Hello Wendi- I’d begin by recommending a couple of my DVDs- specifically Pole Gentling the Wild Horse and Discover the Horse You Never Knew. The pole gentling will help you connect and find spots and help her let down [her guard] and trust and relax. Discover follows naturally as you’ll see in the Pole Gentling. You’ll have a plan and work thru some of the challenges that frighten her. She needs a strong leader and you’ve already accomplished so much.
Mustangs can be very complicated; far more than domestics so you must go very slow and read the horse well so as to NOT overload. The long way is the short way with the wild ones.
I had to retrain her on picking up her feet for cleaning, her leading needed some refreshing, but she ties and backs good. Is very intelligent, but she can be distrustful too. Sometimes I go out to her paddock to try to bond with her and while I think she likes being scratched behind her ears on her neck, after a few minutes she will pull her head away and wonder off. DON’T WEAR IT OUT. QUIT WHILE IT’S WORKING AND LEAVE HER WANTING MORE. I haven’t found THE spot where she just adores being scratched. A few times I have scratched her chest and she tries to bite. TRY THE NECK, USING FINGERNAIL AND GOING AGAINST THE HAIR, UPWARDS. MOST HORSES LOVE THAT SPOT. When she was at the Vet getting her eyes and ears checked, she attempted to bite the girl holding the lead rope when her ears were being looked at even though she was heavily sedated. JUST BEING PROTECTIVE. MUST GO SLOW AND HELP HER LEARN TO LIKE IT. STAY WHERE SHE LIKES IT AND DRIFT TO THE DISTRUSTFUL AREAS JUST FOR A MOMENT, THEN BACK. SAME WITH THE POLE GENTLING.
She sure knickers sweetly when offered grain or a carrot, but seems aloof, and doesn’t seem to want to let her guard down. Once I pushed her too far in the round pen during lunging, and she came towards me or kicked out in my direction [not her fault as I was spanking, spanking, spanking her with no release].
Twice she has spooked at something while I led her and I was too close to her I guess, she stomped on my foot, bumped into me, and knocked me down.
TEACH HER TO BACK UP WHEN YOU SNAKE THE LEAD ROPE- MAKE SURE SHE CAN BACK WELL BEFORE SNAKING THE LEAD AND QUIT THE MOMENT SHE GETS IT.
If I lunge her now it’s for short sessions on the lunge line, I ask her to whoa and turn towards me. If she is off the lunge line she stops parallel to the fence, might glance at me, but usually she stops, puts her head down as if the ground smells really interesting, or she looks off in some other direction, ignoring me completely. So I try to only use the lunge line so I can instruct her to turn her head towards me when stopping. USE NOISE AND AGITATION TO GET HER ATTENTION- SLAP YOUR LEG, WAVE YOUR HAND, ETC. UNTIL SHE GLANCES AT YOU, THEN STOP AND BACK OFF AND SOFTEN YOUR POSTURE AND EYES.
If I put some grain in a tub for her, walk a few feet away, then come back – she takes that as a threat and turns her back end towards me, daring me to come any closer. WILL SHE EAT FROM THE TUB WHEN YOU STAY? GET A CHAIR AND PUT THE GRAIN AT YOUR FEET OR NEXT TO YOU AND SHE’LL GET IT.
She is now 974 pounds. Her hooves are in good shape and her eye is better. I feel like she is totally out of my league though with all the rehabbing she still needs. She is so unpredictable at times. WHERE ARE YOU? MAYBE WE CAN FIND SOME HELP? FB
It sounds to me like no one has been consistent with this horse. The horse has been roughly handled and probably the only time it was given a release was at the end of the day, not during the work session.
The first thing I would do is take the horse to the round pen with a bucket and a flake of hay. Sit on the bucket, put the flake of hay at my feet and just “be” with the horse. Give it time to come to you on its own, keep your focus on the horses feet or the ground, not looking in the eyes. Even staring could be an act of aggression to this horse. Once it comes up to eat, just sit, don’t touch at first. Talk to it. Trust me, they may not understand your words, but they totally understand your intentions. Learn to gain trust back by being a companion. Give it time, don’t be in a hurry. Look for signs the horse is beginning to enjoy this, look for big breaths, putting it’s head in your hands, just enjoying the time and not being over concerned. Then you can begin rubbing the horse as it eats.
Once the horse enjoys the sessions of eating with you, trusting you won’t ask it to do anything and that you are not a threat with the food, then you can start the process of training, all over again. You can even work on your timing as you sit down on the bucket, the horse comes to get hay, when the head is going down, you just say the words “head down”. Then you can even begin rubbing its face, “bonding”.
Once you get back to training and have the halter on, “bonding” asking for the “head down” should be a piece of cake!
I would suggest starting your retraining with Frank’s dvd’s, “Discover the Horse You Never Knew” and then begin to enjoy the journey!
After you are more comfortable with this horse, I would suggest you find an equine body worker, massage therapist, etc. to come and teach you some techniques to work on this horse. Not knowing what has happened in the past, it could have reared and hit it’s head, been earred, or kicked by other horses (or people) and it probably could use some physical along with mental releases.
Wendi, and A-team,
I agree with Marry and Frank. When the horse puts its head down like you describe, it’s telling you that its a prey animal, and that it sees you as a predator. You describe an animal, as Marry says, that has learned to distrust humans. Your job is to let your horse know that you are a kind human that doesn’t eat horses. As Marry says, be a friend first, be kind, listen to the horse, HELP it through this transitional period in its life. Be patient with yourself, and the horse. At this point, you can’t go too slow. You can’t be too soft. You can’t be too kind. And most importantly, exude love and caring for your horse. It must come from inside before you can offer it via your touch.
And be careful!
I have been contacted by many mustang owners. I know that they hate to hear what I have to say. I am speaking from experience. I was lucky to get out of my experiences in one piece.
I believe that the adoption of mustangs to anyone, other than the MOST highly experienced horse people, is irresponsible and bordering on criminal. These are feral animals, and will always be that. My advice is to get rid of this mustang, as quickly as possible, and not to anyone who isn’t highly experienced.
Sorry, but I don’t like seeing people, with a good heart, get hurt, or even killed!
Mary is giving you good advice, and I would add a couple of things.
First of all what do you want to do with Feather? Do you want to ride her, and/or have more babies that are likely to wind up in the same spot she is? Depending on your answers to these questions the first thing I would do is to have a vet determine whether she is pregnant. If she is, then you need to ask yourself whether you can GUARANTEE that you will be able to take care of the foal throughout its life, either yourself, or by placing it in a home where you agree to take it back if the people don’t want it. If you can’t answer yes to the last question and she is pregnant, I would abort the fetus. There are 170,000 unwanted horses a year in this country and we don’t need even one more.
Once you answer the questions I have posed to you above, you can then decide how to proceed with Feather. If you just want her to be a pasture pal then all you need to do is to see that she is respectful enough that you , or someone else doesn’t get hurt and that she is safe for a vet to treat and an farrier to trim her hooves. If you want her to be a safe usable riding horse, that’s more complicated.
There are two ways to train horses, in my opinion, you can use respect, communication and trust; or fear, intimidation and mechanical devices. If you chose to use the latter you have come to the wrong place. Never giving the horse a release when she has done the right thing is just plain cruel. If you didn’t know any better, then you get a pass for what is in the past, but not for the future.
In my view “Natural Horsemanship” is simply learning to communicate with horses in a language they already understand and teaching them as best we can by mimicking how other horses would react to specific unwanted behaviors. Remember, horses never do anything wrong, they do what works for them. If a horse has a behavior that works for them they will continue to do that until it no longer works. The way they find out it no longer works is discomfort. I’m not talking about beating horses. Creating discomfort ranges from creating pressure with your eyes to physical discomfort. To fully understand this, is it important to know the following:
How do other horses create discomfort? Let’s go up the scale (or the “V” , as Frank calls it).
• They look at the offending horse in the eye
• They then make their eyes hard
• They then lay their ears back and look at the offending horse
• They lift their nose telling the other horse to move away
• They bare their teeth
• They bite the other horse
• They whirl around and kick the other horse
And when one of these works, they stop! That’s the basis of what Frank calls “V Thinking”. When you get compliance you release the pressure, or stop the discomfort, as quick as your reaction time enables you!
Horses do not say, “I’m just going to love you unconditionally until you stop doing the behavior I don’t want”. Nor do they go find a rope or a stick to hit the other horse with. Sometimes we need to use a training stick to get across the message that horses use their teeth, or a kick for.
Let me repeat this for you: YOU CAN NOT LOVE YOUR HORSE INTO GOOD BEHAVIOR!! And you sure can’t beat good behavior into a horse, only fear.
So, I have gone on and on and given you some advice you might not have wanted to hear, I’m going to give you a few more of my notions and then I’ll quit.
The most important thing to know about training horses, and again, this is only my opinion is:
• Horses are “into pressure” animals
• We teach them to yield to pressure.
• To me a yield is moving away from 4 oz. or less, pressure.
• We teach them with pressure and release. We release when we get the requested response, (compliance).
• THE HORSE LEARNS FROM THE RELEASE, NOT THE PRESSURE. This is the most important thing to know about teaching horses.
The second most important thing is: Horses become submissive when you control the movement, speed and direction of their feet. That’s how other horses make them submissive, by moving their feet.
So, with all this background, if you look below I will give you my notions about your specific comments.
Finally, the BEST advice I can give, is to learn Frank’s system by attending a week long clinic. There, you will get “how to” of all I have written.
I had to retrain her on picking up her feet for cleaning, her leading needed some refreshing, but she ties and backs good. Is very intelligent, but she can be distrustful too. Sometimes I go out to her paddock to try to bond with her and while I think she likes being scratched behind her ears on her neck, after a few minutes she will pull her head away and wonder off. Maybe you are spending too long on one spot. If I have an itch on my back the first scratch feels great but is gets old pretty fast. I haven’t found THE spot where she just adores being scratched. A few times I have scratched her chest and she tries to bite. Look for the reason why, perhaps her chest it sore, she has insect bites or something else is bothering her. If you can’t find anything use the desensitizing steps in Franks video Discover The Horse You Never Knew. When she was at the Vet getting her eyes and ears checked, she attempted to bite the girl holding the lead rope when her ears were being looked at even though she was heavily sedated. Probably worked for her in the past. I would also check for an ear infection or mites.
She sure knickers sweetly when offered grain or a carrot, but seems aloof, and doesn’t seem to want to let her guard down. Once I pushed her too far in the round pen during lunging, and she came towards me or kicked out in my direction [not her fault as I was spanking, spanking, spanking her with no release]. Then she is entitled to act out her frustration. Next time only go far enough to get what you want and reward for “the smallest move or the slightest try”.
Twice she has spooked at something while I led her and I was too close to her I guess, she stomped on my foot, bumped into me, and knocked me down. It’s ok for her to spook, it’s not ok for her to get into your space and knock you down. First you need to desensitize her as much as possible, see Frank’s video, then keep her out of your space while you are leading her. Were you holding her close to the halter. If so, she couldn’t get away without running you over.
If I lunge her now it’s for short sessions on the lunge line, I ask her to whoa and turn towards me. If she is off the lunge line she stops parallel to the fence, might glance at me, but usually she stops, puts her head down as if the ground smells really interesting, or she looks off in some other direction, ignoring me completely. So I try to only use the lunge line so I can instruct her to turn her head towards me when stopping. If she doesn’t face up, make her move, and change her direction, be sure to give her a release when she does the right thing. Don’t wait for her to fully face us, reward her with a release if she just tips her head toward you, or partially faces up.
If I put some grain in a tub for her, walk a few feet away, then come back – she takes that as a threat and turns her back end towards me, daring me to come any closer. Take a lead rope, staying out of the kick zone (two lengths of her hind leg) and toss the rope against her butt create some discomfort when she makes that move and reward her when she turns toward you. If I were you, I would put the grain down and wait for her to walk up to get it. If she won’t walk up, leave with the grain. No socialization, no grain.
She is now 974 pounds. Her hooves are in good shape and her eye is better. I feel like she is totally out of my league though with all the rehabbing she still needs. She is so unpredictable at times. Bring her to the clinic Frank and I do in Arizona in November, or get a competent trainer to help you. I didn’t see where you live so I don’t think we can make a specific recommendation.
If you’d like to become more proficient in learning the language of horses, I’d suggest this little book by Cherry Hill, How To Think Like A Horse. Among many other things, it contains graphic illustrations of “reading horses”, and how to “become part horse.”
We become less frustrated and gain more empathy when we see why a horse does certain things that we consider misbehavior. If we understand a horse from his perspective, we can get a good relationship going and begin training. This book could help, along with Frank’s “Discover the Horse” DVD.
Best wishes for a good connection,
Marry and Jim have said it all, it depends a lot on how dedicated you are to this project.
I have taken up to 18 moths to solve a really troubled horse’s fears so you need to be sure you can spare lots of time, don’t be afraid of making some mistakes, we all do.
Your mare sounds really troubled, personally I would forget training until you have bonding, take and give and intimacy finished.
Ride safely & have fun
As you can see, we have a very dedicated team in order to assist those who come to us for assistance in thier challenges and concerns regarding thier equine partners.
Marry and Jim Rea have given some excellent advice and Becky has offered a very good read for you to learn in more depth on how to communicate with a horse using “their” language and not the “human” language.
This is the most challenging, as humans we can have the tendancy of using our behavioural patterns to ask for aids from our equine partners, finding the only thing that comes out of it is frustration and confusion. This is of no fault to the human. Its simply from lack of education and/or knowledge on how the horse functions.
Now; we, as humans must be humbled enough to recognize our skill level. When working with a rescue that has a blank past for the most part, it is essential that you or someone who is skilled with “reading” a horse and understanding thier language in order to see what they are telling you. If you can “listen” they will tell you thier history.
I never ask a human that has not been experienced to work with a possible abused or neglected horse due to the risk factors involved. Especially in the case where there might be a possibility of pregnancy involved as there would also be a hormonal factor playing a role as well. With these two combinations this would put a “green” handler (for abused horses) in serious arms ways if the horse was to act in an aggressive behaviour AFTER giving signs it is about to react and the handler “human” did not see the signs coming.
Your horse is still able to be re-habbed. There are many qualified trainers that work using NH to guide both you and your horse through the necessary steps to build a strong/safe bond. Don’t give up hope and don’t give up on her. Research trainers; visit them and what they do. Ask them what their experience is working with abusive and or neglected horses. How do they step them through this? etc.
Perhaps one of our team trainers is at a location near you? That would be my suggestion for you so you can feel confident that both you and your horse are shown the proper steps to move forward with safety being key!
In the meantime; GIVE!!!! keeping “safety” in mind at all times (due to her being unpredictable) do not put yourself in a position where she is capable of striking. This will give your energy “fear” and this will translate to her. Horses will follow suit and this is not what you wish for. Allow yourself to be “with her” however perhaps there is a fence line, and or stall gate etc between you. Perhaps, it is within the confines of your roundpen with a gentling pole and or a wand (that can be purchased through Frank’s site) with a bag at the end; allowing you to create “distance” between you and her if space is required without risking having to use your body as pressure to move her out! Being sure you have an “exit” that is easy to access if need be.
I, and on behalf of our team, we wish you safety and success. Be proud that you are seeking out what is best for her and understanding your own strengths and skillsets and seeking professional help. Your horse will be a better horse for it and you will grow in your horsemanship skills.
I certainly concur, great advise from the A team and would like to add my two cents Wendi. It would also be very beneficial to find out if possible what went on with this horse before you rescued Feather. I say this because it can help evaluate what area you need to address first. As an example I just recently worked with an off track TB mare that was rescued from the meat market. Well this horse had all kinds of head issues and trust issues and would pin her ears back if you came near her in her stall. We were able to trace her steps thru her original owner and found out thru various connections that the people who bought her from the original owner tried to make a dressage horse out of her by using tie downs and also restricted her lateral movement. So you can see what kind of problems can be created by bad ownership. Using a lot of patience and bonding I was able to quickly earn her trust and with the use of massage I was able to get her hindquarters back up under her and create softness in her shoulders. I continued this approach for a few weeks and just let the horse graze day and night and just be a horse and as Mary said, just be with Feather and if your approach is right she will eventually join up with you. If you feel this horse is more than you can handle safely then you need to ask one of our instructors that is close to you for help.
“Bond To Ride”