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Gus the feral Shetland Pony

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  • Gus the feral Shetland Pony

    This is the first topic I've posted here. I am honestly not sure if this is the place for it but I didn't see a training type thread so what the heck.

    Your insight and suggestions are welcome. If I don't follow them, it may be because I am simply not comfortable with that technique. I have retrained many sour horses, trained a donkey from scratch, and halter broke many calves, but I am limited in my experience and knowledge.

    I needed a companion for our donkey because his horse companion has navicular and roughhouse play needs to be limited. The donkey has been pouting since the separation. Fortunately, I heard about a Shetland Pony that lost his donkey companion and was also pouting. Good fit, right?

    Except said pony is feral and unhandled. The previous owners trapped him using feed, wrestled him into a corner and put a halter on him. They told me the last time they did this, he got the halter off by rubbing his head on the ground until it came over his ears and off his head. They caught him to send him to a bad auction here in Florida (along with cull cows, if that gives you any idea of the type of auction). He shook from fear but seemed to quiet a little and I was able to lead him around. I told them that I would take him if he loaded into my trailer. Of course he walked right in, LOL!

    He's in our round pen for quarantine (vaccine history unknown, deworming schedule non-existent, feet are bad but not terrible). Knowing his halter tricks, I took it off. Maybe that was a mistake, but he needs to learn to trust, regardless. I have had a several training sessions with him since he arrived on Thursday. Mostly just me trying to get him to take treats and let me pet him. I have a vet check scheduled this coming week, but not sure it will happen. I think he needs to stay in the round pen until he is tame enough to halter and tie before I can get him vetted. Meanwhile, I'll do a fecal and see if a feed through product will be adequate for deworming. I'd rather not traumatize him with vet treatment until he's easier to catch. Our vet is fine with waiting as long he's separate and training progress is being made.

    Here is a picture of Gus, the little stinker.

    “Pray, hope, and don't worry.”

    St. Padre Pio

  • #2
    He sure is a cutie.

    I have no advice and you sound like you are on the ball with everything he needs and know what you are doing.

    But I will say, thanks for giving him a shot. I love his eye and think he'll be a pocket pony in no time flat.
    "Aye God, Woodrow..."


    • #3
      Thank you for rescuing Gus.
      Perhaps clicker training (operant conditioning) at first?

      The reason why I suggested clicker training is because zoos and marine mammal parks use clicker training in order to be able to (relatively) safely handle wild animals.

      When I bought my gelding, he was head-shy, ear-shy, hard to catch, hated having his hooves handled, and spooked at absolutely everything. I tried clicker training out of desperation. It was like a light when on in his head. The next day he literally ran to the gate when he saw me. Within a week he was no longer head-shy or ear-shy and I could pick up his feet without drama.

      Clicker training is a great tool to have in your toolbox, especially with a traumatized horse.

      I hope this helps. I'm glad that Gus landed safely with you.
      Best regards,
      PA Hi-Ly Visible [PA Hi-Noon (by Magnum Psyche) x Takara Padrona (by *Padron)]

      Proud member of the Snort and Blow Clique


      • #4
        My goodness he's cute. I think you are on the right track with the round pen, and IIRC Bluey on here used to run feral horses through their ranch, one of the methods ( I think, now, not certain) was to keep the animals penned and bring them feed and water at specified intervals. If they wanted to eat or drink they had to tolerate the human with the bucket, and it did work out even with the difficult cases. Human equals sustenance, then you build to handling equals sustenance and at least you'll have a pony you can lead if you need to. Good luck to you!
        Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
        Incredible Invisible


        • #5
          I would put a halter on him and leave it on him until he's easy to catch, then you can practice taking it on and off. What works is to put the halter on and then take him to eat some grass or hay that way he associates the halter with good things to come.

          I wouldn't let him out of the pen until you can catch him easily and lead him around.


          • #6
            He might be a stinker but he sure is cute!


            • #7
              You will never get him quiet.

              send him to me.
              seriously, try the clicker training. Use his feed, keep the sessions short and leave him alone to think about it. Latent learning is a powerful tool


              • Original Poster

                CA in KS and Threedog, I did take the clicker in with me last night but the noise spooked him. I heard there was a quieter one you can get. I should look into that.
                “Pray, hope, and don't worry.”

                St. Padre Pio


                • Original Poster

                  I might try a leather halter to leave on him, once I gain his trust. He might get it off, but at least he'll be safe.
                  “Pray, hope, and don't worry.”

                  St. Padre Pio


                  • #10
                    I would do exactly as you have been. He is absolutely adorable!


                    • #11
                      GIVE HIM TO ME!!!!!

                      I mean, uh, he's pretty cute...


                      • #12
                        You rock for giving him a shot (and our donkey adores her horse companion!)

                        What a great project and he is adorable!!


                        • #13
                          The clicker "spooked" one of my dogs at first. You can use the click of a pen, or turn a penlight or other small flashlight on and off real quick, which is what they suggest for deaf animals. Maybe the click that a trigger snap on a lead rope makes? If I don't have a clicker handy and I see a behavior that I want to reinforce, I cluck with my tongue.

                          Gus is so totally cute!
                          PA Hi-Ly Visible [PA Hi-Noon (by Magnum Psyche) x Takara Padrona (by *Padron)]

                          Proud member of the Snort and Blow Clique


                          • #14
                            LOFF him.... and those little pony ears - they just don't get any cuter than that!!!

                            Any idea how old he is? No advice to offer, but kudos to you for rescuing him from the possibility of the "bad auction" Best of luck with him and do keep us updated with his progress.
                            At its finest, rider and horse are joined not by tack, but by trust. Each is totally reliant upon the other. Each is the selfless guardian of the other's very well-being.
                            (Author Unknown)


                            • #15
                              Im not a pony handler but if you can lead him easily on a trailor * he is likely broke & just didnt like the morons that had him. He sure is kkkuuutttteee.

                              *I say this because Ive had broke horses who wont load so its not a easy thing to do lol
                              “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker


                              • #16
                                Karotten, many Karotten!


                                • #17
                                  If you are afraid of him getting the halter off or almost off/caught on something, you might put just a neck strap with a ring (assuming you can catch him!) that you can snap a shank to on him. It offers a safe "handle" on the "tuff to catch", ones!! Like most ponies...he is probably food driven and will come around quickly. He sure is cute!!
                                  Breeders of Painted Thoroughbreds and Uniquely Painted Irish Sport Horses in Northeast Oklahoma


                                  • #18
                                    He is a cutie! You might be able to muffle the clicker enough by keeping your hand in your pocket. You could also substitute a word (ie. "good") for the click. One of my dogs was terrified by the clicker so I just used "good" to mark a behavior.

                                    If you know how to properly round pen a horse (preferably done at a walk and not PP style) that would work. If you are not experienced with round penning you might end up doing more harm than good.
                                    Crayola Posse - Pine Green
                                    Whinnie Pine (June 4, 1977 - April 29, 2008)
                                    Autumn Caper (April 27, 1989 - May 24, 2015)
                                    Murphy (April 28, 1994 - May 5, 2017)


                                    • Original Poster

                                      I have done some round pen work with other horses and free lunging with many more. I just use a plain lead rope. I know ponies are very smart and think a little differently. I am curious how it will work. I tried just a little with him last night and he did seem to respond. It is unusually cold here in Florida this weekend and he has no shelter from the wind in the round pen so I didn't want to work him into a sweat. However, I don't have to do it all in a day. I have a way I might try with him that doesn't look nearly as cool as the clinician guys. I do a little, quit when they make progress, let them think on it, and come back for another short session the next day. I swear it's continuing a conversation the next time you work them. That went really well with my very clever Arab cross mare. I was working late and only had a little daylight when I got home every night. So, the first night, I got her to the point where I could turn in towards me when we reversed direction. The next night, a little better control, etc... It took a week before she was coming up to me relaxed and quiet, but we got there. I wonder if those clinic guys would say I was wrong? She was very hard to catch because she had way too many owners and was still very green. I think it's supposed to warm up tomorrow so we'll see how it goes. I will also continue the treat sessions to get him more comfy with me touching him. He is so nervous when he approaches that I don't think that will be enough.

                                      I forgot the saddest part...he had no name. When I was speaking with the previous owner, we decided on Gus (short for Feargus, since he is a Scottish breed). How can a cute little pony live for 6-10 years on this earth and have no name? That is his age estimate. The previous owners also say he is a gelding but it was the owner before that had it done so the vet will also verify he is not intact before he goes in with our herd. I don't see anything, but he's short, hairy, and I am not sticking my head down close to the flank of a scared pony. Beside, our preschooler has a Shetland Pony mare (she was taken in from a bad situation, too and is the best little pony!) so all the more reason to be sure. If he is intact, I will call the previous owners and warn them. They had him in with three TB mares. Where there is a will, or a ditch, there is a way. :/

                                      (edited for clarity)
                                      “Pray, hope, and don't worry.”

                                      St. Padre Pio


                                      • Original Poster

                                        The neck strap is probably a good idea, but it makes me uncomfortable. I want control of his head and he is quite nervous.

                                        I was surprised that I could lead him and that he walked with me onto the trailer. It's possible he's never been in one before and my big stock trailer IS very friendly. Or, he's a gem of a pony that fell into hard times and became a brat out of necessity. I know he's had two owners. Beyond that, who knows.
                                        “Pray, hope, and don't worry.”

                                        St. Padre Pio