Training Middle Aged Thoroughbred Tips needed!
I currently started working with a Thoroughbred, approx. 15 years old. She used to race, but has not for many years, and used to be well trained. The farm i'm at mostly focuses on therapudic riding, and she has a few bad habits, which left her stuck in a paddock for the past year, not able to be used for our program. She's still in very good shape, and knows her stuff deep down somewhere, but there are a few things i'm having trouble with that I just need some advice on how to correct properly, and if they need to be corrected. First, she has separation anxiety. She is in a paddock with two other geldings, and refuses to move even a step if I come to take her out. I normally take this 3 some out together and excersice them in our indoor arena because they all need exercise, which is ok for now, but i know i'm going to want to just take her out. Sometimes I can get her out if I pull her from side to side, making her take steps, but usually I take one of the geldings out first, and then her second. I take her out into the ring and ride her alone, and she's fine, knowing her boys are close by in the barn. But if I take her back to the paddock first, or get her into the barn first, and she's left alone for a few minutes, she freaks. I was hoping getting her by herself for a very short time would help break her of this, but i'm not sure, and worry it's making it worse. any advise on this?
Also, from what I understand, due to her past in racing, she gets very feisty in cross ties. She is a complete angel 99% of the time...til I sadde up. She doesn't care if the tack is on her, but the second I actually put the saddle pad/saddle/girth on, or mess with it...she pins her ears back, kicks her hind legs, and bites at the cross ties. This doesn' bother me so much, because i'm aware shes going to do it, i just worry she's going to kick someone or bite someone walking by, and it does seem like it's worse now, than when i first started riding her.
Any advice on how to handle these two habits?
Well my advice for the separation anxiety is if you don't have snow on the ground is to lunge/groudwork inside of the paddock. Or you could try to take one horse out of the paddock and put him/her inside while you walk around with your TB inside of the paddock. That is what I would have done. Haha
For the second thing--My TB/QH HATES cross ties. He paws and stuff. So what I do is lunge him and do ground work with him. Then after he gets tired I tie him inside the arena and if he paw I just let him do it until he stops for like 30 seconds. Then I untie him and walk him around then repeat. I do this everyday for like 10-15 minutes. Then I just build up to where he is in the cross ties. For with the biting I have another horse who does that! She has had a bad expierence with saddles so before and after I saddle up I take a rope and rub it up and down her barrel- tightening as I go as if it was a cinch. Anytime she pins/kicks/bites I stop what I'm doing and lunge or make her feet move.
This is kind of hard to explain thru text so I dont know if this helps you or not. But good luck!
i'd like to know what she does what you just tie her regularly, not cross tied. does she still stomp and bite? my QH joe gets a bit tempermental when i tighten the girth and would stomp his front foot and turn and try to bite my arm. i use a more direct approach. when he stomped i gave him a smack under in the "arm pit" of the leg he was doin it with and hollered "Quit!". when he tried to bite i'd flick him in the nose and holler the same thing. now when he goes to stomp i just tell him "Quit" and he does. all my horses know this word. under saddle or on the ground. most people dont like this "harsh" approach but it worked for me.
Hmm...I like the idea of working her in the paddock. Of course yes, the paddock is a sheet of ice right now, but once it warms up, i think that's a good idea.
As far as the cross ties...we have lots of horses that get feisty when we put on and tighten their girths. They shake their heads, and nip a little bit. With the TB, it's much more dramatic, and it happends when i'm putting on and adjusting the pad, putting on the saddle, and putting on and tightening the girth. As a current practice, because of the build up energy with the crappy weather i've been having, I do normally lounge first, then take her in the barn and tack up, then ride. I like your idea of the rope as well, or even just taking a saddle and girth into the arena and doing the same thing...putting it on, and when she kicks and bites, pull it off and make her move.
Horselover, I agree with your curiousity of tying her up normally. I dont feel it is an issue with the cross ties, because until the actual tack up, she's totally calm, and is a little jumpy when i tighten the girth one last time in the arena before mounting up. But a change of scenery might change her attitude. And i'm definatly not against swatting at a horse. I'd never hurt them in any way, but a swat on the nose is definatly a tool in my pocket.
Thanks for the help guys!
If she is fine until tacked it sounds like a tack issue not a cross tie issue.
If its got increasingly worse it sounds a bit like a bad fitting saddle that is causing her pain. Has she had her saddle fitted to her?
Let me start by saying that you cannot get much training done on a herd-bound horse until you 'fix' this dependence. Horses have two distinct 'modes' of being. They can be in a 'responsive' mode. This means they are able to listen and focus on you as you interact with them. OR --- They can be in a 'reactive' mode. This means that you will have little or none of his attention and little if any cooperation.
There is more than one way to get a reactive horse to turn back into a responsive one, but, some ways are more effective and better than others in my book:
1) You can beat or bully one until you have its attention, but it is still going to be reactive, at the very least, to you. Not a very good way.
2) You can lunge it or round pen it to the point where it is too tired to react to whatever set it off the first time. Still not a very good way in my book.
3) You can tie the reactive horse up in a safe place until it, the horse, decides to get over it. Like everything else you are smart enough to let a horse teach himself to do, it is by far the most effective. For one thing, it takes little of your time. For another, it actually 'teaches' the horse something positive that carries over into subsequent training / riding sessions. This is something that longeing or round-penning does not do.
Longeing and exercising a horse before riding just make a horse tougher and more full of energy expecting an exercise session before each ride. For me, a 'broke' or trained horse is one that you take to the tack room, it stands respectfully and quietly while you saddle and bridle it and stands quietly while you step on it and ride off. A horse that requires anything more than this to prepare it to ride simply has a HUGE hole in its training. It has literally trained the rider to go through all of these steps that are unnecessary to do with a well trained horse.
I think this particular mare is reactive and so herd-bound she is dangerous and completely out of control. I think she has just gotten spoiled in this process. I have seen many just like her. She wants her 'pasture life' and has learned what she can do that makes a person 'back away' from her and put her away. Remember: "He who moves his feet first --- loses!" She is winning EVERY round here.
Is there a safe place you can tie this horse out away from her friends and everything else? This is the most effective way I know of to handle a herd-bound spoiled horse. I just tie them up until they relax and get over it. I have had it take an hour and I have had it take 3 days.
First of all, you need a good, safe place to tie. I prefer a nylon rope with a big SWIVEL bull snap. I have one hanging down from a large tree limb. It should be about as high off the ground as the horse's withers. IT ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE A GOOD SWIVEL IN IT SO THE HORSE CANNOT TWIST UP THE ROPE AS IT GOES AROUND AND AROUND! If you are in the north where it is cold and covered up with ice and snow, just wait until warmer weather. This horse could get really hot and sweaty and it would be wise to wait for better weather.
I will tie a horse out early in the morning after they have been fed and watered. Then, I just ignore them. If they are still screaming and fussing at noon, I will offer them a drink (most won't take one) and let them stand until evening if they don't settle down. If they are still fussing, I put them up and feed them after they are cool and watered out. The next morning I do the same thing. Like I said, I have had it take three days on some really herd-bound horses.
When a horse finally settles down (and they will ALL finally settle down), I put them up. The next day I tie them out again. Usually they only fuss for a little while on subsequent days. I do not interact with a horse at all while it is learning separation and patience. I offer them a drink at noon and that is all I do with them until I put them up for the night. It may take a while, but, the result is worth it.
This teaches a horse to be comfortable with themselves. It teaches them not to depend on another horse. It teaches them that there is life after separation and they will see their friends again. It allows them to be in a 'responsive mode' so they can be schooled and learning from the moment you halter them and bring them in. The horse that has learned to live comfortably with itself will be more settled and quieter than any horse that is 'worked down'. They learn more and better than any horse that is in a state of anxiety.
One always has to remember that 'horses are creatures of habit'. Whatever routine you do repeatedly with them is what they will expect each and every time you work with them. If you are constantly exercising them to gain control and the upper hand, they will just get more fit and require more and more exercise. You will never turn this horse into a well trained one that can just be saddled and ridden. I am getting old and pretty crippled up with arthritis. I don't have the ability any more to work a horse before I work a horse.
I'm very interested in trying your suggestion, and I have a few questions for you. I think you are absolutely right, she's very unpredictable and very spoiled. She's a perfect angel til she realizes she's alone, or she's being taken away from her friends. I was riding her in the arena with a horse from a neighbor barn, that she probably never met before. When the horse left, she freaked, because she realized she was alone. I hated to dismount, and teach her that throwing a fit gets me off of her, but i didn't want to put myself in danger, so at this point, i figured she wasn't even satisfied with me as a companion, or even just another warm body in the room, and i needed some help. I am in the north, so there is lots of snow and ice right now, and with how the property is set up, i'm not sure I have a good spot to tie her to a tree as you suggested. I do have a nylon rope in my indoor arena along the wall, would that work ok? Do you feel that putting her in a stall would work just as well? and how "alone" should she be? should i keep her out of sight of all other people and horses? or just no direct acknowledgement (eye contact, touching, talking to her). We have two barns, our main barn, and a smaller one by the house where her paddock is. My thought is that I can leave her in the larger barn alone, while all the other horses are outside. I can also put her in her own stall as well, but with her sqealing back and forth with another horse right outside the door, would that have the same affect? I'm not sure if i have a nylon rope halter, i have to dig around. If not, would a normal nylon halter still be safe to use for this?
It sounds like Cherie has used the tying/training method with success.
I just want to mention I would have a couple of reservations about using it myself:
My rescue mare had serious issues when I got her because since she had been a little hard to catch, her owner would go out and catch her hours before she needed her, then tie her up for hours. During one of these episodes of standing tied she was spooked, pulled back and broke her nylon halter, breaking a bone in her nose so now her face is permanently deformed.
She was extremely fearful of being caught when I got her and needed extensive retraining. She was afraid if I caught her she would be tied up for hours.
If you try this method I would be sure to have a halter that will break if a horse panics. Nylon and rope halters can be very destructive to a horse's face.
A friend of mine had a horse break a vertebrae in his neck by pulling back against an immovable object. You can tie a rope to a bike tire inner tube to give a rope some give so it is less likely to hurt your horse. Make sure your horse cannot get a leg caught in it.
If you try to leave your horse tied for a long period of time I would make sure the ground is not slippery so your horse can't fall, and that you can see your horse at all times. I would never leave a horse tied up without me being at least in hearing distance.
I have always been able to work through issues like separation anxiety with slow and progressive retraining. Sometimes quicker methods can work, but just be careful not to damage your horse physically or mentally.
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