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Behavioral problems?

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  • Behavioral problems?

    I want to see what others think of this situation, before I add all the background details...

    I bring a horse, almost 30 years old out of her pasture where she is turned out with 4 geldings and 1 other mare. Everyone gets along ok, she is low in the pecking order but not last, she appears to be comfortable around everyone, not overly attached to a single horse. I walk her out to a far pasture, separated from the herd with a dense tree line, she can't see the herd. During the walk she is getting rushy and tense on the lead. I correct her by halting several times, rewarding with a pat and soft voice when she stands quietly.
    As soon as we are in the field and stopped for more than a few seconds, she clearly gets more nervous. Starts shaking, throwing her head, chewing cheek, etc. I can't get her to focus on me, she has a glazed look in her eyes, looking everywhere BUT me. She doesn't whinny or jig, just tries to walk off. A horse that usually has good ground manners is now trying to run me over (at the walk), and basically ignoring everything I do. I can stop her easily, but asking her to do anything else, like move her haunches, lower her head, etc seems to be a lost cause. I try a few different methods to get her to calm down, ranging from keeping her still to letting her walk around me, to trying to refocus her by asking her to mover her body. Nothing works, 15 mins later horse is still shaking, tense, glassy eyes.
    I don't want to make things worse, and I feel like at 15 minutes I expect to see some sort of improvement (I'm a big believer in short but frequent training sessions) so I decide it's time to head back to the field. Along the way mare is getting very rushy so we work on halting and walking calmly. Get her back into the field and she is still very tense, I can tell she will try to bolt as soon as the halter is off. So I loop the lead around her neck, slowly take halter off. She tries to bolt, but can't. I put a hand over her nose and slip the lead rope off. She back up a few steps. I let her go and she walks off. So at least (IMO) we ended on a positive note.

    So I know this is only one session, but lets assume the horse acts like this on a regular basis. What would you have to say about the horse, her regular handler, me? Details to follow shortly I promise.
    come what may

    Rest in peace great mare, 1987-2013

  • #2
    She's 30 years old and I expect her anxiety about leaving her herd is being magnified by her age - she may be losing her sight, for example. At that age I think she's earned the right to peace and quiet and everything done on her terms.
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    • #3
      Originally posted by Molly Malone View Post
      She's 30 years old and I expect her anxiety about leaving her herd is being magnified by her age - she may be losing her sight, for example. At that age I think she's earned the right to peace and quiet and everything done on her terms.
      I was thinking the same... and I wouldn't stress her with any further "training" sessions. If she were 10 years younger, for sure, but not at that age.
      Why must you chastise my brilliant idea with facts and logic? **picks up toys (and wine) and goes home**


      • #4
        Age related. I took the two horses for a fam trip around the property. One, the most likely to kite off and go exploring on his own, was on the lead and the elder (25 at the time) was loose. The elder's comfort level declined as we went away from the paddock/feeding area, to the point that he chose to run back to his familiar area, stand there, be upset and call and call. Now, it's not uncommon where I grew up to allow a green horse to accompany the pack string loose, I've never heard of a horse abandoning his herd before, but the old guy was stall raised and kept and seems not to be flexible in many things.
        Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
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        • #5
          Why stress the poor horse? If the horse isn't trained by 30, then forget it......If it is exercise for the horse that you are aiming for, do it in the sight of the other horses.


          • #6
            Whatever reason you have to take that horse away from the others, try baby steps, no matter what age horse you are handling.

            Take her as far as she is comfortable and work a bit and bring her back part way and go back out, spend a bit of time on that, every chance you have.

            After a while, she should like to go with you on your little goofy trips, even if it is way out there, where she at first, cold turkey, was not going to be happy with it.

            There is a trade-off with keeping your horses happy and contented as things are and letting them get too herd/barn/situation bound so they can't easily adapt to other we may need to do with them.
            It is an ongoing process, as most horses tend to like their routines and don't like surprises or new things, unless it is their idea.


            • #7
              where is your hand on the lead? At the clip?