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25 June 2009 @ 08:09 pm
I need some advice to just know if I'm doing this correctly. I'm riding an old mare that a lady rescued. She hadn't been ridden in awhile and since her owner hadn't known how to ride and didn't get lessons but still rode her, the mare thought she was in charge.
So of course, I did (and still do) the simple driving technique without halter and whatnot. Anyhow, things always go well, and when I ask her to ease down she does and promptly trots up to me, bumping my back/shoulder with her nose.
She does the things horses usually do, following me, following easy hand signals on whether to come closer or to pause. However, whenever we do the exercise she never licks and chews, she does duck her head though.
Almost always when she comes up to me she then just follows me around, undetered when I flick the rope. She turns where I turn and will stand still next to me, still playfully nudging me and refusing to move.
Am I doing something wrong?
No other horse I've known has done this, and I was wondering whether it's common especially in abused horses.
Penella22penella22 on June 26th, 2009 01:04 am (UTC)
My trainer worked with a horse that had past neglect/abuse and had this same problem for a long time...the mare never licked and chewed and -- my trainer was doing primarily join-up with her--this mare would never come in to the middle of the circle and join up either. She would do everything she was asked just at a slight distance. After about 2 years of working with this mare that slowly changed. My trainer feels it took her that long to truly relax and trust the humans in her new environment. It was a looong process.

I also work with a Mustang mare sometimes and she's a fairly internalized horse, meaning her emotions do not show up real easily in her body language so I have to pay attention to slightest tightening of her mouth or change in her ear position to sense what she is really feeling and thinking. I have to give her about three times as long to settle lick and chew as I do with my gelding who is more of an extrovert. It amazes me the subtlety it takes for this mare to find that sweet spot and process things.

I guess what I'm saying is it takes a lot more timing...knowing when to pause between exercises and let her settle, but also knowing when to do something to keep her focus on me.

Don't know if that helps at all but those are my thoughts.
headinmyovenheadinmyoven on June 26th, 2009 01:18 am (UTC)
Oh that helped tremendously! I've been giving her a lot of time in general, and she's been responding well in some areas but slower in others.
I was very worried it was my fault (no one does this at my farm so I've been unable to have feedback), so that was a lot of consolation.

A Mustang how lovely. My uncle worked with one for a long time, but he never became truly tame. He had to give him to some friends who specialized in Mustangs after he had reared and shattered my uncle's shoulder.
How difficult is it with them, because I've heard mixed reports.

Penella22penella22 on June 26th, 2009 04:18 am (UTC)
It depends a lot on the individual Mustang. A friend of mine has one that amazing and does Parelli Level 3, and my friend rides him bridleless and bareback. He is so mellow and a wonderful teacher for me sometimes.

Another acquaintance has a Mustang stallion who is incredibly gentle and he goes to expos, does long trail rides, he's just fabulous.

Then there's my mom's horse. My mom hasn't worked with her nearly enough, and her horse has gotten more ill-adjusted as time goes on. She is constantly alert to her environment, and nervous about slight changes. She needs routine and a leader if she's ever going to get better. I don't blame the horse though; I blame the adopter.

Another Mustang I knew was also incredibly sensitive and had a very hard time adjusting to being domesticated. She wasn't adopted until she was thirteen, and I think that had a lot to do with it.

Also, I don't know if you have a digital camera or not but you could always take a short video clip of yourself with the horse and post it. I'm sure people would be happy to give you feedback, and it certainly is hard using Natural horsemanship in the absence of any role models who are doing the same.
headinmyovenheadinmyoven on June 26th, 2009 10:32 pm (UTC)
I would love to have a Mustang later.
It's a pity Parelli makes all his videos extremely expensive :/

I don't have a digital camera, right now I'm saving up for a bike and a laptop. Huzzah for college preparations.
Evergrey Corvidae Lokadottrevergrey on June 26th, 2009 05:47 am (UTC)
She might not relax easily yet, or she might just not be a lick/chewer. It could be that she doesn't entirely trust you yet. My boy took a long time to really truly trust people. He still doesn't trust most people entirely.

As for her not moving out- I had the same problem with my horse. Boy howdy did I. I saw a number of people claiming to be trainers get lunged by him instead of lunging him. He DID know how, however. For him, it was a combination of "I don't wanna" and bad natural horsemanship training. Ya know, there's good and there's bad, like with any technique. He just wouldn't disengage.

Once we established very clearly that we (the friend who is training him, and myself) were the leaders and he was the follower, he relaxed and listened a lot. He still has difficulty with "whoa-" he always wants to come in, whether you want him to or not- but he will follow cues and he will move out if you tell him to. To get him there, we had to do some "play acting," getting big and scary and chasing him off. We had to convince him that we meant business... just like horses do out in the herd.

It is a delicate balance though. A rescue horse with who knows what kind of past is a TOTALLY different animal than a horse you raise yourself from a foal. It takes so much more time because the horse has to unlearn bad habits before they can learn the proper way of doing things. Horses and sensitive and giving creatures, but the will always test you, and they can be crafty.

I had to start getting him to move off me by twirling the rope so it made a loud "WHOOOSH" noise, and I had to do a bit of yelling too. Of course as soon as he disengaged I released all pressure and rewarded him. It took months. Months after most of a year of just working on getting him to listen and trust. But now I just need to make a gesture or a little kissy noise and he moves off.

Another thing we did was work on pushing through the horse out in his paddock. You put your hand on the horse's cheek, pat their shoulder, and walk right through them. They learn to move out of the way, just as they would for a horse higher up in the herd hierarchy. It is an effective way to teach a horse to mind you without causing pain.
headinmyovenheadinmyoven on June 26th, 2009 10:35 pm (UTC)
I never thought of the whole chasing her away idea, that is really ace. I just twirl my rope, and I make those noises too but it makes her lock up.

I need to try the walking through procedure.
glenatron: Emo Zorroglenatron on June 26th, 2009 02:04 pm (UTC)
I would give her a lot of time and a lot of space. Much more time than you expect. With an anxious horse you may find that you need to be right at the end of the line and then crouch down and make yourself small before the horse can lower their head and lick and chew.

You might start by doing something really simple, maybe just asking her to lower her head or to keep her attention on you for a minute, a very simple job for her to do with plenty of space and rest when she gets it right and see whether that encourages her to lick and chew a little. Just taking it slow and making it easy for her to know that she's doing the right thing.

Also, and I'm not saying you are or are not doing this- it's just a general point, remember that the horse's past is not the same as the horse you are working with now. You need to always remember to work with the horse in front of you. If you expect them to be a certain way because you know they have had some bad experiences then you're slightly constraining them with that expectation and in a way not letting them move on. Or you end up making excuses for things you wouldn't accept from another horse because of things that happened in the past. As I say, I'm not suggesting you are doing that, it's just a useful thing to remember when you're working with a horse that has been troubled in the past.