Marv, I have shown horses all my life, Quarter horses. Now at 52 years old, I am not as brave as I use to be. I have acquired a 4 year old gelding who has been abused, I am guessing, by the way he acts, especially around men. He was very head shy and would only let me get the halter on after 3 or 4 tries everyday to bring him in from the pasture. By the way he is 16 hands or a little bigger and quite stout. He is now not a problem at all and comes and very willingly lets me halter him. He would not let us pick his feet up and with persistence he has let me do that. But still get very uptight with the farrier, who is very kind and patient. The first time we gave him a little tranquilizer, the second time he let him do his front feet.
Before I became enlightened I once had a big ol' quarter horse who was an outstanding horse for many years. One day I went to get a horse to take on an organized trail ride and he was the first one who came up. I aimed him into the trailer and as he was getting in the trailer he tapped his fetlock on the trailer and stopped.
The first thought that popped into my head was, "HE'S REFUSING TO LOAD! I BETTER NIP THAT!!!" Five hours later he was in the trailer and neither of us were in any shape to go any where. Next day I went to see if his "lesson" had held and he got right in the trailer just like he had done every time before in his life and I patted myself on the back for curing that problem. All the years I had him after that he never once refused to load.
I "fixed" a problem that never existed. He clipped his fetlock and stopped to assess the situation and I went over the edge. I jumped in and began berating him for not loading and things went downhill from there. I did things to that horse that I should have been locked up for or at the very least should have had done to me.
I make this shameful, degrading confession to make a point; that horse NEVER ONCE gave me ANY indication he held that stupidity against me.
I have been monkeying with horses at various barns, scratching them, in the stall looking them over, whatever, and had someone suddenly burst on the scene excitedly warning me, "Watch it! S/he hates men!!" If it wouldn't have been for them warning, I never would have known it. (<-- That was a tongue in cheek remark.) You know, I've met a TON of horses who "hated men" and only one who "hates women."
In my work with problem horses I have come across a good number of "abused" horses. When I ask exactly how they were abused, most owners have no idea and reply, "Well, it seems obvious." They assume the problems they are having are the result of past abuses even though they have no evidence of the abuse.
I have seen horses who the owners insist have never been abused because they have owned them all their lives who act like those who are assumed to be abused or hate men. In all honesty, which implies I'm not normally honest, I have seen horses who were actually abused. For the most part, their actions really mimic problem horses who have not been abused.
I have come to the conclusion that I can throw abuse out of the equation and act like it never happened. Does that mean that it didn't happen? No. But I have found out that abuse is essentially "training" - "I will do this and you will do this." If you can train a horse to do something, you can untrain it to do something.
Horses are the most compliant creatures on earth. They live in the now. Change the now and you can change the action.
Eliminate the abuse and nervousness around men thoughts. "Won't allow your feet to be handled?" We don't care why unless it is a present physical problem. We begin by telling the horse that we are the leader and since we are the leader you are the follower. I fully cover how to do that in my DVD Mentally Connecting With The Adult Horse.
Once we connect with the horse and have established a leader / follower relationship we then ask for the hoof. If he does not give it, we reinforce the connection. The goal is not to lift the foot, the goal is to get the horse following the leader's direction. Once we have the horse doing we have essentially put an end to handling and behavioral problems.
When I lounge him he walks fine, and with low energy he trots fine, but with high energy he strikes out, not necessarily at me, but straight ahead. I am not comfortable with him and am wondering if I should pack it in, I saw your tapes on ebay and would like your advice.
Is there any possibility he can get you with his strikes? I pay little attention to these displays AS LONG AS I AM NOT IN RANGE. He can roll on his back and slap his hands and feet on the ground, spit daggers or fire for all I care, it doesn't mean anything to me. I ignore them and continue with what I'm doing. This defuses those actions because they accomplish nothing.
I too have arrived at an age where my body can longer take the gaff it did not too long ago. I now do everything I can to lessen the chances of any further damage. One of those things is to keep my horse as low to the ground as I can and still have it pack me around. I understand your concern and am sorry to say that only you can make that decision.
I tell people to combat their fears by taking little steps past them. But sometimes, if the fear is too large the journey may seem too long to get around it.
The behaviors you report are not that big a deal. They can be overcome.
Best of luck,
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