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Hi,
i'm working with a 3 year old i brought home 7 months ago who was going to the doggers if he didnt find a home. so nothing is known about his background except he came from an overstocked breeder who got rid of a truckload of horses. all that was said is 'the lady was going to break him in but.. decided not to'.
he was absolutely terrified out of his mind of people and could not be touched. i slowly worked to gain his trust (experienced horse person but first time training a horse from scratch) and he has become very trainable his round yard work is coming along all very positively (free lunge, back up, disengaging quarters, giving to pressure, etc). It took 7 months to get to this stage with me. And even so, i was standing with him in the paddock today and reached out to touch his belly and he snorted spun around and bolted. very unpredictable. I have done a tonne of desensitizing with him, with a lunge whip, bag on stick, tarp, loud can on stick, he has done well with this work.
He is also still terrified of anyone but me, even if they are approaching from 10 feet away. he snorts like mad, gets crazy tense, and he wants to bolt. i couldnt get the vet to him if i wanted too, and he is still learning to trust the trimmer and i havent been able to get his feet trimmed (they are not in a bad state). he has been gelded had to use a tranquilizer paste from the vet before he came out. I've tried using a stranger as a training tool to get him used to others, he would settle eventually to a degree but then be scared the next time he saw them.
Im just wondering if anyone experienced in this field can tell me why he could be like this and what i can do to help him. Can a horse naturally be this afraid/anxious or is it usually human induced? As my assumption had been he hadn't been touched for 3 years but maybe the original owner had tried to break him and it had gone badly.
any opinions appreciated.
 

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I suspect the original owner had tried & failed badly with him, rather than he's just naturally a scaredy cat. *Not that that means he was 'abused' necessarily... May be jjust that she was inexperiennnced, did some stuff badly & that being his first experience with people set a terrible ball rolling.

I'd absolutely use stranngers as 'traininng tools' but you nneed to do so frequently. In a nnon confronntational, non eventful way. Use lots of positive reinforcemennt - rewards. More frequent the better, to replace his bad associations with good ones.

Extra magnnesium innn his diet is likely something he could benefit from, and something that may well help his reactivity too. In situations as with strangers, you might consider 'rescue remedy' or even a mild sedative like Ace or such, to help him cope with early experiences.
 

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Oh annd be careful, with your 'desensitising' that he is *truly* relaxed about stuff. It's easy to just cause a horse to 'shut down' if they're fearful & you aren't fully aware of their bodylanguage - which can be very 'quiet' with some horses - Eg. the look in his eye, his breathing...
 

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Some horses are just that way. It doesn't necessarily mean they have had anything done to them to make them that way.

We bred a TB colt for jump racing and he was neurotically frightened of his own shadow! I know for a fact that he had never been frightened by anyone or anything, it was the way he was.

I have had a few come in for reading, all were TBs from the sales ring in Ireland. One was so bad that he would hyper ventilate when you entered his stable. I was the only one to handle him for the first five or six weeks. He was stabled during this time and I spent a lot of time with him. I would take him out for walks so he could graze and it was at least ten days before he was relaxed enough to do so.

What I did find with him was I had to be very firm but fair not allowing him to buck because he had the saddle on for the umpteenth time.

I then started to have other people come into henstable with me. At first he was hyper tense but then learned it was nothing bad. I did take longer to get him riding than the others in the consignment but he was fine in the end.

When he went to the race trainer he started with his hyper ventilating again until he got use to the routine.
 

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You're doing all the right stuff, he just needs time and a consistent routine. One of my horses is a late capture (10 yrs old) Mustang who knew nothing of the civilized world other than a helicopter a transport truck and a holding pen. It probably wasn't until our fourth year together that he finally learned some emotional self control. But before that point, I had to be vigilant about managing his emotions for him. Otherwise he would panic dangerously.

Be careful how you do your desensitizing work. The moment he approaches "critical mass" in his anxiety, you've got to stop. Most horses can be pushed longer and they will learn to tolerate the bag/tarp, etc. But overly sensitive horses like yours have to learn trust first. So challenge him with a scary, but before he gets too wound up you have to play the hero and make the bad thing go away.

It may sound like you're teaching him that if he acts up, you will stop - but this isn't your average horse. You have to challenge him then soothe him. When he begins to trust you, your challenge sessions can go longer.
Lesson 1: He's got to know that in every interaction with you, you aren't going to let him get hurt. Until he experiences this concept in every aspect of his new daily life, nothing else productive can occur. It takes as much time as he needs.
In the end you'll have a very special bond with an amazing life long horse. Good luck!
 

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Hi - "Round pen training" is the first thing you need to do with a horse that you're starting (and the horse you describe could certainly benefit from the work done there). It'll certainly docile the horse to the point where it can then be trained to be touched, etc. If you have access to a proper round pen, this would be the work I'd suggest (as a pro trainer myself).

Best of luck with your horse!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thank you everyone for the great input. It's encouraging to know there are others who have experienced this with a horse. Going to take these tips on board and a calming supplement is a good idea too, I will give that a try might help him a bit. He is a lovely little Paint I'm looking forward to patiently persisting and seeing him come good!:)
 

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Hi - "Round pen training" is the first thing you need to do with a horse that you're starting
NNot saying it's necessarily a bad idea at all, but it's certainly not something you NEED to do - it's just something that has become popular in last decade or 2. If you aren't experienced in 'Joinnnn Up' type exercises, **or you don't know how to do it in a non-confrontationnnnal way, (sorry, NN problem...), then I'd go so far as to say you need NNNOT to do it - unless you can find someonne good to teach you hannnnds on.
 
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