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Discussion Starter #1
Two months ago I adopted a 4yr Standardbred gelding; while I have ridden for years on many different types of horses I have never dealt with a horse like him. His only consistancy is being inconsistent. And it's not me please; he's like this with everyone at the barn. I know when you adopt dogs you go through what is deemed a honeymoon period. This is where they are still adjusting, so a lot of behaviours are suppressed until they figure out their place. I am worried that this has past with my horse and that he is nothing like what I thought he was. (Please note I went to see him over the period of one month at least once weekly before I made my decision.) It seems this past month all I have done is trouble shoot; to be fair to him it's very different things I have been asking him to do from anything he's done before but I feel like myself and others just keep making excuses for his behaviour when really there is an underlying problem. Basically my question is whether this going to improve with time or get worse/stay the same. I am not someone who will give up on an animal if it's something that can be worked through but at the same time if this is his real self and he will never be happy doing what i want of him then it is best before I get even more attached to rehome him. This is extremely difficult for me, so please go easy.
 

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Two months ago I adopted a 4yr Standardbred gelding; while I have ridden for years on many different types of horses I have never dealt with a horse like him. His only consistancy is being inconsistent. And it's not me please; he's like this with everyone at the barn. I know when you adopt dogs you go through what is deemed a honeymoon period. This is where they are still adjusting, so a lot of behaviours are suppressed until they figure out their place. I am worried that this has past with my horse and that he is nothing like what I thought he was. (Please note I went to see him over the period of one month at least once weekly before I made my decision.) It seems this past month all I have done is trouble shoot; to be fair to him it's very different things I have been asking him to do from anything he's done before but I feel like myself and others just keep making excuses for his behaviour when really there is an underlying problem. Basically my question is whether this going to improve with time or get worse/stay the same. I am not someone who will give up on an animal if it's something that can be worked through but at the same time if this is his real self and he will never be happy doing what i want of him then it is best before I get even more attached to rehome him. This is extremely difficult for me, so please go easy.
New horse - new owner/rider - new surrounding - new things to learn. You may be pushing him into things he is not ready for or incapable of. I would drop back to what he knows and is comfortable with, then, when he is confident with you and his new home, you can move him into new things. He needs some success and with everything so new to him, he doesn't know what to do.

I've had horses that adapted within days and others that took 6 months.
 

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If he is 4 he is green so regardless of the new surroundings he just hasn't learned anything. You really do not say what the inconsistancy's are so it's hard to know what you are referring to.
 

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Well it's not all new to him though. Being haltered, groomed, led in, all things he's used to and was fine with a month ago. It's just frustrating because there has really been no joy, so far it's just been dealing with problems. For instance I went up to see him yesterday. He's normally very good about standing still to halter and coming in willingly. He has had problems with his ears and I don't doubt they are sore BUT when i noticed he didnt want me slipping it over his ears (would turn his head or take a step away -not run away) i stopped and got him to drop his head and put it on the tie up behind his ears way which he has no problem with. Have been doing it that way for couple of weeks now, never had a problem. Then yesterday he came up to me when i went to get him in the field pet him fine but when i went to put the rope around his neck he cantered away (and he doesnt really canter - stdbrd). Approached him again, same thing. Trotted away throwing his head around, making a big circle around me throwing his head about. The other horses started not letting him come near them at this point, and came into the shelter but wouln't let him in. Then he started acting a bit more bizarre; kicking out (at nothing) and rolling then getting up and kicking. (not colicy don't worry ruled that out)
Another girl came out and brought him out a treat, but did the same thing with her. First I thought he was being playful but then he settled down to the point I got the lead rope around his neck then he walked off trying to drag me - hadn't even tried the halter. Which really makes me think this wasn't playful at all. And the last time I was up i just groomed him and feed him lots of treats (it was a good day). I don't always make him work when he comes in; its a good mix and besides that he seems quite willing to work so far. Do you think this is the real him coming out?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
other examples of the inconsistancy: Perfectly calm and reliable, looks but don't spook inside one day the next day he's jumpy; same place, same time of day, same other horse (who doesnt spook at anything) in the ring. one day will like a certain treat the next day wont take it. won't go over poles, doesnt like over poles, then fine with them the next day then back to being not fine with poles. and there are more examples and hes like this with other people too; its not just me.
 

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He sounds a little insecure and not being accepted by the herd is not helping his selff esteem. Sounds like some confidence building exersises might help. If the ear thing is new he may have a medical issue.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
New horse - new owner/rider - new surrounding - new things to learn. You may be pushing him into things he is not ready for or incapable of.
cantering is the only new thing i have asked him to do -and this is only on the lunge line not undersaddle, plus i dont force him into it i encourage and use lots of praise and treats.
he was ridden before, went over poles before, lunged before. groomed, haltered, led in, stalled. everything he has done before, not a lot but he'd been exposed to them before.
i've worked with several green horses before but never one like this. some are slower to make progress for sure but he constant but inconsistant set backs. and i am working with a good trainer so i am as consistant as i can be. it just seems that one week he has something done and the next its like hes never done it before and i ask him exactly the same way, approach things the same way.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
He sounds a little insecure and not being accepted by the herd is not helping his selff esteem. Sounds like some confidence building exersises might help. If the ear thing is new he may have a medical issue.
actually he has managed to work his way up the pecking order a bit. it was only yesterday when he was acting like a freak they didnt want him around, usually his has a couple of good buddies.
the ear thing is a medical issue; and it is being dealt with appropriately in the mean time i am avoiding his ears his ears because i know they are sore.
he is definitely insecure; what kind of confidence building exercises are you referring too?
 

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It sounds like the poor horse is just as confused as you are. He is very insecure. He has no idea that he is supposed to bring you "joy", he is only acting in the way that his environment has set him up to behave.

First of all, treats as bribes are not a good idea, if catching is the problem, the girl that brought him a treat is not going to make him happy to come willingly, it is only reinforcing the poor behavior. It is very normal for insecure horses to be inconsistant. They experiment with all types of fight and flight behaviors before they will either 1. get a response from the behavior or 2. the need for the defensive behavior is gone. I don't mean to shelter him from things, but when he no longer feels the need to be defensive.

Remember, the most important thing to him is going to be his safety. He is good at being a horse, he is not good at following a human's training program. Put your goals aside for a while and instead get to what he needs, his confidence. Its not about giving him treats, its about being his leader and giving him boundaries and rewards that mean something to him as a herd member. A good scratch on the withers is a great reward. I personally have never witnessed one horse walking up to another horse in the pasture and giving him carrot, yet they stick to one another like glue for the safety and security that the herd offers. You need to offer that same security to him through yourself.

Start with what he has problems with, if you are having any issues with catching, then that is the first thing to solidify. Catching doesn't mean putting a halter on. You can get a halter on a horse without truly catching it, and you can successfully catch a horse without a halter. I'm referring to catching the mind. I would recommend getting a good trainer to help you. Horses don't follow a rule book and there is more to understanding this guy than what can be sent over a forum message.

Horses are a product of their surroundings. Its very easy to blame them for behavior that we don't understand. At his age, its pretty simple to conclude that he isn't solid enough in his basic skills to be able to carry them without assistance. I definately wouldn't say this is just "how he is", this is only "what he has become" and it is very possible to change it to something better, but it can take time.

As far as the time period goes, it varies with the state that the horse is in. I've brought in some emotionally damaged horses that take months to finally settle, yet I've brought some horses in that are "with the program" in no time at all. The amount of time that it takes them simply shows the work that we have to do. A month of time is not long at all for an insecure horse, especially when his environment isn't giving him what he needs to be consistent.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
This is the first time hes every resisted being caught. I could lead him in without even a lead rope before yesterday.
So how do I build up his confidence?
(As far as the treats, I don't bring treats out into the field for several reasons including the one you mentioned.)
 

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Sounds like it's not just one thing but several. His age is a factor, a yound horse many times forgets or choses to forget what was taught just a few days ago. They need constant reinforcement of thier training and manners.
He's in a new place with a new human. He's not sure where he fits or where you fit in his respect arena. Thats another thing that will need constant reinforcement, respect.
I don't think you can put a time limit on when he is going to figure all that out. It very much depends on how much work you are willing to put into him, and how aggresive you can be. It sounds like he needs a firm hand.
If you want to keep working with him and have the time, I say keep at it. If not, can you return him to his previous owner and maybe start with a horse that is a bit older and more broke?

As far as catching, go out every day several times a day. Catch him, put his halter on, then let hiim go. I did this with my hard to catch mare and it worked wonders.
 

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Confidence building, drive him forward to touch different things like a chair, trailer, feed sack and misc. The squeeze game, drive him between you and say a fence and get closer and closer to make his space smaller. Drive him over tarps, boards, sack him out with plastic bags and get to the point were he stands while you flag him with a bag tied to a crop. Lots of backing up and backing though gates or into stall are some things that come to mind.
 

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I have owned my mare since June. She was always very quiet and mellow, markedly lazy at the barn I was at in the past. There were not very many horses or distractions. About a month ago I moved her to a barn with lots of horses, huge turnout, an indoor and tons of riders. While i'd say the transition was almost as daunting on me as her, I did notice a big change in Frida. She had established herself in the herd, made friends, loved her turnout. She had never been in the indoor before either. She began challenging me, I think maybe since everything around her changed, she figured our relationship had too. We tend to be over-coddling when we just get our horses or feel badly for mixing their life around, or at least in the beginning I was, so she would get spoiled as I changed our routine, didn't ask much of her in hopes she would be comforted. It is when I began to take charge, become assertive and stop making excuses for her that I began see her mindset change. I keep saying it was almost as if she was relieved, someone was there to manage the situation and be the boss. Howeve,it is hard to do that sometimes as horse owners. I know I just want to hug and spoil, have her give me all the wam fuzzies we all want right away. I quickly learned that a horse will never do that unless he first respects you. :) Good luck!
 

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Sounds like it's not just one thing but several. His age is a factor, a yound horse many times forgets or choses to forget what was taught just a few days ago. They need constant reinforcement of thier training and manners.

I don't think you can put a time limit on when he is going to figure all that out. It very much depends on how much work you are willing to put into him, and how aggresive you can be. It sounds like he needs a firm hand.
If you want to keep working with him and have the time, I say keep at it.
Yes. He is FOUR. Age is a factor but also some horses are very slow to mature mentally. You've added the stress of a new place, new routine, etc.

Time, time, time and lots of patience. Rinse, lather and repeat.
 

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Did you try Join-up? That would be a good confidence builder.
 

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My horse did this, and just like you, I worked with him for a couple of months before adopting him. He went through a lot of change when I took him (new barn, owner, horses, climate, housing conditions, etc.) and it took him some time to calm down and accept that.

The other thing that is going on, and what I think may be responsible for a lot of the inconsistancy, is that he is testing you. This is usually when people notice that the honeymoon is over- new behaviors, resistance, etc. It is normal for them to test you, they're figuring out where they stand with their new herdmate. Make sure you come out on top, but also that he thinks you're fun and interesting to work with ie. firm and fair leadership. My boy and I have come a long with with a lot of help from people on this forum. Being consistant and firm with him has won me a new best friend who respects my leadership. I'm sure you two will get there. Good luck!
 

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It is when I began to take charge, become assertive and stop making excuses for her that I began see her mindset change. I keep saying it was almost as if she was relieved, someone was there to manage the situation and be the boss.
yes! I completely agree. Also agree with the suggestions of trying confidence building exercises, especially ground work. We did some join up and the Parelli games. Now before this goes south, it is not a Parelli endorsement, just saying having a framework to come up with some exercises that help with confidence and relationship building, that dvd helped me a TON! I know there are some people on here that will be able to give you great ideas on these kinds of things.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
UPDATE:Thanks for everything guys! Apparently the turn out thing was a one time deal (thankfully). The past two days he's even been coming to me when I call. And the haltering is getting better (but I have a feeling it will get worse again when I put the medication in his ears).
I'm sure you are all right; he just needs more time to adjust and while I have the trust I probably need to work on the respect. (I also think he may be a little slow to mature mentally as there are some things he just plain doesn't seem to get.) I have been working on many exercises, like the tarp. He particularly likes to have his shoulder right up next to me, doesn't try to push me around but likes to get real close so i have been working on making him give me my space.
I will keep working with him; I was just starting to get very discouraged as it seemed I was making little improvement yet more and more problems kept coming up.
Anyone have other tips for building up his confidence? Cannot wait to try some of the ground exercises suggested!
 
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