new horse, terrified and uncatchable :(

Discussion in 'Problem Horses' started by moccona, Mar 8, 2012.

  1. moccona

    moccona New Member

    Hi everyone, I have come here hoping for ideas!!

    Last month I bought a horse en route to the knackers, a quarter horse mare. I got her home on a cattle truck, after which she allowed me to halter and lead her to the stable - shaking all the way. However since then I haven't been able to get a hand on her, she will allow me to go in with her hay and fresh water while she cowers in the corner, but if I try to approach her she either swings her head at me as if to attack or points her rear end at me :(

    I had hoped that by being patient and not pushing her she would start to relax but after a few weeks I don't feel like I'm making any progress. She wont eat any of the "bribes" I bring her, either from my hand or the feed bin after I leave. Also she needs to go out into the yards for a stretch and roll but I cant get her out of the stable unless I can catch her!

    I have had horses all my life, some quiet some not, but never had one so scared and I honestly don't know what to do next. Any help or suggestions very appreciated!
  2. Brew

    Brew Well-known Member

    If she will eat hard feed you may need to drug her. It is very unpleasant for the horse to be so nervous and if she has not settled at all then she may need some chemical help to get over it. Make sure she is not dehydrated and I would get a vet to have a look ASAP. Maybe see if another horse close by might help - Oh- Welcome to stockies !!!!
  3. Sugar's Mum

    Sugar's Mum Gold Member

    Hi Moccona and welcome.

    First of all bear with me as I dont know you or the situation you are in and the facilities you have available to you so it may be you have tried the suggestions I have.

    First one.

    Have a serious look at your abilities. Do you have the experience to deal with such a traumatized horse on your own? The poor thing sounds so very terrified. To help her may need the help of the best horse trainers in the business in conjunction with the best equine vets.

    Having taken on a horse who had massive issues under saddle I know very well that dealing with these issues can literally take sometimes years and massive amounts of money and sometimes in reality it would be far kinder to the horse to simply end her pain by putting her to sleep. I know that when you take on a rescue you give a piece of your heart but do be realistic with both your abilities and your finances. When I took on my lad I attended a workshop with a very well respected horseman and he certainly gave me skills that I needed to help this beautiful horse of mine. This after having had horses for over 20 years. Sometimes you can have all the years under saddle but have never come across the issues and may make dangerous mistakes without guidance.

    These sort of behaviours can be incredibly complex to try and unravel and also incredibly dangerous for you as in her extreme fear she may attack you so please be very very careful.

    Contact Merrylegs on here or google second chance to get some advice as they deal with rescued horses and have dealt with a lot of emotionally scarred horses.

    Sometimes you can develop a relationship over time where she will allow you to slowly decrease the distance between you , other times you are going to need to push the point and force her to confront her fears but with such an incredably frightened horse this is so dangerous that I could only recommend that you get hold of someone like the Watkins or Merrylegs or second chance.

    I would hate to post suggestions that ended up in you being injured and there is such a very real possibility with a horse this frightened.

    I could sit here and post what I would do in this situation. I did take on my lad over 18 months ago now. But 6 months of that 18 were taken up in recovering from a broken arm which I got falling off him.

    So please go and get some professional and experienced eyes to run over your poor girl.

    The number of things you can do are so huge and are all effected by her reactions that no one here could really safely recommend that you do xyz when we haven't seen her, her level of damage or your capabilities.

    Please keep safe, consider the time it can take to heal such emotional pain and the financial cost.

    The lessons you can learn from such horses can be huge but the damage can be life altering or ending.
  4. kiraSpark

    kiraSpark Gold Member

    Sometimes, there is a reason horses are sent to the knackery :}
  5. nannygoat

    nannygoat Gold Member

    Yes. And why knackeries should not sell them on (altho I gather this horse had not actually gone to there)
  6. kp

    kp Well-known Member

    So very happy someone has said that. It takes a tough person to sort these horses out.
  7. Deb2

    Deb2 Guest

    Sugars Mum, so beautifully said, and with such compassion.:)

    Moccona, welcome to stockies, and hopefully you will not get a hard time from others that will have a very strong opinion about the fact that you have taken on a horse that was destined for the doggers.

    With the little info you have given, it is not really possible to offer help. We do not know enough about your skills and your horses reactions.

    Personally, I feel that if you need to ask what to do here, you possibly do not have the knowledge to deal with this horse with these issues.

    Thats not to say that you need to get rid of her, but perhaps investing in professional help for her, and then for the two of you further down the track, might be a good start.

    I wish you all the best, and please stay safe.

    Would love some pictures of your horse, and more details if your willing to share.

    Cheers, Deb
  8. Go the Distance

    Go the Distance Well-known Member

    I agree with what everyone above has said. If you decide not to put her down you are going to have to find someone who is an experienced compassionate horse person to help you.

    If she was mine I would let her out into a yard no bigger that 15 metres by 30 metres. Within this yard I would have a smaller solid yard, I have made mine out of panals in the past off a sheep yard raised up off the ground. Leave her out in the big yard but feed her in the small yard. Start off by standing way back and letting her eat. I usually sit in a camp chair and read or knit. slowly decrease the distance between you and her each feed time.

    Get to the point where you can sit at the rail. When you feel ready you can slowly begin to shut the gate on her. If she panics when you go to shut the gate open it and let her out. Always let her think that if you go over her panic threshold you will set her free. As she settle and builds up trust you can increase the time you let her panic to give her an opportunity to sort it out in her head that she can panic and then settle.

    You will need to spend lots of time just sitting with her in her yard. I have slept outside the yard for a few nights in a row with a really difficult horse to catch. Often 3am in the morning is a good time for them to let you 'catch' them. By that I mean that you sit on the ground and they come up to you of thier own accord for you to touch them.

    There are lots of ways to finally catch a horse like this but they all take time. I would say she was going to the knackers yard for a reason. I would also say boxing her up is just adding to her claustrophobia so you are feeding her fear but shutting her up and hunting her. Stop hunting her, let her come to you. Of course if you let her out and can't catch her then you are faced with euthanasing her from a distance#(. I have been involved in doing this and it is not a good look.
  9. CDA

    CDA Well-known Member

    She needs a rope on her - its the way we do all of the wild ones we get :)

    PM me if you want more details.
  10. Anna E

    Anna E Guest

    Do you have:
    1. A rock solid unflappable horse who you can put in the yard/paddock with her? Let her see that he or she likes you, even if she doesn't.
    2. A way to enclose the water point in the larger area you do let her into? If then you absolutely cannot catch her, you can use the yard around the water point to catch her if you have to (shut the water up for 24 hours then let her into it). Also not a good look, but better than trying to euthanase from a distance.
    I agree with GTD that shutting her in is probably making her worse. A horse in this state HAS to find it's own safe distance from you, and it has to be her decision to come to you not the other way about. That distance may initially be half a mile...
    You may have months ahead of you before you can lay a hand on this mare... It's up to you to decide if she's worth it and you have the skills.
  11. South Boulder Boy

    South Boulder Boy Well-known Member

    Just putting it out there but you may need to watch this behavior and it might turn from 'fear' to 'dominance' and if she starts dominating you it will be alot harder to work with her. That being said I agree with what others have said, you may need to look at getting someone else to check her out. Also definitely get a vet to look at her.
  12. hellokitty

    hellokitty Well-known Member

    Yep on route to the knackers is a worry. Wonder what the reason was. A difficult horse? I would get the vet to check her out first. Maybe she has pain somewhere?:confused:
  13. equislave

    equislave Well-known Member

    What prompted you to buy her?
  14. nimetyau

    nimetyau Well-known Member

    I'm not sure on your experience but the first thing I would do is get a professional to see her and access her behaviour. I would hate to see you get hurt.

    I hate to say it but it may be the reason she was going to the knackery. Also they will know if you are wasting your time or she just needs time herself.

    Good luck.
  15. Floggadog

    Floggadog Guest

    Great info here - can't help wondering where's the OP ';'
  16. Northern Peregrine

    Northern Peregrine Well-known Member

    I'm wondering too :}
  17. Ali

    Ali Well-known Member

    I was wondering the same thing, maybe they got told what they didnt want to hear but sadly it does sounds like the horse needs alot of professional help . Maybe its already had help with the previous owner but it was too much work needed and thats why the horse was heading to where it was? ??,
  18. monomeeth

    monomeeth Well-known Member

    Not sure I'd be willing to take on a horse with this sort of problem, but mustang people often begin at first by using a long pole or flag to touch the horse, first through the bars in a small yard, then in a round yard so if they must move their feet they can. You are trying to stroke the horse to show them they can be touched and it won't hurt them, so you lift it off before the horse reaches their threshold and has to move. Classic advance and retreat stuff. Once you can start to give scritchies with it in a way they begin to enjoy, you can begin to move up the pole and eventually get a hand on them instead.

    Thing is, those horses are not actually having any past bad associations with people so it probly goes faster than it might with this mare. I have read of fearful and agro horses settled by clicker training, where you don't reward with food, but you click and back away if they show calmness, starting from outside their stress zone. What the horse wants most at first is for you to leave, so that is what you reward them with; click and retreat for calm behaviour. :)

    I'm pretty sure there was also a long story in a Mark Rashid book about the old man working with an abused black horse that goes into a lot of detail. Advance retreat stuff again. But, which book? It might be 'Whole heart whole horse'.

    Oh well, hope it helps if you decide to go on with her. Be careful!

    Good luck,

    Last edited: Mar 10, 2012
  19. moccona

    moccona New Member

    Hi everyone and thank you all for taking the time to reply :)

    I have the WORST internet service and it's taken this long to get back here.

    First to put any worries to rest, I will not be putting myself in harms way. I know how to give enough distance to stay safe!

    My history with horses goes back my whole life, and for 12 years I have taken on horses no one else wanted. Usually they were neglected and underfed though, and NEVER this badly frightened. I have also started a few and re-educated ex racehorses. Calmness and patience has always served me pretty well.

    I just thought someone here may have had an idea I hadn't thought of (which they did - sedation) given that this is a more difficult situation than I have dealt with before.

    When I first posted I had already had a professional look at her, who told me she is completely unhandled. At that point I thanked him for his time and said goodbye. He would not believe that I had led her from the other yards ';'

    I agree that she needs more room, but the stable is not attached to the yards (stupid set-up) and she needs to be led out or she may very well bolt and hurt herself. I was very dumb to put here in there in the first place.

    I have another horse here who is the kindest mare I have ever owned, I will put them in together once she is out in the big yards.

    Thanks again everyone @)
  20. Sugar's Mum

    Sugar's Mum Gold Member

    ok so you have heaps of experience so let me share some of the things that have helped me with my lad.

    one of the greatest things I was told to do under saddle was to simply sit on his back. To spend time with my lad every single day just sitting and having a cuppa while on his back.

    For your mare I would translate this to just spend some time at the paddock just sitting there.
    Bring something yummy for her to eat and sit there with a book to read or something to do so that you simply ignore her and be there with her asking nothing of her.

    Then I would be getting a nice large round yard if possible and play with her at liberty in the round yard. to start with something so so simple.
    Dont let her just run and run and run which is what she is going ot want to do. Get her to change directions. Ask for some many circuitss in this direction then ask her to turn the other way. Sometimes as little one way as a half circuit before asking for a change of direction.

    Do you know how to ask for change of direction? With as much experience as you have I assume so.

    What you are asking her to do here is to think. If she goes into flight mode she is not thinking. Making her change direction is going to make her think and then realise that you are not asking for her to run and run and run.
    At any time that she wants to stop and come into her ask her to come to you by backing away and dropping your head so she knows she is being invited in.

    I dont know if you are in western australia but if you are let me know and I will PM you the name of a guy who works with emotionally damaged horses and he is very skilled. He gave me a heap of skills to help my very upset gelding and they have made such a difference.

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