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Need advice on taming new minis

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awi720

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I recently adopted 2 mini mares that were neglected. Ages 4 and 6. They had belonged to an elderly lady and she surrendered them to animal welfare because she was no longer able to care for them. They are slightly thin and their hooves are very overgrown. They were left out without shelter during a very cold spell we recently had and they are now have runny noses and are coughing. They were given wormer and a shot of antibiotic just before I picked them up. My issue is that they are scared and have not let me touch them. I cannot get their hooves trimmed or give them more antibiotics if I can't touch them. When I feed them, I sit down beside them and they get within 4 or 5 foot of me and they seem pretty comfortable with me being close, but the minute I get up they backup away from me. I have them pinned up in a smaller area away from my other 2 minis right now. Should I stall them in my barn so they are in an even smaller space? How can I gain their trust? Do you think I will ever be able to pet and halter them? I know patience is key, but I need help from some of the more experienced folks on here. Thank you!
 

Taz

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First thank you so much for rescuing!
I have a number of rescues and haven't had to give up yet on getting any of them to come around, time and patience. The two things that I do is sitting near them being very relaxed and focusing just on them without staring at them hard. They pick up on it and start to relax. The other thing is watch closely for their signals as you are working your way up to them and always back off before you push to the point they feel they have to escape(or as close as you can get). Those signals are really easy. Walk up to them quietly but don't sneak. If they turn their head away, look away with their eyes but not their head, move away at all even shifting their weight, STOP and move back again. The more you let them know you are aware and take the pressure off the more they will relax around you and let you closer and/or move towards you. When you do finally get up to them just stand there relaxed, don't try to touch them at first. Put your hand out and let them touch that or stand still and let them touch you. You can google 'calming signals' to get more info on it. If you watch youtube videos you will see some people working wild mustangs that way. They normally or on a time limit and push it faster than you should if you're just figuring it out. I would not recommend sending them away(chasing them) at all. Take your time and you'll get there. It's so frustrating when they need care and you can't do it yet. Can you put some antibiotics in their feed? Their feet will took awful but don't worry about that, they can be fixed easily when they have more trust. I would keep them in a small enough space that you have access but not so small that you are in their bubble and scaring them just going in. A round pen size would be good but a stall might be too small. If you do want them in a stall you can work with them from outside the stall first.
Hope that helps a bit, let us know how it goes?
 

awi720

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First thank you so much for rescuing!
I have a number of rescues and haven't had to give up yet on getting any of them to come around, time and patience. The two things that I do is sitting near them being very relaxed and focusing just on them without staring at them hard. They pick up on it and start to relax. The other thing is watch closely for their signals as you are working your way up to them and always back off before you push to the point they feel they have to escape(or as close as you can get). Those signals are really easy. Walk up to them quietly but don't sneak. If they turn their head away, look away with their eyes but not their head, move away at all even shifting their weight, STOP and move back again. The more you let them know you are aware and take the pressure off the more they will relax around you and let you closer and/or move towards you. When you do finally get up to them just stand there relaxed, don't try to touch them at first. Put your hand out and let them touch that or stand still and let them touch you. You can google 'calming signals' to get more info on it. If you watch youtube videos you will see some people working wild mustangs that way. They normally or on a time limit and push it faster than you should if you're just figuring it out. I would not recommend sending them away(chasing them) at all. Take your time and you'll get there. It's so frustrating when they need care and you can't do it yet. Can you put some antibiotics in their feed? Their feet will took awful but don't worry about that, they can be fixed easily when they have more trust. I would keep them in a small enough space that you have access but not so small that you are in their bubble and scaring them just going in. A round pen size would be good but a stall might be too small. If you do want them in a stall you can work with them from outside the stall first.
Hope that helps a bit, let us know how it goes?
Thank you so much for all the pointers. I do feel more hopeful after reading this. I did not realize there was an antibiotic that could go in their food. Could you tell me what it is and I will start that immediately. I will definitely let you know my progress. I'm going to use your suggestions and watch some videos like you mentioned and I will post in a few weeks and let you know what is happening. I know it will be very slow and that is probably the hardest part for me because I want to be able to pet them and give them hugs! Thanks again!
 

Marsha Cassada

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I, too, disagree with the "sending away". I tried that a few times and I think it is counter productive.
If the horses need antibiotics, they need it, and you need to do whatever you have to to administer it. Usually tucoprin (sp?) is just top dressed and they gobble it up, so that is easy.

My sister and I recently had to doctor the eyes of a kill pen horse. We were able to herd her into a corner and trapped her with the gate. We were able to put a halter on her and one held her head and the other put in the ointment. She became quiet and submissive once she was haltered. We brushed her a little, not too much as she was obviously uncomfortable with too much. When we released her, she walked calmly away. After 3 days of this--trapping her with a gate, the owner offered her to us, as she was impressed we could work with her, but we refused; we believed she was incorrigibly anti social. It happens.
Your two horses could be wild because of no handling or one of them could be antisocial and teaching the other to be. Observe which is the dominant. Try separating them and work with each by itself. Put them where they see each other but are not together, perhaps just dividing the pen they are in. Put the feed as far away from the other as space allows. I think this would make it easier to gain the trust and you will be able to tell more about their personalities.
Doubt they got sick from being without shelter. They must have been around some other sick horse and if they are thin their resistance is low. Horses live outdoors all over the world without shelter.
Good luck. Sometimes our good intentions turn out wonderfully, and sometimes they are a heartbreak. We have to keep trying because we love them.
 

Dragon Hill

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I have actually used a gate also. I also have a mini mare I have to hold the halter with one hand and cradle her head with my other (my arm under her chin and hand over her neck) because she hates shots and rears.
Once you get them over being sick, I would like to ad to what Taz said. When you back away don't look at their head. I also like to set goals, then break it into tiny steps. When I got DJ he would not let me touch him. I did start him in a stall, but he wasn't wild, just mishandled. So step one was him letting me be in the stall with him without him being uptight. Praise and leave. Yours might be letting you stand outside the stall or round pen without being nervous. Praise and leave(backup). The praise will eventually become a cue to relax, the reward is you leaving or backing away far enough that they don't feel any pressure from you, so they can relax. When I leave I turn away from them or look down at their feet as I back away.
I also like to spend time in the paddock with them, pretending to ignore them. Have you been sitting on the ground? Sitting in a chair, or on a stool, so when you stand up the size difference isn't so large, might help.
 

Taz

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My vet gives me a sulfa suspention in cherry flavour that I can syringe in or top dress/mix with feed. Ask your vet, you should be able to get something no problem.
 

Abby P

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Do you have a vet you can talk to? Not sure I'd just give antibiotics without knowing what the problem is, since it might not be needed and it matters which one you give for which infection. Meanwhile, having just lived through (hopefully, we should hear any day whether it's getting lifted now) a many-week strangles quarantine at my barn due to someone bringing in a new horse and failing to quarantine, especially with runny noses I would keep them separate from your other horses and take care of them last, just to be cautious. I don't think strangles usually comes with a cough but it can't hurt to be careful.

And I echo what others have said about befriending them - just being there and doing your thing in a calm way, or sitting in a chair and doing something not about them like reading a book, are great ways to start. It may help also to pay attention to your other horses where they can see and hear, and that might interest them in getting some of the same stuff (attention, treats, grooming, whatever it is). If they're skittish then definitely you don't want to do anything to put too much pressure on them and at this point even just looking in their direction may be a lot of pressure. Take it slow and you might be surprised how fast they come around!
 

awi720

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I have actually used a gate also. I also have a mini mare I have to hold the halter with one hand and cradle her head with my other (my arm under her chin and hand over her neck) because she hates shots and rears.
Once you get them over being sick, I would like to ad to what Taz said. When you back away don't look at their head. I also like to set goals, then break it into tiny steps. When I got DJ he would not let me touch him. I did start him in a stall, but he wasn't wild, just mishandled. So step one was him letting me be in the stall with him without him being uptight. Praise and leave. Yours might be letting you stand outside the stall or round pen without being nervous. Praise and leave(backup). The praise will eventually become a cue to relax, the reward is you leaving or backing away far enough that they don't feel any pressure from you, so they can relax. When I leave I turn away from them or look down at their feet as I back away.
I also like to spend time in the paddock with them, pretending to ignore them. Have you been sitting on the ground? Sitting in a chair, or on a stool, so when you stand up the size difference isn't so large, might help.
Thanks for your input! I have been sitting on a 5 gallon bucket next to them when I feed them. I started out with the bucket far away and gradually made it closer each time I fed them. I am within 5 foot of them right now, but if I get up or move too much they step back. Otherwise they seem relaxed. I talk to them and watch them but do not stare at them. When they finish eating i get up and do other things in their pen so they will get used to me moving around and hopefully see I am a not a threat.
 

Ryan Johnson

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Good on you for rescuing them :)

Abby has a great point about quarantine , I would be keeping them away from your other minis and horses until you have had a vet look at them.
Unfortunately with "trust" it can take some time and it varies between horses. From what you have explained above, lack of handling and care has contributed to the way that they are. I have one little mare now that it took me weeks to get near. She was so timid and scared and at one stage I wondered if Id actually ever be able to gain her trust. It took a good 12 Months before I was able to walk directly up to her to halter her. I did what others have mentioned, sitting on a 20l bucket in the middle of the paddock for hours on end.

I agree with Taz re their feet, whilst they may look terrible , Id be more inclined to work on trust so you are able to have vet look at them. Id ask your vet to do a fecal so you know what worms you are dealing with(if any).

Regarding feed, remember to introduce things slowly :)

And lastly, dont be discouraged at any stage as you get to know each other, slowly but surely they will come around, it will just take time and with time "comes trust"

Keep us posted and ask away any questions you like, everyones friendly here and will be able to offer help :)
 

Abby P

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They are ADORABLE. Are they sisters? I know the feet look scary, but they will be OK. Just really overgrown...and if they have gone this long, another few weeks while you gain their trust won't make a difference in the long run.

It's possible the coughing and runny noses were just from dusty hay or something, hopefully it clears up quickly. Do keep us posted!
 

awi720

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Thank you! I think they are so precious! I'm not sure if they are sisters or not. They did not have any history on them to pass along to me when I got them. They definitely look alike! I have a vet coming out tomorrow so hopefully they will get the medicine they need to get better soon.
 

Willow Flats

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They are cute! 😍 It is going to be worth the wait for them to become comfortable with their new surroundings, their new person and a new lifestyle of being cared for. Lots of unknowns for them to handle.
You are on the right track and patience is one of the neat things that horses teach us. What are their names?
 

awi720

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The hardest part for me is being patient, but I am up to the challenge! Their names are Daisy and Rose.
 

Taz

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They are so cute!!!!! As Abby P said, their feet look awful but they are doing OK with it so don't worry, one trim and they will be almost normal again. That's great you have a vet coming out. They will probably want to go over them. You could put them in a stall before and get halters on them slowly. If they are really hard to get hold of you can leave leads on so you can get them for the vet. I'm guessing since they had antibiotics and were wormed before you got them that they will be OK to handle once you get hold of them. It's not ideal but if you have to you have to.
 

weeburnsyg

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They are gorgeous.

Time and patience.... go slow and steady and learn their signals. I've also two adopted minis.
 

awi720

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Hi everyone! I had a vet out just after I first posted and she concluded they had a upper respiratory infection. She had me start them on uniprim powdered antibiotic mixed into their pellets 2x daily. They have stopped coughing completely and only have a little bit of stuff coming out of their noses, so they have made a lot of improvement there. I have one of they that will very slowly and cautiously take a treat from my hand if I am sitting or squatted down. The other one will come up and sniff it in my hand, but won't take it yet from my hand. I can sit it on the ground right by me and she will take it and back up one step to chew it up. I feel like a lot of progress was made early on and now we are at a plateau. They both will eat with their bowls right at my feet....close enough to reach out and touch, but if I were to try, I know they would back off.
 

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