New horse handling issues

Dondi

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27 December 2018
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Hi All, I’m hoping some of your expertise here can help me. I have recently got back into riding after having my children, and bought a lovely 6 year old KWPN gelding. He has only ever been ridden by professionals, jumping and competing since he was backed as a 3 year old. Since coming to me, on my quiet yard I share with 2 ponies, he seems to be displaying some “testing” behaviour when I handle him on the yard. He won’t stand still for me to pick his feet, yet stands for the farrier, he moves and jitters around when I groom him, and he also will not stand still to be mounted at the block. This weather doesn’t make it any easier to get out regularly, so I’m going to do just in hand ground work with him until we start to have a respectful relationship. Last night it took me 20 minutes to pick out one foot, but I had to make sure I did it as he was walking through me and I couldn’t hold onto it. He’s very much still a baby, gelded late so I’ve been told some of this behaviour is due to that, do you think this is true? Teeth, back, vet check and tack have all been done so he’s in good health. I am not competing him, he didn’t enjoy his competing life before according to his owner before me but seems to love hacking and being out and about, not spooky or green on the grass and wide open fields. But I find myself avoiding this because he doesn’t show me the right manners on the ground, and I am far from super confident (although I try and hide this from him as much as possible).
Any advice on how I should handle these ground manners and work with him would be much appreciated, as well as approaches for correcting his behaviour. I’m currently reading a book on clicker training which I am hoping can help, he does love it when he gets something right and I praise him, but yet on certain days he also seems up for a challenge with me. I am committed to him and I and our life together, so I just want to build that relationship on the ground and have him being polite consistently.

Thank you all in advance 😊
 

Red-1

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There are many things that can help, the first is to know that this is not uncommon, for a few factors. First, he has moved home, and for any horse this can send them a bit silly. 2nd, he has moved from professional handlers to a new one who is not as practised in the ways of wayward horses. The type of yard has also changed, from a busy one to a quiet one. His work has also been reduced.

My best recommendation is to get someone to help you. I don't teach any more (gave up last year- retired!), but I used to do a fair few lessons in just ground handling, eg. one lesson was how to catch and bring in, one to groom, one to get the horse to go in the stable and stay there (!) rather than burst out, one for simply holding the horse in the yard (that is surprisingly difficult - we drew a circle in the sand and the horse had to stand with a named foot in the circle), one for grooming and tacking up, one for picking feet....not to mention the more common lessons on clipping, mounting and loading. Most of these lessons started on a more neutral task, to teach mental softness and to follow the feel of the handler.

As I said, it is not so uncommon, and these people all made huge strides in one lesson, reading body language, learning how to build boundaries and how to enforce them without picking a fight.

I have used clicker training, but at the moment it is not what I would use, it is more about consistency, knowing the intent and mechanics of the horse and how to have that work with you, being calm yet assertive. At the moment, if the horse is just doing his own thing then he thinks that the surroundings are of more importance to him than you and your requests are.

I don't know where you are, but if you give an area someone may be able to help with a recommendation. What I also found was that once people had learned what they needed to to overcome "their" particular problem, they were much more 'aware' horse owners to get along with their horses in all situations.
 

Shay

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All good advice. The only thing I would add is if you are still feeding hard feed then stop and keep him on forage only. The reduction in his workload will make him silly enough without adding excess energy to the mix!

As Rednose says - this is actually quite common so don't feel bad. Someone on the grounds to help you to be more confident around him will help massively.
 

twiggy2

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Is he getting herd turnout?
How long has he been at your yard?
Are you riding him or working at all?
Unlimited forage (hay), no hard feed.
Get a good professional in to helpon the floor and in the saddle and get the horse working hard and get you on him working him hard.
Or turn him away, rough him off for 6 months and get a professional in to help you get hin going again.
In all honesty a young, large, competition fit horse changing yards is likely to have challenging behaviours if being a fidget is challenging.
 

Dondi

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27 December 2018
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There are many things that can help, the first is to know that this is not uncommon, for a few factors. First, he has moved home, and for any horse this can send them a bit silly. 2nd, he has moved from professional handlers to a new one who is not as practised in the ways of wayward horses. The type of yard has also changed, from a busy one to a quiet one. His work has also been reduced.

My best recommendation is to get someone to help you. I don't teach any more (gave up last year- retired!), but I used to do a fair few lessons in just ground handling, eg. one lesson was how to catch and bring in, one to groom, one to get the horse to go in the stable and stay there (!) rather than burst out, one for simply holding the horse in the yard (that is surprisingly difficult - we drew a circle in the sand and the horse had to stand with a named foot in the circle), one for grooming and tacking up, one for picking feet....not to mention the more common lessons on clipping, mounting and loading. Most of these lessons started on a more neutral task, to teach mental softness and to follow the feel of the handler.

As I said, it is not so uncommon, and these people all made huge strides in one lesson, reading body language, learning how to build boundaries and how to enforce them without picking a fight.

I have used clicker training, but at the moment it is not what I would use, it is more about consistency, knowing the intent and mechanics of the horse and how to have that work with you, being calm yet assertive. At the moment, if the horse is just doing his own thing then he thinks that the surroundings are of more importance to him than you and your requests are.

I don't know where you are, but if you give an area someone may be able to help with a recommendation. What I also found was that once people had learned what they needed to to overcome "their" particular problem, they were much more 'aware' horse owners to get along with their horses in all situations.
This advice is absolutely amazing, thank you! This is my very personal journey and I adore him, he has a very loving personality sometimes but also can be silly when super excited. Ground handling lessons sound exactly what I need, I am based in east anglia, Ipswich area so if anyone had any trainers they can recommend I would really like to hear about them.
I’ve cut his hard feed down, and took out the Alfa a he was having as he was completely nutty on it. The only reason I’m still feeding something is that I need to get some weight on him, he’s a little ribby but again I’m super happy for any suggestions. He’s on dengie hi fi, fast fibre and micronised linseed, and I have put hay in his field, is this too much?
Thank you again, to know it’s more common than I think helps more than you know 🙏🏻
 

Dondi

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Is he getting herd turnout?
How long has he been at your yard?
Are you riding him or working at all?
Unlimited forage (hay), no hard feed.
Get a good professional in to helpon the floor and in the saddle and get the horse working hard and get you on him working him hard.
Or turn him away, rough him off for 6 months and get a professional in to help you get hin going again.
In all honesty a young, large, competition fit horse changing yards is likely to have challenging behaviours if being a fidget is challenging.
He is with 2 ponies who are in the field next to him, and he’s been with me since beginning of November. He was with a professional eventer beforehand and ridden every day or every 2/3 days, her 14 year old daughter was riding and hacking him but he wasn’t up for jumping what she wanted. They only had him 4 months and before that he was with another professional up north, begire that he was at Harrington’s so I think he’s always been used to very knowledgeable handling and done a job, not been a pet as such. I’m not suggesting he wasn’t loved, but being groomed and fussed is clearly not something he’s been used to.
So if I turn him away for 6 months, should I still continue with the ground work but not ride? Again, your suggestions are brilliant and I really appreciate it. Thank you 😊
 

Dondi

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All good advice. The only thing I would add is if you are still feeding hard feed then stop and keep him on forage only. The reduction in his workload will make him silly enough without adding excess energy to the mix!

As Rednose says - this is actually quite common so don't feel bad. Someone on the grounds to help you to be more confident around him will help massively.
Excellent so no hard feed, but what about if I need to put weight on him?
This forum is amazing, I’ve been up all night worrying and overthinking these issues and you have all helped massively.
If I gave him time off from riding, would I be likely to encounter issues bringing him back into work? Or is that where the professional trainer comes in to help me?
 

dogatemysalad

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Congratulations on your new horse. It takes time for horses to settle, particularly young or sensitive souls. My two tips would be, have a routine so your horse knows when he's going to be fed and turned out etc. Secondly, the more excitable your horse becomes, the calmer you need to be. If he doesn't co operate with grooming or hoof picking, just quietly keep working away, some times standing back so the horse can have a think for a moment. Keeping things normal and low key will reduce his anxiety. Relationships and gaining trust between both of you takes time, but it's worth using this time as an investment for the years you'll be together.
 

Cortez

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Congratulations on your new horse, a few questions for you............Are you riding him at all? At six-rising-seven this is a young horse; how much training has he had? What are you planning to do with him in the future? Do you have an instructor? Do you have experience with Dutch Warmblood horses?
 

twiggy2

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Turning him away is checking him out 24hrs a day in a herd, check him over daily and leave him to it from there.
My concern would be he is competition fit and you are not working him enough/at all.
If you or you need to crack on and get hin working.
 

Pearlsasinger

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I think he is probably picking up on your (quite natural) nervousness when you are handling him. I don't normally tie my horses up, I expect them to stand sensibly while I am grooming etc but in this case, I would tie him up, that is probably what he is used to and it will stop him walking through you. I do think that he needs to be in a herd of similar sized horses that he can interact with properly while he is in the field - that will help him to settle and will use some of his energy up..
I have used soaked grassnuts with grass chaff to good effect with horses that need to put weight on.
 

Clodagh

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Let him be skinny, it doesn't matter and ad lib good hay if he is in no or light work is all he needs.
I agree you need help with handling but have no suggestions as to whom. I wouldn't turn him away, I don't think it will help your confidence, but keep at it (with help) it will all come together.
Oh, and we need pics!!
 

splashgirl45

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sounds like you are not working him enough, he is still a young horse and will have plenty of energy so if it was me i would be working him as often as i could and vary his work, maybe hacking,lunging, schooling a bit of jumping if that is what he has been used to, so you keep his mind active as well as using up some excess energy. i would also only give ad lib hay for a while to see if he calms down. he has had a bit of upset with moving a couple of times so needs you to give him confidence by being in control. if he behaves for the farrier then he is taking the mickey with you. as others have said get someone to help you with the groundwork, and riding if you feel you need it, good luck...
 

Dondi

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Congratulations on your new horse. It takes time for horses to settle, particularly young or sensitive souls. My two tips would be, have a routine so your horse knows when he's going to be fed and turned out etc. Secondly, the more excitable your horse becomes, the calmer you need to be. If he doesn't co operate with grooming or hoof picking, just quietly keep working away, some times standing back so the horse can have a think for a moment. Keeping things normal and low key will reduce his anxiety. Relationships and gaining trust between both of you takes time, but it's worth using this time as an investment for the years you'll be together.
That is a really good point and one I adopted tonight as I picked his feet out, I just stopped and stood back until he had calmed down and felt down and all around his legs, drying off the mud. Then I went to pick them up again. He’s still leaning so much more on his front right and doesn’t hold it up for me for long, compared to the others. But this is much better than it was yesterday!
I took deep breaths, and staying calm and not getting agitated myself is such a valid point thank you 😊
 

Theocat

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I am in the minority here, but I would keep riding - ideally hacking as much as you can - then do the ground work sessions after each ridden session (including feet, if need be - shoot me now, but I would pick my battles). As well as testing you, he probably equates any "fuss" as prep for work, so he might be anticipating. He might be bored with no work, and if he's fit he'll be bouncy anyway.

If you ride first you're more likely to find he's ready to play ball with the "fuss" time, you can make it a reward, so it feels pleasant, and as you get used to each other you can shift the focus to more fuss before sessions, or without riding. You could even divide a ridden session in two - a bit in the school then a shortish hack - with a gap in between to do feet / a bit of handling/ etc.
 

Dondi

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Congratulations on your new horse, a few questions for you............Are you riding him at all? At six-rising-seven this is a young horse; how much training has he had? What are you planning to do with him in the future? Do you have an instructor? Do you have experience with Dutch Warmblood horses?
Hi, I’ve ridden him 6/7 times since I had him so no way near regular. I had to get a new saddle fitted for him and it was a pain and had to have one ordered in for to his shape and mine. His manners for me to mount are pretty difficult too, and I am working on this separately, he will move and turn his bum away at the block and just refuses to stand for enough time for me to get on. So sometimes I can hop on in 10 minutes, sometimes it’s 20.
He has had lots of training jump wise, and been eventer a lot. But in terms of handling I don’t know. He had been with such professionals and broken from Harrington’s specifically to go and jump. His previous owner was a master saddler up north.
I have never had a warm blood, my previous was ID x TB but he was an old faithful at 25 years old and super forgiving.
I want him to grow with, to hack with, do grown up club activities and beach rides. He is a gentleman completely with my children so I know he and I can build a strong relationship. I just want to make sure I’m doing it right.
 

Dondi

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I am in the minority here, but I would keep riding - ideally hacking as much as you can - then do the ground work sessions after each ridden session (including feet, if need be - shoot me now, but I would pick my battles). As well as testing you, he probably equates any "fuss" as prep for work, so he might be anticipating. He might be bored with no work, and if he's fit he'll be bouncy anyway.

If you ride first you're more likely to find he's ready to play ball with the "fuss" time, you can make it a reward, so it feels pleasant, and as you get used to each other you can shift the focus to more fuss before sessions, or without riding. You could even divide a ridden session in two - a bit in the school then a shortish hack - with a gap in between to do feet / a bit of handling/ etc.
He is a pain to mount.... hence why I’m trying to get the manners and relationship on the ground. Your advice sounds ideal but sometimes getting on him can take me 20 minutes because he’s just not standing for me :(
 

Dondi

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Let him be skinny, it doesn't matter and ad lib good hay if he is in no or light work is all he needs.
I agree you need help with handling but have no suggestions as to whom. I wouldn't turn him away, I don't think it will help your confidence, but keep at it (with help) it will all come together.
Oh, and we need pics!!
 

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Theocat

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He is a pain to mount.... hence why I’m trying to get the manners and relationship on the ground. Your advice sounds ideal but sometimes getting on him can take me 20 minutes because he’s just not standing for me :(
My mare was a pain to mount when I first got her and I didn't always / often have help. I am not ashamed to say I resorted to treats (she wasn't remotely muggy) - first a treat when she stood quietly at the block (repeat repeat repeat), then she got it once I was on the block (repeat etc), then she got it when I was on board (yet more repeat). Two or three sessions in (dozens of repetitions in each, though) and she was absolutely reliable, every time (I did carry on with treats most of the time!)

It might not work for you, and some people are opposed to treats, but I used it specifically to train a behaviour and it worked perfectly for me.

(Once on board, I treated on her right side - which meant she'd pre-emptively glue her quarters to the block so she could more easily reach round :p )
 

Clodagh

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As for the mounting, do you have anyone that can hold him and shove his backside over? If you are totally stuck you could put a scoop with a ferw nuts on where he can reach them while you get on, I hate the idea but sometimes its whatever works. Can you mount while he walks on? I used to do that with young horses.
 

splashgirl45

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my mare would walk and sometimes trot off when i was half on which i coped with but when my hips got too painful i really needed her to stand still. she was just asensitive horse that wanted to get going so i lunged her for 5 or 10 mins and she would then stand at the mounting block. once the winter came i couldnt lunge as only had the field and didnt want to cut it up so i went the polo route. i clipped a lead rope on to the bit, my friend held it loosely and gave her a polo as i got on and then another while i just sat there. did that a couple of times and then did without the lead rope and reiend gave her a polo as i got on and i then gave her another from the right side so she had to turn her head away from the block. then didnt need friend and always gave her a polo once i was in the saddle and she then was always good to mount even in the winter...i would try the lunging first as it may solve your problem...he is a good looking boy BTW
 

Dondi

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My mare was a pain to mount when I first got her and I didn't always / often have help. I am not ashamed to say I resorted to treats (she wasn't remotely muggy) - first a treat when she stood quietly at the block (repeat repeat repeat), then she got it once I was on the block (repeat etc), then she got it when I was on board (yet more repeat). Two or three sessions in (dozens of repetitions in each, though) and she was absolutely reliable, every time (I did carry on with treats most of the time!)

It might not work for you, and some people are opposed to treats, but I used it specifically to train a behaviour and it worked perfectly for me.

(Once on board, I treated on her right side - which meant she'd pre-emptively glue her quarters to the block so she could more easily reach round :p )
This sounds great! Did she walk up to it in a straight line and did you have something else the other side? He moves across as soon as I say “stand” and his rear goes outwards 🙈 I am not opposed to treats, and am asking him to stand at the block each day and ending on a good note when he’s let me reach over and stroke his neck, this is not always easy and he doesn’t move over toward the block. Not sure why he just seems to hate it!
 
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Another to say get someone in to help. Sooner rather than later. I have recently had ground problems with a new mare I purchased, despite going from a yard run by professionals to the same. This happened within 6 weeks of owning her but I got help and wouldn’t look back now. Don’t be too proud to get help in!

Also I know you love your horse but remember the best thing you can do for a horse is give them good manners, polite under saddle and a nice person. If the horse ever goes to someone else or needs to be handled by others you know he will be treated fairly as you have taught him well. Unfortunately people are often too cuddly and soft, the horse becomes problematic, gets passed around and the horse is often subject to a lot of misunderstanding and stress.
 

Dondi

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my mare would walk and sometimes trot off when i was half on which i coped with but when my hips got too painful i really needed her to stand still. she was just asensitive horse that wanted to get going so i lunged her for 5 or 10 mins and she would then stand at the mounting block. once the winter came i couldnt lunge as only had the field and didnt want to cut it up so i went the polo route. i clipped a lead rope on to the bit, my friend held it loosely and gave her a polo as i got on and then another while i just sat there. did that a couple of times and then did without the lead rope and reiend gave her a polo as i got on and i then gave her another from the right side so she had to turn her head away from the block. then didnt need friend and always gave her a polo once i was in the saddle and she then was always good to mount even in the winter...i would try the lunging first as it may solve your problem...he is a good looking boy BTW
As for the mounting, do you have anyone that can hold him and shove his backside over? If you are totally stuck you could put a scoop with a ferw nuts on where he can reach them while you get on, I hate the idea but sometimes its whatever works. Can you mount while he walks on? I used to do that with young horses.
that’s what I was hoping the clicker training would help with. He’s just so used to moving off straight away, I am thinking I could see if a leg up makes it any different, lunging him first definitely takes some of his edge off and getting on is easier by about 10 minutes......maybe this will just come as we do it more?
 

splashgirl45

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if the lunging helps why not lunge for a bit longer to get his fidgets sorted before trying to mount. if he is still fidgety and moves around, lunge him again and keep doing the same until he stands at the block, as soon as he does stand, praise him let him stand for as long as he wants to but as soon as he moves walk him round again and back to the block, dont try and get on just go through the exercise again and again. if he isnt getting better i would lunge again and dont give up.. you need to be patient and very persistant to get through to him that you are going to insist that he stands at the block...when you get success, praise him and put him away...do the same beginning the next day and if he stands ,get on and go for a fun hack,,, good luck
 

Dondi

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if the lunging helps why not lunge for a bit longer to get his fidgets sorted before trying to mount. if he is still fidgety and moves around, lunge him again and keep doing the same until he stands at the block, as soon as he does stand, praise him let him stand for as long as he wants to but as soon as he moves walk him round again and back to the block, dont try and get on just go through the exercise again and again. if he isnt getting better i would lunge again and dont give up.. you need to be patient and very persistant to get through to him that you are going to insist that he stands at the block...when you get success, praise him and put him away...do the same beginning the next day and if he stands ,get on and go for a fun hack,,, good luck
Thank you 😊 great advice and I will try that!!
 
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