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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well, I really need to stop spending so much time here. But I really need someone to talk to.

Does anyone else feel like raising a horse from birth is an emotional burden? Like everything rises and falls on how well I can get my young horse trained? And what if I fail?

If I go out and buy a horse and he's less that perfect, I can work towards what I want him to be. I can always blame it on his past and work towards his future.

But now, raising my first-ever foal from birth, I feel this emotional weight on my shoulders. Because if I don't succeed in turning him into a good horse he has no future. And that's a lot of weight to carry around, you know?

I want nothing more than to keep him and have him be my trail partner for life. And he's not a horrible youngster. He's not aggressive or anything. But he's not perfect either. And I am afraid that at some point I will have to give up on him and then what? Send him out into an uncertain future? I don't want to give him up and wonder what happened to him. If he ended up at slaughter I couldn't forgive myself. That somehow I "ruined" him and he died because of me. So then what? Euthanize him? I don't know if I could live with that either. Keep him as a pet for the next 30 years (and perhaps give up on riding altogether?) He was supposed to be my young horse, the one I could have and ride for the next 20 years.

I plan on "riding this out" so-to-speak until he is old enough to send to a trainer for saddle breaking. I am prepared to put around 3 months of saddle training on him. I just don't know if I can make it emotionally until then. Like I would like to be able to lead him and not have him get ahead of me, or ignore me, or nip at me. And I would like to be able to pony him out off another horse so he can get some exercise. I CAN do this, but it doesn't make for a relaxing ride. He is always trying to chew on my tack, drags behind, etc. Once when he was about 6 months old he climbed up the back of the horse I was riding. Ponying has caused me stress ever since.

So I dunno. I am going to play the game out to see how it ends up. You never know, he might mature mentally and if I stick at it he might turn into a good horse. But I am so afraid I will fail and have to give him up. There are no easy answers. I just pray I can get him saddle broke. If I can send him to a trainer and get him saddle broke and he doesn't rear, buck, or bolt I think it will be okay. I am a much better rider than I am at ground work.

I worry EVERY DAY about this. It is almost too much of a burden to bear. If I bought a horse, he is what he is. But this horse's future rests with me. It's almost too much responsibility for me emotionally to handle. So many people on here seem to have "perfect" colts. They never challenge them. Never nip, aren't rowdy being led. I feel like a lion tamer always carrying around a whip. I cry almost every day about wondering about his future. :cry:
 

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Take a deep breath and relax. It's definitely an undertaking to take a baby to an adult. Some are easy peasey, others not so much. My colt - willing puppy dog no matter what I ask. My filly - tests her limits with every new thing we do.

I used to get feeling the same way you feel now. The first one that I was responsible for I stressed over big time. I had the pressure of doing it right from myself but that didn't come close to comparing how well I wanted to do for my grandfather who gave me that filly. It was all worth it in the end, that filly will be 23 this year and still graces my pasture :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you MHFoundation Quarters.

I know you guys must get sick of hearing about my my foal. It's not like he's mean. He's not. It's just like he thinks everything is a game or life is one big joke. I think things are life-and-death. He thinks I am there for his entertainment.

I wonder if imprinting him was wrong. He has no fear of me. Unless I have a whip in my hand. Sometimes I wish he would move out of my space just because I am asking him to, not because I am carrying a whip, you know? Sometimes he will, when there is food envolved or the mood strikes him right. But other times he will just look at me when I smooch for him to back. And then I have to smack him with the whip. And then I feel bad. And then he does good for a time or two but the next day we have to start all over again.

I don't know if it's a lack of respect or just normal baby stuff. But he should move out of my space without me having to resort to the whip, right?
 

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Emotional burden? No? Financial burden, responsibility burden, time burden, etc, etc....? Big yes. If something I have chosen to own for recreation, burdens me emotionally, I probably won't own it. Just me though, I am pragmatic.
 

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I don't know if it's a lack of respect or just normal baby stuff. But he should move out of my space without me having to resort to the whip, right?
Probably a bit of both. Yes, he should move out of your space without the whip. Sounds like he's too in your business when he should be minding his :wink: He needs to learn boundaries and you do whatever it takes to keep him out of your space. Decide what your personal bubble is and don't let him in it. Stomp your feet, shake your rope, flag your arms, drive him back and/or away every time he invades. The most important thing is being consistent, when they get away with it once they will try again and generally become more daring about it.
 

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When you do smack him to get him to respect your space, how does he move off? Energetically, with purpose? Or king of slowly, grudgingly? If it's the latter, I would up the pressure until he's really MOVING away like he knows you mean it and he's respecting that. Otherwise he's sort of listening, but still tossing you some baby-pony-tude, and you're never going to get any respect for your more 'polite' requests for him to back off.

Your youngster sounds pretty normal to me. Sorry!
 

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I can relate this very much to raising children; we parents feel so much responsibility to make our kids into valuable members of society and we feel really responsible if they don't turn out just like we fantasize they will. It's part of the whole process.

AS for him moving out of your space without actually smacking him, have you tried smacking your booted foot? So that it makes a surprising noise?
Or smacking your thigh with your palm, good and loud? I am sure he knows you are a pushover now, so you might need to kind of shock him a bit and then create a "new " you who is not quite so nice and intimate and cozy with him.
 

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THR, I totally do understand where you are coming from. I've been there with my now-6 year old. It will get better and until then, it's 2 steps forward and 1 step backward. The good news is that this guy totally trusts you. The bad news is that he's maybe just not quite enough "in awe" of you (as in 'shock and awe'), in terms of respect.

With my guy, I had a lot of trouble with him being in my space. Nothing worked. I couldn't teach him to lunge because I couldn't get him far enough out of my bubble to 'send him'. I sent him to a trainer for his 3 year old training and it took maybe one day for that man to teach him about boundaries. The trainer showed me what he was doing and I was successful in getting him out of my space after that. Today, when he 'forgets' I can point at his chest and he backs up, or in extreme situations, wave my hand in front of his nose. He has felt the toe of my boot in his chest before if he does not move, so he knows I mean it and I don't have to have a whip in my hand. (The end of a lead rope works, too.)

So...I had never worked with a baby before, and I know you've got tons of experience so your case is different. But, just like me, you've got lots of emotion tied up in this colt of yours and you're worried about making sure he turns out right and is a horse that you want to have in your 'family' for the next 30 years. To be pleasant to be around, manners are a must.

Maybe, like me, seeing what someone else can do with him after a manners lesson will give you just the bit of extra training edge that you need with him. In other words, I wish now that I had sent Dallas off for a week or two for the manners and ground work alone. It would have made him much more pleasant to be around for the year or so before we actually sent him to the trainer!

Edited to add: Yes to Tiny's comments!! Said better than I could have!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks guys.

He's pretty desensitized to me, the whip, the end of the lead rope, you name it.

I had a trainer help me for a few hours last year and he told me basically the same thing- that the horse should move off with a purpose and energy. He told me he would get aggressive if I "picked" on him all the time, and it was better to actually smack him hard with the whip than tap at him. Basically he said don't use the whip unless I needed to, but when I did need to use it, make an impression. He said most of his clients didn't have to carry a whip after a couple of weeks. Here I am almost a year later, still carrying a whip. He doesn't yield space hardly at all without it.

I guess part of the problem is I really don't want to whack him and he knows it. So he sort of half-heartedly obeys but doesn't really take me seriously.

When he DOES take me seriously, like say one time I was lunging him and he kept putting his head down to grab at some grass, I got after him with the whip and then he had a tantrum and bolted and got away from me. Very bad thing for him to get away with, because he's done that a few times now. It's like if I correct his behavior he's liable to have a tantrum and then I am out there working with him for a couple of hours instead of a nice short, sweet session like it should be.

So I don't know. I will just keep at it. Try to be firm (yes, I am a big softy) and try to have a more workmanlike attitude with him. Instead of "I am his mom and he is the love of my life" which is kind of how I feel towards him.

At first I never really could see the problem. Other horse people could. He would march right up and put his head through the fence and they would think it was rude and I would think he is just being friendly. But now I realize even being "friendly" is rude behavior on his part.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Ladytrails, your situation sounds exactly like mine.

I don't have ANY young horse experience other than this guy. I've had a handful of other horses, but never anything younger than 11.

I have thought seriously about sending him off. Maybe I should. It's just that money is tight and the money I spend on groundwork could be another month spent on saddle breaking. But I have wondered if it wouldn't be better for my mental health to send him off for a month just for groundwork, and then make sure I get a lesson from the trainer on what they did with him.

It really adds up though. There is a local guy that seems good with groundwork. $550 a month or $80 for a two-hour session.

The saddle-breaking trainer I have picked out is one that my best friend uses. $700 a month. I figure 3 months is kind of the minimum, right? So unfortunately it adds up fast. But maybe having someone touch-up his ground manners would give me some piece of mind. It would help me through the next year until he is old enough to saddle break. He is 17 months old right now. I figure his 3 yr old year is when I would get him saddle broke (he would be more like 2 1/2).

Ladytrails, I'm so glad to hear you still have your guy! I hope to end up like you! :)
 

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Relax, he's a baby. He'll NEVER be perfect, and that's okay. I got my mustang as an untouched yearling & had most of the same thoughts you do in terms of being totally responsible for how she turned out. I got her halter broken, but we struggled with boundaries and personal space (if she spooked she had no qualms about jumping on top of me). She went thru a phase where she would bolt and rip the rope right out of my hands. I made mistakes, but you know what? She's gonna be okay and so will your baby. Bella is almost four, she's greenbroke, and she has wonderful ground manners. The progress was just so gradual, at times it didn't seem like we were making any, but we were. Hang in there!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thank you Bellasmom! I'm glad to hear some success stories. My guy has never run me over, but like you said, if he spooks he'll graze me. He loads/unloads from my friend's horse trailer, but I make sure I am out of the way, because he will almost jump out on top of me.

(Note to self- must keep working on personal space, must keep working on personal space!)

What did you do to solve the bolting problem? My guy has done that a few times. If I am aware he is going to do it, I just hold on and he turns when he hits the end of the rope, because it's a rope halter and it has some bite. The problem is he has caught me off-guard a few times. So now I have to keep that in mind when I lunge him or pony him (he got away a couple of times ponying).
 

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Thanks guys.

He's pretty desensitized to me, the whip, the end of the lead rope, you name it.

I had a trainer help me for a few hours last year and he told me basically the same thing- that the horse should move off with a purpose and energy. He told me he would get aggressive if I "picked" on him all the time, and it was better to actually smack him hard with the whip than tap at him. Basically he said don't use the whip unless I needed to, but when I did need to use it, make an impression. He said most of his clients didn't have to carry a whip after a couple of weeks. Here I am almost a year later, still carrying a whip. He doesn't yield space hardly at all without it.

I guess part of the problem is I really don't want to whack him and he knows it. So he sort of half-heartedly obeys but doesn't really take me seriously.

When he DOES take me seriously, like say one time I was lunging him and he kept putting his head down to grab at some grass, I got after him with the whip and then he had a tantrum and bolted and got away from me. Very bad thing for him to get away with, because he's done that a few times now. It's like if I correct his behavior he's liable to have a tantrum and then I am out there working with him for a couple of hours instead of a nice short, sweet session like it should be.

So I don't know. I will just keep at it. Try to be firm (yes, I am a big softy) and try to have a more workmanlike attitude with him. Instead of "I am his mom and he is the love of my life" which is kind of how I feel towards him.

At first I never really could see the problem. Other horse people could. He would march right up and put his head through the fence and they would think it was rude and I would think he is just being friendly. But now I realize even being "friendly" is rude behavior on his part.
First, I know I am repeating what you've already heard, probably more than once, so feel free to ignore this post. :wink: You want him to be a good horse. For him to be a good horse, he needs to learn respect. Horses that don't know respect and human boundaries are dangerous. Period. Doesn't matter if they're 6 months, 16 months or 16 years.

It is in his (and your) best interest that you woman up and be what he needs you to be, which right now, is a no-nonsense task master that teaches him the rules of being around people and demands that he follow them. Once he EARNS the privilege by being trustworthy and respectful, then he can be allowed a little leeway. But right now you have a horse that will get into your space uninvited, and worse, when spooked. That could get you or someone else seriously injured or killed if he expects you to get out of HIS way while he runs from something scary as opposed to doing everything he can to stay out of yours.

I agree with the trainer you talked to. Make a BIG impression and be willing to do what you have to to get through to him that you're serious and demanding his respect. Throwing a tantrum is par for the course- it's been getting him his way with you forever, why NOT throw a tantrum, which is really just another way of not showing you respect. That's where you come in- if it takes two hours for it to sink in that it's easier to listen in the first place than throw a tantrum or ignore you, then budget that time. Being 'nice' now is not doing him a kindness in the long run. :-(
 

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I didn't see, or if it says I missed it. Is he gelded yet? I can so relate to the 'baby tantrums' and it doesn't make it easier that mine are Saddlebred baby trantrums which means, he's friggin huge. I've raised Arabian colts from baby to maturity and while spoiled, they've always been respectful and nice. Young monster though tests me pretty good sometimes and when he tested me with his feet over my head one day it took some real deep breaths to stand my ground. He hasn't ever bolted and run away but he's nipped, God he was the worst nippy baby I've ever had!, he's bucked, reared and crowded me something fierce. He's getting better since I threw him out with an older stallion and the preggo mares but .........I sing the, "Leaving to be a gelding" song just about every day.

The good news is, he's really improving even though somedays it seems like he's getting worse. It's a kid thing. Sometimes they have to get it wrong enough times to really appreciate being right a couple of times. Poor little guy, I got over being hesitant to 'spank' him quite a few foals ago and he knows exactly what that carrot stick is for. BTW, I'm not a Parelli person but I LOVE LOVE LOVE my carrot stick. It's heavy enough to let them know I mean business when I do and thick enough that even if they push me hard enough to really let them have it, it doesn't raise a welt.

I taught him to lead with a "Be Nice" rope halter and a very heavy lead rope, so the halter bites, the lead rope bites, the carrot stick bites and as he found out when he very deliberately reached over the door and bit my shoulder, I BITE too! Bit him on his widdle pinky nose and my God the look of utter shock and disbelief on his face was priceless. He has not offered to bite me since.

Ponying manners: I take him out with his mother who, while very patient and loving, will kick the living crap right out of him if he gets out of line. I really appreciate her, she doesn't let him dawdle, get too close or any of the stupid colt things he'd love to do. LOL, one day he dug his feet in the ground and decided, "I'm not gonna move, you can't make me move. So THERE!". She promptly took off at a full on Park Trot and he either came along on his four feet or he was going to get dragged behind on his butt and she didn't care. Another day he resisted and she calmly backed up to him, kicked him twice and walked off and he followed like a little gentleman.

He'll be 2 in April 2012, just for fun I've put a baby pic and a pic I took the day I realized how big this guy was going to get.


Here's Harley at 1 month with his mother, Peppermint Patti


Here he is at 1 year old, and I mean he had JUST turned a year about a week before this picture. I'm 5'3" and that pipe rail is even with the top of my head, to give you perspective.
 

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I guess part of the problem is I really don't want to whack him and he knows it. So he sort of half-heartedly obeys but doesn't really take me seriously.

When he DOES take me seriously, like say one time I was lunging him and he kept putting his head down to grab at some grass, I got after him with the whip and then he had a tantrum and bolted and got away from me. Very bad thing for him to get away with, because he's done that a few times now.
I suspect that the bolded part is the root of almost all your problems. You only half-heartedly correct/punish him and so he only half-heartedly obeys. I don't want this to sound harsh or anything but I honestly believe at some point your are going to just have to flat out get mean with him. Often, that does include inflicting a bit of pain on him.

As for the second part, that's one of the reasons why I don't like to lunge a green/young horse out in the open. If they get away, then they are just away. If you've got them contained in a pen, then you can continue to work them even if they do somehow manage to get the lead out of your hand.

Nobody's foal is perfect. Even my guys that seem to get nothing but good words said about them on here have had their times. Both Rafe and Taz have ended their days with welts on their *** or gotten super sweaty from me chasing them around and making them back up out of my space and smacking them hard with a lead rope when they didn't. Taz and I spent about an hour working on going through a gate (back and forth, back and forth, pop the halter on his face because he wants to drag me, pop him in the shoulder because he wants to walk into me, pop him on the *** because he's ignoring me) all because he crowded me and blasted through where I told him to walk. If some people had seen that session, they may have screamed ABUSE, but you know what? He's not tried to walk over the top of me since and he's not afraid of me either.

Your guy is far from hopeless, he just needs direction and you need to be the one to give it to him. Be Firm, Fair, and Consistent.
 

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The biggest struggle with raising a foal is that you work so hard when they're young to be their mommy that by the time you have to be partners, and work together, there's no respect. Love, lots of love, but no respect at all. And it's hard to discipline your baby, but you have to, because that baby is 1000 lbs with lots of muscle, and you're not- unlike a mare, who can whip their foal into place no matter what age because they're the same size.
It's tricky, when you get to this point. It's much harder when you've raised the horse because they feel so completely relaxed around you that when you DO get strict, they get hurt. They don't understand why it changed. But you have to do it....
This is why I can't raise a foal. I have that mommy instinct, haha.

But you have to keep in mind that he's still a baby, and babies act like babies. Just like a child, foals have tantrums, etc., because they're young and learning. don't worry too much!
 

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Ladytrails, your situation sounds exactly like mine.

I don't have ANY young horse experience other than this guy. I've had a handful of other horses, but never anything younger than 11.

I have thought seriously about sending him off. Maybe I should. It's just that money is tight and the money I spend on groundwork could be another month spent on saddle breaking. But I have wondered if it wouldn't be better for my mental health to send him off for a month just for groundwork, and then make sure I get a lesson from the trainer on what they did with him.

It really adds up though. There is a local guy that seems good with groundwork. $550 a month or $80 for a two-hour session.

The saddle-breaking trainer I have picked out is one that my best friend uses. $700 a month. I figure 3 months is kind of the minimum, right? So unfortunately it adds up fast. But maybe having someone touch-up his ground manners would give me some piece of mind. It would help me through the next year until he is old enough to saddle break. He is 17 months old right now. I figure his 3 yr old year is when I would get him saddle broke (he would be more like 2 1/2).

Ladytrails, I'm so glad to hear you still have your guy! I hope to end up like you! :)
THR, we've still got a lot of work to do, but yes, it is worth it to know that he's a 'keeper'.

I wonder if you could take Zane (Zane, right?) to the trainer for a single session. I wish now that I had done that at 2.... but I didn't even think of it. The idea would be for the trainer to work with each of you -- First hour or so, trainer + Zane, second part, you + Zane. If you're like me, you may be thinking you're 'too mean' or that you're asking too much of Zane too soon. The trainer can be a second set of eyes to tell you what you can do to be more effective in gaining Zane's respect, and maybe get that goal met now instead of when he's 3. Which would make the time between 17 months and 3 a LOT more fun for you!

If he has a tantrum with the trainer, you can watch how the trainer handles it, and at the end of 2 hours you'll know what "fair but firm enough to get the job done" looks like, for the trainer to get the result he wants, and you can practice "fair but firm enough" in front of the trainer. For me, feedback on what I was doing was eye opening. Really, it meant that I was inconsistent... I learned that I was asking, then nagging, sometimes not paying enough attention, then disciplining, and that was inconsistent and basically unfair to the horse. I also lunged Dallas in a rope halter with knotted or a rawhide noseband, so that he didn't get in the habit of leaning on the halter (and running off) while being lunged.

With Dallas, my plans are still that he will (hopefully) someday take his dam's place as my horse for guests' kids and my own grandkids. So, I feel like I'm much stricter with him than I am on my other (older) horses....but I think I'm doing the right thing for him in the long run. He was so bad at 2 & 3 that my husband gave me an ultimatum and wanted me to get rid of him. He thought he was going to be unsafe for me...let alone any kids. Today, hubby says he's "exceeding expectations," which I'm taking as a compliment!

So, after growing up a bit, and the trainer helping me out with the "space" and respect issues, Dallas actually is a pleasure to be around. He still can be nosy and rude on occasion, but he's a favorite with company because he loves people. He's more respectful and yet all that energy and playfulness makes him fun to work with. And, no matter how strict I've had to be, he still is the first one to come at a dead run when he sees me in the pasture, so he still loves me. Which, since he's my baby, is important, too. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thanks guys. I just have to get tough. I can get tough, but then I guess I slack off. I need to get tough and stay tough. I wish he feared me just a little! Just enough that he felt he better get out of my way when I ask him to or he will be eaten!

Dreamcatcher Arabians, he was gelded at 5 months. It didn't change anything but I know he would probably be a lot worse by now if I hadn't gotten it done.

Your Saddlebred baby is gorgeous! My vet says Zane will be big. He's almost 14.3 right now at 17 months. I think he will be a big, pretty horse. But all of that means nothing if he doesn't have good manners.

Smrobs and Sharpie, thank you for your honesty.

I think the main thing I would like to accomplish is getting him leading nicely outside the corral/round pen. He does okay inside but then doesn't really feel he has to listen outside.

So do you guys think I need to send him off to a trainer for ground manners? Or is it something I need to accomplish because he needs to respect ME? From a budget standpoint, I would like to do it myself. Then again, here we are at 16/17 months and I am still having issues.

Here is the little booger a couple of days ago. Sometimes I will just take him out and tie him for about an hour to learn patience. And I will groom him and pick his feet.
 

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