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Archive for the ‘Desensitization’ Category

The word submissive can sometimes have an undeserved bad connotation.  If we are talking about a bully who is forcing another person into submission and fear, yes, that is a bad thing, a very bad thing.

But when it comes to horses and their interaction with people, submission is not only necessary from a safety standpoint, it is desirable from the horse’s perspective.

Horses feel the most secure, content and untroubled when they have a fair and capable leader. When there are no questions, when roles are clear, when the (human-horse) pecking order is established, a horse is submissive, calm and content.

Once the partnership is established, often, all it takes is the touch of a hand to elicit that calmness.

Zipper and Cherry

Enjoy that good horse,

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Hello Cherry

My miniature horse foal keeps biting, bucking, rearing and jumping up.  He is a 4 month old foal.  I plan to geld him, but our vet said to wait until he is 1 year, so it won’t harm his growth.

Hershey wants to bite and chew on EVERYTHING.  He has toys in the yard that he can play with, but I seldom see him using them.  We have a pet goat who lives with him and his mother, and he is often seen chewing on her legs and tail (she has bite marks to prove it)  I try to enforce the no-bite rule when I am around him by pushing his head away and tapping him on the muzzle, but when I leave for the day, there isn’t anyone to stop him.

Also, when I turn my back to him, he will often run up behind me and rear/kick me.  He also does this to his mother by jumping up and placing his hooves right below her withers.

He is a very smart foal, catches on very easily and  loves to please me.  He let me take his halter on and off him at 5 days old and would move back and to the side with pressure too, but now he is so focused on biting or chewing on me that when I ask him to do something, he ignores my signals.

On a different hoof, when his mother goes to roll in the dirt, she finds it very difficult because he jumps over her.  I have often had to hold him still so she can roll, because I am worried that he will tangle his legs with hers.

Is this a stage, or is it a habit???  And how would I be able to fix it and make him behave?  Would gelding him early help?  I am supposed to show him in showmanship this year.

Thanks, Julia

Hi Julia,

First I want to be sure that you know how to search here on this blog and on my website for information related to Biting and other horse behavior and training topics.

For example, here on this blog, you can type Biting in the Search box at the top of the page or in the right hand column. It will bring up a list of articles here that talk about horses that bite. For example

Horse Behavior – Biting Children

You can also go to the article page on my main website www.horsekeeping.com where there are many more articles. On that page, you can see all of the articles by title, so the fastest way to find what you want is to go to the Behavior category and scroll down to the articles on Biting.

For example, besides the one on the miniatures that bite children, there are the following articles:

Q&As on Horse Biting

Biting Prevention

Horse in Stall Bites at People

Now, to your questions specifically. It is generally a stage that colts (male foals) go through. If a biting horse is dabbed at or played with, or if you lightly tap his nose to tell him no, in many cases it tends to encourage play biting which is a socially acceptable behavior between horses.

You need to make sure your foal knows in no uncertain terms that you are top on the pecking order and biting is not an acceptable behavior.

You also need to set up regular handling sessions so that he learns to respect your personal space. This means 2-3 sessions per day every day – the sessions don’t have to be long – they could be 5-20 minutes each but should be structured. The articles I suggest above and other articles on my website will help with that.

As far as limiting his biting when you are not handling him or near him, that would be difficult. You can deter his biting of certain things like wood rails by coating them with a No Chew product, but that’s a big world out there, so while he is at this stage, perhaps teething, you should focus on his good manners when he is being handled and when you are near him when he is loose.

In terms of gelding him, here is a thorough discussion of why a horse is gelded, when, and aftercare. You should follow your own veterinarian’s advice as to when to geld but do know that many horses are gelding “early” which means before they are a year old – even at weaning – with good results and no negative effects. I don’t want to advise you on that as I can’t see your horse. Your veterinarian has the best picture of your horses, management and so on.

Gelding and Aftercare

Best of luck and remember, there is no substitute for thorough regular effective handling.

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Happy Holidays !

Boy is it busy around here ! I was so glad when hubby Richard worked up this article about his continuing adventure with Sherlock’s Sarcoid and offered to let me post it to my sorely neglected blog !  Thank you Richard ! And keep those good questions coming – I will catch up after the holidays. Cherry Hill

A Simple Equine Sarcoid Treatment
by Richard Klimesh

History –

January 2009. While grooming my 10-year-old gelding, Sherlock, I felt a small growth on his inner flank, about the size of a gum drop, in the crease where the flank joins the abdomen. It wasn’t sensitive and didn’t bother Sherlock so I simply made a mental note to check it periodically.

equine sarcoid treatmentJanuary 2010. The growth had increased to the size of a small walnut although the area of attachment seemed quite small (photo at left). It was neither soft nor hard – rather like squeezing an orange. It was not sensitive and was not causing any problems. Nevertheless, because it had doubled in size I sent photos to a veterinarian to get his opinion.

The vet said, “It’s probably a pedunculated sarcoid. Sarcoids are a common skin virus of horses. This one, based on my imperfect observations of one photo, is probably easily banded to remove. However, my recommendation with sarcoids is to always leave them alone unless they are causing some sort of problem. They represent no threat at all to the health of the horse, they only interfere with the tack if they are in a bad position. Sometimes when we remove them, we cause the virus to spread, however this is not much of a concern when we band them.”

I decided to take a wait-and-see approach.

March 9, 2010. I contacted my vet: “Next time you are up this way and you have time, would you stop in and take a close look at that growth on Sherlock? It seems to be getting larger and a small scab came off it a few days ago. I’m sure it bothers me more than it does Sherlock, but I’d like to get your first hand opinion so I can make definite plans to either do something about it or forget it.”

The vet came by a few days later and after examining the sarcoid he banded it – using a specialized hand tool he slipped a heavy duty rubber band over the sarcoid so it constricted around the base. This cuts off the blood supply to the tumor and eventually it drops off. I kept Sherlock in a pen so that I could collect the sarcoid when it dropped. I checked it every day and it got looser and looser and then began to smell and I thought it would never come off.

March 23, 2010. Two weeks after banding the sarcoid was gone. . . and was nowhere to be found in the pen. The place where it had attached looked healthy and pink so said good riddance to the sarcoid (so I thought) and turned Sherlock back out on pasture.


equine sarcoid treatmentNovember 1, 2010. On my daily check of the horses I noticed some blood droplets on Sherlock’s left hind pastern. Examining him closer I found a new and different looking growth (fibroblastic sarcoid in photo at left) at the site of the previous sarcoid. It was being abraded when Sherlock moved, causing it to bleed. I contacted the vet. Here’s what he had to say:

“Sorry to see this has returned. Now it looks more cutaneous, flatter, and perhaps some XTerra might work. This is a topical ointment, a caustic debridement agent, that is made at Vetline in Fort Collins. Sometimes it works well, but the location of this lesion makes any treatment difficult. These sarcoids can be a bugger to beat. Maybe CSU [Colorado State University in nearby Fort Collins] has a freeze treatment, I don’t know but it might be worthwhile to consult with them. And of course it’s always a good idea to wait a while and see what develops. I don’t think he’s in much discomfort or danger from this. Good luck.”

I then did some web research and found XTerra that the vet mentioned, some other caustic treatments, a few herbal formulas all of which had mixed reviews.
I also came across several anecdotal accounts on horse forums of successful rapid elimination of equine sarcoids by application of Crest toothpaste.
Some who had used the toothpaste method speculated that it was the flouride in the toothpaste that killed the sarcoid virus. I figured if it was true that flouride was the healing agent then mouthwash containing flouride (which we just happened to have in the medicine cabinet) would be as effective as toothpaste and much easier to apply, since it could be sprayed on the tumor rather than applied by hand or with an applicator stick.

11-6-2010
I began treatment, which consisted solely of spraying the sarcoid once daily with full strength commercial mouthwash (ACT Restoring brand) containing 0.05% sodium flouride. I used a small spray bottle that came in an eyeglass cleaning solution kit. This was very handy and easy to use. I found it very difficult to bend over and twist my head to get a good look at the sarcoid because of its location and doing so put my head in a vulnerable position should Sherlock suddenly bring his hind hoof forward. I found that with the small spray bottle I could remain upright and reach down with this little spray bottle and hit the sarcoid without looking.

Sherlock tolerated this daily treatment well. One reason is because I never had to touch the sarcoid to administer treatment. Also, Sherlock’s ground training had included thoroughly sacking out with a spray bottle of water.

equine sarcoid treatment
11-27-2010  

 

Twenty days from the first spray the sarcoid had dried up and was sloughing. I put on a rubber glove, pulled an old sock over that and gently rubbed the dry tissue to remove it. This was done completely dry with no washing of the area.


equine sarcoid treatment
Same Day 

 

The photo at left shows the site of the sarcoid immediately after the dry matter was brushed off. I have given no further treatment, but will commence at the first sign of new sarcoid development.

 

equine sarcoid treatment 


12-08-2010

 

12 days later and site of the sloughed sarcoid is healing over nicely, with no sign of sarcoid.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a vet. As far as I know this method of treating sarcoids with flouride mouthwash has only been used by me and only in this one case. If you decide to try it, do so at your own risk. Please let me know how it works for you.

Good Luck!

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Hi Cherry,

I rescued two horses- a large Fell pony and a mini. Both had been abused and were starving. I’ve got their weight up, their hooves cared for, shots, worming etc.
But it has been almost 3 months and they are still very hard to halter, to clean their feet ( both have thrush) and to separate them to work with them ( just the simplest ground work in a nearby round pen)! When I have someone else, we can work it out fairly well but usually I am alone. I have few expectations, maybe short rides or a little pulling a cart ( both had some draft experience) – I’m now 65, and even though i had been a horse professional teaching in riding stables, training and judging in dressage,  I’m having an awful time with them. I need encouragement to keep them. It has been very expensive and wonder if others have rescue horse experience. Eileen

HI Eileen,

Just in my email box this morning was an article from The Horse which states that

Each year there are about 100,000 unwanted horses in the United States, too many for the registered equine rescue and sanctuary groups to handle, according to a recent survey by experts at the University of California, Davis. They found that the 236 registered rescue and sanctuary organizations could only help about 13,400 horses a year.

I have no personal experience with rescue horses but wanted to post your note so that if others want to reply, they can do so here.

I do know that retraining any horse can seem like it takes twice as long as it does to train a horse from scratch. Some of my colleagues say ten times as long !

When I taught in college and university equine programs, one of the ways we would get horses for the training and riding classes was through donations. Well, we received some wonderful horses and also some with interesting previous experiences and challenging behaviors. Some took several semesters to sort out and even then, might not be trustworthy with novice riders.

I do encourage you and applaud you for your efforts. It will take time, repetition and very frequent regular handling to alter their suspicious behavior. But it can be done.

Please refer to the many useful articles here on this blog related to ground training, desensitization and more. Here are some examples:

Head Handling

Horse Training – Handling, Gentling, Desensitization, Sacking Out, Flooding

Horse Behavior – Licking and Chewing

Also visit my Horse Information Roundup where I have posted hundreds of free articles related to behavior and training.

Best of luck and let me know if you have specific questions.

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We’ve tried and tried to use clippers on our horses ears but to no avail. She freaks out every time! What can you suggest that we can use to clean the hairs in her ears for shows. We’ve tried every form of desensitizing that can be thought of and nothing works. She simply can’t stand the buzzing noise. I want her to look groomed for shows but am at a loss as what to do now. Any suggestions. Mary

Hi Mary,

I understand, having been a horse show judge for over 25 years, that during show season you want to clip the hair from around and inside a horse’s ears.

Personally, I would never do that to a horse, but then we live on a ranch and our horses live in pastures, so clipping the hair out of their ears would mean they’d have to fight off bugs in the summer and have cold ears in the winter.

But getting a horse used to clippers around his ears is the same as any other desensitization.

You haven’t told me what you tried and how it worked or didn’t work, so I have very little to go on here.

Be sure to read the articles about:

Desensitization

Head Handling

because they contain the principles you need. You don’t say what your horse does when you try to clip her ears, just that “she simply can’t stand the buzzing noise”  – does this mean she doesn’t stand still, raises her head, shakes her head, lowers her head between her front legs, walks over the top of you, bites you, strikes at the clippers, lays down, pulls free and runs off? What?

If you care to write more details, perhaps I can be of more help, but in the meantime, like any other desensitization, it takes time and patience and time and repetition and time and progressive goals and time. Did I say it takes time?

Whether you want to clip your horse’s ears or not, you should be able to run clippers in the ear and bridle path area. Take the time it takes to get the job done. Start with being able to just hold the clippers turned off anywhere on her body, then running anywhere on her body. You won’t be clipping, you are just holding the running clippers on her hot spots. Find an area where her behavior starts to say NO and work there, even if it is under her chin or on her flank…..use that place to establish your system.

You repeat the stimulation there until she accepts it, then you remove the stimulation and reward her with a rub.

You never remove the stimulation until she relaxes and accepts it. If you remove the running clippers from a hot spot when she is “freaking” as you say, you have taught her to freak. Freaking gets her what she wants – the removal of the clippers.

Plan to take days, not hours or minutes to work on this. Once you have your system established, use it to desensitize her ears (without clipping). Your goal is not to clip, but to have the running clippers closer and closer to her ears.

Once you can run the clippers near her ears, it will be no big deal to clip.

Best of luck,

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Dear Cherry,

I recently bought a horse that is petrified of puddles.How can I remedy his fears without making him more afraid? I want to trail ride him and we have to cross a lot of small streams. I don’t want to get out there and have a bad situation develop.


Shari from Connecticut


Hi Shari,

Luckily, this is one of those fears that can be overcome by using a progressive ground training and riding program.  Here’s what I do.

First, I make sure I can lead the horse over suspicious, but safe, obstacles on the ground such as a sturdy wooden bridge, a rubber mat placed in the middle of a grassy area, various sizes of plastic or canvas, even an old horse blanket or coat.  Be sure you are careful as to what you choose for your obstacles.  You want your horse to learn to trust your judgment so you don’t want to choose something that he would fall through or get his legs tangled up in.  You want the horse to approach the obstacle with his body straight, take a look at it as he approaches and then walk straight across it without veering his hind legs off to one side as he crosses.  The goal is to have all four feet on an obstacle at once with the horse walking calmly forward.

Horses CANNOT see things directly below their heads so as you approach an obstacle, let the horse start lowering his head (and remember this when you are riding) so he can get his eyes down to where they can do him some good.  Since the partnership with your horse should be based on mutual trust, you need to trust him by “giving him his head” somewhat and he needs to trust you that you will never ask him to do something dangerous.

Once you can negotiate obstacles in-hand, then begin riding the horse across these obstacles as part of his at-home training.  But don’t just work on obstacles over and over and over. Instead, ride a little, come to the obstacle and work it, then take a spin around the pasture or arena and come back later.  This will be more like trail conditions where you ride a while and then encounter a stream.

If you live in a place that has rain (lucky you!) then you will have puddles to practice in for the next stage.  I start with the largest puddle I can find – it is easier to get a horse to walk THROUGH a large puddle – when puddles are small, they want to step over or around them or HOP!  You will use the same technique as with the obstacles.  Start by leading the horse across puddles. Let him take his time to inspect – be sure to let him put his head down so he can look at the puddle.  Step into the puddle yourself to show him it is safe, then ask him to walk forward with you.  If he veers, balks or rushes, go back to one of the previous obstacles and work on one step at a time, proper position, moving forward at an even pace and calmness. The return to the puddles.  Like before, once you feel the horse is very calm about crossing puddles in-hand, then begin riding him over them.  If you use this type of progressive training to build your horse’s confidence in you and in unusual things, he will trust your judgment when you come to a new stream on the trail that needs crossing.

Cherry Hill

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Surcingles

©  2010 Cherry Hill   © Copyright Information

A surcingle is a necessary piece of equipment for ground driving and is ideal for teaching a young horse about girth pressure. A surcingle for ground driving should have appropriate rings for driving lines, must fit a reasonable range of heart girths, be sturdy, safe, and easy care.

101 Longeing and Long Lining ExeercisesLong-lining is an important part of a young horse’s training. (Long lining is also referred to as ground driving.) It teaches acceptance of girth restriction, accustoms a horse to the presence and actions of a bit, and introduces bending. Long-lining is also a valuable means for fine-tuning certain points with intermediate and older horses: bending and flexion, flying changes, and upper level dressage movements.

A surcingle encircles a horse’s heart girth, acting as a mini-saddle and girth. For ground driving, the trainer runs long lines through the surcingle’s side rings in a horse’s early training and then through the top terrets or rings as the horse advances. A horse can be driven in front of the trainer, beside the trainer as both walk along, around the trainer in a circle, or in patterns such as figure eights or serpentines in the arena at large.


Most surcingles are designed to be used directly on the horse’s back, with a surcingle pad, or with a regular saddle pad. Some can be used over the top of a saddle. This is convenient because if a horse needs to be long-lined prior to riding, you won’t have to return to the barn to change tack.

However, using a surcingle over a saddle can create problems. It can slip from side to side when turning (the smooth leather covering of the surcingle padding + the the smooth leather of the saddle seat = slip, no friction). This is especially likely if the horse made a sudden wrong move such as young horses do. Slippage can be avoided if the surcingle is fastened excessively tight but extreme tightness can cause even a seasoned horse to buck!

Longeing and Long Lining the Western HorseAlso you might find when using a surcingle over the top of a saddle that when you are asking the horse to perform serpentines and flying changes, the long line of the “old bend” can get caught on the cantle of the saddle after the horse changed to the “new bend”. To remedy this, you can either “pitch a wave” in the line (without bumping the horse’s mouth) hoping to get the new outside line over on top of the seat of the saddle again OR you must stop the horse, gather up the lines, walk to the horse, lift the line from behind the cantle and then resume. After several such instances occurring just after a spectacular flying change where we couldn’t reward the horse with forward movement (instead had to stop and regroup), you’ll likely abandon over-the-saddle driving and use the traditional surcingle position, that is directly on the horse or with the use of a normal saddle pad.

Generally surcingles are comprised of a top portion and a girth. The top portion is made up of the saddle and the side pieces. The saddle consists of a padded pommel that sits on or behind the withers. The padding varies from a flat profile (1/2″ or less) saddle consisting of a thin layer of padding in the wither area to a high profile (2″ or more) saddle made up of two triangular-shaped blocks of padding. The padding and its covering varies from very soft to hard.

The saddle and side pieces have attached to them various terrets, large D rings, and small D-rings. The standard configuration is 2 large rings (or terrets) on top, 2 large rings on the sides, and 3 pair of small rings in between. Terrets are rigid, fixed rings that are screwed into the top of the saddle at the approximate position a rider’s hands would be. Because terrets do not move during the driving process, they are very desirable. In lieu of terrets, most surcingles have large D rings sewn or sewn and riveted into the top of the saddle. Some Ds stand in a rigid position – others are floppy. Rigid top rings are desirable because the lines flow through them freely.

In addition to the top terrets or rings, there is usually a set of large D rings on the side pieces of the surcingle for using the long lines in lower positions. These D rings might be sewn or sewn and riveted in place and vary from almost rigid to floppy. Either seem to work OK in the side position though I prefer rings that stand out to the side so the long lines can run freely through them.

There are a varying number and size of smaller D rings (customarily 3 pair) on the top of the surcingle for attaching side reins and other training equipment.

Most surcingles have two standard billet straps on each side such as are found on English saddles. Some surcingles have a single wider billet on each side. Most girths are a separate piece. The girth of a surcingle will vary in length depending on the design of the top portion of the surcingle and the size of horse the surcingle is intended for. The girths can range from 16 to 30 inches in length. The standard girth has two buckles on each side to correspond to the 2 girth billets. Most girths have at least one D ring sewn on the bottom side for the attachment of training equipment between the horse’s front legs.

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I have a 4 year old mare that I’ve had for about a year since she was green broke.  When I first got her my trainer who does Parelli natural horsemanship, noticed that she was crabby and mean most of the time.  Over the next couple of months she got worse, bullying the kids and bullying the other horses.

I was ready to get rid of her but then I decided to just focus on her training for about a year and see if I could get her to improve.  She started doing much better within just a few weeks, and she is doing excellent under the saddle.  Last week we left for vacation for a week and my friend and her 9 year old daughter were taking care of the horses for me.  They are familiar with all of our horses and come and ride regularly.  My friend said that my mare was getting really mean, putting her ears back and actually bit her daughter one day.  I was not totally surprised, because she does get crabby when she is not handled regularly.  Since I’ve been back though she seems to be really bad.  Every time I approach her at liberty from the side or rear, she pins her ears back and clearly tries to get away from me.  If I approach her from in front, she is fine and puts her head down.  I’m always careful not to get kicked, but I’m not sure how to handle or correct this latest ear pinning thing.  In the past whenever she has presented her butt to me in a rude manner, I would smack it.  But now its not that she is presenting her butt, its more that she is trying to get away.  I don’t want to smack her butt because then she’ll get away and be rewarded, I’m afraid if I pet her when she is pinning her ears, then I’m telling her that its ok to pin her ears at me.  What do I do?

The first thing that came to mind as I read about your mare was PMS – Pouty Mare Syndrome – not an official phrase but one I use to describe certain mares that are extra grouchy.

I might be off base here but here’s how it sounds. When you first got the mare, about a year ago, it was summer time, she was green broke and grouchy  – it was a season when she was cycling, that is coming in and going out of heat and her training was not complete – she was still testing the limits of her behavior.

Then you had her a while, saw she was hard to deal with and trust, almost gave up on her, but then decided to focus on her training – and did that over the fall and winter…and she improved…a time when she would be in anestrus or not cycling. Mares in the winter are often like geldings.

Then at the early part of this breeding season, she was pretty good for you since you had established some rules, but when you were on vacation, it didn’t take long for her to slip back into her old bossy ways and now you feel you have to start from square one again.

Which is what you probably should do. First, I’d have your vet rule out a granulosa tumor which might cause her to be extra crabby. (See list of reference articles below).

When it comes time to work on altering her behavior and improving her manners, like all training, you need to be consistent, thorough, and always be training with this mare. I’d spend a lot of time desensitizing her to touch and approaching from the rear by making this her main lesson for a number of days. You can do it yourself with the mare on a long line or have an assistant hold her. You need to desensitize her hindquarters, her tail area, lift her tail, all those hot spots that mares have. Some mares just do not like being approached from the rear or being touched there ever, no matter if they are in heat or not. The more thorough you are with all of this, the safer she will be when she is at liberty in her pen and you go to catch her.

As far as smacking her on the butt if she is rude when you approach, if she is in a suitable pen to free longe her, well that might be the perfect thing to do and send her out and around and have her face you.

If she is not in a suitable training pen when she turns her butt to you and pins her ears, you will have to make it a point to take her to a pen so you can work on reviewing the “face me” lesson so you can safely approach her. This must be a formal lesson, it is one of the basics. Your trainer most likely taught the mare “face me” in a specific Parelli manner, so it would be best if you ask him what methods he used and recommends.

Here are a couple of related articles that you might find interesting and helpful.

How to Tell if Your Mare is In Heat

Grouchy Horse

Desensitization

What Spaying a Mare Involves and About Granulosa Tumors

How to Think Like a Horse by Cherry Hill

How to Think Like a Horse by Cherry Hill

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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
articles!  Marty

Hello Marty,

Are you familiar with the principles of desensitization or sacking out?
You can click on those words and go to articles on my website that will help you with the concepts behind the procedures.

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
training.

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.


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Horse Training – Handling Shy Foal

Hi Cherry,I have a 6 week old foal that has had minimal handling, for a variety of reasons, but one is that the mare was dangerous the first couple weeks.   However, what she demonstrated after foaling is different than her normal behavior.  She has mellowed out now, but frankly, I will never trust her (she almost bit a barn worker during feed time last winter when she was already pregnant).

Anyway, now the foal is 6 weeks old and has never been haltered and has only been restrained (with difficulty) to have blood drawn, etc.  He is happy to be scratched all over during meal time(including ears) but only if you are on the outside of the gate.  If you go in with him then he hides behind his mom.  He is very shy.

I’m not sure what to do. Help! Just keep standing there during feed time and wait for him to come around?  They live outside w/shelter so it would be difficult to catch the foal in an emergency (but the mare is easy to catch and handle once haltered–she’s very food motivated).

Nicole
Hello Nicole,
I would not wait for him to come around. Each day he hides, he forms a stronger association of avoidance.
First I would halter the mare and either tie the mare in the pen/stall (if there is a safe place to tie and the mare is good about tying) or have a competent assistant hold the mare. Then I would corner the foal, perhaps by myself or with the aid of another assistant and hold the foal as described in my books or (click on this link) this article. Even thought I wrote the article related to larger foals, draft or warmblood, the principles are the same for a normal size foal. Read the entire article… it is 3 pages long.
When you have caught the foal, scratch him in places he likes to be rubbed. When he is quiet, let him go. Catch and release a number of times. Do this several times each day for several days. Once you feel he is no longer apprehensive about being caught, halter him and begin his halter training.
Be careful and enjoy the process !
Cherry Hill

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