How to approach unhandled horses?
I donít know exactly where to start Ö Sorry in advance for the length! lol
Our new neighbor has two adorable ponies. One is a grulla mare and the other is a black gelding. He says that they are two years old and "rescued" (don't know what that exactly means in this context!) Anyways, they are both unhandled and very timid of people. It is obvious that the owner has absolutely no horse knowledge at all! He told my mom that he had a hard time getting the "thing" onto their heads (meaning the halters).
I am very afraid that if something doesn't happen or he isn't helped that these horses could be in a lot of trouble! They already need their feet trimmed, but that can't be done until they've had some handling.
The owner asked if we knew of any good trainers and we told him about one right up the road, however I don't know how serious he is and whether or not he will take them there. In a roundabout way he asked my parents if I would be willing to train them. I don't know that I will have the time they need though.
I am also afraid that because he knows so little, he might think I am being mean when I have lounge whip or something( I use it as an extension of my arm, esp. with such pushy horses, I want to make sure that they keep their distance) I was hoping that I might be able to go over there every once in a while and help him a little, show him some things. I am totally comfortable around horses and am not timid. I know how to be firm, and have good feel for when to release pressure/ reward them. However, I have never worked with a horse that was afraid of people!
We don't have a round pen, only his pasture and the small paddocks. I don't want to use the paddocks because I don't want them to feel cornered.
How do I earn their trust without letting them run all over me?
I do NOT want to teach them bad habits. If you think that he should just take them to a trainer, let me know and I will tell him that! I am hoping though for just a few pointers though, so that they are a little more manageable for the owner.
Do I just give treats and pats till I can get the lead rope on? Then work on touching their body with an approach and retreat method while they are on a lead (so that they can't just run away) Please comment on my ideas too. Are they good? bad? Silly? :-) haha
Thanks so much to those who have read, And to those who have suggestions!
How big are the small paddocks? If they are big enough where the horse can get around you on all sides without getting close enough to kick or run over you, then it's plenty big. I honestly have the best luck when I actually get something on them to control their motion a bit. Some of the horse's I mess with have zero interest in learning about people and no matter how long I spend trying to be slow and easy, I couldn't get them haltered. I will usually put them in a decent sized pen or round pen and then rope them. I don't tie them to anything or choke them or anything, I just use the rope around the neck to keep them facing up toward me instead of running away. Once that's done, you can move your way close to them and get them haltered. Once you've got them haltered, just spend a lot of time touching and scratching them. I prefer to avoid patting at first as that can kind of freak them out. Just spend time with them and they will get better by leaps and bounds.
I agree with Smrobs - not that I've handled very many "unhandled" horses. I was amazed at our farrier when he put a halter on Rain the first time. She hadn't been "handled" any to speak of - but she was a friendly, curious filly. We waited way too long to get a halter on her - she was nearly three months old and was rapidly getting larger than I wanted her to be before getting her lead broke. And we HAD to get that done, as her feet were going to need a trim the next time the farrier was out.
I'm not a particularly nice person, and don't tolerate a lot of shenanigans from my horses. I think that's why Rain's dam, Dancer, and I get along so well. She's very disrespectful of anyone who doesn't stand up to her. Needless to say, after whacking Dancer in the chest a few times to make her back up and give me some room, she became a different horse.
Back to Rain, the farrier didn't waste any time or motion getting that halter on. We roped Rain, and that's when he took pity on us and took over. He just worked his way up the rope until he was standing next to Rain and popped that halter on before she knew what was happening. Then he pulled the lariat off of her neck and wrapped it around her butt and back up through the halter. She pitched a fit for all of about 10 seconds, because after that, he didn't give her the opportunity. Any movement out of her was instantly translated into forward movement. Farrier was happy with just a step or two at a time. After making a full circle around the back yard, he decided he was happy with her progress, and took the rope off of her, and attached a piece of rope about a foot long to her halter. She was going to be in the lot right next to the house, and we didn't think we'd need the rope on her for very long - it was just to make it easier to catch her without having to move our hands up too close to her face and spooking her. Daughter and I worked with Rain for about a week before the dimbulb came on and Rain decided following us quietly was a lot easier than fussing. We haven't had any problems with her since then.
Now we can take her halter off and still catch her (though sometimes it's easier than others, but then again, she's only eight months old). She stands for the farrier better than her momma does, and is - next to her momma, the least spooky horse we have.
It takes time and patience to work with "unhandled" horses. Horses that have been handled incorrectly take even longer. Take advantage of those pens! It makes it easier for you to interact with the horses - they can't get away from you. However - be careful with the treats - they can make for a very pushy horse!
I worked with a 2 year old unhanded and very scared mule. I didn't like the owners much because they had weird ways of training. (i.e. they had a training video and it showed to train a mule to lead you drag them behind the tailor. Never saw them do it thank heaven.) But they where my BO, and the only place I knew of to board in college. Rose was kind of given to me to work with as a project to help work off some of my board. I also worked with their baby mules (they where breeders).
Anyway, Rose, They kept her halter on her at all times and I would go in her stall (24x24 I think) when ever I went out and just sat there with treats on the tier they used to feed her in. She would get close to me for the treats on the tier but not close enough to catch. After trying this several times I had to switch tactics because this was getting us no where. So I started going in with a lead rope she never kicked at me but always faced her butt to me. I would start toward her and she would go to her "safe corner" and put her head in it and butt at me. I always stayed at a mostly safe angle while trying not to chase her. if she bolted I made her run around her stall. Then I let her stand again (wherever she chose, which was usually her corner.) After a lot of this she would stand still long enough for me to attach her lead rope.
She always had her halter on and never got turned out because she couldn't be led. The owners where older and couldn't do this work themselves to well and I was young and nearly invincible. lol
Sorry back to training, After attaching the lead rope if she tried to bolt I was able to get her to face me when she stopped and after a lot of "lunging" and the game of stand or run, she started to let me lead her. Eventually I was able to lead her any where in the stall with ease and The owner said If I felt she was ready she wanted Rose moved to another stall for easier feeding as they where loosing borders right and left and rose was separated from the rest of the horses/mules staying there. So one day she was leading all over just perfect, no pushiness, no pulling just following me on a loose lead and so we tried.... about 5 paces out of the gate she bolted and was chased by the owner to the new stall. Because of some other things going on I also left the boarding stable after that, as did many others. I missed rose and talked to someone later on who had stayed another 2-3 months after I left and they told me that poor rose was right back to where she was when I started because no one had touched her at all. I'm not much of a mule person but part of me still wishes I could have purchased her and continued to work with the sweet girl.
Thanks guys! That was really helpful, and inspiring. :)
"It takes time and patience to work with "unhandled" horses. Horses that have been handled incorrectly take even longer."
Yes! I really agree, that's why I really want to help the neighbor with them so that he doesn't make mistakes that will have to be fixed by someone else, especially with so many horses being sent to auction/ slaughter. I want to give them the best chance possible.
Thanks again! I will definitely take advantage of the paddocks.
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