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Help with Cows!

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  • Help with Cows!

    My 16 year old QH gelding is absolutely terrified of cows (I know. The all American Quarter Horse who is scared of cows). I don't really blame him though because he hasn't really been exposed to them, but the barn that we are at now has cows right next to the arena (the fence in between in kinda covered in tarps, but you can see a few through if you look at the right angle) and he's pretty scared of them. I don't think it's the tarps that are the issue because he's pretty chill with tarps, but the cows scare him and there is a fake cow (a plastic one to practice roping on) and he's scared of that too. I know he can work through this, but I'm not exactly sure how to address is without making a big deal out of it to him, making him more anxious in the process. I want him to be brave on his own, but I don't want to force him off the deep end with this. Any suggestions?? Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    Horses lose fear when they can chase something.

    The problem is that farmers don't like you running the beef off their cattle so be mindful of that.

    If you can go in there they will move away from you just in walk.

    If you can't go in there. Feed near their fence.
    It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

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    • #3
      Ride him near the fake cow till he gets used to it. Then gradually introduce him to the live cows. Stay away from bulls

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      • #4
        Originally posted by GoRide View Post
        My 16 year old QH gelding is absolutely terrified of cows (I know. The all American Quarter Horse who is scared of cows). I don't really blame him though because he hasn't really been exposed to them, but the barn that we are at now has cows right next to the arena (the fence in between in kinda covered in tarps, but you can see a few through if you look at the right angle) and he's pretty scared of them. I don't think it's the tarps that are the issue because he's pretty chill with tarps, but the cows scare him and there is a fake cow (a plastic one to practice roping on) and he's scared of that too. I know he can work through this, but I'm not exactly sure how to address is without making a big deal out of it to him, making him more anxious in the process. I want him to be brave on his own, but I don't want to force him off the deep end with this. Any suggestions?? Thanks in advance.
        If you can find a cow person who has a horse that is used to cows, ask if you can ride along with them when they visit the herd or whatever cows they choose. I did this with one that was terrified of cows and as soon as he saw that the other horse was not concerned and learned that cows would move away from him, the fear was gone.

        Remember to give the kind cow person a nice present.

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        • #5
          Take your horse to the arena and ride. Make the horse pay attention to you, and you make sure you do not pay attention to the cattle. Do lots of transitions, lots of changes in directions and make sure your horse is paying attention to you and you are not paying attention to the cattle. When you take a break, take it on the side of the arena where the cattle are. Ride circles around the fake cow, then take a break right beside it.

          Your horse is not going to be brave and man up on his own. He is looking to you for guidance, reassurance and leadership. You need to step up for your horse.
          "You can't fix stupid"- Ron White

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          • #6
            Warwick Schiller has some good videos on how to deal with spooky/scary stuff in the arena that I've found really helpful.

            Helping a horse gain confidence when spooking:
            https://youtu.be/zG5DhgEbiDk

            A tip for helping your horse deal with the spooky end of the arena:
            https://youtu.be/tx4dJaDERKU

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            • #7
              Depending on HOW scared horse is, would have me choosing leading or riding, to start desensitising him. We had one horse who was scary frightened of cattle up close. She went by them fine on the road, had the fence to protect her! Good even when all the heifers ran to fence to look at US! Didn't spook. However I could not get her closer than 20 ft ridden or led, to cattle in pens at a clinic. I thought it was a great training opportunity to look closely at cattle! She just bulled thru my legs to spin or back away. Would NOT step closer being led either. Not worth my getting hurt over.

              it came to a head when we got a 4H calf, who got turned out in the little paddock beside her group. She would NOT get anyplace near his fence to eat the hay. Other horses quickly got over him, wanted food, so they ate all the hay. She went hungry outside for a few days, though fed in the barn at night. She then started grabbing hay at it's edges of spread hay, before getting brave to eat the good stuff. She had her ears pinned so you could not see them, giving calf evil looks! It was probably a month before she quit being so reactive, would walk over and eat hay. She never liked the calves, but quit acting so badly.

              You horse does not recognize cattle body shapes, they smell funny, and peek-a-boo looks thru tarps don't let he see them well either. Here-then gone, is scary! WHERE did it go??!

              I would start with the statue cow, try leading him to look it over. Perhaps spread a couple handfuls of hay around and on it, to entice horse close, get to eating off the statue. Do that a day or two, until he easily approaches, eats the hay. Then do the same riding horse to statue, move around it, get hIm ignoring the statue while you ask other things of him in that arena.

              This may sound funny, but get a couple cow pies, put them in his stall or paddock, put his hay near so he is smelling cow pies during his meal. After a couple days of feeding near fresh cow pies, he is probably ready to walk fence lines with a horse friend not afraid of cows. Talk to the barn manager/cow owner, BEFORE going in with the cattle. As mentioned, following cows seems to get horse brave fastest. Do not get close to any calves! Mama will get protective, may charge. Take as long as horse needs to settle before going to the next step.

              Our mare took a long time to get used to the first calf. She was pretty fearless facing anything else we asked her too. But it was close to a MONTH before she was not wired by being near the calf. All was her choices, stay away or get closer to eat. I would NEVER have put any cattle in a paddock or field with her! She would have hurt them or gone over the fence trying to get away. We were VERY happy with her eating near them, not over reacting anymore. I think that was as good as she would ever be, and it was good enough. The other horses enjoyed watching the calves, one horse raced one calf every day along the fence line, both had a good time.
              ​​​​​​

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              • Original Poster

                #8
                Thank you all for your advice! My plan is that after he is turned out all day he'll be a bit tuckered out and will hopefully try to approach the fake cow. I'm going to bring some treats with me to make him more open to the idea of getting close to the cow, hopefully maybe (crossing my fingers) that he'll put his nose on it. As to his level of fear, when he first saw the fake cow (horns and all) he literally pooped himself, puffing, snorting, the whole nine yards. He was better by the time we left the arena (we walked on the far side, staying a safe distance away from the cows but he does know that they are there) but he's definitely not sold on them a single bit. I don't really mind how long it takes for him to get used to them, as long as it's not too too unreasonable, but I don't want him to be traumatized or anything by the time we're done. Thanks again everyone! Keep the suggestions coming!!
                Happy May!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by GoRide View Post
                  Thank you all for your advice! My plan is that after he is turned out all day he'll be a bit tuckered out and will hopefully try to approach the fake cow. I'm going to bring some treats with me to make him more open to the idea of getting close to the cow, hopefully maybe (crossing my fingers) that he'll put his nose on it. As to his level of fear, when he first saw the fake cow (horns and all) he literally pooped himself, puffing, snorting, the whole nine yards. He was better by the time we left the arena (we walked on the far side, staying a safe distance away from the cows but he does know that they are there) but he's definitely not sold on them a single bit. I don't really mind how long it takes for him to get used to them, as long as it's not too too unreasonable, but I don't want him to be traumatized or anything by the time we're done. Thanks again everyone! Keep the suggestions coming!!
                  Happy May!
                  We had ranch horses, that have worked cattle all their life, do just that, absolutely say no way, that is a monster, first time they saw one of those Hot Heels drag along practice dummies.
                  Once they are moving away, they eventually decide is just another silly human trick.

                  Maybe try to go when someone is using one for practice and your horse will realize what that is?

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