Stubborn horse or untrained owner? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 11-02-2015, 04:07 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Elkhart, IN USA
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Stubborn horse or untrained owner?

Hi everyone! Please forgive me if I use the incorrect terms, but "new to horses" is truly what I am. I've been reading a lot on here and it seems like many of the new owners posting here are boarding their horses. Mine live with us. We got a 5 year old gelding and a 3 year old mare, both Tennessee Walkers. Both are broke to ride (in theory). The gelding is spooky like mad, but that's my husband's problem haha. The mare, Raven, is mine.

She came to us thin (about 250 pounds underweight) and with a moderate case of rain rot. We live in northern Indiana, and its been chilly lately. Anyway, we had the vet come out and take a look at them and other than being thin and the rain rot, he said that they're both healthy enough horses. We've been feeding them as he advised and they're gaining weight already. We got them 2 weeks ago Friday, by the way. He also gave me some shampoo to use on her 3 times a week and a rinse to put on her daily.

So here I am trying to make some kind of bond with a horse that I have to pretty much torture daily. She HATES being bathed. I have stopped messing with it for now until I can find a way to get warm water for her. I've been using 1/2 Listerine and 1/2 water to spray her down, usually only once a day because although it aggravates her less, she still doesn't like it. I know that part of the problem is me; establishing leadership with a horse is not something I've ever had to do. And I can't bring myself to be harsh with her when I'm either a) dousing her in ice cold water or b) spraying stuff that stings on her skin.

Outside that issue, when I work with her, I use pressure to make her move away from me (did I say that right)? I'll push on her head until she steps back or push on her neck until she sidesteps. She seems to get that and will be fine. But every time I approach her I have to start over. If I don't, she'll try to drag me around on the lead rope or she jams her head into me. One time after I bathed her, I was walking her back to her pasture and she struck (is that what you call it when they try to kick you with their front leg?) at me.

The guy we bought her from sent me pictures of her. An 11 year old riding her bareback. Another guy standing on his head in the saddle. Vet says, she's a great horse, very gentle. I have to assume that it's something I'm dong wrong or not doing because everyone else rants about what a great horse she is. For me, she is a stubborn spoiled brat lol. And I love her like mad :P Well, she does boss the gelding around, but that's his problem!! Any advice would be appreciated. How do I balance having to make her uncomfortable for her health with trying to teach her to trust me?

Sorry that was so long-winded.
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post #2 of 21 Old 11-02-2015, 04:16 PM
Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: New Brunswick Canada
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When she struck I would have turned around so fast with that lead line and whipped the **** off her. Front ends are dangerous and this will escalate quickly. Please please work with a trainer. You WILL have to be more assertive. When she Rams her head into you aggressively make her yield those front quarters. Make her not think twice about doing it again.
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post #3 of 21 Old 11-02-2015, 04:21 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Elkhart, IN USA
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Please define "make her yield those front quarters."
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post #4 of 21 Old 11-02-2015, 04:22 PM
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Location: Seattle, WA
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yep. you'll need to shock her a bit to make an impact. you don't necessarily have to hurt her but you do need to startle her out of complacency.
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post #5 of 21 Old 11-02-2015, 04:22 PM
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At 3 years of age, she's just a baby. No matter that somebody has been foolish enough to put a young child in the saddle on her or stand on his head on her back (!!!), she's a baby in a strange place (they can adapt to a new place for even a year or so!).

So, regarding bathing, I'd treat her as completely green. How does she react to a slow, sprinkling flow in front of her? On a leg? On front legs? On shoulder? Take small steps, be patient. You don't have to "assert leadership" if you understand it as dominance, but you need to make her comfortable and trusting with what you're doing.

She's probably not stubborn, just genuinely unsure, tense and, as such, testing her surroundings. Show her the rules, but be calm and trustworthy about it. Praise her for tolerating water on her hoof, then on her knees, then higher yet (when she truly reacts to that calmly), ignore her doubts and use approach-retreat techniques to explain it to her. When she shows acceptance - stops even for a second, relaxes, chews, exhales, blinks - take the water away, when she resists - let her move, but let the water follow her as well. As she gets progressively more accepting, you can introduce more elements of a proper bath.

Most of all, don't expect anything of her. She doesn't have to apply to any standards or rules, she's just a horse and she's honestly showing you how she feels - in this case, stressed about water.

As you admit you're inexperienced, I'd really, really suggest you to get at least a couple of lessons in groundwork from a reputable trainer. Nothing compares to a good hands-on assistance, eyes from the ground to help with your timing - you name it! It will benefit both your horses and yourself. And, quite possible, your husband as well.
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post #6 of 21 Old 11-02-2015, 04:26 PM
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Make her "sidestep", away from you. Or aggressively back up ten steps. Or get the heck out of your space. Anything to make the message clear. And saranda, I've put children on my two year old stud, from 1 year, through 9 years old. He's a sweetheart, must be mares LOL! Kidding. Aside I think it depends on the horse, I have a 10 year old gelding who's broke but wouldn't trust him with a 15 year old as he's very reactive. Being young and green isn't an excuse to strike or bully.
ETA: I expect lots from my two year old, he's not new to me mind you, but I expect him to stand when tied, accept whatever I throw on his back, to not bully me, to definitely not kick at me, to lead wherever I go, to trot on a lunge, to square up, to cross water with me, lots of stuff. It can be done, and a young horse can be well behaved.
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post #7 of 21 Old 11-02-2015, 04:36 PM
Green Broke
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Problem is, with OP being new to horses, all of the "I would do this" is not going to work.

She had no clue how to implement these things at all, and that is only going to make this horse worse. Getting after one, is fine and dandy when you have the upper hand. But can get you hurt quickly when you aren't the boss.

OP you really need to try to hook up with someone on the ground, to at least show you what you need to be doing with horses. Even a well broke, completely gentle and safe horse will end up acting like this mare is, if you do not know what you are doing and how to do it.

Horses make me a better person.
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post #8 of 21 Old 11-02-2015, 05:42 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Elkhart, IN USA
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That's kind of been my issue. I know of a trainer I could trust but he's not returning calls. I've left him several voicemails. Another local trainer is currently on the run from law enforcement wanted for felony animal cruelty. I'm very unsure who to trust. I'm going to talk to a friend tomorrow who's been around horses her whole life, shows them etc. I trust her to point me in a good direction. I get what all of you are saying and I appreciate the help. I'm one determined old woman, I'll get this :)
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post #9 of 21 Old 11-02-2015, 06:20 PM
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mrssnikk, you don't necessarily need to find someone who is listed as a "trainer". You need to find a knowledgeable horse person to help. If there are horse clubs or organizations around or a county extension office, you may be able to get references through them. Even the local boarding stables may be able to help you find someone. Right now you need to learn basic stuff and it is really hard to learn it from the written word. You need hands on help.
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post #10 of 21 Old 11-02-2015, 06:45 PM
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Saskatchewan
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I concur that a reliable and knowledgeable horse person right there with you is the most valuable thing for you right now.

Just this little bit

One time after I bathed her, I was walking her back to her pasture and she struck (is that what you call it when they try to kick you with their front leg?) at me.
Now everyone on line has their own view in mind of what happened and why, and will give you their own views on how to correct it.

Now none of us know what sort of strike this was, if it was actually an 'attack' at you. We don't know what you were doing/not doing at the time, it is POSSIBLE that you inadvertently provoked something, doesn't make it acceptable, but it could be understandable.

I hope you can find someone to hold your hand and walk you through some stuff, it can be so useful, being shown in real time the right way to do something, well it can save you hours..and also mean no one getting hurt through a misunderstanding.
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