New Here - Adopted Abused Horse - Need Suggestions
Hi, I just joined this forum and am excited to meet everyone. First, let me apologize if this ends up being a long post, but I want to give as much info as possible so you get a good idea of what I'm up against. We adopted "Argy" about a month ago. He was living next door with other horses and was close to going to the slaughter house. We just moved to Missoula in November. Here are some things about Argy that we know:
Argy is 9 y/o. I'm not sure of his breed. He lived at a dude ranch for a number of years and am told he was a good working horse. I am told he was badly abused for a number of years. He has a scar on his face where a halter was left on for so long that it rubbed into his skin and left a scar. He was hobbled and beaten with a hose. His nose was twitched while they beat him with various weapons to include boards, hoses, etc. He was put in a small horse trailer and left there for several weeks with no food/water while some guy read a book to him every day for weeks on end (trying to fix him?). He was finally rescued by some rescue organization and sent to a rehab center where he was worked with for a year by a trained professional. She saw potential in Argy and never gave up on him. Eventually his trainer got him ready for adoption and he ended up next door to us with our neighbors, who had him for about another year while he was waiting to be adopted. The neighbors already have other horses, so they were running out of patience and tired of Argy being on their food bill. This is the point when we moved in next door and found out all of this information.
We looked at Argy and saw a sweet horse who was wanting to interact with us, but was terrified to approach. He would come as close as his nerves would allow and then stretch his neck out as far as it would go to try to get a sniff of us. He wanted to be near people, but could only stand there and shake and twitch. Our new house was completely set up for horses, so we took him in. We waited a few more days for his trainer to come over so she could walk Argy over to his new barn, stall, and pasture. We wanted his move to be with someone he knew and trusted. It went well. He ran all around for a few days, snorting, and neighing to his friends next door. His trainer said it would be good for him to only have us humans to bond with instead of other horses for awhile. He was used to pack cubes as treats, so I went and bought a bag :)
I asked Argy's trainer if she would be willing to keep coming over to help me work with him and show me how to interact with him so he will keep progressing and she has agreed to do that. She has been here 3 times now since he joined our family (1 month ago), but now has to leave for a month or two for a trip to South Africa. Here is a list of things Argy will alow:
He will eat pack cubes from my hand.
I can now pet his forehead (as of 2 days ago).
He let me brush his left side, ONLY, yesterday while he ate breakfast.
He will follow me around the pasture every time I go out there.
I have gotten a halter on/off him a few times, but now he yanks his head back and bolts if I try.
He KNOWS round pen exercises very well and will run/trot/canter/walk, and change directions on cue.
He is very respectful and shows no signs of aggression or being mean. He only shows major fear.
He puts his head in his halter on cue for his trainer, but not me. (I assume this will take time?)
I have spent long hours in the barn with him, just talking to him. I do not put him in a stall because I dont want him to feel trapped in any way and he always has the option to leave. Sometimes he bolts, but then comes right back. He also jumps quite a bit, but doesn't leave. Now I feel like we are at a point where neither of us is progressing. I have reached his tolerance threshold and we are at a standstill. I don't want to do ANYTHING that may make him regress in therapy, but I also want him to keep getting better and trust me. I had horses as a child, but never one that had any problems and never any that were abused. Will he get past this fear? How can I make it easier for him? What is reasonable to expect? Is he going to figure out he can "out-patience" me?
Anyway, again sorry for the long post. I really want Argy to have a good life and I do believe in this horse. I guess I just need suggestions on how to advance in his rehab. Thanks for listening :)
Darla & Argy
Time. Its too bad on how he was treated. Do you have many months to years to form a trusting relationship with him? If so, that's a real possibility on how long it may take for him to come around. I hope your not in a hurry to ride him. Just be there for him and as suggested make him the only horse right now so he seeks you or humans as companions.
You need to be careful with a fearful animal. Anything can trigger a bad response so make sure you are in control. And as hard as it is to say please don't let him get away with negative behavior. Kicking and biting.
This is going to be hard because if he feels insecure or unsure of a situation and feels no other option than to fight he will do it. If you let him because he was abused and don't want to discipline him, he will never get better. He could be doomed.
Just take your time and spend as much time as you can with him and give him room. Make being with you the best thing in the world. Good luck and stay safe.
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Welcome to the forum! :-)
I think you have a great start. Given he was abused so badly for long time it'll take LOTS of time for him to overcome the fears and start trusting you. Just don't loose the patience - it WILL come, just take some time.
Actually I kept my abused paint in stall for week straight (because she was unhandled), letting her to run in pen for couple hours/day, and that worked out pretty good for us both (she was my 2nd horse BTW, and almost no horsey experience). I found out that as long as you keep talking and start petting on neck, the horse quite relaxes. Just dont' go up to head to to the butt too fast. I always started with the neck/shoulder at first, and then worked my way either up or down very slowly.
Good luck with him!
Have you confirmed his age? If he lived at a dude ranch for a number of years, then was abused for how long? Then a year at at trainer and a year with your neighbor. . .
My suggestion is to get in touch with the vet and the trainer that had him for the year and base anything you do with him off of their information. If he was abused, he may have a trigger. If he wasn't abused but simply neglected, he may just need more socializing.
it really sounds your making progress :) well done :) and its a big thing to take on any abused animal so good on ya! Again i think it will just take time, sounds your doing everything i would, take your time, dont push him but what i would say is reward him for even the slightest movement in the right direction, this will help him understand hes going in the right direction and hell begin to understand that he isnt going to get hurt in anyway anymore, also id make sure i was calm and relaxed when around him, it always amazes me how horses pick up exactly what your thinking. He really sounds like a genuine horse and i think its a given that once you get the bond with him it will be a bond for life :) goodluck :)
Let me add that there are lots of un-abused horses with hairless spots on their face from their halter. It does not mean abuse just because there is a bald spot there.
OP, I am very glad you are working with a trainer. I hope things work out well.
Just curious, what do you mean by pack cubes?
Well from what I understand, the person who put him in a too small trailer kept him there for about 3 weeks straight. He would get water once per day by a hose being shoved through a crack in the trailer. It's very obvious this horse was mistreated and I trust the trainer enough to believe her about the halter being left on until it left a sore and scar. The hair has grown back, but is discolored. He is terrified of humans. I'm not sure how a horse becomes this way at his age, after being a work horse at a dude ranch for so long. Nevertheless, all of that is over now, whether true or not. All I know for sure is that he is very afraid of anyone who approaches him and he does not trust anyone. If I even go to scratch my head, he jumps and starts shaking with fear. At first he would run away, but now he just jumps, but stays there and twitches everywhere. I did find that certain things do trigger him, like the sight of a brush - OMG! Not sure what happened in his past with that, but it's obviously something very traumatic for him. Will have to save that one for later.
I have all of the time in the world for him. I took him in with the acceptance that I may never be able to ride him. I work from home and make my own hours, so I can spend all day with him if I need to. He has not shown ANY sign of aggression or meanness. He seems very polite and has obviously had "space" training. I can tell he 'wants' to be near me, but is terrified. I have taken my two small dogs out there to spend time him and to see how he reacts and he is not at all afraid of barking dogs at his feet. He does follow me around the pasture, but if I stop, he keeps his distance. I can now pet his left side, but for some reason, he does not want me near his right side. His mane is getting dreadlocks from no grooming, but trying to get near them is too stressful for him and I'm not sure if I should push him. I do not have experience with an abused, fearful, or neglected horse, so I'm hoping to get all of the encouragement/suggestions, or advice anyone is willing to give. I'm a huge sucker for animals everyone else has given up on, so I really want to give this horse a chance. If he was mean or showed signs of not even being interested, then I may not have given him a second glance, but its like he is asking for a chance, even though it scares him to the point of trembling, he is still trying. Since I dont have any experience with an animal like this, I would just like to know what things I can expect and how I can help him. I dont care if it takes years.
p.s. Can someone explain what pack cubes are? I have a bag of them, but dont know how to explain them. They are these little round things about the size of a cigar. They look like compressed alfalfa? He gets perhaps a handful total per day, one chunk at a time if he lets me touch him or pet him.
Can you google the brand name and find them that way? I have never heard of pack cubes.
Yes, I will go out there right now and look and then come back here and tell you.
The only name on the bag is "Pack Horse Cubes". They come in a big feed bag. Apparently these are used as feed for when you take your horses on rides up in the mountains and will be gone for a few days.
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