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Goldiebabe

My New Horse Is Afraid To Be Touched

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Hi all. I used to be an active poster on Horsecity back in the glory days (lol). I left the boards for a few years because I had to sell my horses due to have a baby and having no time and money for a horse anymore. Anyway, I finally got a horse again in April. She is a rescue from a feedlot (saved her from slaughter). I know nothing about her background but am pretty positive judging by her size and behavior that she is a yearling. I am also guessing that she was either thrown out to pasture with other horses and pretty much had no human interaction, or she was abused by former owner. I bought her sight unseen from a rescue group on facebook and did not realize that she will not let people touch her until I had already bought her. She has turned into more of a project than I was expecting, but I have no regrets. I loved her at first sight. She is smart, curious, and wants to be near people. She has made a lot of progress since I started working with her. I see her daily (except for a week recently when I was on vacation). I have found that she absolutely loves food and it is a motivating factor for her. She still is very timid about being touched, but she does not mind touching me with her muzzle. She will sniff noses with me and let me stand right next to her as long as I am not touching her. She also lets me kiss her on the muzzle. The second my hand goes out, she is walking away or shying away. I have not been able to walk her down as much as I want to, because we have had nonstop rain here in Oklahoma so her paddock is a muddy mess and it is really hard work walking through the mud for a long period of time. (for both of us - she almost fell trying to run through the mud a couple days ago). I cannot enclose her in her stall or she is a nervous wreck and will likely hurt herself (and/or me). She is friendly and does not act aggressive toward me. I can tell she wants to be around me and enjoys when I come out to see her. She walks over to me in the paddock but does not usually walk the whole way to me.

What I am wondering is if anyone has any fresh ideas on how to progress to her letting me touch her? My husband and I are considering herding her into a chute so she has no choice but to let us touch her. Maybe she will realize it is no big deal. I am afraid it could have the opposite effect, though. I feel awful because I can't halter break her yet since I can't even touch her, I can't brush her so she looks a mess with hay in her mane and her winter fuzz still mixed in with her summer coat in some places, and I can't get a farrier out to trim her hooves (which need attention soon) because she cannot be handled for that yet. She did get vetted while she was in quarantine so has her vaccinations and coggins done. I did also de-worm her. Thanks in advance!

Edited by Goldiebabe

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Since she is very interested in feed, I would hand feed her, progressing to rubbing her head and neck while she is eating from your hand. Then you could put her feed in a container on the ground and stand near enough to touch her while she eats. If you divide her feed into many small portions, you'd have the opportunity to be close to her many times a day.

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I agree with Jubal. the most painless, stressfree way to achieve your goals is to use whatever motivates her. we have a 23 month old that has had a wonderful life until now, no bad experiences certainly no abuse, but was scared to death of crossing water or being bathed. with the water crossing my husband ponied him off his "been there, done that" older gelding and we used my horse to shove him in. (nothing like a horse to teach another horse). once he was in this shallow stream he quickily discovered it was fun and started playing with it.

since he also is very food motivated we used his favorite (irish mash) while hosing him down. now he associates bathing with something delicious, and he also accepted it pretty quickly once he "got it".

good luck with your youngster, and thank you for giving her a home!

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Thank you for the responses!!!!

We actually made huge progress today. We never had a problem getting close to her. I can stand next to her no problem and she sniffs noses with me all the time. She would never eat of my hand because she was terrified of human hands, yet nothing else seems to phase her.

We were able to lure her to the cattle chute today and shut her in there. She actually did so wonderful and did not show signs of losing interest or getting irritated so we were able to work with her for about two hours in the chute. I started with petting her hindquarters because she always seemed the most at ease with her hindquarters touched. She instantly started enjoying that touch when she realized I was rubbing off her excess hair and getting her itchy spots. I was able to progress to petting the rest of her body in our session though I did not work heavily on her belly or legs today. I did do hindquarters, body/barrel, back, withers, neck, chest, shoulder, and face though. She let my husband and I progress to brushing her with a rubber curry, metal curry, dandy brush, mane/tail brush (she even patiently stood there for a long time as I got some matted hair out of her mane), face brush, etc. We found a tick on her jaw and thankfully she cooperated and I was eventually able to get her to enjoy being pet on the face and get the tick off her. She looks like a completely different horse now that she finally got some much-needed grooming attention. She seemed much more at ease around us after the time in the chute and we made sure to reward her with grain throughout the session. We let her get some energy out in the arena and graze on grass afterwards. I was so proud of how well she did today. It was the best feeling in the world finally getting to touch her and see her enjoy it and not shy away from it! She followed my husband all the way back to her paddock afterwards when he was holding the grain bucket. She is a smart filly. I hope today's session helps with her being touched in the paddock, but if not, we can hopefully try the chute again. I was surprised how comfortable/calm she got in there. Normally she freaks if she feels confined. We got all of the excess hair off her today. She is quite the beauty - cleans up nice!!! She was very affectionate, too. She would nudge us affectionately while in the chute and sniff our hands frequently.

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Thanks!

Just wanted to update again.. River is making progress every day! She now lets me approach her in her paddock and pet her. She prefers me petting/brushing her right side, but I am sure she will warm up to the left side. She looks so much healthier now that she can be pet and groomed. Still no luck getting a halter on because she is shy about the bridge of her nose being touched, but we will get there soon. I have unfortunately had to treat some parasite problems lately.. I found horse lice on her a week ago, so I treated her twice already and will do one more treatment next week to be safe. So gross. River is such a sweetheart and very smart. It has been rewarding seeing her start to trust me more and relax around me.

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Sounds like you will have one dedicated and awesome mare by the time you are done with her :) Great job on your progress so far !!!

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