It’s obvious this guy has some trauma. But, at the same time, he’s a pretty sensitive and reactive guy. So, how much of it is new and how much of it is his personality. After just a few days of working with him I’ve determined that the “unwanted behavior”, not allowing anything to touch him without shaking and trying to bite it, is learned. It’s not a sensory behavior that cannot be fixed. Here’s why: he’s fine with being brushed, he’s fine with being hosed off in the wash stall. Likewise, he doesn’t overreact when a fly lands on him. The most important part… he doesn’t just react when I actually put a rope or something on him, he still reacts when I go through the “motion” of putting something on him and not actually following through; as if I were going to throw the rope but don’t actually let it go.
Horse training is a lot of “best practice”, but also involves a lot of trial and error and thinking outside the box.
My idea day one was to push him a little and see if I could mentally and physically exhaust him to make the behavior become less of an issue. But, by day two, he was pretty relaxed with the ground work so pushing him from the start would have been unnecessary and done nothing but give him more anxiety. So, instead, if I put the rope on him and he has an unwanted response, I would move his feet with purpose as opposed to working him first, then allow him to relax and try again. This was working.
By day three, I was seeing steady improvement. First going through the motion of throwing the rope, then actually throwing the rope. There were times he didn’t anticipate and didn’t shake. He also started yawning and standing with a relaxed, calm look in his eye. We are making progress!!
With a horse like this, when their brain can’t slow down, we have to slow things down for them! Allow them to lean in a relaxed manner. The saying “slow and steady wins the race” is very true when training horses. I will continue to keep Nico learning. Stay tuned while we work…From the Ground Up!
John Lyons Certified
Horseback Riding Lessons
Jessica Forliano is a John Lyons Certified Trainer specializing in Problem horses / behavioral issues and starting young horses and ponies under saddle. Her passion shows through the accomplishments of each of horse or pony she works with as they reach their potential in the show ring.