I rescued a 7 year old gelding Tennessee Walker . He belonged (trained and
shown) to an 89 year old man that bought him when his wife passed then 6
years later he passed away. He was run through a livestock auction due to
estate after left in a field for 8 months, severely under weight, sickly,
etc. and was afraid of everything. In six months I have him eating out of
my hand, stands at liberty for grooming, but unable to touch his face &
forehead to get a halter on him. He only responds to me and not my husband.
Any ideas how to get away from the resistance so he doesn’t pull away from
touch? I need to get a bit firmer with him now that he’s in excellent
health, noting he still needs emotional mending. THANK YOU – I love your
Based on what you told me, I’d tie an old sock or cloth on the end of a
medium length whip (approximately 4 feet long) so you have a somewhat puffy
dauber at the end of the whip. Then using the whip as an extension of your
arm, rub the sock all over the places on your horse’s body that you can now
groom him. You can do this with the horse loose, held by an assistant, tied,
or even held by you – that will depend on his level of handling and
Once the horse is accustomed to the sock on a stick, gradually start moving
the sock up his neck. At the first sign of resistance (tensing, raising of
head, moving away etc.) keep the sock at that spot and rub and rub and
rub……..until you see a sign of relaxation (an exhale, a lowering of the
head, licking and chewing, or an overall calming). When the horse relaxes,
take the sock away and tell him “Good boy” and rub him somewhere he likes
rubbing such as on his withers or neck.
Then start again. Repeat the procedure, each time getting the horse used to
being touched in a new area of his “hot zone”. Eventually you will be able
to use the sock on his forehead, across his ears and so on.
But, it does take time, perseverance and patience. Be sure you are very
consistent in your techniques.
Rub until you find a touchy spot, work there until there is relaxation,
remove the stimulus, reward. Repeat.
It could take days, weeks or even a month to over-ride the avoidance reflex.
Eventually you should tie a long sock or cloth on the whip so you can do
this with a floppy item, then a plastic grocery sack. Then your hands.
The reason it is easier to use a long stick (or whip) is that your arms
would get very tired reaching up to the horse’s head and ears and keeping
them there for the time it takes for the horse to learn that he is not going
to be harmed.
It is important you take the time for this very important lesson because
without it, you wont’ be able to handle, care for or bridle your horse.
Best of luck, have fun and let me know how your horse progresses.