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1600 lb draft cross terrified of 5 lb cat, UPDATE - Eyes normal, healthy

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  • 1600 lb draft cross terrified of 5 lb cat, UPDATE - Eyes normal, healthy

    My 6 year old draft cross has started her dressage training ( started riding her when she was 5 yrs). My arena has a raised deck attached for spectators and this is where the 5 lb Siamese cat likes to hang out. My mare has a thing about cats - terrified of them. The barn cats walk through the barn - you would think that a Lion just came in if you watch how the mare re-acts! Anyhow, we are riding in the arena and because she is young, I want to do 20m circles, not 10m since smaller circles are require more strength and whatnot and she is not really there yet.

    But since cat is hanging out on the deck, there is no way the mare will go near that side of the arena. I keep a fiirm outside rein with my inside leg on to push her to outside rein but she cranks her head to the outside anyway to stare at the threatening cat. Once past the cat, she is light and round. Come around to that side of the circle, she leans on the bit and is counter bent, shoulder leaning to the inside. I have also tried to tickle the inside rein to get her head back to the inside and she responds a little as we go past the cat but not much. Really leans on the inside shoulder when we have to go past the cat. This is very annoying in that she is so nice, light and round when no cat present. She is great at listening to my seat when nothing to distract. When cat on deck, she ignores my seat as well.

    So tonight, while the cat was watching, we did 15m circles so that I could get some bend on the 'cat side' of the arena. She had to work harder but still fixated on the cat. I need training suggestions for the looky, spooky horse. Any ideas on training techniques when the 'chicken' horse wants to counter bend to stare at and not listen when going by the scary 5 lb creature?
    Last edited by kbbarn; Aug. 26, 2009, 04:11 PM. Reason: update on eyes
    My Blog ( for me and my OTTBs)-ableequine.webbly.com

  • #2
    I have had some success doing small figure 8's next to a scary object. If your mare is less reactive to the cat going one direction than the other, start with that "good side", make the center of the figure 8 where you change directions as she is passing the cat (so you will be angled away at that point) and then make a small circle in the new direction. Again you will be angled away as you reach the cat. Try to use the reins as little as possible, except for leading her head away from the cat with an opening inside rein. It usually takes a few tries to get a calm figure 8 with proper bend at the walk; I've also done this at the trot but as my mare gets very rushy when nervous, I prefer to walk it. Start with bigger figure 8s (10 meters) and as she calms down, make them smaller.

    Leg yield towards the scary thing and then away as soon as the horse is starting to melt down has also been helpful.

    I'm a real newbie but this has worked for scary green jumps leaning against the arena wall, goats, viewing windows in indoor arenas, full trash bags at the side of the road, Doorways Sure to Reveal Horse Eating Monsters, etc. I think my horse sees better out of her right eye, so I start with that eye next to the scary thing.

    I stumbled on this entirely by accident; maresy was doing the 20 foot sideways teleport at the green jump going to the right, but I realized that when going to the left, she might look at it or scoot a foot or two, but was not nearly so frightened. So I started doing figure 8s and just kept doing them until she would go past it calmly in both directions. The next time I rode her, she scooted once at the green jump, I did one figure 8, and after that she was fine with it.

    I have to admit that I am cracking up at the thought of your horse (who weighs nearly twice what mine does) being scared of a tiny cat!
    You have to have experiences to gain experience.

    1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

    Comment


    • #3
      I do not believe your horse is really 'afraid' of the familiar sight, the cat.

      Sounds like horse is frisky. When they spook repeatedly at a familiar sight, they are fresh. Why not turn her out or longe her before you ride her.

      And...you can do 10m circles at a walk without harming your horse. Sounds like the horse's focus isn't really on you, an instructor might be able to help.

      Comment


      • #4
        Remember that the horse's eye magnifies what it sees. The little cat will look like a small lion. As funny as it is to us, your horse is frightened. Buy a stuffed toy cat and rub it on the barn cat. Let you horse slowly sniff and get use to it. You can also find those stuffed toys that meow and purr when stroked. Just because she's big horse--I have one, too, and think they're adorable--doesn't make her naturally brave at heart. She just needs a little de-sensitivity training.

        Comment


        • #5
          Years ago I was in a clinic with Col. Lindgren and a TB was "spooking" at flowers near one side of the arena. He had the rider trot towards the flowers while looking away (with head) from flowers, indicating the rider was NOT concerned about the flowers. After several passes riding in this fashion the horse slowly moved closer to the flowers (be sure to keep outside leg on to prevent excess escape from flower bogey man) and both legs to keep the forward.

          Once it's OK in one direction repeat for the other direction. Try adding shoulder fore/shoulder in to the mix just to try to get and keep horses attention better.
          Now in Kentucky

          Comment


          • #6
            Have you let her just take her time and check the deck out, first without the cat and then with the cat? She's young -- why not give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that it really is bothering her. Or every time you are leading her and see a cat, walk her to the cat either to sniff or to see that the cat moves away.

            Saw this with a horse who was afraid of indoor mirrors. Riding by repeatedly -- he was still worried. Letting him leisurely check out each mirror, at his own pace, did the trick.

            And before someone says this will teach the horse how to get out of work, I'm not suggesting doing this every time horsie flicks an ear at a flowerbox. Just suggesting as one tactic to use with the others suggested, depending on the situation and horse.
            ...somewhere between the talent and the potato....

            Comment


            • #7
              I agree with SLC2. Surely she will disensitize to the cat. She is focusing on the cat because it's more interesting than focusing on her work. Being "looky" can disappear when the horse starts concentrating on the work at hand. It could also be that you are anticipating her reactions so you lose your focus as well? Just a thought.
              www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
              "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
              Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by kbbarn View Post
                I have also tried to tickle the inside rein to get her head back to the inside and she responds a little as we go past the cat but not much. Really leans on the inside shoulder when we have to go past the cat.
                If your horse is ignoring your rein and leg to that extent, you need to do more than tickle.
                Amateur rider, professional braider.
                ----
                Save a life, adopt a pet.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  I do lunge her in the arena, some days cat is present and she does watch kitty but she stays on the circle. She does counter bend on the cat side though. I lunge her before we ride, both in round pen and then in the arena.

                  When I was untacking her last night, Ms Kitty was by the fence about 200 ft away. The mare just stared at her, would not take her eyes off the cat. It is a tad odd.

                  Have done leg yielding and such. The mare does have a lazy attitude so I do feel she is wanting to get out of work and whenever cat is present by arena, she has her excuse. I do make her work harder when she is being silly. I do ride with an instructor - Mare is just fine at instructors place ( indoor arena).

                  Liking the stuffed Toy cat idea.
                  My Blog ( for me and my OTTBs)-ableequine.webbly.com

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Silly. But can you hold the cat for her to sniff? You outside with cat in your arms and mare in her stall so she can get away a little if she wants? Maybe if she see's her favorite person (you) with a cat she may realize they are okay. Just an idea.

                    My horse was terrified of miniature horses. For 3 months he would think about them even if they weren't there. Then one day, the youngest of them got into my horse's pasture where they got to meet on their own terms. After that, my horse was totally (and I mean mini chasing my horse while I'm riding) fine.

                    Good luck.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by kbbarn View Post
                      My 6 year old draft cross has started her dressage training ( started riding her when she was 5 yrs). My arena has a raised deck attached for spectators and this is where the 5 lb Siamese cat likes to hang out. My mare has a thing about cats - terrified of them. The barn cats walk through the barn - you would think that a Lion just came in if you watch how the mare re-acts! Anyhow, we are riding in the arena and because she is young, I want to do 20m circles, not 10m since smaller circles are require more strength and whatnot and she is not really there yet.

                      But since cat is hanging out on the deck, there is no way the mare will go near that side of the arena. I keep a fiirm outside rein with my inside leg on to push her to outside rein but she cranks her head to the outside anyway to stare at the threatening cat. Once past the cat, she is light and round. Come around to that side of the circle, she leans on the bit and is counter bent, shoulder leaning to the inside. I have also tried to tickle the inside rein to get her head back to the inside and she responds a little as we go past the cat but not much. Really leans on the inside shoulder when we have to go past the cat. This is very annoying in that she is so nice, light and round when no cat present. She is great at listening to my seat when nothing to distract. When cat on deck, she ignores my seat as well.

                      So tonight, while the cat was watching, we did 15m circles so that I could get some bend on the 'cat side' of the arena. She had to work harder but still fixated on the cat. I need training suggestions for the looky, spooky horse. Any ideas on training techniques when the 'chicken' horse wants to counter bend to stare at and not listen when going by the scary 5 lb creature?
                      the problem isnt so much as your horse as you--- its on your mind so it as a vibe
                      so that vibe is transmiited to the horses mind - as a scarey object - as a doubt
                      a doubt is a direct signal from you in a horses mind is a fear factor
                      horses have fear factors 1st is to flee the 2nd is to advade

                      shes advading the contact as you have instill a doubt in her mind -
                      so clear you mind and treat it as ignore - factor once you ignore it - then thats transmits to the horse to ignore it as they get there confidence from you the rider

                      your antispating her moves as in scared of cat-- so actually telling her to be more scared of cat type thing
                      so she will be scared of cat- whereby if you would just ignore and ride her in the normal way around the ring area then shes not scared as you have relaxed
                      the thing is sub conciously we can transmit our vibes to the horse easily as they have all there senses wheres we only use ours when one is missing - ie blind then we use taste and smell
                      ahorses has all its senses so if one has an apprehension of ooh no the cats in the areana -(-or any object you might need to pass in anywhere any time )
                      then thats transmits to the horse as OOOOOOH NO THE CATS IN THE AREANA -- HELP
                      HORSE BECOMES LOOOKY LOOKY SPOOKY

                      as you have instilled that thought pattern in there mind

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Strap the cat to her back and throw her in the roundpen.

                        JOKE!

                        The cat is doing you a favour. Now you can work through this. I'd want the cat to be there all the time until the horse got over it. She will get over it if you just keep riding and not make a big deal of it. If you react too much it will get worse. It needs to become boring for her to see the cat around.

                        You could also lunge your horse at that end before riding if you think that might help.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by goeslikestink View Post
                          the problem isnt so much as your horse as you--- its on your mind so it as a vibe
                          so that vibe is transmiited to the horses mind - as a scarey object - as a doubt
                          a doubt is a direct signal from you in a horses mind is a fear factor
                          horses have fear factors 1st is to flee the 2nd is to advade

                          shes advading the contact as you have instill a doubt in her mind -
                          so clear you mind and treat it as ignore - factor once you ignore it - then thats transmits to the horse to ignore it as they get there confidence from you the rider

                          your antispating her moves as in scared of cat-- so actually telling her to be more scared of cat type thing
                          so she will be scared of cat- whereby if you would just ignore and ride her in the normal way around the ring area then shes not scared as you have relaxed
                          the thing is sub conciously we can transmit our vibes to the horse easily as they have all there senses wheres we only use ours when one is missing - ie blind then we use taste and smell
                          ahorses has all its senses so if one has an apprehension of ooh no the cats in the areana -(-or any object you might need to pass in anywhere any time )
                          then thats transmits to the horse as OOOOOOH NO THE CATS IN THE AREANA -- HELP
                          HORSE BECOMES LOOOKY LOOKY SPOOKY

                          as you have instilled that thought pattern in there mind
                          I think this is spot-on. Look where you want to go and make the horse look there too (ie she is not allowed to ignore leg or rein - half halt or shoulder fore before she starts looking at the cat, too.). Horses can feel tiny changes in the rider's tension and position - practically a thought - and respond to that. I find circling round or stopping to see the "spooky" thing is counterproductive with my horses - best to say "busy busy no time to look on we go hurry up now nothing to see here!"

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I don't blame your mare. At the barn where I board, we had the best Chief Barn Cat (CBC) who terrorized some children and teens and adults and the other 2 barn cats with his "attacks." He would stroll into my 16.2 WB's stall, swat him on the nose, and either lie in the hay or get up in one of his windows to survey his kingdom. I loved that cat's attitude. Sadly, the CBC was killed in an accident at the barn (but not by a horse). He once jumped out at a teenager riding a horse in the ring.

                            You cat may have swatted your mare sometime when you weren't there.

                            If you have any friends with kittens, you might try desensitising your horse with a kitten. Or just move your cat each time you want to ride.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              What GLS said. You are anticipating your mare's reaction and she is sensing your anticipation. Or something like that I have a similar problem - with myself. I ride outdoors and we have a white barn cat who lays on the mounting block or perches on top of the fence and swipes at us when we go by. It does NOT scare my horse anymore but he can't help but focus on that damn cat. Because I let him. Yesterday we had a major spook when said cat dashed out of the woods but that I can understand. I need to work on me and my concerns about what will concern HIM. My problem.

                              But I think it would be easier to fix a "horse" problem than a "me" problem!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by cloudyandcallie View Post

                                Or just move your cat each time you want to ride.
                                gawd no

                                Sorry there are a lot of solutions, but moving the problem around the horse instead of moving the horse around the problem is just terrible.

                                Its an issue like any things else, plastic bags, trash cans big rocks, flower pots, judges tents... you can't move all those things every time you go ride. Desensitize how you would with anything else and move on. People make way more out of things than the horse does usually.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Unless a horse has been habitually traumatized by something they cannot flee from, and has acquired a bonafide 'phobia" it can be desensitized to whateven stimulus seems to be causing the owne/rider "problems".

                                  I think the owner is more concerned about the horse being concerned about the cat than the horse really is...run on sentence, but you get the gist.

                                  OP, "paint a picture" of the picture of the way you want it to be with you and your horse in any situation. Leave your fear at the door.

                                  Best advice I was ever given, especially when I was bringing up young stallion. It's human mental thing.
                                  www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
                                  "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
                                  Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I must ask, do these demon cats have smirks on their faces?

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      The moment you believe the horse is afraid of the cat and start nursing her thru it, is when you lose the horse.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        So true, SLC, "nursing" a horse through the owner's reality of the horse's percieved or real fear, is a fine line to walk to determine in which venue the behaviour is really based.

                                        In this case (and in most cases working with "problem" horses and their owners/riders), I think the OP's concern/anxiety may be feeding into the horse's silliness and natural delight in reacting to something else, other than the training and the aid and the work at hand.

                                        Mirror image. And owner/rider's perception of "fear" is sometime not really fear in the horse...just the fear in the rider, coupled with finding an evasion from the work at hand.

                                        Not sure if I'm articulating this very well..and surely, no offense to the owner.

                                        It's just the way it is with horses..especially the smart ones..
                                        www.littlebullrun@aol.com See Little Bull Run's stallions at:
                                        "Argosy" - YouTube and "Boleem" - YouTube
                                        Boleem @ 1993 National Dressage Symposium - YouTube

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