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Mini-Shetland jealous of my children!

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weeburnsyg

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Hi all, I need some advice please.

I adopted two mini-Shetlands about 8 months ago from a sanctuary. I got them primarily for my kids and to potentially train up to be therapy ponies. They are siblings about 12 and 13 years old. I was only ever told that they needed a bit of work being caught and for the farrier, that they loved being groomed and around kids. They had been at the sanctuary a year, and prior to that, they were with someone for a few years who then returned them.

I have been on and off horses for around 40 years but these are the first ones I've had after a ten-year break. I'm also currently studying equine-assisted therapy and I took a few horse management and horse husbandry courses before getting these two to refresh my knowledge.

It was obvious after a few days of bringing them home that they had a much deeper history than I was aware of. You can't groom them or lift their hooves. It's now obvious they have mental scars from being physically beaten. My farrier has attempted to trim their hooves twice, unsuccessfully, and is convinced it was a previous farrier as they are terrified of him once he gets the tools out. (I just want to also note that when I viewed them twice they appeared ok, approachable, a bit overweight but friendly).

So, I've been doing loads of trust training with them both and I have also got lessons and help from a trainer to make sure I'm doing things right. I've managed to eliminate any head shyness they had, and I can now get them on a lead rope fairly easily. The trainer is adamant that they will come round and she is now going to work with them herself to try to, but the more time I spend with them, the more I think they would be happier just being left in a field, being companion ponies or retired.

The last straw for me is that one of them, the dominant one who has also has bonded with me quite well charges at my kids if they come towards me when I'm around her or in near her. The kids don't even need to be in the paddock, if they are walking up towards the fence talking to me and she sees one of them the ears are right back in defence and she's off at them. I understand why she is doing it but it is not acceptable. I tell her off for it but the behaviour has now been happening a few months so with this on top of everything else, I, unfortunately, think for me it's time to call it a day☹. It's heartbreaking but this is dangerous, my kids cannot go near them now for fear of this one charging at them. I have got to the stage accepting these two are not suitable for my family, my kids are now scared of them and that's no way to be exposing children to develop their love for animals.

My question really is - how do you manage and correct 'jealous/possessive' type behaviour in a horse, especially ones with trust issues? I know the term jealous is anthropomorphic but I can't think of a better word, if it were a cartoon her eyes would turn green!

While I have made my decision that these girls need more than I can offer and a different way of life I also want to learn from this situation so I know how to handle it. I've gone through a huge learning curve over the past year with these two and it's knocked my confidence a bit too if I'm honest. I don't want to go too hard on her and break the trust I've built with her but she obviously needs to be disciplined that such behaviour is not acceptable. Their ground manners have improved a bit but they are typical cheeky Shetlands as well!

Any tips appreciated, thank you all for reading, here's a pic of the said two the day I brought them home x
 

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Taz

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Oh no, I'm so sorry to hear you're having this problem. What type of work is your trainer doing with them?(Who's methods?) I can give you suggestions of online trainers if your interested. How old are your kids? I would say with that behaviour the best thing would be to have your kids on the other side of the fence and have then stand their ground and and use a flag( a lot of motion ) to not let the pony into their space so they could establish that that isn't allowed. It's better coming from them than you. That would be the first thing I would do but with more once that was established. It sounds like they have been badly treated and scared and fight instead of run away or shut down(freeze).
 
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weeburnsyg

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Thanks Taz. The trainer uses gentle horsemanship methods, a lot of trust training type stuff. She specialises in abused horses and trains a lot for sanctuaries and has been very successful.

Funny, my kids do stand their ground, if they are on the other side of the fence. I've told them why she is doing it, she's got attached to me and feels safe with me and doesn't want anyone/anything to threaten that (even though I still can't do much with her lol). The kids just stand there and listen to me while I tell the horse off or shoo her away from them so at least they aren't running away reinforcing to the horse that her running at them is working.

They are only aged 10 and 7 so if they are in the paddock and the horse does go for them they actually freeze and scream for me with fear. So, they don't come in with them anymore :-(

Not why we got them, so it's such a horrible position to be in. If I had the land I would keep them and give them a good retirement home, but I don't...
 

Abby P

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I think you've gotten good advice from Taz but I just wanted to say, you shouldn't feel bad for finding the horses a different home if it isn't a good fit. What you've done with them will only help them, and if you re-home them with full disclosure of their issues they have a better chance of going to someone who will be able to work with them.

I stuck with a horse that was just the wrong personality fit for me for 17 years (no I'm NOT stubborn 🤪 ). After I had my daughter he went to a family with teenage kids and he was PERFECT for them and they were perfect for him. I loved him and it was hard to let him go but it ended up being the best thing for all involved! They stayed in touch and sent me pictures all the time so I knew he was doing well. Part of my realization of what a poor fit it was was when I was pregnant, I had no problem hopping on our recently-off-the-track, one-eyed TB, but didn't want to get on my own horse!

Especially when kids are involved, you just have to do what's best for you and it will also end up being better for the ponies. Maybe your trainer knows someone who would like to have them? Good luck and I'm sorry it didn't work out, but they'll find a good place to be and you'll find a pony that's great with your kids. 👍
 

weeburnsyg

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Abby, thank you so much for such an open and honest reply. I really appreciate it and it's what I needed to hear right now, I know you'll understand having gone through it! I have had so many people laying the guilt trip on me, the 'don't give up on them', 'you're their last hope', 'they'll come around' etc but I know deep in my gut that while they may evolve a bit more they won't evolve to what we as a family thought we were getting.

I've agreed with the sanctuary and trainer this morning that they can stay here until the end of February. The trainer will work with them a few times a week and we'll try and find them a new home before then so hopefully they won't need to go back to the sanctuary.

Like you, I'm stubborn and there still is an element that I've failed and have given up on them. But then reality screams at me that my kids and the right fit have to come first. If circumstances were different...but they are not.

Thank you so much again. It's definitely made me warier about choosing something else in future x
 

weeburnsyg

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You are doing the right thing finding them a home. She has accepted you into the herd, but she will not tolerate others. Even though you could train her out of it, you'd never be able to trust her when you weren't around.
Thank you! You've hit the nail on the head. I work with other horses that I have absolutely no issue being around yet I still won't walk too close behind these two, nevermind leaving them unsupervised with my kids. I think that speaks volumes x
 

Taz

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You should absolutely not feel guilty finding them another home where they will be a good fit! You've done a lot with them and you have someone good working with them who will hopefully be able to help find them someone, I wish I was close, they'd fit right in around here. Please don't let this turn you against getting another couple of horses/ponies. You might want to get some that are in your face wanting attention though 😊. If you want rescues there are lots of those out there with that personality too.
 

Maryann at MiniV

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Totally agree with Dragon Hill. It's what I call : Finding The Right FIT when it comes to horses, dogs, and even cats.

I bet there is a potential owner out there (without kids!) who will understand the dynamics of your pony's mental state and be able to handle it.
PS: I just saw Taz's post just above, using the same word! "Good Fit"! LOL.
 

Pitter Patter

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Please don't feel badly about re-homing them. I actually still have a 20+ year old Welsh Cobb that I picked up many years ago because owner was going to shoot him (it belonged to his ex who left the country and he was quite bitter). Can't ride him-not safe. No one else was interested in him except a kill buyer so I kept him. I'll spare you all with all the details of our trials and tribulations but in the end I am his friend, but NOT his leader. Finding his "talents" has been interesting and when I learn how to drive I will try him with that. (He parks his hind end between handles of the wheelbarrow regularly!). But I had time and space and learned to communicate a little with him. Now he follows me everywhere and is quite loving. I can still move his feet, so that's a plus. His plus side is he adores kids. Once my then 2 year old ran right under electric fence to get a ball that went there. He ran under this horse and I was petrified and tried not to spook anyone. This horse was extremely careful with him and nothing happened (thank God!). He just doesn't like adults much. Had I had a place he could go to that was a better fit I would have done it immediately, for both of our sake's. It made me sad, but if he could've been happier it would have been worth it. He has softened with age, but you don't have that kind of time with your kids to wait and find out. It's good the sanctuary is working with you and they will be ok no matter what happens. There are lovely minis out there and she will find that perfect "fit" and so will you and your kids. You're adding to her chances of a promising future by working with her for now and gaining trust.
 

weeburnsyg

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Please don't feel badly about re-homing them. I actually still have a 20+ year old Welsh Cobb that I picked up many years ago because owner was going to shoot him (it belonged to his ex who left the country and he was quite bitter). Can't ride him-not safe. No one else was interested in him except a kill buyer so I kept him. I'll spare you all with all the details of our trials and tribulations but in the end I am his friend, but NOT his leader. Finding his "talents" has been interesting and when I learn how to drive I will try him with that. (He parks his hind end between handles of the wheelbarrow regularly!). But I had time and space and learned to communicate a little with him. Now he follows me everywhere and is quite loving. I can still move his feet, so that's a plus. His plus side is he adores kids. Once my then 2 year old ran right under electric fence to get a ball that went there. He ran under this horse and I was petrified and tried not to spook anyone. This horse was extremely careful with him and nothing happened (thank God!). He just doesn't like adults much. Had I had a place he could go to that was a better fit I would have done it immediately, for both of our sake's. It made me sad, but if he could've been happier it would have been worth it. He has softened with age, but you don't have that kind of time with your kids to wait and find out. It's good the sanctuary is working with you and they will be ok no matter what happens. There are lovely minis out there and she will find that perfect "fit" and so will you and your kids. You're adding to her chances of a promising future by working with her for now and gaining trust.
Thank you for the supportive response. My two hate men, probably because that's who beat them so understandable. But they are SO flighty all the time and if a man (my partner or father-in-law) come round the corner they nearly have a heart attack. Even after 8 months this has not settled at ALL and both were brought up and still work on a farm so they are well used to animals and how to be around them. I'm glad you have found strengths with your cobb, and yes like you say if circumstances were different this side I'd probably stick it out another year to see what happens.
 

MerMaeve

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Don't feel bad about rehoming them! You tried, and that is the best you can do.
We got another mini for the mini in my profile picture (was supposed to be a good kids horse) and after a month of her being a bossy snot we decided to ask if we could return her before someone (or our other mini) got hurt. We ended up getting her half sister who has the opposite personality and is a total sweetheart, but like yours has slight trust issues. I don't think she was physically beaten, just doesn't know who she can trust anymore.
 

Taz

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Don't feel bad about rehoming them! You tried, and that is the best you can do.
We got another mini for the mini in my profile picture (was supposed to be a good kids horse) and after a month of her being a bossy snot we decided to ask if we could return her before someone (or our other mini) got hurt. We ended up getting her half sister who has the opposite personality and is a total sweetheart, but like yours has slight trust issues. I don't think she was physically beaten, just doesn't know who she can trust anymore.
This is the wrong place for this but.... What's her name? Any pictures?????
 

Ryan Johnson

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Good on you for giving these two a chance. I'm sorry it hasn't worked out but the safety of your children comes first. I will say, I don't believe the sanctuary has been completely honest with you and I feel that they should be accountable or willing to take them back. Advertising a pony/mini that "loves to be groomed" and be "around kids", should fit that description, but this is clearly not the case. I have a feeling this is why they keep being returned to the sanctuary. ?

There are two minis out there that are going to be the perfect fit for you and your family. Wishing you the best of luck in your search for them :)
 

MerMaeve

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This is the wrong place for this but.... What's her name? Any pictures?????
Coco's Midnight Magic, aka Magic! She has SO MUCH HAIR!!! Her mane is about 3" off the ground in one spot! Her tail is braided and secured up so it doesn't drag on the ground.
Her and Squirt this AM
IMG_5303.jpg IMG_5270.JPG
 
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weeburnsyg

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@MerMaeve and @Ryan Johnson , thanks! Everyone here has really helped me feel a bit better about my decision. It's been a horrible few months wrestling with it all.

The horse trainer from the sanctuary managed to get here on Wednesday, the first time in nearly four weeks since agreeing to. She was still trying to persuade me to keep them and says they will be great family ponies. I've realised that I need to man up to the situation a bit more too, I'm too soft and have been trying to navigate the whole situation mindfully because they are from a sanctuary, we're in a pandemic, everyone is under pressure etc etc but she's been aware that I've been struggling with them since around early October last year so should have suspected this may happen.? I simply said no, and as already informed they need to be away sooner rather than later, and by the end of Feb at the latest as it isn't fair on me, my mental health or my family.

On the positive, I've learnt a lot of valuable lessons! I know we rarely get the exact pony/horse we thought we were getting but it's made me a lot more aware of making better choices, my own ability and skills, and what suits my family more.

I've been studying animal behaviour science as part of an equine therapy qualification I'm studying for. It has helped me also realise how scarred these two really are and there are no guarantees that they will ever evolve to what I would consider a safe family pony. I'm also continuing to take my own training lessons and like you all, every day is a learning day around them :)

I've got support from some other horsey friends as my confidence has been knocked with these two (I must be a crap trainer, horsey person etc). We've also been looking at more suitable minis the past few months which has helped me reaffirm how unsuitable these two are. We are hoping to have something more suitable for our family very soon, we've found a Falabella filly and a Falabella-blend gelding (5 years) who are both extremely quiet, well handled, a joy to be around....the kids and my partner adore them.

Such a journey and there is still sadness about them going and I think I posted this thread out of desperation to see if there is something I've missed out and I could learn, but I know it's the best decision for my family, and for them too. THANK YOU everyone, I'm so glad I found this forum.
 

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