Despooking thoughts

jeniferkey
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Despooking thoughts

Postby jeniferkey » Wed Dec 16, 2015 10:04 pm

I've had my new a guy over a month now. I know that in and of itself means we're still in the settling in period, but I've brought a number of horses along and he has a different set of issues.
He's a 14 hh-ish 6 yr old Morgan/Haflinger gelding who's a former Amish driving horse. Typical to that he's people and hand shy, but a fast learner. He's extremely obedient in hand. I can't think of a situation where I'd feel uncomfortable handling him. He's not perfect about ground tying, but even there he's pretty good if I make it clear that I need him to stand still while I work around him.
He's warming up to his new life. He was cautious for a few weeks, but now he trots or canters down to greet us at the gate and he might occasionally play at being caught, but I always know he'll come to me shortly.
He had riding experience before I got him. He bends nicely and isn't dead sided like many driving horses I've gotten. He has a walk/trot/canter, but not leads or straightness. We're doing a lot of bending work and lessons once or twice a week.
The thing I find strange is that if we encounter somewhere/thing that he is suspicious of under saddle where he balks and gets anxious and high headed, if I get off and lead him through the area he's typically just fine. Out watching the hunt last week he wouldn't go near the woods, but when I got off and led him he went all around quite calmly. One spook when a hound jumped out, but no hesitation. I see that at home where he might act suspicious under saddle of certain areas and be a bit difficult when I work him in the area until I can expand our work area to include the dreaded area. But in hand there is no hesitation. I try not to get off at his resistance, but change how we are working and then get off and and do in hand work in that area and try to mount back up and continue on as possible.
He was a driving horse, so I know he's used to blinkers and there is a lot to see out in country with the hunt. But I wondered if others had this experience. I've not had a horse this obedient on the ground. Most of mine would continue their suspicious ways in hand and I'd have to lunge or something to distract them to get them near. He will march right along beside me right where he previously wouldn't go ridden.
I'm sure we'll work through it, but has any also experienced this and had the horse figure out they could trust their rider? I was curious.

Josette
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Re: Despooking thoughts

Postby Josette » Wed Dec 16, 2015 10:54 pm

Oh Yes! Years ago, I had an Arab who would jump like a cat sideways when he encountered something strange. I simply persisted and in time he really improved to be a fabulous trail horse (he detested the ring). Like you, I did not make a big deal out of it - simply exposed him and showed him he had nothing to fear. It was a matter of spending the time and gaining his confidence to trust me. Trust and bonding is a key IMO.

Now I have a Connemara who I purchased as a 10 year old 4 years ago. I am his 6th owner as he was passed around as too spooky and strong for a child rider. He came with major training issues where I believe different adult trainers pushed him hard and fast because he was physically very talented. Fried the poor guys brain to be defensive and certainly destroyed his trust. We finally have trust and a bonded partnership where he is really fun to ride. I would not call him bomb proof and he would certainly take advantage of an inexperienced rider. But we have finally clicked together and I enjoy riding him now.

IMO you are doing everything right - especially since you have only had this fellow for a month. I think with your gentle and consistent handling, regular riding and lesson routine he will improve for you. I saw his pic on the other forum and he was a really cutie! Good luck and enjoy him!

jeniferkey
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Re: Despooking thoughts

Postby jeniferkey » Thu Dec 17, 2015 5:14 pm

Thanks for the thoughts. I'm sure you're right that it's trust and bonding. My trainer suggests that he is just so well trained in hand that he has no thought of considering distractions, even if he doesn't completely trust me. On the other hand, under saddle he doesn't have that person beside him to make him feel he absolutely must mind. It sounds like your horses seem similar to him. I'm used to my draft cross types that are a bit thick and slow and not very reactive. He's sensitive and aware and quick. Luckily he's so short that it doesn't intimidate me, much. I do worry about throwing too much at him and frying his brain which is why I'm more likely to step back rather than push through. He's also retraining me to be a more subtle rider/trainer.
With Miaren my husband has complained that when being asked to move from pasture to pasture not only does Miaren ignore him if he waves the lunge whip at him. He'll not move for a gentle tap and sometimes even a good pop. For Topper I've taken to carrying the buggy whip around at feeding time and when I'm giving treats and constantly touching him with it. Most times he avoids me completely if I'm carrying it. The one or two times I've forgotten who I was riding and tapped him with the whip when he was sluggish he had enough of a reaction that It's only happened a few times. There's really not much Haflinger in this guy. :)

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Re: Despooking thoughts

Postby kande50 » Thu Dec 17, 2015 5:55 pm

jeniferkey wrote:On the other hand, under saddle he doesn't have that person beside him to make him feel he absolutely must mind.


With most of mine it has little or nothing to do with minding, because they all know they can leave if they really want. But they don't really want to leave because they'd just as soon stay with me, but would just prefer that I go first so that the monster will get me instead of them. Or maybe they think that I can ward off the monsters, because after all, I can open gates, and get into the feed room, and do all sorts of things they can't do?

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Re: Despooking thoughts

Postby jeniferkey » Thu Dec 17, 2015 10:13 pm

I think coming from the Amish he was trained quite harshly to be absolutely obedient on the ground and in harness. I'd think that might be different from any horse I've personally brought along who didn't have that absolute fear of doing something wrong. He hasn't gotten to the point where he'd just as soon stay with me. It will be nice when he thinks I can ward off the monsters. It's rather different working with him so far.

redsoxluvr
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Re: Despooking thoughts

Postby redsoxluvr » Tue Jan 12, 2016 4:19 am

I have had a similar "honeymoon is over" phase with my new horse. We are definitely learning each other's limits. For me, it works to focus on not so much despooking ( I think the concept is a myth) but to have him 100% on the aids. If he's truly on the aids, he's won't be shying. IMO you can never despook a horse completely. Life will find a way to foil your plans, regardless of what you prepare for. Focus on keeping him on your team, don't make him feel like he has to defend himself. Be clear, be firm, be consistent. Start at the beginning, and sometimes that may be all you can do. Go as far as you can on a daily basis. If it's 30 degrees out with a howling wind, don't expect him to hack quietly on the trail. He's a horse. He'll tell you what he can do.

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Re: Despooking thoughts

Postby jeniferkey » Mon Feb 01, 2016 10:49 pm

We've been out with the hunt 4 times now and away for a XC school and trailered out to the local event farm indoor. This last hunt ride was the best yet. I only got off twice, and both times it was before I felt him get anxious. Once was when a part of our group needed to leave us quickly and the other was when the main field with the hounds was going to pass us. He was good with encountering hounds, a little exuberant trotting on with the group when someone started to pass us, completely confident and sure-footed up and down the rocky trails through the woods and marshes and crossing the creeks. For much of the time he lead through the rough terrain. Occasionally he'd want a lead out in the open if we were trotting on.

His personality is really starting to come out with some head flinging and maybe some trantrum/playing leaps when we're moving along as a group and he wants to go faster or is getting bored. Except for any bucking, I'm trying to push him forward and out of it. With the head flinging (which he loves to do in the pasture when he's running around) I growl at him and put my leg on and he tends to listen and stop. He looked at a couple of things, but no spooking or balking at scary things. I think he's starting to trust more, but I don't think he knows what is and isn't acceptable under saddle just yet. I think our balance has gotten much better and now he's comfortable being more expressive. I think he's trying some things out, but I don't think he really knows better yet. I hope he's enjoying the training process like I am. He does seem happy when he gets to jump.

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Chisamba
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Re: Despooking thoughts

Postby Chisamba » Tue Feb 02, 2016 12:36 pm

i used to think i was good at this sort of thing, til i got a couple of horses who never ever got over the anxiety, no matter what i did, so I did not offer advice this time,

my usual advice, however, is to just get the horse to trust the aids more and more and more, while under saddle, until no matter what causes them anxiety they give their trust to the rider. i would say this works about ninety percent of the time, but some horses have such a flight instinct that it overcomes the trust

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kcmel
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Re: Despooking thoughts

Postby kcmel » Tue Nov 15, 2016 1:14 pm

I have a similar type; a percheron/paint cross that was a Mennonite driving horse and then pulled a tourist buggy around Amish country in Lancaster county. He is very shy, doesn't like strangers, hates clippers and the farrier. I have had to be very patient with him, but it has been so rewarding to gain his trust. (BTW, many draft x's I have known have been very sensitive--I think the placid stereotype is a bit like all thoroughbreds being neurotic fire-breathing dragons. Or perhaps because the one's I am familiar with are the more athletic sport-horse types?)

With mine, however, he is much calmer when I am on him than when on the ground. I still (after 2.5 years) have to be very aware when working around him (although he has gotten much better). We also fox hunt, and he is fine when a hound jumps out of the woods right in front of him, or runs up behind him underneath his legs. He also can be very forward behind other horses, although once he is in front his "emergency brakes" come on, because he wants to know what the other horses are doing behind him :)

He has gotten much braver cross-country. We are eventing novice and plan to move up to training next year. But I have had to take it slow with him. If I don't give him a confident ride he will run-out. He has definitely made me a better rider!

It sounds like you are doing a great job with him, and with patience and time you will have a great horse. Good luck and have fun! It will be a rewarding journey!

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kcmel
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Re: Despooking thoughts

Postby kcmel » Tue Nov 15, 2016 1:30 pm

Just noticed this was an older thread--how is your guy doing Jenifer?

jeniferkey
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Re: Despooking thoughts

Postby jeniferkey » Tue Nov 15, 2016 5:34 pm

Umm... Well, here's a video of a dressage show we did a couple of months ago. (oh, and commenting on your comment about being a better rider, that's the one thing my trainer has had me take away from all this). Riding something so small and, dare I say, squirrelly, has gotten me even more balanced and in the center of my horse.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfN1iZc82kU - Dressage show

What he does isn't bad, and he was really good in the warm up, compared to what I expected, but he still doesn't respect a rider that much and in this video had learned where the exit and all his new horse friends were and didn't think the dressage ring was the place to be. The judge loved him and thought it was great he had 'personality', but I'll add another video from a driving show I took him to the next weekend.
https://youtu.be/XuJd5q36BRE - Ground driving at the driving show

We'd been ground driving for a few months with riding on and off. It's improved his ridability, but it's obvious to me that he's more comfortable with the driving concept. In this video he has obstacles he's never seen and not sure of, but he trusts my voice to get us through and over. If I were on him, I'm not sure I'd even get him near a few of those. So, I've bought the cart and harness and in my head I'm whispering a goal of taking him to a CDE in April 2016. I've pulled the cart behind him, with a helper and we're at the stage of attaching it to him and going.

I think he could succeed as a riding horse if he were in a program and mostly ridden where he is comfortable, but that's not typically the type of riding I do. On the other hand, he was keyed up at this driving show, excited at all the horses and carriages going about and yet once in the ring he didn't try to leave or throw a fit and the only thing that scared him was the clapping at the end, which I could still manage. I think it's fairer to find his niche and let him go that direction. Luckily I have a friend lending me her Morgan cross for fox hunting, and he has less training than my Topper, but his mind is calm and confident, so I have something to work with.

Now, at home, I can run up to Topper and flap my arms and he turns and trots towards me. He still startles at things and is more flighty, but the farrier can't believe he's the same horse he first met. And doing the things he's good at, we can have fun.
One more video of us ground driving where I'm practicing my one handed driving. This pony is pretty cool.
https://youtu.be/7LimkwJqCKY -Ground driving at home

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Re: Despooking thoughts

Postby Sue B » Wed Nov 16, 2016 4:27 pm

Great update, and I love the videos. Thanks for sharing. he looks like he will be quite a nice driving horse.


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