Too much too soon?

This striking 12 year old paint gelding was a bucking stock stallion for all of his life until a couple of days ago. He is now on the road to recovery and trust as he learns that not all humans are bad!

Too much too soon?

Postby Juliane on Wed Jul 05, 2006 1:41 pm

Ace and I had a set back last night. I decided to see what he would do if I saddled him up. I sincerely thought he was ready for this next step - though I'm not sure why, looking back now. In any case, I caught him and then brushed him down. He was quiet and calm (if a bit jumpy), while I brushed him briskly. He even let me brush out his tail - which was a first for us.

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When I was done brushing him, I introduced him to the saddle pad. He very nervously sniffed it, and allowed me to place it on his back. We walked around a bit with it on him and he was fine. I took it off and put it back on a few times, each time he got more relaxed :)

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I decided to move on to the saddle. He snorted and blew when I brought it over to him, definitely worried about it. He allowed me to place it on his back, though you could tell by his body language that he was seriously worried. We did this a few times as well, though his concern never really lessened. Instead of listening to his body language, I decided to act like nothing was wrong and move forward with cinching up the girth.

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The first time the girth touched his stomach, he jumped with surprise. I rubbed his girth area with my hands until he relaxed, then put the girth in place again. This time he stood quietly as I hooked up the latigo. I didn't tighten it at all, just looped the latigo once through to keep the girth in place.

Ace stood quietly as I stepped to his other side and adjusted the girth on the off billet. I had to drop it quite a few holes to fit Ace - he's a BIG BOY :) I continued to give him TONS of praise and then went back to his other side and snugged up the latigo a tad. At this point, he lost it and took off bucking.

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He was VERY scared and terrified, at one point losing his footing and falling on his side. He scrambled up to his feet again and bucked around the round pen until the saddle came off on his 2nd or 3rd time around. Poor guy :( I felt like an idiot. And the FLO would be proud to see this ex-bucking stock stallion buck today! LOL He can buck - I sure hope he doesn't when I am on him!!!

Anyhow, I continued to berate myself, thinking I'd totally messed up all the trust he'd ever put in me, and what was I thinking? Of course this would frighten him. I need to move WAY slower with the saddle and him. Dang it. At the same time, I didn't want to stop our session here, as I was sure if we ended on this bad note, he wouldn't let me near him with the saddle again.

I caught him and tried to reassure him by talking softly and scratching all of his favorite itchy spots. He was shaking, breathing hard and sweating profusely - and not even paying any attention to the scritches he usually melts for. :( Dang it. I was so mad at myself.

After a few minutes, I brought him back to where the saddle and pad were. He continued to shake, but stood still as I set the saddle pad on him. When I picked up the saddle, he about jumped out of his skin again and took off. I slowed down my pace and tried to see if I could set the saddle on his back at least once before calling an end to our session.

After about 10 minutes of trying, I was getting the feeling that he was pleading with me to not do this to him. He was tossing his head and still breathing hard. So, I put the saddle and pad away. I sat down in the center of the round pen and gave him some grain I had in a bucket. I waited until he was less jumpy and as relaxed as it seemed he would get before leaving.

The good news is that this morning, he was his old self, happy to see me and let me approach. So, at least we didn't do any irrepairable damage to our bond and the established trust. However, I need to do some serious thinking on how to proceed. None of the training books I've ever read explain how to work with a horse like Ace. Everything is trial and error :(

Part of me is glad to know the depth of his fear in regards to having something like a saddle on. I once was told by a fellow rescuer of a bucking stock mare, who had a well known trainer come out and work with her, that it's good to let the "explosion" out. Let them face their fears and realize it's not bad. Still - I don't want Ace or I to face this again.

I am considering using a bareback pad next, though I think we need to work on our trust first? I don't know. Mostly, I need to desensitize him to having something around his girth first.
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Postby ptownevt on Wed Jul 05, 2006 6:44 pm

I had a gelding that wasn't a bucker but he had been seriously cowboyed and would start to sweat and sake when I saddled him to ride. I switched to an english saddle and the sweating and shaking stopped. Maybe a bareback pad would help, but then again with Ace it may be the pressure around his belly that is the major issue. I have a TTouch book that describes work for a cinchy or coldbacked horse. It's called the belly lift. You basically take a rolled up towel in two hands. Hold it over the side of his back with one hand and pull up the other end under his belly with the other hand. That's a very pared down description; not enough to do it, but if you're interested I could copy it for you.
Pam
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Postby ptownevt on Wed Jul 05, 2006 6:45 pm

As a matter of fact, I'd bet TTouch would be great for him. It would help him to relax and be more open to learning.
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Postby Juliane on Thu Jul 06, 2006 10:17 am

Hi Pam!

I'd love to give the TTouch a try with Ace. At this point, I am open to all suggestions to help him get over his fears :) Please let me know how I can get a copy!

Thanks :)
Juliane
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Postby ptownevt on Thu Jul 06, 2006 1:41 pm

The book is on its way. Give Ace a treat and Patience a hug from me.
Pam
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Postby myhorsefaith on Fri Jul 07, 2006 4:52 am

Juliane,

Don't beat yourself up over it. Now you know for sure, and you can adjust the training to fit Ace.

I'm just finishing up my 4th Mark Rashid book called life lessons from a ranch horse and in it there is a part about making mistakes- but having the ability to learn from it an move on.

If you'd like to borrow it, you may! LOL, though i dont know how much time you'll have to read it, you are so busy!

Keep up the good work. Ace, especially, appreciates it.

-Ally
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Postby Juliane on Mon Jul 10, 2006 12:24 pm

Thanks Ally! I bought this Mark Rashid book yesterday and am totally looking forward to reading it :) I hope it can give me some more insight in to Ace's way of thinking :)
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