honeymoon period for horses?
Two months ago I adopted a 4yr Standardbred gelding; while I have ridden for years on many different types of horses I have never dealt with a horse like him. His only consistancy is being inconsistent. And it's not me please; he's like this with everyone at the barn. I know when you adopt dogs you go through what is deemed a honeymoon period. This is where they are still adjusting, so a lot of behaviours are suppressed until they figure out their place. I am worried that this has past with my horse and that he is nothing like what I thought he was. (Please note I went to see him over the period of one month at least once weekly before I made my decision.) It seems this past month all I have done is trouble shoot; to be fair to him it's very different things I have been asking him to do from anything he's done before but I feel like myself and others just keep making excuses for his behaviour when really there is an underlying problem. Basically my question is whether this going to improve with time or get worse/stay the same. I am not someone who will give up on an animal if it's something that can be worked through but at the same time if this is his real self and he will never be happy doing what i want of him then it is best before I get even more attached to rehome him. This is extremely difficult for me, so please go easy.
I've had horses that adapted within days and others that took 6 months.
Yes.. there is normally a honeymoon period with horses.
If he is 4 he is green so regardless of the new surroundings he just hasn't learned anything. You really do not say what the inconsistancy's are so it's hard to know what you are referring to.
Well it's not all new to him though. Being haltered, groomed, led in, all things he's used to and was fine with a month ago. It's just frustrating because there has really been no joy, so far it's just been dealing with problems. For instance I went up to see him yesterday. He's normally very good about standing still to halter and coming in willingly. He has had problems with his ears and I don't doubt they are sore BUT when i noticed he didnt want me slipping it over his ears (would turn his head or take a step away -not run away) i stopped and got him to drop his head and put it on the tie up behind his ears way which he has no problem with. Have been doing it that way for couple of weeks now, never had a problem. Then yesterday he came up to me when i went to get him in the field pet him fine but when i went to put the rope around his neck he cantered away (and he doesnt really canter - stdbrd). Approached him again, same thing. Trotted away throwing his head around, making a big circle around me throwing his head about. The other horses started not letting him come near them at this point, and came into the shelter but wouln't let him in. Then he started acting a bit more bizarre; kicking out (at nothing) and rolling then getting up and kicking. (not colicy don't worry ruled that out)
Another girl came out and brought him out a treat, but did the same thing with her. First I thought he was being playful but then he settled down to the point I got the lead rope around his neck then he walked off trying to drag me - hadn't even tried the halter. Which really makes me think this wasn't playful at all. And the last time I was up i just groomed him and feed him lots of treats (it was a good day). I don't always make him work when he comes in; its a good mix and besides that he seems quite willing to work so far. Do you think this is the real him coming out?
other examples of the inconsistancy: Perfectly calm and reliable, looks but don't spook inside one day the next day he's jumpy; same place, same time of day, same other horse (who doesnt spook at anything) in the ring. one day will like a certain treat the next day wont take it. won't go over poles, doesnt like over poles, then fine with them the next day then back to being not fine with poles. and there are more examples and hes like this with other people too; its not just me.
He sounds a little insecure and not being accepted by the herd is not helping his selff esteem. Sounds like some confidence building exersises might help. If the ear thing is new he may have a medical issue.
he was ridden before, went over poles before, lunged before. groomed, haltered, led in, stalled. everything he has done before, not a lot but he'd been exposed to them before.
i've worked with several green horses before but never one like this. some are slower to make progress for sure but he constant but inconsistant set backs. and i am working with a good trainer so i am as consistant as i can be. it just seems that one week he has something done and the next its like hes never done it before and i ask him exactly the same way, approach things the same way.
the ear thing is a medical issue; and it is being dealt with appropriately in the mean time i am avoiding his ears his ears because i know they are sore.
he is definitely insecure; what kind of confidence building exercises are you referring too?
It sounds like the poor horse is just as confused as you are. He is very insecure. He has no idea that he is supposed to bring you "joy", he is only acting in the way that his environment has set him up to behave.
First of all, treats as bribes are not a good idea, if catching is the problem, the girl that brought him a treat is not going to make him happy to come willingly, it is only reinforcing the poor behavior. It is very normal for insecure horses to be inconsistant. They experiment with all types of fight and flight behaviors before they will either 1. get a response from the behavior or 2. the need for the defensive behavior is gone. I don't mean to shelter him from things, but when he no longer feels the need to be defensive.
Remember, the most important thing to him is going to be his safety. He is good at being a horse, he is not good at following a human's training program. Put your goals aside for a while and instead get to what he needs, his confidence. Its not about giving him treats, its about being his leader and giving him boundaries and rewards that mean something to him as a herd member. A good scratch on the withers is a great reward. I personally have never witnessed one horse walking up to another horse in the pasture and giving him carrot, yet they stick to one another like glue for the safety and security that the herd offers. You need to offer that same security to him through yourself.
Start with what he has problems with, if you are having any issues with catching, then that is the first thing to solidify. Catching doesn't mean putting a halter on. You can get a halter on a horse without truly catching it, and you can successfully catch a horse without a halter. I'm referring to catching the mind. I would recommend getting a good trainer to help you. Horses don't follow a rule book and there is more to understanding this guy than what can be sent over a forum message.
Horses are a product of their surroundings. Its very easy to blame them for behavior that we don't understand. At his age, its pretty simple to conclude that he isn't solid enough in his basic skills to be able to carry them without assistance. I definately wouldn't say this is just "how he is", this is only "what he has become" and it is very possible to change it to something better, but it can take time.
As far as the time period goes, it varies with the state that the horse is in. I've brought in some emotionally damaged horses that take months to finally settle, yet I've brought some horses in that are "with the program" in no time at all. The amount of time that it takes them simply shows the work that we have to do. A month of time is not long at all for an insecure horse, especially when his environment isn't giving him what he needs to be consistent.
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