Training for connection and respect

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trails4jd

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I rescued a mini (38" high but the rescue thought he had some pony in him) about a month ago. He wasn't trusting and hated to be approached and have a halter put on him. We've made great strides in accepting the halter. He picks up his feet now without me asking. Basically when he is haltered you can do about anything to him. Has absolutely no bite or kick. Just the catching is an issue. When he's in his stall it's not hard. My question is---with a full size horse I'd be putting him in the round pen and work on "getting control of his feet". Is this the right approach for a mini--who might be part pony? I've been told it's just pony attitude.
 

LostandFound

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You can do round pen work. You can catch and release until you are tired of it. I am too tired for either of those methods, so I cheat. I start around dinner time, with a treat once the halter is on. Once they figure it out I only give a treat every once in a great while. I'm sure there are other ways, but the pony in them tends to make them smart and food motivated.
 

Taz

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I've done those methods and they work but rewards(treats) work faster and better as well as seeing and responding when they show stress indicators. Turning head away, looking away without moving head, etc. I've found it's more about connection, teaching and asking than controlling like round pen work does.
 

trails4jd

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Taz, how do you respond when they show stress indicators--I believe you were referring to turning the head away or looking away from you as stress indicators. Thank you.
 

trails4jd

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You can do round pen work. You can catch and release until you are tired of it. I am too tired for either of those methods, so I cheat. I start around dinner time, with a treat once the halter is on. Once they figure it out I only give a treat every once in a great while. I'm sure there are other ways, but the pony in them tends to make them smart and food motivated.
Thank you!
 

Marsha Cassada

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My mare turns her head away from the halter. I think this started when we were having static electricity. She would get a shock sometimes when I touched her. Someone here suggested holding the treat with the halter ready to lift over the nose. This works sometimes, and sometimes she thinks the treat is not worth the risk. Turning the head away is very annoying to me so I've tried different things. The treat in the halter nose opening works best.
For the miniature horses I got that were unhandled, I did the catch and release. Put the halter on and off without buckling. Just let him know he can flee if he needs to.
Sounds like you have made remarkable progress ! Let us know all your success stories and tricks!
 

Taz

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Taz, how do you respond when they show stress indicators--I believe you were referring to turning the head away or looking away from you as stress indicators. Thank you.
Basic stress indicators are turning the head away, turning the eyes away without moving the head, tightness in the muzzle and around eyes if your close enough to see. If you ignore this they will then turn away completely and/or move away from you. Basically it's small things that mean they are tense/stressed/scared about you coming closer to them/looking at them or doing something with them. Very simple, when you see it stop, if they don't come back to you move back a couple of steps or more if it's really bad. Wait till they engage you again(look at you or move towards you) then start again. It's kind of like advance and retreat but you respond to them sooner instead of doing what you want and then moving away to give them release. It might help you see if what you're doing is a problem to him and it increases trust very quickly. Instead of pushing them when they say no you are saying to them OK I hear you. Try it in the stall and see what he does, he should do a lot of chewing and relaxing if he has been upset.
 

trails4jd

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Basic stress indicators are turning the head away, turning the eyes away without moving the head, tightness in the muzzle and around eyes if your close enough to see. If you ignore this they will then turn away completely and/or move away from you. Basically it's small things that mean they are tense/stressed/scared about you coming closer to them/looking at them or doing something with them. Very simple, when you see it stop, if they don't come back to you move back a couple of steps or more if it's really bad. Wait till they engage you again(look at you or move towards you) then start again. It's kind of like advance and retreat but you respond to them sooner instead of doing what you want and then moving away to give them release. It might help you see if what you're doing is a problem to him and it increases trust very quickly. Instead of pushing them when they say no you are saying to them OK I hear you. Try it in the stall and see what he does, he should do a lot of chewing and relaxing if he has been upset.
Thank you. I see what you're saying now.
 

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I use treats. If a horse cannot be caught with treats, then I run him in the barn and corner him, then get the halter on and give a treat. I had a couple mishandled ones that could not be caught any other way. One did eventually let me catch him in a corner of his corral, but it wasn't 100% guaranteed. Those ponies would run themselves to exhaustion rather than give in and be caught--roundpenning was no answer for them. Most horses and ponies we have had soon learned that there is likely to be treats and they run up and almost stick their heads in the halter.
 

trails4jd

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I use treats. If a horse cannot be caught with treats, then I run him in the barn and corner him, then get the halter on and give a treat. I had a couple mishandled ones that could not be caught any other way. One did eventually let me catch him in a corner of his corral, but it wasn't 100% guaranteed. Those ponies would run themselves to exhaustion rather than give in and be caught--roundpenning was no answer for them. Most horses and ponies we have had soon learned that there is likely to be treats and they run up and almost stick their heads in the halter.
Thank you. Funny thing is Eddy didn't seem to know what to do with treats when I first got him. He wasn't interested in bits of apple and rolled peppermint treasts around in his mouth. He is now liking then,.
 

MindySchroder

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In my experience round penning ponies doesn't always work that well. They are so smart and in many cases super sensitive so they can take round penning very personally or figure out that first they run for 10-15 minutes THEN they get caught. And they will do this EVERY SINGLE TIME. I have had to retrain round penned ponies many times over the years and because of this I started asking people not to round pen their ponies before sending them to me for training.

Teaching them to catch you is the best way I've found to help a pony that doesn't want to be caught. It takes a little time and lots of consistency but they typically keep this lesson forever.

I trained a pony that had to be herded into a barn, then down a chute then into a stall then cornered (and once cornered he would often kick) and then roped, THEN haltered. This pony had been raised by the people who owned him and as a young pony was super friendly and loved people. They didn't know what exactly happened but one day he would not be caught. They ended up coming up with the plan above and had to do that every single time they caught him. They also left his halter on.

I brought him home, put him in a large stall, and removed his halter. The look on his face was priceless when I did this. He never once turned his butt to me after that. I would go in 10-20 times a day for 5 days and put a halter on him, offer him a treat or maybe give him his hard feed in a bucket while I simply stood there with him on the lead rope, then I would remove the halter and leave. He had plenty of hay all the time and ponies were over the gate from him so he wasn't alone. After that 5 days I turned him out with my herd of ponies and every single day he was the first one at the gate when I went out there with a halter. It's been nearly 15 years since I trained him to drive and his owner told me he has NEVER been hard to catch again. He always meet them at the gate. Ponies are so so smart. And kind.
 

trails4jd

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Mindy, thank you for your reply. Would you elaborate on "teaching them to catch you". I'm guessing you are meaning walk away from them or at least just have your shoulder pointing towards them and get them to come to you? Thank you.
 

MindySchroder

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When I say that I mean they come to you when you enter their pen. I accomplish this in small increments through the day. Going in to interact many times throughout the day and always bringing some kind of food with me. First I'll only expect them to look at me, then I'll give the food and leave. This usually grows to them approaching me, then I'll give the food and leave. (I put the treats in a bucket at this stage so they don't have to touch me.) Then I ask them to take the treat from my hand, and I leave, then I'll ask them to touch the halter. Then treat and leave. Sometimes I stay at this point for a few days depending on how mistrusting they are. Each pony is different. Then I'll move to asking them to put their nose in the halter, treat and leave, moving up to putting the halter on and then removing it and leaving. They are so used to being halter and then having things done to them that they don't like that breaking it down this way often completely blows their mind and they come around quite quickly. This is a tricky however as you must move slowly once you want to halter them for a reason. This is when I'll take them around to nice green grass patches (if they can have grass) if they can't then I'll hide hay around a pen or an arena and take them around to eat it. Food is such a motivator if they aren't afraid. If they are afraid then they aren't ready for this step.
 

trails4jd

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Thank you! He will approach me on occasion. I've had to halter him because he has an abscess and I need to soak his foot (he stands patiently and even lifts his foot for me to put it in the tub). He will then turn his head and check me out. He's definitely not scared of me. I wonder if he's just "being a pony" (never really knew what that meant!) when he won't let me approach him.
 

MindySchroder

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Thank you! He will approach me on occasion. I've had to halter him because he has an abscess and I need to soak his foot (he stands patiently and even lifts his foot for me to put it in the tub). He will then turn his head and check me out. He's definitely not scared of me. I wonder if he's just "being a pony" (never really knew what that meant!) when he won't let me approach him.
No. There is no such thing as "being a pony" or "pony-tude" Just like with horses these behaviors are taught. They don't want life to be hard any more than we do. But they have to survive. And they survive in a world where they don't speak our language and in most cases humans are not willing to learn theirs. So they push and pull and force and chase and scream and hit. This is humanity. If you take the time to teach him how you would prefer him to be with you then he will learn this and be grateful to you for taking the time it takes to help him understand. When they are being opposite of what we want it is always a misunderstanding.
 

Abby P

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If you take the time to teach him how you would prefer him to be with you

Lots of excellent advice here but this I just had to comment on. It is SO EASY to teach them to be the exact opposite of what you really want by continuing to expect them to do the thing you don't want them to do. You have to always try to EXPECT them to do what you really want. This is different from expecting them NOT to do X, Y, or Z. Putting your focus on the desirable behavior - even if the complete reverse is actually occurring in the moment - will make it clear to them. Focusing on what you don't want will make them think that is what you do want, because that is what you're thinking about. Horses don't do pretend or tricks like people and predator animals do so they have no chance of understanding you if you're focused on the wrong thing. Then, allow them the time and space to figure it out. Some horses need more time than others.

Edited to add: I was at a clinic once. There was a young girl there with a super cute Fjord who regularly bucked her off at the canter. The clinician had her ride the horse and sure enough, about halfway around the ring the first time she cantered, the pony gave one buck and the girl rolled off. The pony looked like he knew he just did what he was supposed to, I mean he almost looked proud. Stopped and waited until she got back on, I think he honestly thought this was part of the normal ride. Just an example of how these miscommunications can end up! The clinician made exactly this point, the girl was expecting her pony to buck her off and he faithfully did it, and really just about as gently as he possibly could. :)
 
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trails4jd

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Lots of excellent advice here but this I just had to comment on. It is SO EASY to teach them to be the exact opposite of what you really want by continuing to expect them to do the thing you don't want them to do. You have to always try to EXPECT them to do what you really want. This is different from expecting them NOT to do X, Y, or Z. Putting your focus on the desirable behavior - even if the complete reverse is actually occurring in the moment - will make it clear to them. Focusing on what you don't want will make them think that is what you do want, because that is what you're thinking about. Horses don't do pretend or tricks like people and predator animals do so they have no chance of understanding you if you're focused on the wrong thing. Then, allow them the time and space to figure it out. Some horses need more time than others.

Edited to add: I was at a clinic once. There was a young girl there with a super cute Fjord who regularly bucked her off at the canter. The clinician had her ride the horse and sure enough, about halfway around the ring the first time she cantered, the pony gave one buck and the girl rolled off. The pony looked like he knew he just did what he was supposed to, I mean he almost looked proud. Stopped and waited until she got back on, I think he honestly thought this was part of the normal ride. Just an example of how these miscommunications can end up! The clinician made exactly this point, the girl was expecting her pony to buck her off and he faithfully did it, and really just about as gently as he possibly could. :)
Oh my. I need to think about what I'm thinking!!
 

chandab

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Miniature horses ARE ponies! They are pretty much all Shetland derivatives. They are small and cute, so tend to be allowed to get away with all sorts of naughty behaviors.
If you don't let a full-size horse get away with a behavior, don't let a mini. Due to their small stature, you might need to make adjustments in your training methods.
 

trails4jd

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Thanks for your reply and for answering my other question about whether they all have pony in them. The rescue I got Eddy from said she thought he had some pony in him. Sounds like they all do.
 

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