Discuss Unbroke horse with sensitive belly at the Horse Training forum - Horse Forums. I'm working with a 7 year old unbroke Paint mare who is very touchy about ...
Unbroke horse with sensitive belly
I'm working with a 7 year old unbroke Paint mare who is very touchy about being touched on her belly. Even just brushing irritates her after a few strokes (near the cinch area or any area on her belly really) and she'll kind of kick up at her belly. She's not acting aggressively when she kicks, and is not kicking at me handling her, it's more of a "I'm trying to get this annoying touch off my belly" kick.
This horse has not been handled hardly at all in 3 years, so everything is going slowly now anyway, but I forsee this being a rather important issue, especially as we progress to putting on a saddle and using a cinch!
I have some ideas of my own, but I'm just interested to see how other people would go about desensitizing her to being touched on her belly. She is very good about being touched anywhere else on her body and does not react negatively at all.
I'd get a lungewhip and just keep rubbing her belly till she quits. If she gets agressive about it i'd make her feet MOVE then get back to it. Stand up by her shoulder so you can't get kicked as well. I would do this after you've done some other work with her so she is wanting to stand still and isn't fresh.
Originally Posted by Jenje!
Originally Posted by CaitlynH
Thanks. My plan was to do something similar. We'll see how it goes. I predict she will get rather upset with me. Could be fun.
Desensitizing is the key, sounds like you have that as a plan, do you start with a surcingle or move right to a saddle? We start with a surcingle and let them move around the stall with it on first, just to get use to the strap around their bellies before putting a saddle on.
In my experience, the best way to slow down a runaway horse is to bet on it...
Water hose is a good one, and also things like once she's trained to a surcingle, you can use it to secure a leg bandage wrapped/crossed light and snug under her belly and work her with it on.
We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty. ~ Mother Teresa
I would not be using a longe line or whip to rub her belly, or a surcingle and bandage. First of all the more junk you add to this scenario the worse it gets and the more that can go wrong. But also all that junk just causes more kicking. It tickles so is going to do exactly what you don't want to do - cause more kicking. Horses kick at what tickles or hurts...or moves fast behind them, etc.
Mares also have 'no touch' zones that are different areas on the body than the 'no touch' areas on geldings and stallions. This is just normal and instinctive. Not that you clap your hands together with joy when they act witchy about it, but you have to realize that you are dealing with a normal, instinctive, expected, totally herd based behavior.
And if a horse is not trained to do something else, he ALWAYS will simply - act like a horse. Which means herd behavior. Kicking, laying ears, nipping, wheeling around, pawing, striking, rearing. It's a horse. That's what they do. Don't take it personal and don't get all worked up about it. The horse just isn't trained to do something else.
They don't allow horses in the herd to touch their flanks or belly - court them in other words, unless they're in season and being bred. And since untrained horses have no clue about anything, they treat those touches just as they would if it happened in the herd. It's no more 'mean' than a person blinking when a baseball is flying at 100 mph and is 1 foot from their face.
Instead of tickling her with stuff and making it worse, I'd make a spot on her shoulder or low on her neck near her mane where she likes to get scratched. I'd be scratching that spot and 'branching out' from there and desensitizing all areas of her body. And taking my time and not worrying about it a whole lot as it's normal.
I'd use a firm, steady, but flexible arm, and simply put my hand on her and stroke her with a steady, even pressure. Not slapping, not patting, you want to move your hand and vary the pressure as little as possible. All that moving your arm and hand, slapping, swatting, all that is just making it worse. Stroke her on her 'ok' places and just gradually move around to the 'less ok places'. Again if you do it right it takes about - ONCE.
But this isn't all touchy feely and there are times when a correction is in order. That is a judgement call and this is the one thing that you just can't teach people from the internet.
People in general, don't understand how to quickly and easily 'shape' behavior in a horse. They just decide they want them to do something a whole new way and expect that to spring fully formed as if from the head of Zeus, as the saying goes, LOL.
Only problem, it doesn't work. But nor does shaping take for ever - quite the contrary. It happens very quickly if you know what you're doing.
So step one is - touching, rubbing, these don't stop when you lift your back leg. And how odd and weird that is for the horse, it goes against everything they've ever experienced. It is really, really unpleasant. Oh no, my usual low effort thing I do just stopped working. I am now vulnerable to attack and I'm scared and I don't like it.
We go on for a few minutes like that, and eventually, the horse is going to give a big kick, to the side, more forward, up, you have to be ready for that. Because the horse is getting really frustrated because this goes against everything it's ever experienced and kicking is what keeps it safe in a herd. Allows it to get food, keeps it from getting bred when it doesn't want to - and prevents serious injury.
Learning to 'read' that horse's reaction and knowing at what point to 'hold' the horse's interest and anxiety level, and not let it get past that - it takes a lot of ability to observe and adjust quickly - WITHOUT entirely going away and giving up.
I think it should be very little correction - and I think if you find you're having to get all big and bad with her about it and making a big dramatic production with your corrections, something is really wrong with how you're doing this.
So for example, I come up and give Ms Touchy some feed in her bucket and tie her up so she's along one wall of her stall with her head in her feed bucket having a glorious time and lowering her anxiety level - but most of all being distracted from what I'm starting doing and thinking boy this sure is a good time.
If I'm REALLY smart - I stand her up and tie her so that her back end is about 2 1/2 or 3 feet from a very solid, hard wall - not block - I don't want an injury to her foot. Just something solid. Because, when she really kicks out hard, I want her to connect with that wall. Hard.
While she's eating I can rub her mane and scratch her and let her feel how nice it is to get scratched and eat. What a paradise. It's only a little bit of food so she's done quick, and now that she's nice and happy I am all over rubbing and scratching and showing her what a nice time this all is.
Now she may lift one foot a little, if she's doing that a little, I am going to see that as a normal reaction and just keep rubbing and scratching and isn't that interesting that your warning to your 'herd mate', I seem to pay so little attention to, of course I am keeping myself safe, if she starts to wheel around and look like she'll get me I am going to reposition her, but I really don't WANT to have to.
Scratch scratch scratch rub rub rub, just not stopping, find all those scratchy spots and keep it happy. Then put one hand over by the girth area and rub with one firm flat hand and pick it up and go back to rubbing scratching all the good areas. I'm not mad, I'm not worked up, I'm not looking for a fight (key).
The first couple minutes, I don't care if that hind foot comes up. This is just learning for her the very first step. The lesson- this idiot isn't going away. Nothing stops when you lift your hind leg.
Then you start rubbing, grooming, with a nice steady pressure that keeps your hands at all times, near the horse, not going up and down, no patting, slapping, nothing. (That comes later).
You might get lucky and all it takes is just not going away when she lifts that leg. Some supremely relaxed and laid back horses will say, 'oh well, this guy isn't hurting me so I'm done having a problem with this'.
The worse shape the horse is in mentally, the more scared and tense she is, the more likely she is to not feel at all comfortable with this and to start kicking bigger and harder.
So most likely eventually the horse is going to give a big old huge kick.
And kit her foot on the wall. And think, wow that wasn't too pleasant. But she's still going to be really nervous and tense because this is all not going to plan and it does not look good.
So maybe when she kicks you just very quietly say 'no' in a low gruff voice and just jerk on the lead shank a little bit, maybe she just takes a little bit of a step backward, not too much, again you don't want to start a fight you can't finish, so you are going to keep all your corrections very, very low key and quiet. Just jerk the lead shank a little bit, you just want to get her thinking a little. And the TRICK is that you don't let up on any of your rubbing and grooming and scratching even when she gives the big kick, you take a second to jerk the lead with your left hand and your right hand is still grooming, rubbing, brushing, and now and again putting itself on her 'no zone', just a little, no big deal, just 'here it is', no mad handler, no big dramatic production.
Smile a little, laugh a little. Enjoy the poor animal getting its poor tiny little brain rewired right as you're standing there, in a few minutes.
Keep calm, keep working. It's only going to be for five minutes. If you have a problem stopping at five minutes set the alarm on your watch or cell phone and STOP AT FIVE MINUTES.
And then after five minutes is up, you are finished for that time. You might do this for five minutes in the morning and then five minutes at night.
Forget all that **** about you can't stop til you have fixed it and 'made your point' and 'been the leader' and 'earned the respect' and all that ****. You stop at five minutes. Take a breath, go get a cappucino, relax.
If the first time you get from 'I don't go away when you lift that back leg' to 'big kick' to those little low key corrections, you will in the next five minutes - IF you don't get all big and bad and emotional. You can't teach ANYTHING when you're upset and if you do get upset, that's your problem and not the horse's.
In any case your limit is 10 minutes a day, and not 10 continuous minutes, but ten minutes total in no longer than 5 minute sessions. And if in that time, you can't accomplish all of this or a whole lot of it, blame it on yourself, not the horse. You're pushing too hard, or you're so vague and nebulous you aren't even getting the point across.
And this is key: you don't get kicked. You're on her left side, up at her shoulder, your right hand is reaching to her girth, and you are very well out of harm's way.
If she pivots her hind end around toward you (no self respecting horse wouldn't, frankly), you move right along with her and stay right at her shoulder, and you don't get kicked. She's tied up so things can't get that bad, as long as you keep reading what's going on and not overplaying your hand, that is.
If things do get to where you are feeling in danger, or scared and losing your OWN cool either 1. You lose your own cool too easily and you need to either change that right away or someone else should be doing this work 2. You didn't keep things at a point where any learning can happen - try to tune your actions a little and read the horse's reactions better.
LOTS of people TALK about 'desensitization', it's a word that gets tossed around awful freely these days. But the way they do it, they are putting the horse at such a high level of anxiety and stress that they aren't 'desensitizing' at all - they're just ******** the horse out and punishing it alot and chasing it around and wearing it out.
The horse finally quits doing whatever because it's so tired out from all the jumping around and being womped on or whatever sort of thing they are doing with their voice, hands, body, lead rope, whip and all that nonsense, but it isn't really trained and the next time there is some little change in the routine or environment, the whole thing will have to be done over again - and again and again and again. It takes way too close to forever(compared to doing it once for 5 minutes), it's dangerous and it doesn't wind up with as good a horse.
Where as if they had a more reasonable approach they'd probably do this desensitization about - ONCE. That'd be it. Then every single time you review the lesson, it's better. ANd you review about 3 times and that's the end of that.
And if you're doing it in a productive way it gets better - very very fast. In a few days, you don't even remember it being a problem.
What do you do when she fusses? You should just ignore her fussing and keep on brushing her with a soft brush. She HAS to be desensitized to it. She will get used to it when she realizes it doesn't hurt and her fussing is not going to stop it.
After you get her so she lets you rub and brush her everywhere, then you will need a soft cotton lead rope. Rub the lead rope all over her, then put it across her back and with both ends in your hands rub it back and forth in the girth area. Baby steps, rub it across her wither and when she stops fussing, you stop rubbing. She is then rewarded for standing still.
Once you can rub a lead rope all over her body, do her legs the same way until she is used to it. Don't do it for long periods at first. If she will let you rub it on her upper arm and doesn't move, lower it to her knee. Just work for a minute per leg at first.
When you go to saddle her, bring her girth up and drop it. Keep doing that til she ignores it. Then bring it up, hold it for a few seconds, then drop it. Extend the time you hold it snug, not tightened, just snug, longer and longer until she is fine with it. When you do go to tighten it fully, tighten it in increments: just snug, wait for a few seconds, tighten a bit more, then release and go at it again. It is just conditioning. The MORE she is messed with the better. After a time, she will not show any concern for being cinched up as long as you take every step of your training in increments.
[QUOTE=Outrider;7441522]In this day and age we have WAY too many people, WAY too sensitive about WAY too many things and taking something that only deserves a "ho hum" response as a slight against themselves personally. [/QUOTE]
I use what Clinton Anderson does. OH I know, people have had so much of the clinicians they're sick of it, but this does work.
He uses a long lead rope, preferably the one he has made of yacht rope. It's round, flexible, and soft. You stand at a 45 degree angle at the shoulder and toss the rope all around the horse, and over it.
Start by just twirling it along side the horse. The horse will react and move away. Then, as the horse finds out it's not going to eat it, they relax. Keep at it till the horse is relaxed. You're smacking the ground with it each swing as well. Then, do the other side.
Once this is not a big deal, start by tossing the rope around the horse's legs and feet. Start with the front feet, and move on to the back.
Same thing, once this is not a big deal, you can move on. Be sure to do both sides.
Then, start tossing the rope over the horse's back. This might take some time as this is an aged horse, not a youngster. But keep at it. Do both sides.
By this point, I'm tossing the rope all over the horse, over the neck, around the feet and legs, behind the horse, twirling it over their heads, you name it.
This takes a lot of the spook out of a horse, and desensitizes them to things that move and make a noise.
I do this daily on all my foals, each time working with them, I move on if they're ready.
This method keeps you out of kicking way, and out of the way for being struck. Safety is important.
Standing Cats And Cream, son of #1 NCHA/AQHA Cutting Sire High Brow Cat
Okayyyy, so you just described desensitizing, same thing I said, without writing a book... so why wouldnt you use a surcingle after you desensitized again?
Originally Posted by slc
In my experience, the best way to slow down a runaway horse is to bet on it...
what Zim said it great..
We also will wrap the line around their girth area and move it around abit..tighten it abit..ect
From head to tail the Border Collie is all dog, and pure dog, fashioned by nature and wise men for a useful purpose and thirled to its traditions by the very validity of its ancient and honorable calling.
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