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Questions for owners of former amish horses...

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  • Questions for owners of former amish horses...

    Can you give me any insights that might be helpful with my current foster horse who was formerly an amish horse (reportedly used for logging)?

    The threads I've found in the past kind of deteriorated into anti-amish posts and winded up closed, so if we could avoid any social commentary I'd really appreciate it. I'm really just interested in things like what they know/don't know, what they're used to, what has worked or not worked for you in your retraining efforts, etc.

    Bill is a black pony stallion I'm fostering for AC4H. In addition to logging he was reportedly ridden too. He has the mullet (shaved forelock) that I'm told is often sported by amish driving horses, along with some rub marks along his girth, so I know he's worn one, whether it was harness or saddle. Other than that, I really don't know much. I'd really like to talk to some people who have worked with them.
    You can see pictures of him at the blog page below on my signature.

    He's been pretty standoffish, though not bad, and I did claim a small victory today when I found out he is a big carrot fan. Previously I had gotten him to take an apple slice and a dumor treat, but only one before he lost interest in me. Carrots, on the other hand, he asked for the whole bag.

  • #2
    No words of help, as all my ex-amish horse experience is with buggy horses, which are hugely different than your draftie fellow, but I wanted to just give you a pat on the back for taking him. I just finished looking at your blog and he really is a cute fellow - those original photos on the broker page didn't do him justice!


    • Original Poster

      Hey WendellsGirl, I'd love to hear about your buggy horses anyway, if you don't mind sharing.

      The more I look at him, the cuter he's getting. I admit when I first saw him in the NH parking lot I thought, "Egads, thats a homely horse." Now he kind of reminds me of a stuffed animal pony who's not exactly proportional but cute nonetheless. But that's probably some sort of rescuer psychosis setting in.

      What kind of bits do the amish use? Do they feed their horses grain or just hay? I'm sure there are a lot of variances and different families do things differently, but I really dont' know much at all about their horsekeeping practices. I don't guess there are any lurking on this board that I could ask.


      • #4
        I would actually love to hear this kind of info from others with Amish horses, because I am always curious to separate what is in my horse's nature, her individual personality, her training, her specific experiences, etc.

        My super wonderful Morgan mare was formerly an Amish buggy horse. She did that job for 6 years before I got her (she's 13). Before that I don't know what she did. Here are some of the things I experienced with her.

        -She is absolutely bombproof in harness. First drive out on the road with her I got stuck between a propane truck, an impatient car driver, and a rude kid on an ATV revving his engine. We just trotted on. We passed a tractor carrying a huge load of flapping vinyl siding. Just kept on going. Didn't even look.

        -She was broke to ride in the sense that one could tack her up and ride her. But as time went on I began to suspect there wasn't much education there. I think she was primarily a driving horse, and once in a while someone might have jumped on her to ride over to the neighbor's or something.

        -She was used to hitching up and getting the heck on the road ASAP. We had to spend a great deal of time teaching her to stand quietly until we said to go, and to go gently and slowly when starting off, rather than lunging forward as if my cart weighed 1000 lbs. Slow. Easy.

        -She loves to stand around in people's driveways while I chat with them. She hates to stand around for no reason in the middle of the road or on the trail. I can see she had years of experience hurrying up to get somewhere, then standing there waiting while people did stuff, then hurrying home.

        -She was not used to being fussed over, petted, or given treats. She was totally "broke" to any type of handling, but didn't enjoy it, just did it. It took her a long time to warm up and be friendly. I have spent a lot of time rubbing her head and she now absolutely loves having her ears brushed and rubbed, but that took a long time.

        -She was very head shy when I got her. Put her head up when bridling, haltering, touching ears, sudden movements, etc. She got over it pretty quickly, with gentle consistent practice.

        -She had been worked in an overcheck rein, so we spent several months conditioning her muscles to carry herself in a more natural position and. She's really caught on and after a couple years now she can go in a nice "dressage" frame most of the time, although she occasionally reverts to "Amish trot" when worried.

        -She was unfamiliar with baths, at least wash stalls. And fly spray. However, she will work with flies all over her, even when she is really annoyed by them & whirling her tail and shaking her head. She just does the job, even if she's miserable (we do strive to avoid that, of course!!)

        -She has always been utterly brave and has NEVER refused to do anything. First jump she ever saw, and every jump after, she jumped it. Clumsily, but she tried. Goes through water. Bushwhacks through the woods, mud, fallen trees, ditches, rocks, anything. Has never said no.

        -She doesn't seem to care if she is in the stall, in the pasture, turned out alone, or whatever. She just does her thing.

        So hope that might be useful.


        • #5
          I'll PM you. I have a bit of experience with Amish horses, New Holland horses, logging/draft horses, etc. both personally and through Equihab. Equihab has rehabbed some nice ex-amish horses over the years, for anyone who wants another option to help a horse in need.

          I will say that New Holland is a junction point for people to resell from all over the region. Some brokers haul from auction to auction. Some "Amish" are more horse broker than traditional amish. And even within "Amish" you have a variety of different Amish communties plus Mennonites and variations therof. Therefore it's impossible to generalize and say he must do ___ or act like ___. Anyone who tries to is full of baloney.

          What is it you want to know?

          What are your goals or issues? What do yuo want to do first?
          Veterinarians for Equine Welfare


          • #6
            PM MayS. Her Equihab foundation specializes in Amish draft horses.


            • #7
              Not too much insight-- I am sure MayS will have more, but I will say it really depends on the owner, just like any other horse. I live close to "Amish country" in IN, and see horses treated vastly differently by different owners, and see living styles just as varied for them. You can bet that they were turned out with other horses and most likely the cows as well all day long. Some are then stalled at night, some aren't.

              Bits-- depends on owner. They use driving bits and snaffles. A recent trip to a tack store that caters to Amish draft owners, I overheard a conversation about bits. The most popular bit this particular tack shop sells is a plain copper snaffle.

              Some blanket in the winter, some don't.

              Like I said-- so much difference from one owner to the next...


              • #8
                Amish horses can be cared for just like people treat their cars. There are VARYING degrees of care! From standing in a stall with minimal feed, to turnout in large lush pastures. There is no "one way" with how they care for horses. I've gotten a few broker from AC4H and a few from auctions that were amish horses. My most recent in a large pony mule I purchased. He was worked hard too, only 5 worked double and single in harness. Let's just say he was friendly for a few days and then standoffish. I think it's more that they don't want to work that hard again! So until they figure they aren't, they can be a bit hard to catch. I will say they tie wonderfully! Every horse I've ever had owned by the amish was perfect at tying, there are many pluses. I think you just need to look at him and take him for who he is. The care is so varied, you'll never really know his true full story unfortunately. Thanks for giving him a chance. I have a 15 year old perch/pony I bought when he was 3 from a Mennonite family. He is an awesome little jumper and I can't even begin to tell you how many times I could have sold him!
                Maria Hayes-Frosty Oak Stables
                Home to All Eyez On Me, 1998 16.2 Cleveland Bay Sporthorse Stallion
                & FrostyOak Hampton 2008 Pure Cleveland Bay Colt


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks everybody. MayS, please PM me, or I'll PM you.

                  Bill still needs to be gelded (vet wanted to wait until resp. infection cleared) so I'm not doing anything drastic until after that. Basically for now I'm just getting used to him and letting him get used to me and tending to some issues. His tendons are the lumpiest I've ever seen personally. He is very tense all over. He has seriously contracted heels and thrush. So first and foremost I'm getting him as comfortable as I can.

                  He tolerates me but he doesn't like me (yet ). I'm excited that I've found a weakness in him to exploit (his love for carrots). So far I've given him a bath. It went pretty well but I don't think he knew what that was all about. I'm no trainer so I'm approaching him with some caution, but basically treating him like all my other horses and trying to figure out what he knows along the way. He doesn't like being brushed, but tolerates it. He isn't what I'd call headshy, but does retreat from brushing/pats etc. Same with flyspray, hose, basically any stimulus. Not the running away retreat, just the "I don't know about this" sort of thing.

                  He lags behind when being led, so I'm working on that. I don't know if he's been saddled so I plan to introduce that to see how he reacts. He has the girth rubs so I know he's been harnessed or something. Same with a bit rub on the side of one lip. (Yes, I will be careful not to further irritate these when I do saddle/bridle him!). He doesn't move away from pressure (that probably makes me sound like a natural horsemanship nut...I'm not, I just borrow their techniques that make sense). He's not really reactive to anything. I guess he kind of just seems like a horse who's kind of been overstimulated and is just over all of it.

                  His neck is upside down. I don't know anything about driving but I've heard people talk of the overcheck rein and how that can contribute to the upside down neck muscling. That, we will work on much later. If he stays that long.

                  I think my plan of attack will be some ground driving or long lining first. He's definitely not the hot or peppy type. He has not trotted yet. I think that speaks to his discomfort and his temperament.

                  So far I know he ties good. He doesn't pick up his feet really good yet. And he thinks he's Dan's bodyguard.


                  • #10
                    Oh I just thought of something: I see you're adding a vit-e/sel supplement to the diet. I hope Christy talked to you about the EPSM risk for drafts and how you generally can't feed a draft the same way you might an arab or TB.

                    Two sites to get you started with drafts:

                    If/when you get to where you need a harness or saddle, let me know what you're looking for and I'll do my best to help.
                    Veterinarians for Equine Welfare


                    • #11
                      It takes a while

                      for the horses to learn to trust you. Mine was very shy and fearful at first, still is with men and strangers. He is now the most wonderful guy on the planet. Having trained STBs at the track, you got to meet them (Amish) ocasionally, (not that most of them would talk to a woman, a culture thing, didn't really offend me, they got used to me and realized that I wouldn't lie about a horse's soundness) some of them simply view horses much like we would a truck or a cow. It has a specific job and needs to not question it or misbehave. It isn't viewed as a companion pet or partner, it's job is to serve it's master without question. It isn't as nice a life as we prefer the horses have, a sassy horse doesn't last too long with them unless he conforms, the pony I have (Haffy) can be a bit oppinionated. Move to fast or raise your voice and he's in the back of his stall. Just go slowly and quietly, ask reasonable things of him and let him get his confidence back. They are ususally quite bombproof once you do.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by meaty ogre View Post
                        He's not really reactive to anything. I guess he kind of just seems like a horse who's kind of been overstimulated
                        Why don't you just leavehim alone for a while? Let him heal MENTALLY from the overload.


                        • #13
                          I know that at least 3 (possibly 4) of my haflingers were owned by Amish people in the past. I have found that they take a little longer to relax and trust you and be a friend. Their personality takes longer to come out. My one mare was extremely head-shy and is still getting used to not turning her head away when you walk up to her. She is AMAZING though with my daughter. Such a great trustworthy horse. Such wonderful ground manners. Not pushy or anything at all, so well behaved and still, would never try to hurt you. They are calm and easy to train to ride even if they have only been trained to drive. They are very good with voice commands. If you say "GEE" my mare starts heading or turning right, and if you say "HA" she goes to the left. That's really helpful with my 8 year old who is so small to give her aids in the saddle. Also if you say "WHOA" they really plant their feet and stand still for you.

                          I try to respect them and give them their space and not overwhelm them, and give them tons of love. Also just talking gently to them a lot and spending time just with them, not asking them to do anything. They have come a long way and are absolutely wonderful horses. They really do love kids and are very protective of them. I have seen amish people interact with their horses several times. and a lot of times it is the kids who care for the horses, so maybe that is why they just love children so much. Mine didn't eat treats at first, now they are completly spoiled and will scarf anything out of your hand. Also mine didn't canter at first- not even in the pasture, just trotted really really fast. After I showed them to canter, they love it and canter on their own. They do still go into the really fast trot though.
                          Moving at the Speed of Haflinger


                          • #14
                            I've always gotten better results by giving voice commands in a "manly" voice. All the Amish horses I've dealt with (driving horses) tended to tune out a higher voice, but really pay attention to the lower registers.

                            Other than that, just lots of good ole desensitization. Like you'd do for any shy horse. They need to be trained to accept petting and affection, since it probably wasn't in the job description for them before.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by meaty ogre View Post

                              His neck is upside down. I don't know anything about driving but I've heard people talk of the overcheck rein and how that can contribute to the upside down neck muscling. That, we will work on much later. If he stays that long.
                              well...no Amish comments...but any real logging would have had to have been done sans overcheck...maybe a side check but not an over check...log horses also are known for a HUGE jerk into the collar as they start a load...any load...so it takes a little to get them into a smooth start with a wagon....(think about the stone boat pullers in heavy draft)

                              Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                              I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.


                              • #16

                                you've described my Amish pony perfectly.
                                she is shy, and VERY hard to catch, but is bomb-proof. she rides, she drives, she'll stand for HOURS, tied to whatever.

                                the only problem with her is that she HATES to have her feet touched, I suspect that she was put in stocks to have her feet done. She's improving with time, though.

                                I did a totally non-politically correct thing, (since I got her in MARCH...) and named her Kiss Me I'm Amish.

                                My amish plumber and carpenter thought that was a hoot.
                                LESS HARD WORK, MORE FINE DINING!™
                                complicate, obfuscate, prevaricate.


                                • Original Poster

                                  Originally posted by nightsong View Post
                                  Why don't you just leavehim alone for a while? Let him heal MENTALLY from the overload.
                                  Don't worry, nightsong. He won't be doing any real work until after he's been castrated and that has healed. He's hanging out in 24/7 turnout right now. My nagging him for 30 minutes a day isn't too big a deal.

                                  I've got to handle him to give him his ventipulmin and smz's, and to treat his thrush. It's important for me to do something else besides this lest I become the evil medicating lady and he decides he doesn't want to be caught or handled by me.


                                  • #18
                                    My ex-Amish horse was very standoffish when we first got her. She was also a former race horse so some of her attitude may have come from that life as well. It was almost as if she hated life and thought all people sucked. Her spirit wasn't entirely broken, as it was her "look" that caught my trainer's eye as she trotted down the road, but something was missing. (The Amish clan that had this horse are not particularly kind to their critters.) It was at least a couple of months before she wasn't grumpy when being groomed. My trainer worked really hard at spoiling her rotten, including force-feeding her peppermints until she learned to like them! We've had her for about a year and a half and she's now easily the happiest horse in the barn.


                                    • #19
                                      Personal Note:
                                      Thank you to those who have stresses that Amish owned horses are not equal to abusive cases 100% of the time. As a lot of people have said, there are varying degrees of care with everything both in and out of the Amish community. There are many Amish who take great interest in the well being or their horses, but they are also a fact of life and transportation, not unlike everyone in all communities only 100 years ago. I have several friends and even family (I'm 3rd gen. removed Amish- Mom's side, people who know me see it all in her- I'm the technology rebel!) who are greatly saddened by the reputation that the fewothers have given the many.

                                      On the training note:
                                      There are many that aren't used to getting fussed over the way that my animals are- but then again, I got mine for companionship and pleasure, not as my main for of transportation. All of mine are ex- racers, and though spoiled as a racehorse gets, not affectionate. I would just sit outside each of their stalls until they got curious about my book, if I had anything to eat, "watchya doin'" moments, etc. This was huge for my guys, and the easiest way to non- invasively get them to learn I'm OK, in fact, I'm downright cool! (Doesn't hurt to have a favorite treat hidden somewhere within smelling range, but not necessarily easy to get to, until they "ask".) I have a chronic thrusher that has arthritis in his creaky old hocks- hates getting them treated. I combine the treats and lovin's with the treatments to keep him calm and easy to work with, as well as just happy. Just a thought.
                                      Standardbred Lover- owner of Studs Hooligan, aka Strider, ex- pacer, retrained for eventing and endurance
                                      Strider-OTSTB-, Gus-OTTB-, and Rio-rescued QH!
                                      Founder of the High Maintenance Horses Clique


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Originally posted by shakeytails View Post
                                        My trainer worked really hard at spoiling her rotten, including force-feeding her peppermints until she learned to like them!
                                        I spent one whole session with him trying to get him to eat a treat...peppermint, peppermint flavored treat, apple, apple flavored, etc. Dan tried to show him too. He did take a piece of apple and a piece of a Dumor treat, but wasn't interested in finishing them or taking seconds. I went to the grocery store the next day and got carrots, and I was so excited when he stood there and ate 4 (baby carrots) and asked for more! I need to get myself that T-shirt that says, "I train horses...to eat carrots."

                                        Tamara in TN, thanks for the info on logging horses. He is pony sized, so I'm kind of skeptical that he would be a logging horse? Just does't seem to make sense....but I don't know. I wonder if I should be prepared for him to yank my arms out the first time long-lining?