How do you gain an abused horse's trust?

Discussion in 'Miniature Horse Forum' started by Jlow, Jan 4, 2019.

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  1. Jan 4, 2019 #1

    Jlow

    Jlow

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    Hello. I just purchased my first two minis! They are both about 50 lbs underweight and were not taken care of very well. One is super sweet and friendly. The other one was abused and was previously purchased from an auction from what I was told. She is skittish and runs whenever I try to approach her. I was able to catch her by using carrots , put a harness on and walk her with a lead rope. How do I gain her trust and show her I'm not going to hurt her?
     
  2. Jan 4, 2019 #2

    chandab

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    I see you are in Florida, so probably warm enough to try this now... Take a chair and a book and sit and read in her paddock, let her come to you, don't even try to touch her for quite some time. If you are worried she may try something, not likely, put your back to a fence. You best ally right now is time, give it lots of time.
     
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  3. Jan 4, 2019 #3

    Minimor

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    To be honest, if she is extremely frightened of you, you would do best to catch her (corner her and catch her) and then handle her quietly. Pet her. Rub her face. Brush her softly. Talk to her. Give her treats. Do this every single day and in time she will settle down and learn to trust you. If the horse is seriously afraid, sitting quietly and waiting for her to approach simply will not work. I had one that I could not lay a hand on for 11 months and if I kept trying to let him come to me I would still be waiting, 4 years later. I finally was able to move him Into another corral where I could run him in the barn and catch him. He truly thought I was out to kill him and if it came down to it he would have killed me first. 38" tall and the only truly dangerous pony or horse I ever worked with. After 4 years he has finally accepted that I wont harm him but he still cannot approach me to take a treat unless his buddies are gathered around and then he will stretch as far as he can to inhale the offered treat. He suffers from serious PTSD and possibly always will, but I can finally catch him in the corral if he is in a specific corner. I have a second one almost as bad but just this winter he has started being brave and will come up for treats...though I cannot touch him and still have to run him into the barn to catch him. Once caught I can handle him carefully without too much risk of being stomped or kicked. Serious PTSD there too. Hopefully yours is not as bad as these 2 and will come around quicker.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2019
  4. Jan 4, 2019 #4

    Minimor

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    An unhandled horse is much easier to bring around than one that has truly been abused. If all the horse has known is pain and fear and beatings--they do not forget that easily.
     
  5. Jan 5, 2019 #5

    goatkisses

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    As chandab indicated, time and patience are your friends.
     
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  6. Jan 5, 2019 #6

    Cayuse

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    Sounds like you are headed in the right direction if you can catch her and lead her. I would just focus on the very basics, catching and leading as you are doing and add some small things in as she tolerates it. Brushing and picking out feet, being handled all over and leading over and around things. Lots of rewards and verbal praise and scratches. They love scratches.
    Trust comes in increments, and it can take awhile. So sometimes you feel like there is no progress being made for ever so long and a then a week later things are looking rosier.
    When you say you harnessed her, was it a driving harness? I would not be harnessing her until you have gained her trust. They sometimes look as if they are fine with the harness when in fact they are "shut down" emotionally. If they are in that state they can flip from quiet to panicked quickly (sometimes "fight or flight" will take over) and you don't want her scaring herself worse than she already is if she has a bad experience with something new before she is ready.
     
  7. Jan 5, 2019 #7

    Marsha Cassada

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    Probably meant a halter, not a harness.
    Were they always together? Have they never seen each other before you purchased them? If they were always together, then it would be odd that one is friendly and one is not. They would likely have been treated the same. Maybe the scary one has a screw loose; it happens.
    I like to sit and chat with new ones also.
    After you catch him, put the halter on, rub his chest and withers, then release. He can learn that being caught and haltered won't hurt. Be careful in case he's a kicker; staying close to his body is safest. Catch the friendly one first and tie him nearby but out of the way. The best I can say, is you will learn a lot from the skittish one. It is also possible that the scary one is in some pain. Some hroses do not handle pain well. He might have a tooth problem or some other issue. I got one once that had a dislocated shoulder; vet did not find it, the chiropractor found it.
     
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  8. Jan 5, 2019 #8

    Zergling

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    My poor donkey was probably abused. He came directly off of truck that was taking him to the zoo for lion meat. The man hired to transport him was a friend of mine and called me to ask if I wanted to take him instead and I did.

    He was very wary for about two years. Didn't really want to be around me or be touched. I could halter and lead him but any sudden movements or noises and he would bolt. Couldn't use a rake or shovel in the barn while he was in it. Was terrified of them. I assume he must have been beaten with some sort of implement.

    I just spent a lot of time being near him and talking to him. Over the years he slowly got better as I spent more time with him. He's gone from shying away when I tried to pet him to nuzzling me for attention. No longer afraid of noises or fast movements. I can not only use tools in the barn, I can use them to rake under him while he stands there. He has really come around to be the nicest Jack I've ever met. Super affectionate.

    Time and patience. Each animal is different but your regular quiet, calm presence will begin to have an effect on them over time. You can bribe some with treats, others with attention, but it always takes time and you just being around them.
     
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  9. Jan 5, 2019 #9

    Jlow

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    Yes, I meant a halter. They kept a halter and rope on the skittish one so they could catch her easier. I took the rope off because I didn't think she should be walking around with it dragging on the ground. They had the friendly one for awhile and recently bought the other one from an auction back in September. I just had the vet out to check them and we have them on a feeding schedule to get them up to a healthy weight. I appreciate everyone's advice and will keep working with her
     
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  10. Jan 6, 2019 #10

    donnalee

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    Like the others have already shared - time and patience. Let me add food:eek:) In my experience, instead of trying to approach her, wait for her to approach you and reward her with a treat. Maybe put it on the ground in front of her with some distance and gradually decrease the distance. Don't try to touch her. Wait for her to get curious enough to approach and eventually sniff or nuzzle you. It will be SO tempting to reach out and touch her when that happens, but wait until she is doing that consistently for a few days - or weeks if that is what it takes - before you gently and slowly touch her.

    I like GaWaNi Pony Boy's books and videos and one piece of advice he gives is to just site in your horse's enclosure and watch your horse for a day, noting how she interacts with her pasture or paddock mates. You can gain a lot of insight doing that. I feel like armed with all these helpful suggestions everyone hs shared with you, you will end up with a best friend for life.
     
  11. Jan 6, 2019 #11

    Polkadots

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    A lot of people assume a horse has been abused when it actually hasn't. If they both came from the same place and one is more skittish than the other it is quite likely just the less dominant horse. You are also likely a bit nervous around these strange horses and they are picking up on that - they are, after all, herd animals and being aware of the feelings of their herdmates, of which you are one, is imperative for their continued existence. If you are confidant, they will feel more secure - it is your job to be the herd leader. That being said, they may well have been abused or mistreated in the past but they in a whole new herd now and you won't abuse them so they will adapt (although never forget any past abuse so until you know these two better, and ever after, it is always best to be cautious when introducing anything new).
    This is why sitting quietly in the corner reading works so well. Horses are very curious creatures but also flight animals. When you present a non threatening attitude they start to want to check you out. Reading keeps you occupied and not nervous so they don't feel nervous either. If you aren't nervous you don't have to read but just sit quietly close to their space and it will have the same effect
    I do this in a box stall with hay on the floor in one corner while I sit in the opposite corner. I don't read to them but I do sit and chat with them about total nonsense or whatever comes to mind.
    Once they come up to you and get close enough for you to touch them - don't! A hand extended towards them is a sign of aggression from which they will run. Allow them to nuzzle, sniff and check you out. If they choose to want to paw at you say very quietly No or Uh uh. You want them to know that isn't acceptable because it could hurt you but you don't want to be so aggressive you send them away. If they do move away continue to sit and ignore them until they come back.
    When they are comfortable with your presence and go back to eating get up quietly and leave. Repeat this a couple times until they are relaxed upon your entry into the stall and when you get up to leave. Be patient. The time spent now will pay off.
    The next step is to put them on crossties and groom them. Your goal here is not to get them clean but to allow you to handle them eventually all over. Crossties keep them in one spot and keep you safe from getting squashed against the wall or kicked. Most horses only kick backwards although the odd one 'cowkicks' to the side or front so be careful and aware but NOT NERVOUS. It is imperative that you exude an aura of confidence when working with horses because you nervous = them nervous. Again, It's that herd animal thing.
    Horses groom each other if they are friends. They start at the shoulder or withers and that is where you should start. It is a safe spot for you becasue they can't easily bite, kick or paw at you when you are at their shoulder. Using a body brush (this brush is the perfect choice because you can use it anywhere on a horse without hurting them) in a circular motion brush their shoulder and work up to the withers. Work slowly out in any direction but back off when they get tense. Don't lift the brush off or stop brushing just back off to the last spot they were okay with. Work your way all over their body and down their legs this way until you can brush them anywhere. Don't push it, work slowly and over several sessions but always stop any session at a point where they are totally relaxed and enjoying the brush.
    Legs, face, belly and ears are the most sensitive areas so be careful around these and work slowly and carefully but don't be nervous. Chat quietly to them while you are working. If they do lift a leg aggressively use your uh uh to warn them of unacceotable behaviour and back the brush off slightly to the last comfortable area but don't stop.
    Once you can brush them anywhere and they remain relaxed, and this can take several days, you can work on picking their feet up to be picked out. It takes a good deal of trust for a flight animal to allow you to pick up a foot. Don't even try until you have their confidence and trust to allow you to brush their entire leg if they have given you any idea that they don't want to let you.
    I have never met a horse yet that doesn't love a good brushing and come to love the person that provides it.
     
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  12. Jan 6, 2019 #12

    Marsha Cassada

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    I would not leave a halter on the skittish one. Too much temptation to grab, and that would defeat your purpose. The halter should be put on and removed in a calm way each time the horse is caught.
     
  13. Jan 7, 2019 #13

    Zergling

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    I know its taboo to some but I taught mine to love their halters with treats. Every time I got the halter on, they got a treat. A few weeks of that, cut it back to a treat every second time, then just once in a while. They still come running when they see me coming with or without a halter despite I haven't given them a treat for it in ages. I just use their supplement as a treat. They love the stuff and its healthy so win/win.
     
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  14. Jan 8, 2019 #14

    goatkisses

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    I felt really guilty about my little mule's halter. He came with a nylon halter on and there was no way that he could be handled to take it off. I knew that once off I'd not be able to put it back on again. I think I had to leave it on for about three months, until he trusted me enough that I could even put a hand on the halter. He panicked when I had to reach an arm out to him. He's still very afraid of gloves. I'm not sure I want to know what caused that in him.

    That little guy sure had been grabbed and he wasn't having any of it. He was so surprised when one day I took that halter off! He got all flustered. ;) For about six months after it was still somewhat of a challenge to take the halter on and off. I had to use a lot of patience and calmness to teach him that it was OK.

    He's an absolute doll now, and trusts me completely. He's still shy with people he doesn't know, but he's learning that people can be OK. He adores his farrier. :)

    GuntherSitting.JPG

    IMG_1161.JPG
     
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  15. Jan 8, 2019 #15

    Minimor

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    OMG that little mule is adorable!!!
     
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  16. Jan 8, 2019 #16

    Ryan Johnson

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    It makes it so hard when a horses history is unknown. Its often hard to tell if its abuse or lack of handling. I guess in a way, to some people, lack of handling can be considered abuse.

    You have been given some great advice. The first thing I would do is separate them. Make sure they can still see each other. Id do what others have said above. Go and get a book and sit in the middle of the paddock. She will eventually come up and say hello. One on one work with her will be more beneficial to her progress and trust.

    Good luck with her and keep us updated on her progress :)
     
  17. Jan 9, 2019 #17

    Jlow

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    It's been a little over a week and I think I may have made some progress She will now come to the gate when she sees me coming and follow me around. She will also take treats from my hand and I was able to briefly touch her without her turning away. She seems very curious but cautious. Very sad that someone did something so bad to her.
     

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  18. Jan 9, 2019 #18

    Cayuse

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    Good too hear positive news! Slow and steady wins the race :)
    Her curiosity may just be the key to winning her over.
     
  19. Jan 10, 2019 #19

    goatkisses

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    That's great, Jlow!
     
  20. Jan 11, 2019 #20

    Polkadots

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    A tip for halter use with donkeys: they are usually pretty sensitive about their ears. Use a halter that has a headstall that unbuckles amd can be placed behind the ears to be done up instead of sliding over the ears and clipping under the chin as a lot of horse halters do.
     
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