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I need "cowboy" recommendations for a rank draft...

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  • I need "cowboy" recommendations for a rank draft...

    We've recently acquired a 5 year old, 1900 lb, 17.1 hh Perch gelding (thank god for small favors there!). The backstory is a long one and not worth going into detail on, but essentially we took him because our family friends fell on very, very hard times and were facing having to euthanize him if he wasn't sold/adopted. We have two others at a great old farm with almost 100 acres of pasture, lots of trails, and nice, big stalls...essentially the perfect set up for a horse like him. He's a really great guy with a sweet-as-pie personality, loves people, other horses, great with dogs/kids/etc. and is very straightforward to ride. The problem is, however, he was orphaned and hand raised in our friend's kitchen (yes, you read that correctly...kitchen) until he was too big to fit through the door (yes, you also read that correctly). So essentially, he was the "family dog" until he was about 1.5 years old. Naturally, he still thinks his the family dog.

    When he's doing something *he* wants to do, he's very pleasant and simple to handle, but if he wants to go into his stall to eat, or out to the paddock, or just plain doesn't want to back up when asked on the ground, all hell breaks loose. He will throw his shoulder, neck or head into you, he will simply run right through you with no regard for discipline. We've used a chain over the nose, under the chin, over the nose and up the off side of the face, a lip chain, a rope halter...and nothing. He's literally dead to all of it. He's also dead to pressure when being asked to move over or back. It takes almost my entire body weight to get him to back or to move (even just enough to be in the center of the aisle when crosstied).

    I have been riding/working with horses for 20 years and my mother has been riding/working with horses for almost 45. We are certainly not novices. We have 7 other horses, ranging in size from a medium pony, to a 18 hh TB who are incredibly well-mannered (and 4 of them did NOT come that way) and VERY respectful of humans and their space (all it takes is a quick, sharp "HEY!" to correct any unwanted behavior. I can't remember the last time I had to even tap a chest or shoulder on any of them).

    The final straw with the big guy came last Thursday when we found him down and out in his field. He had a temp of 106 and was very, very sick. So we got him up and walking, called the vet and sent him to the hospital not long after, but even as sick as he was, when the vet tried to administer IV meds, he almost pinned her against the wall by throwing (literally throwing) his entire body at her. He did NOT want that needle anywhere near him. We had to resort to oral sedatives so that we could get him doped enough to administer the IV drugs and banamine as well so they could get his fever down and drop the NG tube. The vet essentially told us that until his manners/behavior has improved, they would not be willing to treat him under normal circumstances.

    We've had him since December and have been working with him 4-5 days a week at 15-25 minute intervals on the ground. He is INCREDIBLY out of shape (he essentially sat in a field for ten months before we picked him up and did nothing) and mentally very immature, so we are trying to keep things simple and straight forward so we don't fry him. Mostly we work on leading, turning, backing up, staying out of our space, and moving off of pressure. He has no issues with leg or contact commands under tack. The issue is, he'll give us 5 or 6 minutes of good work and then throw a tantrum. And this has been consistent no matter how much we work with him.

    My trainers are unwilling work with him because of his size and how extensive his problems are (and especially because they are ground-related and not riding related). We do not have access to a small ring or a round pen, so most of our working area is improvised. We're not looking for him to become the next "trick" horse or any such nonsense, just to be safe and pleasant for any horse person to handle. We are in MA but are willing to send him elsewhere for several months of professional training, but preferably to anyone that specializes in drafts. I only use the term "cowboy" because that is what the vet recommended . If anyone has any suggestion in the NE area, that would be greatly appreciated. I apologize for the novel, but I wanted to stress his specific issues in the hopes that someone could point me to the right person!
    Nine out of ten times, you'll get it wrong...but it's that tenth time that you get it right that makes all the difference.

  • #2
    I know a trainer who could probably deal with him but she's down here in MD and I doubt you'd want to send him that far. I've seen her work with quite a few "problem" drafts and send them back rather mannerly. (and sometimes they weren't the problem at all, the problem was in the owner, but it doesn't sound like that's the case with you)
    The Trials and Jubilations of a Twenty-Something Re-rider
    Happy owner of Kieran the mostly-white-very-large-not-pony.

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    • #3
      aye aye aye. Good luck with that.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Punkie View Post
        We've recently acquired a 5 year old, 1900 lb, 17.1 hh Perch gelding
        would you show him as much consideration if he were a bull?on a farm with no cows ?

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

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        • #5
          No recomendations, but want to commend you for stepping up and doing the right thing by this guy. Good luck and I hope that you get back a well mannered boy who can have a home anywhere!
          Holly
          www.ironhorsefrm.com
          Oldenburg foals and young prospects
          LIKE us on Facebook!

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          • Original Poster

            #6
            Originally posted by Tamara in TN View Post
            would you show him as much consideration if he were a bull?on a farm with no cows ?

            Tamara in TN
            I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at?
            Nine out of ten times, you'll get it wrong...but it's that tenth time that you get it right that makes all the difference.

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            • #7
              Wow. You have your hands full. I don't have anyone that is a cowboy trainer that I could recommend unfortunately.

              But, I also live in MA and I do know there are a lot of draft people in Western MA who pull with their horses. Just food for thought, some of them are really excellent horsemen. If all else failed, maybe you could find one who would be willing to teach him to drive (not pull, just drive ) and maybe hitch him with an older horse until he learned his place in the world.
              Once he had some manners instilled as well as a work ethic, the rest might get easier for you.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Punkie View Post
                I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at?
                a bull can be made a pet...a bull can be taught to drive and pull.... a bull can be castrated....a bull can be haltered and trailered.....and brushed and loved and you can call him "George"

                but would you if this animal was a bull of 1900 pounds ?

                point being, this animal is beyond your skill set and you are going to get hurt...even trained by a draft person or a cowboy or St. Francis himself, he will return and you will get hurt...

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

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                • #9
                  I won't speak for Tamara but I am sitting on the same bench, I think.

                  He's a rude huge animal. His native language, honed as a spoiled, petted, orphan, is to simply walk through or over that which tells him otherwise, to hell with the nose chain or other mild distractions.

                  Were he a bull with those vices, would you see the sweet boy inside, or see him for what he is?

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                  • #10
                    Sent you a PM
                    JB-Infinity Farm
                    www.infinitehorses.com

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                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Originally posted by katarine View Post
                      I won't speak for Tamara but I am sitting on the same bench, I think.

                      He's a rude huge animal. His native language, honed as a spoiled, petted, orphan, is to simply walk through or over that which tells him otherwise, to hell with the nose chain or other mild distractions.

                      Were he a bull with those vices, would you see the sweet boy inside, or see him for what he is?

                      I was somewhat worried that this would come up, so I might as well explain the backstory a bit so you guys can understand why I'm working so hard (and honestly spending a small fortune) to make this horse right.

                      We know the family we got him from because the wife/mother is my best friend's older sister. My best friend died of the same autoimmune/genetic disease I have on August 17th of last year. My family is very fortunate and has a lot to give and before my best friend passed away, I promised her that we'd always stay in touch with her sister, BIL and their kids and do what we could to support each other through her loss (she was very sick for a long time). Her sister (we'll call her Liz) and BIL (we'll call him Paul) ended up in a tremendously hard financial position and with a house full of kids (one of whom is *extremely* diabetic and difficult to manage medically) and four horses (2 of which were/are working horses which is what the one we adopted was supposed to grow up to be). They are in the midst of foreclosing on their house/farm, and are in such financial straits that my family has been sending clothes, grocery store/Walmart/CVS gift cards every month so that they can get the essentials.

                      This horse has a very special place in all of our hearts for two reasons. The first is because he was Liz's favorite mare's colt who died giving birth to him (hence why he was hand-raised) and born on Liz's birthday. He was also the last horse that my best friend broke (she was a well-known dressage trainer). So in a round-about way, he is our last significant connection to her (because of family issues with their mother, they did not receive any of her possessions, photos...anything after she passed away, and her mare died several years back). So, he's really all we have left of this person we loved very, very much.

                      And maybe that's not enough of a reason to fight for a horse. I don't know. What I do know is that we have not exhausted all of our options. I am a very good horseperson. I grew up riding with the best of the best from both the US and Europe, so I have a very solid foundation. I have worked with insanely rank horses before, horses MUCH worse off than him, but just never in his weight class. We have the financial means to have the training put into the horse as well as more training installed into the primary handlers (myself and my mother). If this were a truly nasty animal, I would not be putting forth this kind of effort, but he's not. And I feel that it would be doing a great unkindness to my friend's memory to give up so easily. She fought for YEARS against a disease that I know - first hand - makes lesser people want to lay down and give up, so I need to fight equally as hard to make this work for him. He deserves that much...so does she.
                      Nine out of ten times, you'll get it wrong...but it's that tenth time that you get it right that makes all the difference.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        When something isn't working then something needs to be changed.

                        The 'force' and 'punishment' techniques aren't working - the chains, the crops, the whatever.

                        Haven't met a horse, yet, though that did not respond favorably to positive reinforcement teaching. Reason being is because a horse who has a strong will (they all have their own minds) needs to be allowed to make choices. Punishment only breeds further resentment, more determination/exertion of own will and a horse will resist with as much force as the force/pressure being applied to him.

                        Positive Reinforcement/Operant Conditioning allows the subject (horse) to manipulate the outcome of the exercise/task. Most every animal will respond to a favorable result of a specific behavior (vs react to a specific stimuli). Marking a specific behavior (such as a step backward) and then rewarding that behavior (adding favorable result) will result in the horse repeating the same behavior that reaped him/her the favorable result. Utilizing a reward that the horse will seek out (I used food treats for most) m.o.t.i.v.a.t.e.s. the horse to repeat the behavior that brought him the reward. He learns, very quickly, to associate the task with the following reward. As the 'rewarding' behavior is repeated, the 'unwanted' behavior self-extiguishes. It simply goes away. The animal (and humans, too) will do what makes them feel good when given a choice.

                        It's a simple concept yet extremely powerful when used correctly. Yes, its "clicker training" but as I said, haven't met a horse yet who did not favorably respond to this added feature of 'training'.

                        Radio Show on this today: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/clicknaturalhorse

                        I think you'll find it interesting. I believe its on handling difficult horses today!
                        Last edited by caballus; Mar. 8, 2010, 01:26 PM.
                        --Gwen <><
                        "Treat others as you want to be treated and be the change you want to see in the world."
                        http://www.thepenzancehorse.com

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                        • #13
                          Are you anywhere near any Amish?- I'd send him to them to go plow some fields and get some manners
                          I'm good at being uncomfortable so I can't stop changing all the time -Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
                          If I were your appendages, I'd hold open your eyes so you would see- Incubus

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                          • #14
                            How far are you from Connecticut? The Kriz family of Bethany, CT are world renown in the draft horse industry for training, showing, shoeing and selling draft horses, training them both under saddle and in hitch. If you want the telephone number, PM me. Another source for all things draft is the Draft Horse Journal, which is usually sold through Tractor Supply Company and some feed/tack stores. Plenty of ads for breeding, training and showing farms in there, which would help you find a good draft horse trainer somewhere near your area.
                            "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein

                            http://s1098.photobucket.com/albums/...2011%20Photos/

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                            • #15
                              draft trainer

                              Also sending you a PM.

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                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                Originally posted by caballus View Post
                                When something isn't working then something needs to be changed.

                                The 'force' and 'punishment' techniques aren't working - the chains, the crops, the whatever.

                                Haven't met a horse, yet, though that did not respond favorably to positive reinforcement teaching. Reason being is because a horse who has a strong will (they all have their own minds) needs to be allowed to make choices. Punishment only breeds further resentment, more determination/exertion of own will and a horse will resist with as much force as the force/pressure being applied to him.

                                Positive Reinforcement/Operant Conditioning allows the subject (horse) to manipulate the outcome of the exercise/task. Most every animal will respond to a favorable result of a specific behavior (vs react to a specific stimuli). Marking a specific behavior (such as a step backward) and then rewarding that behavior (adding favorable result) will result in the horse repeating the same behavior that reaped him/her the favorable result. Utilizing a reward that the horse will seek out (I used food treats for most) m.o.t.i.v.a.t.e.s. the horse to repeat the behavior that brought him the reward. He learns, very quickly, to associate the task with the following reward. As the 'rewarding' behavior is repeated, the 'unwanted' behavior self-extiguishes. It simply goes away. The animal (and humans, too) will do what makes them feel good when given a choice.

                                It's a simple concept yet extremely powerful when used correctly. Yes, its "clicker training" but as I said, haven't met a horse yet who did not favorably respond to this added feature of 'training'.
                                I'm a little all over the place this morning, but I should've mentioned that as well! We've used all of the "force" tools more for our safety than anything else, but he absolutely gets positive reinforcement, and often. He's VERY mouthy (but not a biter at all), so we don't reinforce through food, but every time he does something we ask, he gets lots of rubs and praise (he loves being touched/pet/groomed, etc.). Even if it's only partially what we want (he's difficult about picking up his back feet, so if he picks it up and rests his toe, we'll still praise him for going in the right direction). The only time we've hit him or used any sort of force is when it's becoming risky to our safety (i.e. charging for the stall when it's dinner time). But once he's complied, he again receives praise. And at the end of his session, after he's been put in his stall and has not shown any signs of begging, we put carrots in his feed tub as a reward.
                                Nine out of ten times, you'll get it wrong...but it's that tenth time that you get it right that makes all the difference.

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                                • #17
                                  Please don't misunderstand my post, and I certainly understand why you are doing what you are going and frankly you don't owe anybody any sort of justification. I just have my limits in what I think he'll be able to achieve for you or anyone. His most formative years were not positive ones in terms of him knowing where he fits in the scheme of things.

                                  I would second the Amish recommendation. They won't take any guff off him and sandwiched between two drafts who know their business, he won't get much say among the horses either. God knows he doesn't need his self esteem brought up any LOL

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                                  • #18
                                    Even if it's only partially what we want (he's difficult about picking up his back feet, so if he picks it up and rests his toe, we'll still praise him for going in the right direction).
                                    One thing with operant conditioning though is the concept of shaping. Getting him going in the right direction is good, but once he's resting the toe reliably, you need to ask for more, otherwise he's only ever going to go that far because that's what he gets praised for. If he's rested his toe several times, now you need to be asking him to actually pick his foot off the ground for you, even just for a second or two. And then go on.

                                    I'm also not sure what the one poster means by "he's 1900 pounds so you can't handle him" do you mean that with any draft or do you mean "he's pushy, has no concept of boundaries, and is 1900 pounds so you can't handle him"?
                                    The Trials and Jubilations of a Twenty-Something Re-rider
                                    Happy owner of Kieran the mostly-white-very-large-not-pony.

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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Punkie View Post
                                      he's difficult about picking up his back feet, so if he picks it up and rests his toe, we'll still praise him for going in the right direction.
                                      Make sure you aren't fighting health issues, as well. Difficulty with back feet is a red flag for EPSM, and given that he's a draft ... well, just make sure you're feeding him correctly.

                                      It doesn't seem that a physical issue should spill over to being behavioral, but having lived with a Perch/TB with EPSM (who, incidentally, was also an orphan), I can say that some of that dang-you're-huge-but-can-you-just-move-this-little-bit stuff CAN be related to the physical.
                                      "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

                                      Spay and neuter. Please.

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                                      • #20
                                        Just out of curiosity, how was the previous owner able to break him to ride if his ground manners were so bad?

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