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My horse is suddenly afraid of everything

Discussion in 'Horse Riding and Training' started by Morale, Apr 7, 2019.


  1. Morale

    Morale PetForums Newbie

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    Hello, around a year ago I bought a 8 years old 16hh Hanoverian mare which was formerly used for show jumping. She's absolutely worse at it and so her owner decided to sell her to someone to perform another discipline with her. Her owner described her as a very sweet mare that would never refuse anything. And so she didn't, her owner said that she never refused a jump even though she made a pole fall almost every time. Her owner said that she was better in cross-country. As I got her, I immediately fell in love with her. She really was a sweet mare. I bonded with her pretty fast. I started training her on dressage. She's good at it, learned pretty fast. She seems to like it. So, 2 month ago I decided to enter a cross-country competition. I wanted to jump again and since she isn't good at show jumping, I decided to do cross-country - and her owner said that she was better at it. I own another horse that I use for show jumping but I haven't joined any competitions with him since I bought the mare.
    For the first few minutes in the competition, everything went fine. No problem with the jumps. But then the first water jump appeared and I think she wasn't prepared for it. She jumped the jump like the other ones but she wasn't prepared for he water on the other side. She landed and immediately spooked. She reared. I, completely shocked and absolutely not prepared, fell down. She didn't stopped rearing and bucking around, it kinda was a scary experience, she never did that before. I first wasn't able to get up because of all the water that was splashing around because of her rearing and bucking but as I managed to get up, I grabbed the reins and started to try to calm her down. I was able to calm her down after a little bit.
    The next day, it started. She even was afraid of the halter I wanted to put on her. I calmed her down again. She's now afraid of almost every sound and everything that comes near to her. Vet said she doesn't have any physical problems. I'm not able to ride her anymore and it's almost impossible to even get her out of her box or the pasture. She's acting like a traumatized, aggressive or abused horse. Is this a sign that she was previously abused or had an accident like that and she got a flash black or that the accident at the competition traumatized her? I don't know what to do anymore. I'm scared, am I losing her?
     
    #1 Morale, Apr 7, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2019
  2. Rafa

    Rafa PetForums VIP

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    It does sound as though the incident at the water jump has caused her an awful lot of stress.

    I would speak to her previous owner and try to find out whether your mare has had a prior bad experience connected to water.

    It could be that she was overwhelmed by the whole experience and you now need to go right back to basics and begin working with her from the ground and a little hacking until she gets over it.
     
    Lurcherlad likes this.
  3. Morale

    Morale PetForums Newbie

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    Okay, I'm will contact her previous owner today. EDIT: She said that she never had any bad experience with water. The breeder is her father and she said that nothing bad happened to her, also not as a filly.

    I tried that but like I said, it's almost impossible to even get her out of the box. But I wanted to do a bit ground work with her a few weeks ago, took me almost one hour to get her in the riding hall as nobody was there. After 30 Minutes of walking around with her (with halter, no bridle or saddle) she calmed down and I was able to do a bit ground work with her. So, I am going to do this again. Thank you.
     
    #3 Morale, Apr 8, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2019
  4. bunnygeek

    bunnygeek PetForums Member

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    Poor love, sounds like she just had a nasty shock, some just lose their minds when they get splashy, even ones who've previously been ok with it.

    Do what you have been doing, encouraging her out the stall with kindness and snacks and let her learn everything isn't so scary. It might take some time to build her back up, or something might just click next week. Lots of ground work. Make the most of small puddles around the yard too, don't want her to learn that if she now spooks at a tiny puddle she gets to go back to the safety of her stable and not come out again.

    Do you have another horse you could ride? You've probably been rattled a bit too so you need to make sure you're back to full confidence when you get back on board your horse.
     
  5. Morale

    Morale PetForums Newbie

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    I do that almost every day, trying to encourage her out of her stall but she already spooks about her halter and it's too dangerous to do that without a halter since the chance is pretty high that she would spook over something else and would just run away - she already tries to run away when I was able to get the halter on. I try getting her out of it with showing her her favourite treat and speaking nicely to her.

    Yes, I mentioned that horse in the actual post. I didn't lost any of my confidence. This wasn't your question, but she gets along with this horse pretty well and he seems to calm her down a bit. But I can't have them together all the time. I don't like keeping my horses on the pasture or paddock over night - especially because a horse from another barn recently was stolen from it's pasture over night - but their stalls are next to each other.
     
    #5 Morale, Apr 9, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2019
  6. Rafa

    Rafa PetForums VIP

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    Your mare is young and it sounds as though her confidence has been very shaken.

    It will take time and patience, but you will have to go at her pace.

    I'm sure she'll get over her bad experience in time.
     
    Morale likes this.
  7. Linda Weasel

    Linda Weasel PetForums Senior

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    I just skimmed over this as not much time.
    Has anybody apart from you tried to handle her and have they had the same reaction from her.

    I’m just wondering if it’s you that she’s associating with her bad experience and you’re triggering the behaviour (inadvertantly, obviously ). Animals do have a way of putting things together in their heads and jumping to the wrong conclusion.
     
  8. Morale

    Morale PetForums Newbie

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    Yes. I tried it with 2 different friends, one that she knows, and gets along with, and one that she doesn't know. She acted the same towards them.

    If it's me that she's associating the bad experience with, how can I fix that?
     
  9. Rafa

    Rafa PetForums VIP

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    I don't believe she's associating you with that.

    She's had a fright. Some horses will deal with that and some are far more affected.

    She must be a fairly sensitive mare. She's had a bad experience. I wouldn't overthink it. Work with her slowly and quietly and she will get over it.
     
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  10. Ringypie

    Ringypie PetForums VIP

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    Do you have a GOOD instructor you can work with?
    Also just a thought (and this comes from rehabbing my own horse who had an awful start to life and was afraid of anything that may have been used against him eg brooms, shovels etc etc), don’t let her having had a bad experience be an excuse for bad behaviour. By this I don’t mean smack her or anything like that but be kind but very firm, if you wouldn’t accept a behaviour before, don’t accept it now. If she spooks the temptation is to stroke and say good girl - but that’s praising and reinforcing the behaviour you don’t want if you see what I mean?
     
    #10 Ringypie, Apr 11, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2019
  11. Linda Weasel

    Linda Weasel PetForums Senior

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    Not you then.
     
  12. Morale

    Morale PetForums Newbie

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    At the barn are some good instructors, I can ask one.
    How can I be kind but firm to her? I can do nothing but calming her down and stroking helps a lot - it's too dangerous to lead a rearing and bucking horse around before calming her down for every other horse and person. I don't want to praise or reinforce this behavior, I want her to stop very soon.
    The time I got my other horse, he was a really aggressive and difficult horse because of an accident he had as a yearling. He also showed aggression towards other horses so he needed to be housed alone. But his biggest aggression was towards humans. When I got him, I forced him to get used to me, showing him that I am not a threat, by sitting or standing on the fence of his pen or stall for hours and this helped a lot. Do you think it would be a possibility to do the same with the mare? It's a different circumstance but maybe it helps too.
     
  13. Ringypie

    Ringypie PetForums VIP

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    I think a good instructor would be worth a shot - a professional set of eyes may see something and be able to give you tips on stopping the behaviour before it’s started / understanding why she is doing it. It’s hard when we can’t see her in person to recommend a course of action - and of course how many horsey people ever agree on he right way of handling an issue!! Best to stick with one pro who you can build up trust with (but don’t be afraid to change that pro if they are too heavy handed!)
    Please do look after your own safety too - hard hat and gloves if she is waving her hooves around your head!
    I am a big fan of spending time with horses just hanging out with them asking nothing of them especially if they have trust issues. My boy was scared aggressive and would bite over his stable door then dart to the back and shake. I spent hours sitting in the stable with him, sitting with him while he ate his dinner (he wasn’t food aggressive). It certainly couldn’t do any harm.
    Good luck with her and do let us know how you get on.
     
    Morale likes this.
  14. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

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    Have you looked into the Monty Roberts and the Parelli methods of training?

    It’s been a while since I saw them in action but from memory they got amazing results with horses using non aversive training techniques.
     
  15. Morale

    Morale PetForums Newbie

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    No I haven't but I'm going to take a look at them, thank you.
     
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  16. Elles

    Elles PetForums VIP

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    Monty Roberts and evenmoreso Parelli aren’t ‘non aversive’. Pat Parelli is a friend of Cesar Millan and featured on at least one of his shows. Monty Roberts is milder than Parelli, but still not what we’d call none aversive.

    I don’t know where you are, but it does sound as though you need good professional help. The mare is very likely in pain though. Can your vet recommend a good physiotherapist to check her over? Hitting poles, not enjoying jumping and rearing and bucking on landing all point to a worsening physical problem to me. The water could be coincidental and the drop into it more of an problem than the water itself. It certainly shouldn’t continue to cause a problem with handling on the ground when she got home. I think your mare is in pain and needs investigating further, whether that’s feet and/or body.
     
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  17. Morale

    Morale PetForums Newbie

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    So I shouldn't use their techniques?

    I can ask my vet if she can recommend me a good pshysiotherapist. The vet found no physical problem on her. She said she's not in pain or anything. I was there with her 2 times and the result was the same. But I know that vets can do mistakes so I will visit a physiotherapist with her. But I need to wait until next month. I right now don't have enough money to pay a phsyiotherapist - just a simple checkup by them is pretty expensive. Next month I should have enough money to pay. I hope it's just a shock and nothing serious, I hope she's not in pain. A month waiting would be too long then.
     
  18. Elles

    Elles PetForums VIP

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    It depends on where you are. Pat Parelli I’d say no. It’s a very long and complex system and there’s a lot of harshness involved in it. Some Monty Roberts trainers have incorporated other methods and moved on a bit and aren’t as cultish as Pat and his system, so I wouldn’t necessarily dismiss them out of hand. It would depend on the individual.

    It’s really difficult to find calm, gentle horse trainers I think. Many are geared towards competition of some kind, though it probably depends on your area. Before you go that route though, the first things I’d want really thoroughly checking are her eyes, her face and mouth, her feet and legs and her back and saddle. Often pain problems don’t come to light until specialists have investigated, rather than general practise veterinarians. A really good physio may be able to pick up problems from her musculature, even if they aren’t issues they can sort themselves. Has she had her teeth and mouth thoroughly checked by a qualified expert recently?

    If she was mine I would start with the premise that there is pain and go from there though, rather than trying to correct her behaviour. Shock from a one off landing in water cross country, shouldn’t lead to a horse being difficult to halter in her stall and difficult in pasture, or in hand and certainly not for months.
     
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  19. Morale

    Morale PetForums Newbie

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    Okay, I will let a physiotherapist check her up next month, can't do it this month because of the lack of money.
    Do you mean by a equine/horse dentist? No, but her next exam is in 2 months.

    I think that she's in pain too, that's why I went to the vet with her 2 times. I hope going to a phsyiotherapist next month will bring clarity for her behaviour, but I hope the most that she's not in pain.
     
    Elles likes this.
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