Training a mellow yearling

WildatHeart

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Apr 19, 2019
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Hello fellow equestrians. Today I come to you to ask what you guys do to keep the attention of a very calm and laid back horse when trying to teach them something new.

I have a yearling (she just turned 1 year old a few days ago) and is the sweetest, calmest horse I have ever been around, especially for her age. She's also very smart and remembers things quite well to the point I could teach her something one day, leave her alone for a few weeks, and when I go to ask for that same thing again, she does it perfectly as though we'd been doing that forever already.
I have had her since she was 6 months old and over the winter, I havent been too serious about training as i wanted to allow her to just be a baby, but have made sure she knows a few basic things and now am going to increase the training a bit more this summer.

She's already halter broke and knows how to stop, back up, give her hind quarters, lower her head, give her feet, how to tie, and is starting on the basics of lunging at just walking as I just want the basics at this point and have also started teaching her to flex her neck. Some desensitizing has been introduced as well which she doesnt bat an eye at.


Anyways, so a recent problem I've run into is that if she cant figure out the answer right away, she shuts down. I'm patient with her and give her all the time in the world to figure things out, but she gets tired of trying to figure something out and shuts down and goes to sleep.

An example of this is the other day, when I was teaching her to flex her neck, she got it within a few seconds on her right side. But on her left, she kept going in a circle for a while before stopping and rather than try to bend her neck like she did on the other side, she went to sleep. I do use a nylon halter which I know isnt nice cause she can lean on it, but her face shape is weird and rope halters dont fit at all. Food bribes dont really work with her either. So what kind of stuff do you guys do to keep their attention and encourage them to keep trying? I'm more used to working with energetic and reactive horses, but she's super calm and mellow lol.


Question 2
How do you help a horse get over their fear of men?

My filly doesnt like men, and she's decided that she's scared of the farrier. The last time he came, she literally bolted as soon as she saw him. And he's always been very calm, patient, and gentle with her. I've worked with her feet and I can hold them for longer periods of time, wiggle them, and bang on them a bit and she's doing pretty good. It's only when it comes to the farrier that she acts up.

I dont really know any other men around here or else I'd get one to work with her to try to get her over her fear as she has never had a bad experience with men, and yet she acts like they've abused her. I've only seen her be friendly with one man ever. One thing I'm hoping will help is that im going to get the farrier to give her some treats when he works with her and hope that, that'll help make it a more positive experience.

97964
 

Huggy

Well-Known Member
Nov 11, 2018
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Hello fellow equestrians. Today I come to you to ask what you guys do to keep the attention of a very calm and laid back horse when trying to teach them something new.

I have a yearling (she just turned 1 year old a few days ago) and is the sweetest, calmest horse I have ever been around, especially for her age. She's also very smart and remembers things quite well to the point I could teach her something one day, leave her alone for a few weeks, and when I go to ask for that same thing again, she does it perfectly as though we'd been doing that forever already.
I have had her since she was 6 months old and over the winter, I havent been too serious about training as i wanted to allow her to just be a baby, but have made sure she knows a few basic things and now am going to increase the training a bit more this summer.

She's already halter broke and knows how to stop, back up, give her hind quarters, lower her head, give her feet, how to tie, and is starting on the basics of lunging at just walking as I just want the basics at this point and have also started teaching her to flex her neck. Some desensitizing has been introduced as well which she doesnt bat an eye at.


Anyways, so a recent problem I've run into is that if she cant figure out the answer right away, she shuts down. I'm patient with her and give her all the time in the world to figure things out, but she gets tired of trying to figure something out and shuts down and goes to sleep.

An example of this is the other day, when I was teaching her to flex her neck, she got it within a few seconds on her right side. But on her left, she kept going in a circle for a while before stopping and rather than try to bend her neck like she did on the other side, she went to sleep. I do use a nylon halter which I know isnt nice cause she can lean on it, but her face shape is weird and rope halters dont fit at all. Food bribes dont really work with her either. So what kind of stuff do you guys do to keep their attention and encourage them to keep trying? I'm more used to working with energetic and reactive horses, but she's super calm and mellow lol.


Question 2
How do you help a horse get over their fear of men?

My filly doesnt like men, and she's decided that she's scared of the farrier. The last time he came, she literally bolted as soon as she saw him. And he's always been very calm, patient, and gentle with her. I've worked with her feet and I can hold them for longer periods of time, wiggle them, and bang on them a bit and she's doing pretty good. It's only when it comes to the farrier that she acts up.

I dont really know any other men around here or else I'd get one to work with her to try to get her over her fear as she has never had a bad experience with men, and yet she acts like they've abused her. I've only seen her be friendly with one man ever. One thing I'm hoping will help is that im going to get the farrier to give her some treats when he works with her and hope that, that'll help make it a more positive experience.

View attachment 97964
Don't have much experience of the first query you've got. As far as men are concerned, unfortunately I think the only way round the fear is the old adage of familiarity breeds contempt. Even if there aren't many blokes to call on, just one or two, over and over, petting and talking to her and generally being around should help. Both of mine are a bit wary around men, particularly Ramsey in the early days (he was sold as a foal at the pony sales, and they are driven through the pens by men with sticks) but he got over it to a degree. Hogans just a prat - makes out he's scared then after 30 secs he's fine. Any male family members you can rope in to just 'be there' ?
 

Jessey

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Dec 20, 2004
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Yearlings are still babies and have very short attention spans, keep lessons to just a few minutes at a time or they will shut down more and more, don't push it to the point of causing a shut down or you are basically training them that is the response you want. At a year old there is really no rush to be teaching all these things, you've got plenty of time to introduce a tiny bit at a time.

As for men, does your farrier wear a hat or something? You could try wearing a hat if he does, hats often confuse horses at first as it changes the 'picture' they see. Employ as many men as you can to give a treat or a scratch.
 
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Frances144

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I am struggling with this. I breed, back and train Icelandic horses.

You say "I havent been too serious about training as i wanted to allow her to just be a baby, but have made sure she knows a few basic things."

And then you go on to say you have been training her to:-
  • halter broke
  • knows how to stop
  • back up
  • give her hind quarters
  • lower her head
  • give her feet
  • how to tie
  • starting on the basics of lunging at just walking
  • flex her neck.
  • desensitizing
Seriously, a barely one year old.

I am sorry but you shouldn't be doing more than halter breaking, asking her to learn your body language and you learn hers, stand for a short period tied up pick up her feet and that is it.

Certainly not lungeing - that can put too much strain on their joints and you can do actual damage.
Flexing her neck - A horse at that age is growing. She does not need this. You are teaching her far too young.

SHE IS A BABY! Please let her learn to chill, see you as someone who she can chill around and develop a good relationship with. She sounds like she has a lovely temperament and you are taking advantage of it for want of something to do.

I am sorry if I sound harsh but your post shocked me. I have youngsters who are busy in their fields doing absolutely nothing. Yet still they pick up their feet when the farrier comes, they are leadable on headcollars having done the odd training session but nothing regular.

A horse should be a horse first and your friend second.

And as for shutting down - I am not at all surprised. I would. It is an evasion technique, a coping mechanism to all you are doing. The fact that she has learned to do this is her polite way of saying "I don't really understand what you want, please go away or stop it". Personally I would back off for a couple of years.
 

WildatHeart

New Member
Apr 19, 2019
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1
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Yearlings are still babies and have very short attention spans, keep lessons to just a few minutes at a time or they will shut down more and more, don't push it to the point of causing a shut down or you are basically training them that is the response you want. At a year old there is really no rush to be teaching all these things, you've got plenty of time to introduce a tiny bit at a time.

As for men, does your farrier wear a hat or something? You could try wearing a hat if he does, hats often confuse horses at first as it changes the 'picture' they see. Employ as many men as you can to give a treat or a scratch.


I am struggling with this. I breed, back and train Icelandic horses.

You say "I havent been too serious about training as i wanted to allow her to just be a baby, but have made sure she knows a few basic things."

And then you go on to say you have been training her to:-
  • halter broke
  • knows how to stop
  • back up
  • give her hind quarters
  • lower her head
  • give her feet
  • how to tie
  • starting on the basics of lunging at just walking
  • flex her neck.
  • desensitizing
Seriously, a barely one year old.

I am sorry but you shouldn't be doing more than halter breaking, asking her to learn your body language and you learn hers, stand for a short period tied up pick up her feet and that is it.

Certainly not lungeing - that can put too much strain on their joints and you can do actual damage.
Flexing her neck - A horse at that age is growing. She does not need this. You are teaching her far too young.

SHE IS A BABY! Please let her learn to chill, see you as someone who she can chill around and develop a good relationship with. She sounds like she has a lovely temperament and you are taking advantage of it for want of something to do.

I am sorry if I sound harsh but your post shocked me. I have youngsters who are busy in their fields doing absolutely nothing. Yet still they pick up their feet when the farrier comes, they are leadable on headcollars having done the odd training session but nothing regular.

A horse should be a horse first and your friend second.

And as for shutting down - I am not at all surprised. I would. It is an evasion technique, a coping mechanism to all you are doing. The fact that she has learned to do this is her polite way of saying "I don't really understand what you want, please go away or stop it". Personally I would back off for a couple of years.


To answer both of you, training sessions are kept short and I dont do them on a regular basis. She just learns super fast. I can introduce her to something new one day, do it two or three times, then not do it again for a month, and when I ask for it again after 4+ weeks break, she does it perfectly as though there never was a gap in time. She may know several things, but I've taught those over the course of several months, with weeks between each session and the sessions are only 10 mins long at most. She spends her days in a field with two other horses so she gets plenty of play time with others to live like a horse and learn how to act like one without human interference the rest of the time.
And lunging has only been for a few seconds at the pace of a slow walk to avoid damaging her joints and only done once. Even with flexing her neck, it's not something I'm going to be demanding of her a lot. It's not like I'm out working with her 5 times a week for hours on end.
I dont agree with demanding a lot from them at young ages and the fact I'm not constantly working her makes people around here think I'm crazy. Theres a trainer who has his horses broke to ride when they're just 2 years old and that includes spinning them until they fall over sometimes. So I know what it looks like when horses get overworked from a young age. With Ren, I dont plan to even sit on her for the first time till she's at least 3 years old. Hope this helps clear up things a bit that I don't work her to death. Sorry if my wording was that misleading.
 

Frances144

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Still, stop. You are asking too much imho. No to lunging for a few more years. No to neck flexion for a few more years. Just because others want their horses broken at two (and that is exactly what they are) doesn’t mean it’s right. She is an old-fashioned type, from what I can see. She will take many years to mature in her head and her body. She has growing to do and enjoying being a baby.
 
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joosie

lifelong sufferer of restless brain syndrome
Oct 28, 2004
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You say that it's ok because you're only doing short and irregular sessions, but if she is "switching off" despite this then it is still too much. You cannot "make" her pay attention when she's been overloaded.
What you have taught her so far is good... now give her a break from it again. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that once you've started training you must constantly be introducing new things. It's great that she is out with other horses and getting that social time - for now I'd leave her to it, and pick things up again later.
For what it's worth, it usually only takes me 2/3 sessions to teach a rising 4-year-old to lunge from scratch. You really don't need to start introducing it at 12 months old ;) As for the neck flexion business - stop. Too much!
 

carthorse

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Staff member
Jan 6, 2006
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I agree with @Frances144 and @joosie , you're asking for too much too soon. Let her be a baby, you don't want her seeing her time around you as work or stress - and the fact she shuts down shows she finds it very stressful. Just be company, give her scratches if she enjoys them & be a reassuring presence so she's relaxed around you. That relaxation may help with her worries about men since she'll know she can look to you. If it doesn't then it might be worth asking him if he can let you know if he's in the area and just pop in to give her a stroke over the fence. Has she always been this bad with him though? If it's something new or that's got worse then I'd try to think of something that may have triggered it & if I couldn't then I'd get the vet to check her over to make sure there isn't pain somewhere. Young horses don't tend to be fearful of things they don't know, in fact at her age they're often nosy to a fault, so to run away like that suggests she has a reason in her eyes.
 
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