Mr Sensitive - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 03-09-2020, 11:47 PM Thread Starter
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Mr Sensitive

So recently I've been working with Teddy, a TWH gelding my grandma has. She hasn't had a ton of time for him recently (family tragedy, family members with cancer, ect) and he's 5 so he needs somebody just to ride him really. She also hurt her tailbone falling off the pony so till she's better I'm on Teddy duty. He's a fun little horse, but he's extremely sensitive.

A bit of background on his story and personality:

He's an interesting character. He likes kids but gets nervous around older people. Two owners before us, he was being ridden by a little kid as a Hunter-Jumper horse . For obvious reasons he was sold to some very nice people I know personally, who in turn sold him to us (they just didn't have the space nor the time). We've taken him on several trail rides and had a lot of fun with him.

He's just a bit spooky, especially when he's alone. That's his only vice. I think that him being spooky, his tendency to be buddy sour, and his sensitiveness to everything all ties in somewhere, I'm just trying to figure out what's missing. Does he not trust us? What's making him so twitchy about things? I'm beginning to wonder if he wasn't handled roughly in the past.

I doubt it's just him being mean. He is bossy to the other horses but if you so much as holler at him he stops. You can yell "TEDDY" from the house and if he's bothering another horse he'll quit. Stop right there and look at you.

There's honestly nothing "wrong" with this horse except for the fact he's nervous about...everything. It's better if he's with another horse, but not always. Just today, I was riding bareback and a kid I was teaching was riding my old horse. Old guy was being clumsy and decided he was headed for the barn and jostled past me. I waved my ball cap at him and Teddy lost his marbles. First he spooked, which is understandable, but then he bucked and sent me tumbling into a pile of nettles and horse poop, then took off for the barn.

I get it that he spooked- I wasn't really mad at that. I was a bit irritated that he then decided to buck me off. In his defense, he hadn't been ridden for a couple of weeks and was only ridden intermittently before that, so he was kind of fresh. But of all the things to spook at- my hat? The bucks weren't horribly bucks either...if I had been in a saddle I may not have come off. He's never bronco bucked. I've been thoroughly bucked off before and know what if feels like- that wasn't it.

I guess my question is really how to desensitize him to things and get him comfortable around us. He keeps his distance if you walk around in the pasture. I generally just leave him. His pasture, his space, let him have that. Thing is, the kids, even the ones who have ridden him, go up to him and love all over him no problem. He'll come up to the fence and let them pet him but as soon as a Big Person comes he walks off.

To be entirely honest the best thing for him would probably be to have one person out there with him a lot. Not only to ride him, but to groom him and love on him and just hang out around him. However I'm only out there once- maybe twice a week. He's handled almost daily at feeding time but not ridden or thoroughly groomed every day.

I've never met a horse this sensitive. You can ride him in a halter. I think he actually works better in a sidepull than a bit anyhow, I'll probably switch him to that. That's what I rode him in today. He responds to the gentlest leg pressure. He can be a bit forward but never the impossible to stop forward. Just "I wanna gooo!".

But, he's also sensitive about everything else. If you took a crop to that horse he would lose his Jesus. Even when I've corrected him with a harder nudge with my leg than usual he'd jerk like I'd hit him or something. If he's on the ground and you wave your hands at him he'll wheel around and move away from you pretty quickly. About the speed of a fast trot- except it's not a trot, because he's a walker . The other horses (and the donkey) are at the point where you can swat flies off them with a fly swatter. Teddy not so much. He would not be happy about that at all.

I don't think the traditional "sacking out" would work well with this horse. Or with any horse for that matter, but especially this one. I'm just not sure how to get him to trust me and know that me swinging my hat around won't hurt him.

I really do wonder if he was treated roughly before. His actions are similar to one of Boss's horses who was treated roughly and is still headshy because of it. He acts a lot like Teddy does, except that Boss's horse is...friendlier. It's a lot easier to tell what's going on in his head, if that makes sense. Teddy is very guarded. Like he's worried you might suddenly do something scary.

He's not bad, we just need to work on a couple things. He's young. He's still somewhat a blank slate and I want his experiences with us to be good. I'm just not quite sure how to get him to ease up around us.

No matter how much you think you know about horses, there will always be one that'll come along and teach you something new.
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post #2 of 11 Old 03-10-2020, 02:45 AM
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I'd put him on a leadline, and take him for walks. Have him accompany you while you do chores. Don't slow down or 'sneak' around him at all. your activity will be near him, but not AT him. he will just be accompanying you, as you pick pastures, as you walk around pretending to be interested in things. AS you shoo other horses off, etc. use the line to dis-allow him to totally run off but give him enough to move around a bit and become comfortable on his own. Just ignore his reactions for a bit, allowing him to calm himself, but have him nearby you doing stuff that is NOT directed at him.


He will become a lovely horse, in time.
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post #3 of 11 Old 03-10-2020, 03:52 AM
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Hi,

I'd first consider adding some extra Mg to his ration, and look carefully at his diet & what you might change for the better. Overly 'spooky' or 'sensitive' can indeed be diet/nutrition related.

Was he always like this? Behaved the same for your grandma, or is it only recent/with you?

Then I'd start at the basics with him, and if he's already 'well seasoned' in being 'buddy sour', I'd ensure I worked with him only when he had a buddy nearby. For now at least. Reduce any 'difficult' situations/things & get good there first.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChieTheRider View Post
I waved my ball cap at him and Teddy lost his marbles. ... I was a bit irritated that he then decided to buck me off.
I would have been irritated with *myself* about that, that I'd been silly enough to do that on a horse who is known for his sensitivity & spookiness already. He didn't 'decide' to buck, he *reacted instictively*.

Quote:
I guess my question is really how to desensitize him to things and get him comfortable around us. He keeps his distance if you walk around in the pasture. I generally just leave him. His pasture, his space, let him have that. Thing is, the kids, even the ones who have ridden him, go up to him and love all over him no problem. He'll come up to the fence and let them pet him but as soon as a Big Person comes he walks off.
Sounds like he's nervous & untrusting of big persons. I'd make a point of getting him to be friendly in his paddock. Teach him that you're a nice, trustworthy person to be around. Use food treats, or if he has any, favourite spots for a scratch, to help him learn you're worthwhile to be near.

Quote:
I don't think the traditional "sacking out" would work well with this horse. Or with any horse for that matter, but especially this one.
Agreed. I'd use 'approach & retreat' - the real, gentle, slow deal. Not what CA calls it for eg, which is essentially 'sacking out'. I tried to explain the diff to Joel in the latest CA thread, which may be helpful for you to understand.
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post #4 of 11 Old 03-10-2020, 02:48 PM Thread Starter
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I know of a couple of mag supplements I could get and I'll talk to my grandma about them (we generally agree on what the horses need so it shouldn't be an issue). I'll also see if she has the time to let him follow her around when doing chores. I'll probably do that next time I go over, just halter him and lead him around and give him treats.

I've forgiven him for dumping me, I was mad at the time because I landed in a pile of nettles! I'm a bit sore today but to be honest it was my fault I came off, as it has been with pretty much every time I've had a spill.

I'll have to get some pictures of him and his accomplishments. Maybe we'll be able to walk under a tarp one day. For now, it's hats, saddle pads, and yellow rain coats.
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post #5 of 11 Old 03-16-2020, 07:29 PM Thread Starter
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My grandma worked with Teddy a bit this morning. Not riding him, just brushing him and cleaning him up a bit. He likes to get down in the mud. I didn't do a lesson today because the mom cancelled. Probably because of everyone freaking out about the virus. I took Teddy bareback down to the pond and we swam around a little. I gave him treats for being such a good boy. He was still really twitchy but I think it was because I was nervous. For some reason I got thinking about riding and going swimming and it got my adrenaline going.

I should probably cut down on the caffeine, apparently I'm sensitive too.

No matter how much you think you know about horses, there will always be one that'll come along and teach you something new.
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post #6 of 11 Old 03-16-2020, 07:59 PM
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While addressing diet issues, adding Mg, and working on helping him gain life experience is worth doing, some horses are just more sensitive than others. And while you can improve their reactions, you may not be able to eliminate them.

If I waved a hat as you described near my gelding Phin (whom I have had for many years now) even on the ground, he would immediately do his best imitation of a bug-eyed giraffe. If you did the same, he would be about 50 yards away in the blink of an eye. It's taken me years of working with him to be satisfied with the bug-eyed giraffe.

You may want to reconsider riding Teddy bareback until you get to know one another better. Not only is it no fun to land in nettles, you also don't want to accidentally reinforce that behavior.


There is no joy equal to that found on the back of a horse.
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post #7 of 11 Old 03-16-2020, 11:36 PM Thread Starter
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Is there any reason other than the risk of coming off that I shouldn't ride bareback? Just wondering- I'll do whatever's best for him but I didn't really think about the cons of riding him without a saddle.

No matter how much you think you know about horses, there will always be one that'll come along and teach you something new.
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post #8 of 11 Old 03-17-2020, 06:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChieTheRider View Post
Is there any reason other than the risk of coming off that I shouldn't ride bareback? Just wondering- I'll do whatever's best for him but I didn't really think about the cons of riding him without a saddle.
As someone who has trail ridden bareback my entire life, I will say no. BUT your balance has to be there. You have to be able to ride out spooks, dip & spins, and minor bucks:)

And you have to be a good enough rider to “not ride the horse’s head” - in other words, don’t use the reins to balance yourself:)

Agree to try magnesium. There are different kinds.

I do not recommend Epsom salts. Others might but I am against it:)

Magnesium oxide is most common and not expensive. “Remission” is easy to come by.

Magnesium malate is expensive and has to be ordered from Performance Equine Nutrition in California. It was the only thing that worked on my nervous TWH.

Diet is also crucial with these nervous horses. My TWH is also soy and grain sensitive. Soy is used as the protein source in 99% of horse feeds and ration balancers.

If your grandma feeds anything in a bag from the feed store, I would look for a ration balancer that is both soy and grain-free to see if that helps. The difference it made in my horse was remarkable:)

P.S. Great news that your grandma is up & moving, and able to get back on a horse! Hugs to her from someone old enough to also be a grandma
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post #9 of 11 Old 03-17-2020, 04:16 PM
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I agree with exactly what you said in your post- spend time with him, groom him, and love on him.

I have a 21-year-old Quarter horse with kind of the same issue. I got him 2 years ago and he has had, that we know of, 2 homes previously (one of which being abusive).

It comes with time, carefulness, and patience. Do the things you suggested to yourself- you sort of answered part of your own question haha!

I can't help on the spooky side of things much, but I'd get a vet out and see if he's got any issues. Always a good idea (but you probably have done that already and I'm sure you already know that).
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post #10 of 11 Old 03-19-2020, 07:14 PM Thread Starter
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I didn't ride Teddy today because I wanted to spend a little time on JayR, but he seemed a bit more friendly towards me than usual. He probably remembered all the cookies I gave him Monday. He didn't take a couple steps back like he usually does when you approach him. He was still cautious, but not really "scared". I petted him and gave him a treat and loved on him a bit, then I took JayR swimming in the pond.

Teddy did seem a little off in his front leg though, and that may be because he's been overreaching a little lately. It might just be my imagination since I only noticed it when he stepped up to come in the barn then go in his stall. I hope it's nothing I have to call the vet about, he may have just bruised himself a bit.
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No matter how much you think you know about horses, there will always be one that'll come along and teach you something new.
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