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Frightened/Unhandled CL Pony - feet pickin' issues - WWYD?

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  • Frightened/Unhandled CL Pony - feet pickin' issues - WWYD?

    So this story begins before Christmas, if it's too long for you, scroll down for the main question
    In December, my non-horsey DH totally out of the blue sees a pony on CL that for some reason we must go "save". He said it was obvious from its living conditions that the people had no idea how to take care of the pony, and besides, "look how cute it is". While I agreed it was a cutie, I was having no part of it. Besides, I pointed out, the pony is on CL, so someone will get it and that means it will not be in that situation much longer. This did not work. He simply went to my 17 year old daughter and persuaded her to "save" the cute pony. Well, from the title of the thread I'm sure you see how this turned out.

    This pony is not a rescue by any means. She's been fed, had access to water, been wormed, had shelter. She has seen people probably every day of her life, but I seriously doubt that people have actually TOUCHED her very often. We were warned that she breaks out of her pen frequently - although if you saw what qualified as a "fence" for these folks, well anything could break out. Also we were told she was very hard to catch. Our electric fence is apparently not something she wants to challenge (no break-outs yet) and within four days she was coming up to us at the gate when we would head out to the barn. Deep down, this girl is a real sweetie pie. I don't think she was abused, just not handled.

    When we first got her home, she would literally tremble when you'd handle her around her rear end (hips, belly, rear legs) or make sudden noises or motions). DD is working on that daily. She is getting better and I can see the progress. However, here is the BIG problem. Neither one of us can get her back feet picked up long enough to clean them. Seriously! And we've had her since before Christmas. You can now touch her legs but not pick the hind ones up. She can pop straight up in the air, or lunge forward, and yes she will kick AT us. Or do all three. I have three bruises now and I am the one that did not want this pony to start with. Here is my WWYD? I know slow & steady is the best thing to do with her because she is frightened. But I'm worried because of the obvious - her feet haven't been cleaned in who knows how long. Also, the farrier is coming soon and there's no way he's going to be able to trim her. She is long overdue.

    I'm linking some pictures, first of all I know you can't come on COTH and say you got a fuzzy 10 hand pony without linking pictures but also you can kind of see her feet in some of them, they're not elf slippers so someone has probably trimmed them before, although I must say it looks like they did it with a chisel.

    I'm wondering if I should ask my vet for some pharmaceuticals? I'm not big on drugging, but when necessary I will. I'm thinking this might be one of those situations, but I can't imagine doing it every day to pick out feet. Has anyone ever had a horse/pony this age that has been terrified of people touching its hind legs? How have you gotten it calmed down AND gotten through some immediate hoof care without freaking it out worse?

  • #2
    I would sedate her for the farrier, and be sure they know she is extremely touchy about her hind end.

    Beyond that, I would not be all that concerned about actually picking her feet right now. I assume she is barefoot, so she'll survive until she can safely deal with her feet being picked up. Stay diligent with the desensitizing and give her more time (possibly lots). Lots of slow and steady work with LOTS of praise. Don't put you or your daughter in danger. Just keep gently pecking away at her. She'll come around, I'm sure, but I wouldn't make it a big "OMG! Her feet must be picked EVERY DAY starting NOW" type thing. Sedate her for the farrier. He can get her cleaned up, treat any thrush that may be going on, and in between visits from him, just keep going slow and steady with her.
    Amanda

    Comment


    • #3
      I would use clicker training and only positive reinforcement
      with this pony for hoof handling. Start by using a 4' whip or
      a stick and stroke the back legs. Ignore kicks. Reward her
      tolerating the strokes. Then use a cotton rope to lift a hind
      leg forward. Ignore bad behavior, reward calm good
      behavior. Then start with your own person. Pony should
      eventually look forward to you wanting her hind feet.

      If farriery is urgent, get tranqs for this time.
      Robin from Dancing Horse Hill
      Elmwood, Wisconsin

      Comment


      • #4
        Tranq her for the farrier - will be a much more pleasant experience for all involved and no one will get hurt or scared. As the other poster said, slow and steady work will help a lot in terms of actually getting her good for picking her hooves.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Thanks for the quick replies. I've never done my own sedation, I guess I will be on the phone to my vet tomorrow!

          Robin, she is up to letting DD touch her legs with her hands pretty well. I'm totally with you - we are only rewarding good behavior right now, or trying to. There is currently very little in the way of "reward" for her. She does not eat out of your hand, or even when you are nearby (so treats/grain out of a bucket are not an option right now). She really doesn't even know what most treats are and leaves them in her pan. For rewards, right now we are using 1) verbal praise and stroking her neck which she seems to tolerate and accept more than anything else, I don't know if she "likes" it but hopefully she will associate it with being "good", and then 2) specifically for her hind foot issues, as soon as DD gets a tiny improvement from the previous session, pony gets to quit for the day.

          Comment


          • #6
            It really does sound as though you are on the right track. In the scheme of things equine, 3 weeks is not a long time.
            Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

            Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

            Comment


            • #7
              I would just keep doing what you're doing. Be patient with her, and honestly I wouldn't worry about getting her to pick up her feet.

              And old farrier told me that horses that haven't been handled and are distrustful of people don't like having their feet picked up because it makes them think they're loosing their ability to flee from a scary situation.

              I would work on building her trust and her confidence in you. Touch her legs, touch her back, touch her everywhere. Don't ask her to pick up the feet just yet. Betcha once she realizes that you're not doing anything to harm or scare her, she'll give in when she's ready.

              Comment


              • #8
                I had an old guide horse at a rental barn that would seriously try to kill the farrier. He was perfect in every other way but, nope, hated the farrier. I could clean feet, tap on them, nothing. As soon as the farrier showed up, he was all hooves and waving legs.

                We did drug him about three times. After that, he never, ever needed anything again. I don't know if he had just had a bad experience or what but slightly drugging him seemed to make him realize that he wasn't going to be hurt.

                That's my experience. Your mileage may vary. Good luck! Cute pony.
                "Dogs are man's best friend. Cats are man's adorable little serial killer." -- theoatmeal.com

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Robin@DHH View Post
                  Then use a cotton rope to lift a hind
                  leg forward.
                  I've used this trick before, it's saved me from getting kicked/squashed quite a few times.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I've used a long handled toilet brush, duct taped to a spare broom handle (at first) to touch a particularly kicky, wild, weanling TB that I had in for boarding several years ago. I used it to desensitize the horse, with me at a safe distance. I got this idea from a man who got a 4 year old, 17 hand warmblood whose legs/feet had NEVER been handled! Yikes!
                    Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Let me just say first that I love her name! Puffkin is too adorable!!

                      When I got my pony he was pretty iffy about having his hooves handled as well. Not to the point of kicking, but he definitely didn't like it. He would jerk out of my hands, especially his hind legs, or he would take a step and lose his balance and he'd have to jerk his leg out of my hands in order not to fall over.
                      I was just really slow and patient with him. I didn't pick his hooves every day. But I did make sure to touch his legs and talk to him quietly while petting him. After a while of that(How your mare reacts depends on how long this will go on.) I started picking his hooves up for a very short time and petting his rump with my other hand while still talking to him. Every time I picked it up I also said "pick up." As he got better with it I just held his hoof for a little longer each time. Now when I touch his leg and say "pick up" he does it and I can hold it for pretty much as long as I want. Like others have mentioned, you may also want to use a soft rope to lift the leg. But most of all I would be patient and just take your time with it. Don't rush anything. And I would also sedate for the farrier. Better safe than sorry.
                      http://www.youtube.com/user/NBChoice http://nbchoice.blogspot.com/
                      The New Banner's Choice- 1994 ASB Mare
                      Dennis The Menace Too- 1999 ASB Gelding
                      Dreamacres Sublime- 2008 ASB Gelding

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        CUTE!!!!! I love her markings. I have no advice to add but good luck with her.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Robin@DHH View Post
                          I would use clicker training and only positive reinforcement
                          with this pony for hoof handling. Start by using a 4' whip or
                          a stick and stroke the back legs. Ignore kicks. Reward her
                          tolerating the strokes. Then use a cotton rope to lift a hind
                          leg forward. Ignore bad behavior, reward calm good
                          behavior. Then start with your own person. Pony should
                          eventually look forward to you wanting her hind feet.

                          If farriery is urgent, get tranqs for this time.
                          This.
                          we used it with good success on one.

                          When I got Jet, he would try to kick your teeth in if you tried to touch below his hip. It took several weeks of grooming, and patting, going just to the point where he was uncomfortable, and then going back up his body where he was ok with it, but eventually he got used to it. Never did need to drug him, but I spent a lot of time working with him. (Usually at least twice a day).
                          Keep trying different treats. Sometimes grated carrots are more appealing than bigger pieces. Or Apple wafer horse treats. The smaller pieces work better at first. It's easier to motivate/reward them if they like treats. Jet figured out that lifting a leg would get him a treat. Eventually, you wean them off the treats, but it helps at first.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Another vote for the soft cotton rope trick.
                            <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Very cute pony.

                              For a reward, since she doesn't like treats, try scritching or massaging her just on the side of the withers--just a very gentle clasping of the fingers on either side of the withers and rubbing. Horses, if they're not too nervous around you, usually love it.

                              Have fun!
                              "The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Robin@DHH View Post
                                Then use a cotton rope to lift a hind
                                leg forward.
                                I was going to say, when you do try to pick one up, just pick the leg up forward first. Don't try to expose the sole so you can pick it yet. Just lift forward and hold. Lifting the leg back and up will set off a fearful one. You are taking the leg away, and getting into their hamstring protection zone.
                                ::I do not understand your specific kind of crazy, but I do admire your total commitment to it::

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  She's adorable! Best of luck- sounds like you are on the right track. Seconding/thirding/fourthing the cotton rope trick. Used that with a particularly rude weanling stud colt with a bad case of testosterone poisoning who had elected to forget all he ever knew.
                                  "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

                                  Amy's Stuff - Rustic chic and country linens and decor
                                  Support my mom! She's gotta finance her retirement horse somehow.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Robin@DHH View Post
                                    I would use clicker training and only positive reinforcement
                                    with this pony for hoof handling. Start by using a 4' whip or
                                    a stick and stroke the back legs. Ignore kicks. Reward her
                                    tolerating the strokes. Then use a cotton rope to lift a hind
                                    leg forward. Ignore bad behavior, reward calm good
                                    behavior. Then start with your own person. Pony should
                                    eventually look forward to you wanting her hind feet.

                                    If farriery is urgent, get tranqs for this time.
                                    Oh yes, the cotton lead rope! I had to do it with my gelding and it did take several months.

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      OK... definitely going to add the cotton lead rope to the bag of tricks. I hadn't thought of the idea that going back with the hind leg was scarier than going forward first.
                                      Merrygoround, thanks for reminding me that its only been 3 weeks. Why does it seem like for.ev.er when you're dealing with them at home!?! You're right, all things considered she's making pretty good progress!

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Well if I had this pony in as a project, I'd check her out before trying training tricks. From her behavior (the shaking, trembling, etc.) she is obviously anticipating something unpleasant, which in the equine world is often pain. There could be something going on in her hind end that is really uncomfortable when she lifts up her back legs to be held in that position.

                                        I would call your vet, have her check the pony out, make sure she's not painful in her back or hind end, and then she can prescribe you a sedative to use while you work on this. Ask her about Dormosedan gel in particular. That's something easy for you to administer, and something you can store on hand and give to her on a daily basis while you work on this. It's short acting, and I have had really good results with anxiety stricken horses to teach them while using this product. They retain the experience it seems, more so than other sedatives classically used for these scenarios.
                                        Strong promoter of READING the entire post before responding.

                                        Comment

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