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Odissi 07-18-2010 08:49 PM

Retraining an abused horse :( advice needed.
Greetings everyone,
I found this forum while looking for a resource website to help me with a training issue. (be warned... this post includes a very sad story.)

Firstly, I grew up with horses... Im 25 now and by the time i was 16 I owned 3 which I trained from green babies to be awesome bomb proof hunter jumper show horses pretty much all by myself. :)
I donated them to my stable I rode at to be school horses when I was 18 after being offered my dream job in London...

Soooo.. it's been 7 years since I've done anything with horses... (but it's like riding a bike right.... it's not something that you forget when it was your passion and life for so many years...)


I just had an opportunity "fall into my lap"

I have a friend who has two full blooded arabians, once upon a time she used to ride them and work them every day... and then she fell very ill with cancer which she has been battling for 8 years...

When she got sick... her horses became pets...(like two big dogs really) Of course she has had someone looking after them in that time... but only basic grooming / feeding....(they're overweight, underworked and have forgotten A LOT of their manners)

But here's the sad part.... in addition to having to deal with cancer she's also had to deal with an abusive husband which she has FINALLY gotten a divorce from... This dude is the lowest of the low... not only did he beat his terminally ill wife... he would go out to the paddock and beat her favorite horse as well :-(

(yeah I know... disgusting right?)

his favorite methods of abuse included beating the horse with a 2x4 and tying him up for hours in the stall with his head as high as it could possibly go.... (nose straight up in the air)

(when I heard all this on my second day of working with them I burst into tears... how ANYONE could do that to a horse is beyond me...)

But now that this history has come to light... It begs the question...

How the hell do you erase those kind of emotional scars from an animal? :?

He REALLY freaks out when you try to touch his head (behind / in between his ears mainly) ... lashes out with his front hooves and tries to bite...

and also he HATES it when you go into the stall with him... he turns violent and tries to kick and definitely won't let you get ANYWHERE near him with a halter if you're in that space.

I desperately want to help this horse learn to trust people again... I know it's going to take a lot of love and patience on my part... but i could really do with some creative training techniques to try to reprogram this kind of behavior... I've dealt with "problem" horses before... but never in this context....

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. (I know it was kind of long)

If there's anyone out there who might have some advice to share your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


Punchie25 07-18-2010 08:55 PM

If I were you, I would take things slow. I knew a horse whose owners were never around and he had been neglected. He started to not trust people, I'm not sure why. I fell in love with him immediately. I started going to the ranch every day and step by step, he began to trust me. I just took it slow, started off petting him where he was comfortable with, then once he gained my trust I tried to get him to trust me petting him where he wasn't as comfortable with it. Good thing is, by that point, he does trust you. Just take things with him really slow, and don't rush into anything that is very uncomfortable for him until he is pretty sure you won't hurt him.

yukontanya 07-18-2010 09:02 PM

WOW, great job for taking this on. Pm me, and we can talk back a forth. Where is this horse your place or theirs? Is there a safe paddock you can get him to? And stop trying to do stuff with this horse. He needs to regroup and not be pushed right now. How much time have you put into being with him? I have only just now started to work with my abused gelding and he's been mine for 7 months, but I did not start anything big until i saw his mind change.

wild_spot 07-18-2010 09:05 PM

If I were you, I would PM Flitterbug on this forum - She has a ton of experience and great advice for working with abused horses.

kitten_Val 07-18-2010 09:15 PM

What a hell! I'm sorry about your friend and horses!

I'm very sorry to say that, but for some horses mental scars will never go away, doesn't matter how you treat and work with the horse. BUT you can smooth them out (or even erase for some horses). It takes lots, lots, lots of time, efforts, and patience. Just take it easy, and move 1/4 inch a day, or 2 days, or a week. Slow introduce him to the fact people can be nice and treat him with love. Talk, treats, feed, anything pleasant you can think of, then start petting - from the areas he's OK about and go up and up towards the face.

I did work with the horse once beat right in head with the manure fork number of times. He had 2 permanent bumps on his head after that (which never disappeared). From what I was told some "stall cleaning" workers went mad when he didn't move in stall and just hit him. End result - horse wasn't just head shy, he was terrified of ANY movement next to him. I worked him up to the point I could deal with him, he let me mess with his head and all, but unfortunately he never was a reliable mount. He was too unpredictable.

I wish you best luck with the horse! I really hope it'll turn out really good for both of you!

draftrider 07-19-2010 01:16 AM

Go very slow. I would put them out in a nice pasture with a calm, sweet buddy. Begin by just being around them, and by offering delicious treats. Work your way towards having them stand quietly while you pet and brush Buddy horse. Once they will stand quiet and accept your close proximity, up the pressure by starting to pet and stroke the new horses. I tend to stroke the neck first, working my way outwards. Once they accept petting all over, then its time to start retraining.

Go slow. Start at the beginning with round penning or lunging. Work your way up to each step slowly.

Be careful and always, stay safe.

Silvera 07-19-2010 01:59 AM

I would also suggest putting the horse out with a calm trusting buddy. I wouldn't try to stall this horse until you have gotten the trust back more. If the stall is where he is most afraid it is best to avoid it until he is more comfortable.

I would suggest (in a smaller paddock with the buddy) to take a chair and sit in the paddock with them. Have some treats to give but don't go into their space. Wait for them to come over and when the scared horse touches you first with his nose then you can give him a treat. Don't worry about touching his face until after he is accepting your presence and touching other parts of his body. If he walks away that's fine, let the assosiation be on his terms for a while. Do this as often as you can until you can touch his face without harsh problems.

Once he is comfortable with you in his space then you can work at getting him accustomed to you working with him. Once you get to the point where you are re-training him remember to not give him allowances for bad behavior, it is ok to dicapline him if he acts out, just don't hit him in the face. Use your voice to let him know he has done wrong. When you get to lunging work at getting his respect. If you have a round pen that would be ideal as you can really work at moving his feet. Work on change of direction and try to get him to join up with you.

Remember that through out this process you must stay safe. When you are in the field don't let your gaurd down, but don't be tense either.

The other thing you can do is if it get's to the point where you are stuck, find a trainer in your area that has delt with this kind of thing to help you through this.

Good luck and I hope everything works out for both of you.

White Foot 07-19-2010 06:34 AM

Others have given great information. If it were me I wouldn't even try to touch him until you can see him visibly calm down and just get used to you coming in everyday to feed. Or give it a week or two.

When you do start doing things with him, like others have said, GO slow. He needs to build of confidence again and know that you won't hurt him. When you need to go into his stall or touch his head offer him a treat. After all you are going into his house, uninvited. At first only take one step in, offer a treat, and leave. And every day go in further and further. Talk quiet around him, sing to him, touch his soft and nice. Everytime he lets you touch him, tell him he's a very good boy.

Don't get mad if he gets scared or accidentally hurts you. That's the worst thing you can do.

Kawairashii Ichigo 07-19-2010 01:02 PM

Watching paint dry. No more exciting. treats, patience, patience, love and more patience. Never get frustrated, if something you try doesn't work, be calm about it, simply either try repetition (Repetition in the way that if he shys, don't take it as a this way doesn't work. It takes time.) or find a new taktic. don't rush into touching his head and ears. Start slow and try to gain trust that way. If you can get it to a round pen, perfect. Free lounge it. Daily. Don't be scared. That only reassures its unease. stay calm, like I sometimes say "deaden your nerves, but ALWAYS know what they can do." In other words, deaden your nerves as not to be scared, but know what it can and will do. Best thing, free lounge, offer treats after (Everytime you see it, that way it gets to know you for something good). Praise for anything good. be careful. after a while of everyday free lounging (If you need to set food and water in it to have it as a correl so be it -If bringing it back and forth everyday if going to be a dangerous challenge, do it the once and work your way up to leading after a LOT of work and bonding.-) Also, don't think everyday has to be just work. Work your way up to when it lets you touch it, bring a soft brush and just give a small groom. I don't mean all over legs and everything, nor do I mean to even try to remove dirt. If all you get is a few strokes every now and then fine. It's not about cleaning, it's about showing love and helping to show trust. Your not there to hurt. Be aware this isn't going to be an over night thing, maybe not even a month, you might be able to make a lot of progress in a month, but be aware, this is something that's going to take a long time. Rehabilitating and training a horse should be no more exciting than watching paint dry. Don't feel sorry for the horse. They can pick up on it, they don't know why your sorry, simply show it what love is. Remind it of love. Love is protecting, caring and confident. If you always feel bad, the horse won't pick up on what it is doing good or bad. It's not going to know your safe if you feel unstable/unsure. But be proud of any accomplishment. let the horse know.There's lots of things you can do down the road, but in the meantime I hope this helps a least a little.

Kawairashii Ichigo 07-19-2010 01:04 PM

I agree on the buddy thing though.

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