We have a brand new mare on site that is a cross between an Oldenburg and a draft. She’s 8 years old this year and is the sweetest horse we’ve seen in quite a while. We’re not entirely sure of her background but we have been able to show that she’ll stand quietly while a gaggle of girls groom and fawn over her, so that’s a good thing.
Over the next few weeks we will be taking a good look at her and seeing what she can and can’t do, but we do know a few things for sure.
1. She has very strong feet. While they haven’t been taken care of recently, they are hard and strong and have good shape to them. The overgrowth can be easily taken care of and shouldn’t take long to grow out.
Here is one of the back feet before trim
Here is one of the front feet before trim
2. She’s overweight. Even for a draft horse she’s got a lot of weight on her. This of course doesn’t help her feet at all, so we’ll have her on a strict diet for a while with mild exercise to help her out.
3. She doesn’t trailer well at all. We’re not entirely sure of why, but the information provided gave indications that she was trailered for four days in a row and likely just has a bad experience from it.
4. She’s afraid of umbrellas. This was found out more by chance as we were trying to set up a bit of shade for her. It’s super sunny these days and when bringing over a large umbrella to set up for her to stand under, despite being 40 feet away, she really couldn’t even handle it being around. Once set up she went over and gave it a sniff and was fine, but it’s clear there’s a lot of work to be done in regards to getting her confidence up in regards to new things.
5. She’s head shy. Sad.. We hate seeing horses head shy. It means one of two things or both. Either they’ve never had enough time with somebody on their face and being gentle, or they’ve seen some damage and are fearful for it. I suspect the second, so that will take some time to get through.
Overall though, she’s a beautiful horse that clearly has spent a lot of time around kids as she’s very still and quiet when they come around. She’s looking to be close and have a friend but she has a degree of wariness about her. It won’t be long before she gets that figured out with us, so it should be just fine.
Update Aug 31, 2016
Working with her over the last few days, there has been some great progress on getting her ready to trailer. She seems to have good groundwork skills already, which makes this job easier as she doesn’t need to be taught much in regards to moving her feet when and where.
The first thing though isn’t to mess around getting to the trailer or in the trailer, but instead in a roundpen or other safe location to see if her feet can be moved even when stressed. To stress a horse out and still be able to control their feet should give both you and the horse confidence that you’re the leader. Getting through a stressful exercise to then be able to relax and be safe can be built upon to then lead up to getting in the big scary trailer. The short story is if you can’t control their feet out in the open, doing it in an enclosed trailer could turn into a real trainwreck.
To start with, I had her move into the roundpen without doing much. Just controlling the lead rope to get either the front end or back end. So far so good. Then I brought out the tarp and kicked it around her while we did circle groundwork.
I’m a very strong believer in groundwork before doing anything stressful with a horse. It helps them connect up to you, builds confidence in both you and the horse and of course verifies whether or not you have control of their feet. Check out these three articles on how I really feel about it and why. I even do groundwork in the middle of streams! Just to make it fun (generally only good in the summer)
After kicking it around stopped bothering her, I picked it up and shook it about as I had her move her feet. Horses will get stuck feet if they get worried enough, this isn’t a sign that they’re good with something, it means their stuck and freaking out in their heads. Scared stiff is a good term to use here. Unless they truly don’t care and start sniffing the ground or something. But if they are tense and not moving, then they need to get moving. Stresses are always harder on horses if they have to move at the same time because they have to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. Their footwork won’t be accurate and they’ll be looking more to escape than be with you. Patience is what is needed here.
After the shaking around wore off on her, and after doing both sides, I put it on the ground and see if she could move between it and the fence. That didn’t take long to get her to go through both ways calmly and then I narrowed the gap and went again to where she finally just stood on the tarp. Good enough, off we go to the trailer as I now know I can move her feet if and when I need to. More importantly, she knows it too.
At the trailer she really had trouble approaching it. We had a couple of moments where she made hard for an escape as she just wasn’t handling the idea of getting on the trailer, but we ended on a great note of both front feet in while getting scratches and rubs. It’s a good ending for now, tomorrow is another day. We quit that on my terms, not hers, and I imagine tomorrow she’ll do far better for it. Another great day in the life of working with horses.
Trailering can be very hard on both owner and horse. It’s important to be patient and methodical about it. Staying calm yet firm is the best approach and getting a horse into a small place with you is no matter to take lightly. Always practice with your own personal safety in mind first and never do anything beyond your abilities. Get help if needed and take it as easy and slow as need be.
The next day in the morning, same result but a bit quicker and easier. In the evening of the same day, she loaded up almost perfectly after about an hour of moving her around and encouraging her. She’s a smart horse and with the right amount of pressure and properly timed release of said pressure, she can figure out pretty quick what is being asked of her. Patience is everything with this type of thing, the more you rush the worse it can turn out. It won’t necessarily turn out bad, but it has a good chance of it. In this case we set her up for success by leaving the trailer open for her to go in and out of on her own with water and hay inside. She did manage to do that when nobody was near her, which allowed us to then pick up after that.
Passive training of horses can work, but the real weaknesses show themselves when you’re around and asking for a result. In the end she did well and it’s only been two days at it. Tomorrow we’ll build on that and hopefully in another day she’ll finally make it to our property without trouble. We have time and are in no rush so it works out really well.
Update Sept 11, 2016
We’ve had great progress with her over the last couple of weeks. Last Saturday we finally got her home after almost 2 hours of working with her to get her in the trailer and standing calmly. Getting the divider in place was about 30 mins of that as she just had her feet glued to the floor. Quiet encouragement and support did her well and she arrived safe and sound without issue and has been doing great since.
She’s had her second trim as well. Her feet are in good condition but have been neglected a bit and have necrotic material in the hoof wall and frog. Slowly working that out with a knife and some rasping has really helped get her feet back into a healthy state. Overall though they look good. We’ve found she’s a very jittery horse, afraid of lots of things so we’ll need to help her with that before she gets on the string around here. It’s unsafe to ride or be around a horse that doesn’t have enough confidence and experience to put up with minor things like vehicles or tarps.
Her eyes are improving with daily cleaning and drops. While it doesn’t seem to bother her much, having weepy eyes with goop in them must uncomfortable as the flies tend to gravitate towards it for hydration. We’ll get that solved shortly here.
She’s a wonderful horse though, quick to come to the fence but shy to the touch. It doesn’t take much to have her come around and I’m sure it won’t be long before that worry and shyness goes away.
Update Sept 29, 2016
Much more work has been done with her over the last few weeks. The trailer issue has been on the forefront and she’s now loading without too much worry. Over the next couple of days she’ll continue to be worked specifically on this problem, but it’s expected to be resolved pretty quick. The biggest thing she has needed for this is patience as I expect she has been hauled around by forcing her in the trailer and then trapping her. There are no good thoughts in her head about trailers. She respects the requests to move her feet backward and forward, so that tool is used to continue to encourage her to tolerate the trailer until it’s just another place to be. Here’s a short video showing how far she made it in just three days of trying:
Working on her feet more the embedded dirt/rocks and necrotic tissue have finally been cleaned out. Here’s a before pic of that:
and after ones that show how much material actually has to be removed to get it all out:
This stuff will not come out on it’s own and must be taken out by knife or rasp. If it’s left in there then it just keeps working it’s way up the hoof wall. It’s very important to remove it completely to allow a strong and whole hoof wall to come down to the ground. Otherwise it’s just a weakened and fracture wall.
We recently completed our arena, part of this video has her riding really nicely as we discover more and more about what she knows and understands:
Here’s a nice little video on breathing that she stars in:
We’ll post more as we work with her and see her progress come along, so stay tuned!