A taste of Mi Amigo!

15 year old 14hh sorrel Peruvian Paso gelding by Regalo de Dios, foaled June 1991. Amigo was gelded when he was 3 and was always easy to handle up until the last few years, where he has not been handled at all. SAFE is assisting his owners in finding him a new home.

A taste of Mi Amigo!

Postby Juliane on Tue Oct 10, 2006 9:57 pm

I decided to work with Mi Amigo quickly tonight before it got dark. I figured we'd have a fairly short session, as I really just wanted to start sacking him out.

However, once we got started, Mi Amigo seemed to enjoy the one on one attention, so I decided to see how far I could push him. After brushing him down, head to toe, I decided to see what he'd do if I set a saddle pad on him.

He sniffed at it with interest, though shied away when it was moved towards his body. However, was fine once it touched him. So, I set it on his back and then pat it all over, making lots of noises and flapped it around. After taking it off and putting it on a few times, Mi Amigo seemed pretty relaxed. It was cute - as it was on his back, he'd turn his neck around to look at it.



Since he was doing so good with the saddle pad, I moved on to the saddle. He was fine with me setting it gently on his back and then slowly cinching him up! He was a bit spooked when the stirrup made a noise as I set it on the horn, but was quickly relaxed as I reassured him. I continued making noises by patting the saddle, but he was pretty quiet!


Once he was saddled, I worked on teaching him to lunge on the lead rope. My round pen currently has a huge pile of hogs fuel (46+ yards!) in the middle, which doesn't leave me a lot of room to work. However, it was enough to do about a 15-20' diameter circle. I was amazed at how quickly Mi Amigo picked up the idea of lunging! Wow! He lunged around me in both directions very well. He never had an issue with the saddle being on him either!



My next plan was to play with Mi Amigo and the tarp. I laid it out on the ground and asked him to walk over it. He sniffed it a few times, then walked over it perfectly! What a good boy!



However, this is when the trouble started! As Mi Amigo was sniffing the tarp and walking forward, he stepped over the lunge rope I had attached to his halter. He spooked a bit when the tension of the rope came up against his front left leg. I tried to get him to stop so I could untangle the rope from his leg, but he decided to bolt. At this point, the only thing I could do was let him go.

We were in my round pen, so I really didn't think it would be an issue. I had caught him in the round pen a couple days before, and also in his paddock a few times. So, why would this be any different?! Perhaps it was the huge pile of hogs fuel in the center of the round pen, causing us to just go in circles.

In any case, I worked for over an hour trying to catch him! From basic cajoling and soft talking, to making him move, to sneakily grabbing the end of the lunge rope and sitting down in the hogs fuel, which resulted in a broke lunge rope. *sigh*

Mi Amigo got the best of me tonight! So, I walked away. I left him for an hour or two as I went and cleaned all of the paddocks and fed everyone dinner. The whole time I was busy, he paced inside the round pen, calling out to me each time I passed by. :roll:

After putting everyone away and giving them dinner, I went back out to try and catch Mi Amigo. Again, it was the same thing. He'd let me get about 15 feet away before scooting away. He was completely in 'bolt' mode and wouldn't let me near him. But, I wasn't about to leave him in the round pen all night with the saddle on.

So, as I was pulling my hair out, I called out to my roommate, Nikki. I asked her to help by blocking one of the sides of the round pen, preventing Mi Amigo to continue running in endless circles. After about 10 minutes, I was able to catch him, but only by grabbing what was left of the lunge rope and stopping him as he lurched by me. :(

Once he felt the secure pressure at the end of the lead rope, it was as though he was snapped out of a trance. He lost the fear in his eyes and he completely relaxed... or he resigned? I don't know. In any case, I loved on him for about 10 minutes, then unsaddled him and brushed him down. I took him to his paddock and hand fed him some of his awaiting dinner. He seemed fine!

To top the night off, I decided to put a blanket on him. I don't think that any of my horses technically 'need' blankets (though it was 38 degrees this morning when I went out to feed!) - however, the nightly act of grooming and blanketing helps each of the horses that aren't used to being handled. It's almost like a nightly sacking out ritual. Even if they don't need the extra warmth, I do it as supplemental training :)

I was pretty surprised as Mi Amigo stood quietly and let me blanket him. He had no issues with it being on :)



So, now I sit here thinking about how to proceed. How do I teach Mi Amigo not to bolt? And not to be scared of being caught? This seems like one of those issues that if I concentrate on, it has the potential to get worse. Perhaps if I ignore the issue (though always being mindful of it's existance), it will go away in time and with handling?

I think that the basic gentling and working will help him, as well as ingraining the "give to pressure" idea. The difficult part is that he's very responsive on the lead rope and immediately gives to pressure. It isn't until he decides to bolt that he completely runs through any pressure he can.

Perhaps having him free in the round pen and then approaching and retreating over and over and over again would help? I've never dealt with an issue like this before, but I can see it's going to be a challenge! :)
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Postby ptownevt on Wed Oct 11, 2006 3:18 am

I wonder if this will resolve on its own as you work with him more and he learns to trust you and that you are the alpha mare, so to speak. He panicked and bolted. But over time he will learn that you keep him safe and he will learn to turn to you when he's scared. I think the way he snapped out of it when he felt the firm tug of the line shows how well he will respond to having a leader he trusts above all else. That just takes time and experience.
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Amigo's Progress

Postby Elaine on Wed Oct 11, 2006 7:02 am


I'm not surprised at how quickly he's responding to training. He will make a great friend for some one that takes time to love and care for him. I miss him a lot. Even tho I haven't worked with them, I've loved talking to and watching them all these years. He's always shown that he enjoys human attention.
Regala has been the fly in the ointment. She worked hard at teaching them to stay away. She's been like that since I first got her. Don't know if something happened to her in her first year or if it's just a quirk in her personality. She too, was easy to handle in those first years that I was working with them, but always showed that she preferred to be left alone. She has usually been the first to stick her nose in my hand when I hand fed treats tho. I know she can't be afraid, but have no idea what her problem is.
I'm so glad that you're the one that's working with him and I just pray that he gets a permanant home without having to come back here. It was really hard to let him go and I don't look forward to doing it again.
I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the help for him and the others.
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Postby diamondindykin on Wed Oct 11, 2006 7:12 am

Maybe you need to teach him to use the thinking side of his brain rather than the reactive side which is what he is using when he bolts. Clinton Anderson has some really good techniques for this :)
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Postby Altanera on Wed Oct 11, 2006 8:15 am

I agre with DDK. When I first got Nala she was overreactive to things and would usually go flying backwards to escape them, but overtime I helped her to think first before reacting and also to turn to me in fear. It really worked. She rarely has silly moments and when she does I can usually give her a firm "Nala" and she snaps out of it.
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Postby Elaine on Wed Oct 11, 2006 8:32 am

Hi Again,

Thought maybe telling you a little more might help.
Amigo had never bolted on me before the day that He did the big bolt, even when he was startled, as long as I had a lead rope in my hand. That day, seen from his perspective, was very frightening. He was not used to strangers and they were doing strange things to him. It was in NO WAY their fault. Something startled him while his hooves were being trimmed. I caught him up twice with a pan of grain, and handed him back. The third time he got away he wouldn't let me catch him and then he was being chased by all of us. He had the farrier's lead rope on and she had to get it back. We thought he was caught once when he went into the little pen, but he got pinched in the gate as some one tried to close it. Then he was sure we meant him harm. Eventually, my son was able to quietly talk to him and get close enough to get the lead rope off. But he wouldn't go near the gate even when I left it opened for him to go in. I think it was the next day that he decided he wanted to be with his family more than he feared going through the gate. He limped for a couple of days after that, so something had hurt him physically. So perhaps you can see why, from his perspective, he might now think something is dangerous enough to go into frightened flight mode. I doubt that it will be a long term thing with the way you are handling him.
Hope this explaination helps with your work with him.
Again I have to say that what happened was in no way the fault of the folks that were here helping with the horses. and I deeply appreciate their help.
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Postby cutiepiepmu on Wed Oct 11, 2006 9:21 pm

Juliane- don't fret - this is how peruvians are. trust me :) After training peruvians for years, what I know is that they are the easiest animals in the world to move forward - but most have issues with complete trust, although most will let you do just about anything to or with them - sounds like a contradiction, but these horses are that way.

If this happens in the future what I have had work for many of them is to push them away like you normally would when lunging for respect - do this for a few minutes - then just sit down in the center of the pen.... most of the ones I worked with I had to wait out at some point. After I did it though - I never had any issues from that point on with catching them. I only ever had one that we absolutely couldn't catch in the round pen - we ended up having to rope her - but as soon as the rope was slightly tight, she stopped. Although - the second I got next to her, she whipped around and full on kicked me breaking my leg - she is the only horse I can say without a doubt I never trusted at all - way too much inbreeding. Breeder ended up putting her down after she hurt several more people - was not a fear thing either, she was totally calm the entire time.

This guy will be a cupcake before long - trust me :)

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Postby schwung on Wed Oct 11, 2006 10:18 pm

Hi Elaine! It's so nice to see you posting here!

Yes, I agree with what Elaine mentioned. The trouble we had with him that day we worked with him sounds like the root of the problem. While we got a lot accomplished with him that day, more than with any of the other three, it was at a certain amount of cost due to unanticipated difficulties. The first time he bolted was when the farrier killed a horsefly on him that was about to dig in. In retrospect it was going to be a bad situation either way, either the smack of the fly or the bite of the fly - but the end result was the fly was killed but Amigo was scared senseless, and off he went. After some time he was finally caught again, but this time he was more wary, and it didn't take much of getting startled for him to decide to bolt again.

The last time he was not having anything to do with any of us, and despite the fact that he was dragging around a lunge line which several of us managed to get a hold of a few times, he was not having anything to do with being caught and would have dragged us all if he could have, he was that determined to get away whether we had a hold of him or not.

And Elaine is right, whether it was due to the quick and dirty trimming job (his feet were very very long with deep cracks, and the farrier was being cautious about being kicked, so the end result was far from pretty) or from getting caught up briefly in the gate, he was limping when we left and for a few days after, so that certainly didn't help the situation.

We certainly meant well and did our best given the circumstances, but we did probably cause a lot of these problems you are having that day. The good news is that it hasn't been a long standing behavior for him and should be easily overcomeable I should think.
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Postby Juliane on Wed Oct 11, 2006 10:26 pm

Thanks for the extra input, Jaime :) Mi Amigo is already incredibly more confident and relaxed today. He's really settling in. He even let me brush him down and put his blanket on this evening without needing to put a leadrope on him :) I was very proud of him! I am hoping he will overcome the bolting problem!
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Postby seahorse on Thu Oct 12, 2006 11:00 am

I have seen so many amazing transformations at Juliane's hands I am going to jump on the "he is going to come around quickly" bandwagon. It sounds like he just has not bonded with a human strong enough to have that bond override his flight instinct. Coupled with a recent negative experience this all sounds like reasonable behavior from him at this point. I have no doubt as he gets more time with you that he is going to be in your pocket. I have seen some incredible things at your hands and I am a firm believer!!!! :D
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Postby cat_67 on Thu Oct 12, 2006 1:35 pm

He did well, despite the episode he had about being hard to catch.

One thing that always strikes me is that because these are rescues or unhandled horses/projects, we tend to worry more about certain behaviors than we would in a horse who was in daily work. We overanalyze them. A classic example of that is being hard to catch. Lots of horses are hard to catch. Once they're free, they know they're free and they see no reason to lose that freedom again. I used to work for a guy who had 80 acres of pasture and the only way we could ever catch his horses to work them or take them to polo was to ring the big bell and run them in with a bit of grain waiting in their stalls. Otherwise, forget it - if you walked out with a halter, they left at light speed!

So my take on this is, he's not that traumatized, nobody "caused" the behavior, he just knows that he can get loose and stay loose for a while and he isn't sufficiently convinced yet that it isn't a good idea to do that. :) He will get there, or he will just be a hard to catch horse - and the world is full of hard to catch horses who are ridden daily by sneaky owners who walk out to the pasture with a carrot in front of them and the halter behind.
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Postby Elaine on Thu Oct 12, 2006 3:14 pm

More about Amigo's past.
I had started putting light weights on them as three year olds and I would lean accross his back and kind of lightly jump upward against him. I did this on both sides. He was very accepting of that then. I would guess he might have some memory of that. I will be very surprised if he puts up much of a fuss about you getting on him when you deem it time to do so. He's never had a bridle on tho.
I was told that Peruvians should not be worked untill they are four years old. Anyone know if that's true?
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