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faye 12-30-2010 04:02 PM

Anxious about his back.
Reeco is my rising 4 yearold gelding. He is good as gold generaly and normaly he acts like a 10 yearold.

He generaly will accept anything I want to do to him, including clipping out his ears, clippers round his face, pulling his legs round, pulling mane and tail, putting his bed down round him in the stable. Plastic bags, big farm machinary etc. he adores cuddles and is rather intellegent, it took me less then 1 week to teach him to give kisses on command.

HOWEVER he has an issue with his back. I know that as a foal he was thrown to the floor using lines and pinned there to do his feet (god only knows why, pure lazyness probably). It took me 5 weeks of constant work for him to allow me to put a roller on him without panicing or flinching. He is now happy with a roller (He has always been asolutely fine with rugs), I've been running my hands over his back and applying pressure for weeks, just getting him used to pressure/weight on his back, have attached lines to his roller and let him play with them, however I still cannot sling an arm over his back without him panicing. It is genuine absolute terror, he shoots forwards, backs himself into the corner of his stable and stands there shaking!
Untill I can put an arm over him without him flinching I am not happy about leaning over him or sending him for braking (not going to risk my neck or anyone elses).

He is 100% happy with rugs, brushes, numnhas and rollers. He was even happy for the back lady to manipulate his back (she noted some damage that she attributed to being thrown and that was before I told her that he has been)

I am struggling to think of ways I can get through to him that , this pony has a memory like an elephant and I'm not quite sure how to continue. Should I just continue to do as I have been doing and hope he realises that I have no intention of hurting him?

Any ideas of something else I can try.

Please NOTE that I do not subscribe to the cult that is parelli and i have no intention of starting so please don't suggest it!

NorthernMama 12-30-2010 05:19 PM

I don't know how long you have been working with him on this, but this may take a very long time for him to get over. Whatever happened surely did him some damage mentally as well as physically. Assuming that there is no pain and his only issue is mental, I would give him lots and lots of time and continue your work.

When you put other things on his back and he is OK with it, perhaps it is how you are putting the things on? Are you putting them low on his neck and pulling them back? Try to ensure that you are doing the objects and your arm the same way. You might also try using a pool noodle; perhaps cut it in half so it is closer to arms length. Can you put a driving or lunge whip on his back?

Experimenting with some of these things might isolate if it is the shape of your arm, the method, or the weight that has him spooked. Or maybe even your body position. Can you raise your arm if you stand beside his barrel?

I know I would expect this to take a few months before he gets over the initial fear; another month before a saddle is on and perhaps a year before anyone mounts. I always favour patience to get over traumas.

tinyliny 12-30-2010 05:28 PM

Just our of curiousity, what do you suppose a Parelli Cult person would advise? You must have some ideas what they would say and are ready to shunt them aside.

As for me, I would have the horse on a rope halter with a very long rope attached. Keep him with about 6 feet of line out, but ready to play out more rope if necessary. Use your coat or a towel or something to represent your arm and with him standing next to your, swing it up and over him very slowly. When he bolts, use the line to keep him from bolting away from you. Yes, let him go forward, but keep him circling around you, as close as you can without him stepping on you. Keep bringing the item up and over and keep allowing him to go forward. (you will need to keep turning your own body so that you are always facing his shoulder). Basically, you will desensitize him to this thing but allow him to move as long as he needs to, just not to the corner of his stall. He is still fleeing, but you just calmly keep bringing the item over his shoulder so that he can see it in his off eye.
In fact, it is probably the sudden shift of the item from being seen in one eye to then being seen in the other eye that is triggering his panic. As he stops moving much, give him a break and some pats, and then start up again.
Oh, and of course, I forgot to mention, you let him smell the object well before doing this exercize.

You may do other work where you work from behind him and move from one eye into the other.

You are smart to not get on him until he can not panic when something goes over his back and from one eye to the other.

lilruffian 12-30-2010 05:43 PM

I've always used a short whip with a bag attached to the end of it to work with horses that are touchy in certain areas (back, face, feet, etc) You can shake it as much as you like, but the thing with horses is rhythm.
If he moves away dont stop adding the pressure/shaking the bag or wait for him to calm down. Follow him with it and keep up the same movement until he stops. When he calms down, then stop.
This will teach him to remain calm & the pressure goes away. Keep acting spooky and the pressure stays.

faye 12-30-2010 05:51 PM

Northernmama, the spoilt pony that he is has had every single specialist up to him to make sure that there is no pain, he has seen a very qualified back lady who pointed out some muscle problems that indicated that he has been thrown (muscles built up on one side, carries his tail to one side, has a clicky poll) but said that it was well healed and he is not in any pain from it, with some massage he should easily even back up and you would never be able to tell. My Vet agrees with my back lady.
So any problems he has now are mental blocks associated with this experiance he has had.

I've owned him since september and after managing to get a roller on him I've been pretty much working with him on this since.

tinyliny, having watched a disgusting act of essentialy torturing a horse, throwing it to the floor and putting so much pressure on the horse it was left a gibbering wreck and worse off then before he got his hands on it, thanks but I'd rather not have anything to do with that. The "display" was by Pat Parelli himself so not some amature playing at using the techniques, it also went on for close on 2 hours with the horse visably distressed throughout. Pat did alot of damage to the parelli brand that day as I know that a very large amount of people walked out, demanded thier money back and the organisers have not invited him back for next year.

Also every horse I have ever met that has been got at by the Parelli Games, has been rude, bargey and ildisciplined. Some verying on dangerous simply because they had never been told NO!

Kayty 12-31-2010 10:45 PM

I think, from the sounds of your first post, that it has now become an evasion to pressure as well as fear. He has learnt that shooting forwards removes the pressure so will do it every time.
Someone above mentioned to use a lunge/driving whip. My method would be very similar but I prefer to use a long piece of poly pipe... or... heaven forbid, a carrot stick (don't worry faye, I share the same opinion as yourself re pat parelli after witnessing similar events). I just find that these thicker and stiffer objects are a little easier to handle and not as 'scary' as a whip.

Get him into a round yard or other secured, safe area with a rope halter and long lead (lunge line will do just fine). Begin your session by just talking to him and patting him all over, long, sweeping strokes over his neck, shoulders, working your way over his back and hind quarters until he is relaxed. Avoid stirring him up at this stage, you want him as calm as possible. From your hand, begin using the pipe/carrot stick slowly and gently on him neck, shoulders and legs so that he knows that it will not hurt him. Begin to bring it up to his back, gently rubbing with long, slow strokes until you can slide it over his back.
If he tries to shoot forward, allow him to do so, but keep the pipe/stick on his back, allowing him to run in a small circle around you. Maintain the pressure of the pipe/stick on his back until he settles. The second he stops, take the pressure off and pat him, and take him for a bit of a walk around. Then try again.

Don't make your sessions too long, 20-30minutes at the absolute maximum, each day. Don't make touching his back a big issue, every time you see him, run your hand over his back.
Eventually he'll come to the realisation that he won't be hurt by you.

You will have to solve this problem before even contemplating breaking him in.

Horse Poor 12-31-2010 11:56 PM

PaintHorseMares 01-01-2011 05:06 AM


Originally Posted by faye (Post 869785)
It took me 5 weeks of constant work for him to allow me to put a roller on him without panicing or flinching. He is now happy with a roller (He has always been asolutely fine with rugs), I've been running my hands over his back and applying pressure for weeks, just getting him used to pressure/weight on his back, have attached lines to his roller and let him play with them, however I still cannot sling an arm over his back without him panicing. It is genuine absolute terror, he shoots forwards, backs himself into the corner of his stable and stands there shaking!

You're doing fine and more time, handling, and continued touching with many different things is most likely all you need. I would be surprised if it had anything to do with the incident as a foal that you mentioned...some horses are just like this with anything new/different (feel, color, smell, etc) even on the same part of the body.
Even though you haven't sent him to be broken, I would already start getting him used to having a saddle pad and saddle on his back. It will be one less hurdle to cross later.


Should I just continue to do as I have been doing and hope he realises that I have no intention of hurting him?
YES. Except in rare cares, you always want the horse to get used to your routine and the way you do things (and they will), not the other way around. In my experience, most nervous horses like this actually become extremely trusting of/bonded to their handlers as time goes by.

loosie 01-01-2011 08:07 AM

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I won't go (far… sigh!) into my opinions on Parelli, except to say that while I reckon most of the *principles* behind the practices are generally sound, it’s people's application, understanding and skill with those principles - be that The Man himself or otherwise, that often leaves a lot to be desired IMO. Most of those principles are actually sound behavioural ‘law’ and techniques… with Parelli’s spin on them. So while I too dislike the ‘cult’ hype and disagree(a little or thoroughly) with many specifics(as I do of most good teachers anyway), I think there is a lot of good stuff there too. Not that PNH is by any means the only source of good behavioural principles either and it sounds like you have very valid reasons for wanting to avoid it. But IME your example about Parelli horses you’ve met having no manners or not being taught ‘no’ is the fault of the handler, not the techniques or principles. Anyway, enough said on that.

What has been suggested above is mainly what can be called behaviourally as 'flooding' - the stimulus is applied & continued, regardless of effect, until the animal ceases to react. Basically, behaviour/attitude that ‘works’ for an animal will become stronger and behaviour that doesn’t work will become weaker, so in the case of desensitising the horse, reactivity doesn’t work – the ‘pressure’ doesn’t cease, but accepting it does – the handler removes the stimulus. I think it’s a sound tactic of itself *for many situations & horses*. It is indeed one of the techniques that Parelli, among many others use, and at a guess, I’d say that may be what he was attempting in the example you gave. It is also the principle in play when ‘breakers’ of old would just get on a horse & ‘ride out the bucks’ for eg.

But IMO what can be wrong with doing this only, without consideration for what else is going on, is that while depending on the horse & situation, “Eventually he'll come to the realisation that he won't be hurt by you.” this could mean a whole lot of stress, even to the point of mental ‘shut down’ in the meantime. Also mental shut down may cause a horse to appear to accept the procedure without actually becoming desensitised/confident of it, so may mean chronic continual stress. Then you might have a horse that is ‘obedient’ but ‘suddenly, for no reason… etc’ drops his bundle, or a horse that you’ve got to keep repeating the procedure if the horse has been given time off to regain his ‘spirits’ …”My horse can’t be left unworked or he goes feral”

Even when ‘flooding’ eventually gets positive results, horses learn by association and repetition and the more ‘practice’ the animal has at whatever attitude/behaviour, the stronger it becomes. So if the horse is subjected to scary stimulus, his attitudes about being frightened by someone will often get stronger too.

Know of the ‘left brain right brain’ theory? It is said that the left brain controls the thinking side and the right controls the emotional, instinctive, automatic side. Also that it can be difficult for a horse to actually think at all when a situation causes it to ‘go right brained’. I think that it’s important to avoid the horse switching to his right brain if at all possible.

So while the basic flooding principles are still important, I use ‘approach & retreat’ tactics to get there, so I can gradually get the horse confident with stuff without pushing him too far past his comfort zone. Start wherever the horse is at in the situation & be prepared to progress at whatever pace he can go, where he’s perhaps on guard but still thinking. I will repeat the stimulus at that ‘level’ repeatedly(but in short ‘sessions’, with stress free breaks) until the horse is truly confident & blasť about it before gradually asking him to accept a little more. In that way, you retain his trust & confidence(strengthening his positive attitude about you generally) but push his ‘comfort zone’ gradually towards the goal.

If/when you get to a point that’s too much for him, there’s no harm in backing off – you’ve built a strong foundation & you only need to step back to show him you respect him & mean no harm & then you just continue at that level before again progressing further, perhaps a little slower or more gradually. *This method can well be as tedious as it may sound to begin with, depending on horse & situation, but if you aim to start slow & consider the horse’s attitude and avoid sending him ‘right brained’ there is no confrontation or force so the horse tends to quickly ‘get it’ and progress can then be rapid. (This also happens to be a technique Parelli advises BTW)

With your horse & his previous(& early – double ouch!) bad handling, I would expect it will indeed start slow & take a while to get him solid. It sounds like you’ve already been doing well with him, but you don’t say how long you’ve had him/worked with him? If it’s a short time, I’d also just continue your other training with him and develop a really solid relationship & training there first. Then just start wherever he’s at, be that picking up a roller when you’re still 10 metres away or standing beside him & raising your arm as if to put it over him.

I would also be incredibly careful of who you choose to start him under saddle if you’re not doing it yourself, because quite aside from the safety factor, any too pushy/hurried tactics could bring the old fears flooding back(pardon the pun). Also horses don’t generalise well, so if you’re the only good handler he’s known, he’s likely to be skeptical at best of a stranger before they even start.

faye 01-01-2011 11:56 AM

loosie. - I've been working with him since september.
Strange thing about him is that anything else that is new is absolutly fine. I clipped him, even clipping his ears out with no problems, I had just assumed that he had been clipped before, but I phoned his previous owner to let her know how he was getting on and she said he hadnt been clipped ever!

I'm not breaking him myself as I cannot afford to have heavy falls anylonger so I am minimising the risk of a heavy fall by sending him away to a woman that I trust implicitly, She has broken hundreds of absolutly stunning horses who are all foot perfect and some of them went to her with massive issues. I would prefer to sort this before he goes to her as she is extremely expensive.

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