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Ideas? How to get over this!

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  • Ideas? How to get over this!

    My horse (coming 5yr old welshx) is *extremely* difficult to handle if he is the only horse in the barn. Usually this doesn't create a problem for me as I only ride in the evenings, and by the time I get there, all the horses are inside.

    He starts to fret, and gets really anxious. He will pace/spin around in his stall. Forget about trying to put him on crossties - he will start with fidgeting and it escalates very quickly to swinging his body in every direction, side to side, backing up, walking forward. I can't do *anything* with him when he's like this.

    Yesterday I brought him in a few hours early because I wanted to free lunge him in the indoor. I could barely get him to stand still long enough to take his blankets off, but he did walk nicely to the arena (attached to barn). I asked him to stop and back up a few times to keep his attention on the way there.

    I let him go in the arena and he had a complete hissy fit. He ran and ran and ran. A horse called outside and he screamed back and then just ran and ran and ran. The only thing I did was keep moving him away from the gate. I just kept asking him to walk. He ran around for an *hour*. No joke. A couple times he came back to walk and I started to quietly direct him at the walk (usually we can do this while free lunging!) and he would walk for a minute and then a horse would call outside, or snow fell off the roof, and he lost it again. He was too wired for me to put a lead on him and walk him around. He got himself completely drenched in sweat and steamy.

    I was able to get him to walk for a few minutes and then take him back into the barn and put him in his stall. He settled a little because another girl brought her horse in to tack up. I was able to put a cooler on him at that time but he melted down again when that girl went out to ride. He paced and called and paced and called. I stood outside his stall and cut up some carrots in little pieces and tossed them into his feeder one or two at a time, just to try to get him thinking about something else. I didn't really know what to do with him, he was just frantic.

    Luckily the rest of the horses came in for supper shortly after that and he was 100% back to normal. I was able to go in and change his blankets a few times and bring him out to groom him. Drying him off and grooming took at least 1.5 hours, and he was completely happy to stand there and let me do everything.

    I don't know how to go about fixing this. If it were any other horse, I would be trying to work with him close to his paddock and increase the distance gradually, but that doesn't work right now because the ground is covered in snow and ice, and this horse has, in the past, pulled away while being led. I am really trying to avoid that happening, ESPECIALLY when the ground is so slippery. So we only work in enclosed areas for now (pulling away happened last fall). The barn is a *far* walk from the paddock.

    As I said, this is not such a huge deal for me, because I always ride at night, but I feel like I should deal with it. I also work Mon-Fri 9-5 so I can only do things during the day on the weekends.

    Thank you for reading my novel!!
    Jigga:
    Why must you chastise my brilliant idea with facts and logic? **picks up toys (and wine) and goes home**

  • #2
    Wait until the footing is safe before you work on this--a few weeks isn't going to make a difference. Sometimes at this time of year we jsut have to do what we can do and make compromises for the weather and our safety.

    Comment


    • #3
      Personally what I do with all horses that come here with "anxiety issues" is I tie them in their stall. We have tie rings in all stalls and I will tie them and leave them until they quit fretting and relax. At that point I groom them and let them back out. Works wonders in teching them that they can be separated and nothing is going to happen. Have a nice four yer old filly in for training and we tied her last friday she fussed, fretted, pawed, kicked and generally was not happy. I worked a horse while she fretted about 45 minutes, can see the horses in the stalls while I work a horse so if need be I can immediately go help them if something goes wrong. 45 minutes later she was standing quietly with her hind leg cocked up and I gave her a nice grooming and turned her back out.
      www.shawneeacres.net

      Comment


      • #4
        It will be very hard and take a long time if he is just an "off the chart" insecure horse. But is he? Or does he just want what he wants when he wants it?

        It sounds like you are doing everything right, especially by trying to distract him. But perhaps you are helping him too much?

        I wouldn't have the balls to let him run for an hour in the arena. The chances are that he is too scared or too pissed off to make good decisions about preserving his body.

        I guess I would approach the situation by tying him short in his stall. I'd put another horse somewhere in the barn out of view and leave him to work it out. If he's unsure about that and frets, leave him longer until he chills. Don't help him; he has to learn "self-soothing."

        If he's good as gold with some horse some where in the same building, you have a larger challenge. I think you can only do the same thing with no other horse inside. Tie him safely and with equipment he can't break, but wait him out.

        I suppose I wouldn't care if he called, another horse answered and he got re-amped by that. I just would wait longer.

        When you have produced a horse who chills when he's tied in his stall, it will become a comfort to him. You can't control his insecurity, but you can put him into a situation that he associates with being calm. Believe it or not, you will then be helping him out.

        Best of luck to you.
        The armchair saddler
        Politically Pro-Cat

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Ok, I must be thinking on the right track. Tying was going to be my next strategy. He knows about standing tied, but if he's really upset, he will try to rub his halter off over one ear. Smart bugger. He hasn't succeeded at this yet, but I have caught him trying to do this.

          I was also thinking it might help in the evenings to randomly tie him up in different stalls in different parts of the barn (large barn) just to teach him to deal with life being different sometimes.

          atr - snow/ice will probably be on the ground until the end of March! It is usually still snowing here in April and sometimes May. Does that mean your suggestion would be to work near the paddock and slowly increase the distance?

          I should add that when he was running in the arena, it was not a full-out gallop the whole time, mostly a canter or fast trot. More like canter to gate - stop - I ask him to walk on - trot away - canter to the other end - stop to look out the window - repeat. He did two fast stops that made me cringe but other than that I didn't really think he would hurt himself.
          Jigga:
          Why must you chastise my brilliant idea with facts and logic? **picks up toys (and wine) and goes home**

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Originally posted by mvp View Post
            Or does he just want what he wants when he wants it?
            This is the impression that I get. But I have people telling me I can't expect him to behave with no other horses around, because he's young... if you hear these things enough you start second-guessing yourself... ??
            Jigga:
            Why must you chastise my brilliant idea with facts and logic? **picks up toys (and wine) and goes home**

            Comment


            • #7
              I'd tie him in his stall or in the arena and let him fight it out. It sounds less like he is truly nervous and more that he's throwing a temper tantrum. I don't doubt that he is anxious, just that the motivation isn't terror from being away from the herd, but more a "moooom, but everyone else is outside playing!!!!" kind of reaction.

              His being young is even more of a reason to teach him to behave now. The sooner the better. You certainly don't want him to go through life assuming if he throws a temper tantrum, he gets what he wants. They are smart enough to understand basic cause and effect.

              So tie him and let him figure it out. Stay close by and as soon as he calms down, do something with him. Even if it's just picking his feet and handwalking a lap in the arena like a gentleman, and then he can go be with his friends. He'll learn to associate his good behavior with going back outside.
              Strong promoter of READING the entire post before responding.

              Comment


              • #8
                No, don't second guess yourself.
                Your young horse is herd bound.
                Better to break the habit while they're young.
                I have the fun of constantly dealing with herd bound problems. I have two horses. Only two. Not always a good number to have.
                Remove one to ride...other freaks out. Or the one I'm riding freaks out. Or both try to freak out.
                Takes a lot of repetition and never backing down. Eventually they get it...they either realize they'll survive without the other horses around or they figure out they're not getting their way no matter how much of a stink they make about it.
                And some will still test that once in a while for quite some time.
                My two are now where they're not scared or worried when the other is removed...but one will still give me a little shite about it once in a rare while by acting up. A quick and immediate correction and he "remembers" his manners and that I'm not quite that easy to fool, LOL!
                but yes, at first one or the other was genuinely nervous. Takes time. Tied in a stall helps. With hay.
                I realized when we got past the "OMG I'm scared!" stage when I'd hang a bucket of their favorite soaked cubes (added a little molasses as an extra treat) and the stall bound one would scream, circle, take a few bites...get into his snack and then go back to a scream, buck and circle in the stall. Erm buddy? You ain't that scared if you're feeding your face between complaining.
                You jump in the saddle,
                Hold onto the bridle!
                Jump in the line!
                ...Belefonte

                Comment


                • #9
                  Tie training is one great tool and the other is to make him focus on you when you longe him. Not the hunter/WP warm up where they let them dink around on the end of a longe line but a longing session with many changes of directions, changes of gait to keep him looking at you and not the world around him.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Different horses respond to different things. If this horse is too wired to tie (as in he is going to really hurt himself) then you might try the opposite strategy. It takes longer and more patience, but is cheaper than vet bills.

                    The longer method involves teaching him that being alone doesn't last forever and that he can trust you to put him back with his herd eventually.

                    You would start by getting him, bringing him toward, to or into the barn, but returning to the field *before* he starts getting anxious. Do this 3 or 4 times each day you can, each time staying just a little bit longer than before. Do something he enjoys while he is away from the herd. Give him a treat or skritches. Work up to grooming or hand grazing. Make it as non-eventful and mundane as possible. Ignore him if he frets a little and don't take him right back out the moment he does. Distract him and then start taking him back out.

                    Eventually you will break the cycle completely. If he never starts to really stress, he won't get worked up.

                    It is the long way around, but the way to go if he is just too sensitive or the habit is just too ingrained to get to self-soothing safely.

                    Good Luck!

                    SCFarm
                    The above post is an opinion, just an opinion. If it were a real live fact it would include supporting links to websites full of people who already agreed with me.

                    www.southern-cross-farm.com

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      LLDM - that is the method John Lyons uses on one of hid tapes (old). Basically put a little pressure on, take it off, put a bit more on, take it off. I think I may run out of patience, but it makes sense.

                      Not keen on letting him run in the indoor - just gets him more wired and in the end he probably does not know why he's wired, just an adrenalin junkie.

                      A GP showjumper was put down last year because the paddocks were all frozen and he was put in the indoor, and broke a leg trying to stop and corner too fast.
                      Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Foxtrot's View Post
                        LLDM - that is the method John Lyons uses on one of hid tapes (old). Basically put a little pressure on, take it off, put a bit more on, take it off. I think I may run out of patience, but it makes sense.
                        But JL didn't invent it. That method is much, much older than he is. Yes, it's a PITA, but some horses require it. The good news is that once you go through it once, they will learn that way much faster the next time it is required. The short hand quote for it is, "taking the time it takes".

                        SCFarm
                        The above post is an opinion, just an opinion. If it were a real live fact it would include supporting links to websites full of people who already agreed with me.

                        www.southern-cross-farm.com

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          No offense intended, but I think your horse has you very well trained.

                          Do as others have suggested; tie him, and let him get over himself. Do not reinforce his behaviour by leaving him loose in the stall and giving him treats. That's only teaching him that yes, he can behave that way, and that you'll reward him for it.

                          I know it's scary when they're so inattentive, but it will be a lot scarier when he's older, bigger, and more set in his misbehaviour. Tie him in the stall, stay close to monitor in case he gets into trouble, but otherwise, leave him alone. JME.
                          In loving memory of Laura Jahnke.
                          A life lived by example, done too soon.
                          www.caringbridge.org/page/laurajahnke/

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            can anyone explain the tying up method more? I have an OTTB who lives out with my other horse (also an OTTB). whenever I bring him in to work he calls to his friend. I can get him to focus when he is lunging/being ridden, but he will often call to his friend. If his friend starts calling for him, it make him more anxious. Do you just tie with a quick release knot? I'm just nervous that in his anxious state he would hurt himself. I do have a trainer that is coming to work with us once the footing is a bit better (no indoor). however, i'd like ways to improve his ground manners while i wait for warmer weather.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by jetandmegs4 View Post
                              can anyone explain the tying up method more? I have an OTTB who lives out with my other horse (also an OTTB). whenever I bring him in to work he calls to his friend. I can get him to focus when he is lunging/being ridden, but he will often call to his friend. If his friend starts calling for him, it make him more anxious. Do you just tie with a quick release knot? I'm just nervous that in his anxious state he would hurt himself. I do have a trainer that is coming to work with us once the footing is a bit better (no indoor). however, i'd like ways to improve his ground manners while i wait for warmer weather.
                              John Lyons says "you ride the horse you lead" so any ground work making the horse focus on you is important from the time you put a halter on it until you turn it out. A horse is just about as tuned into our body language as a dog is. A horse remembers how much it can push you around, if in doubt, watch two horses in a pasture. One is the leader, one is the follower.

                              Tie training, as it was explained to me, is like this: in exchange for room, board and healthcare a horse works for me which means he/she gives me riding time. I am one person and my schedule doesn't allow me to ride/work my horse every day. Control the horses *time* and he is working for you because they really would rather be hanging out with their buddies or loafing around. Walk into a barn where reiners and ropers are the trainers and they will have 10 horses, some saddled, tied up all around the farm waiting to be ridden. That way one man/woman can be *working* 10 horses over the course of 7 hours.

                              Using a secure place tie the horse up and leave him alone. Walk away. Let them paw, call out and fidget away and ignore it. The horse is "working". After a couple hours, if the horse has become quiet, untie him, praise him and give him a good rub down then put him away.

                              About every third ride I try to leave whatever horse I have just ridden tied up for a period of time- even my veteran ones. It keeps them from anticipating running back to their buddies. With my coming 3 year old horse I leave him tied up often. He isn't under saddle yet but after longing or ponying him he'll be left alone for an hour or so.

                              Show me a horse that is dragging it's owner through a stableyard or showgrounds (no matter what breed or dicipline) and I'd bet the farm that horse doesn't tie and stand quietly either.

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                Thanks for all the replies. For the record, feeding treats in the stall like that was a last-ditch effort to try to get him settled down enough that I could switch out his cooler for a dry one. It didn't help any and I won't be doing it again (I don't feed him treats except one treat in his feeder before I leave for the night.

                                This week I will work on tying him in various stalls and maybe the arena (when he's settled he'll stand quietly for a long time). Then maybe I'll try in the afternoons this weekend.
                                Jigga:
                                Why must you chastise my brilliant idea with facts and logic? **picks up toys (and wine) and goes home**

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I recently dealt with herd-bound. Different situation in which we moved barns, so there was a little insecurity there. But . . . I know this mare and she's moved and gone to shows without a problem before. Always tied real well and for hours, if needed. So I was on her in a heartbeat.

                                  She started getting over it until we skipped a day at the barn. The shoer was there when I went on Friday and she was a royal pain when usually she sleeps. So, after her shoeing, I tied her while waiting for a friend who was going to help me with something. Each time she moved I got up and moved her back. I did this for about 90 minutes. Boring and frustrating, yes. I have to say that during my ride she was a little on edge, but she worked through it. When I brought her back, she was fine.

                                  Did the same thing on Saturday. Before and after our ride.

                                  By Sunday she was still as a statue.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Trying not to hijack your thread, but I have a mare exactly like your guy. When this happens, we've been working on getting her attention by getting control of her feet (backing up, yielding the hindquarters, lunging with lots of transitions and changes of direction).

                                    Can these two methods be used in conjunction? Should one be used over the other in certain situations? I've yet to try this, but am curious to see what the results would be. Like yourself, I'm determined to break the buddy sour behavior.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by SLW View Post
                                      Tie training is one great tool and the other is to make him focus on you when you longe him. Not the hunter/WP warm up where they let them dink around on the end of a longe line but a longing session with many changes of directions, changes of gait to keep him looking at you and not the world around him.
                                      That's what I was thinking.

                                      sg, in your original post, you mentioned you got him to walk from his stall to the arena with you. Then he threw a hissy when you turned him loose. So you might want to skip the free longeing for now and do the regular kind when he's hyper like that. And don't just let him tear around on the line -- make him work. When he's quiet/er and able to focus on you, then stop, praise and put him away.

                                      Just a thought ...
                                      __________________________
                                      "... if you think i'm MAD, today, of all days,
                                      the best day in ten years,
                                      you are SORELY MISTAKEN, MY LITTLE ANCHOVY."

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        sg, in your original post, you mentioned you got him to walk from his stall to the arena with you. Then he threw a hissy when you turned him loose. So you might want to skip the free longeing for now and do the regular kind when he's hyper like that. And don't just let him tear around on the line -- make him work. When he's quiet/er and able to focus on you, then stop, praise and put him away
                                        He doesn't lunge reliably

                                        I absolutely should be doing more work on the lunge (had a pretty good lunge session Sunday evening), but he's so good to ride I usually just get on and go. We have had to work through some big problems lunging and I'm just back up to the point where I can lunge him at walk/trot in a relaxed manner. I don't want to put him on the lunge right now when I think he might be wound up.

                                        I tied him for about 30-40 minutes last night while I did chores (had to listen to other boarders telling me I was "cruel" to tie him for "no reason") and he stood quietly pretty much the whole time, he just pawed for about 5 seconds at one point. Then I had a good ride.
                                        Jigga:
                                        Why must you chastise my brilliant idea with facts and logic? **picks up toys (and wine) and goes home**

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