Friday, April 16, 2010

Beautiful's Fear My Fear

I only have a few minutes, but wanted to run in and relate an incident that just happened.

I was leading Beautiful out of her stall to the turnout, usually the barn door is already open--one of those that opens upward--but today it wasn't. I thought, oh well, she needs to learn to stand while I open it. I already know it's scary for horses because all of the others had to get used to it, too, but I figured she could handle it.

She looked scared, of course, when she saw it closed and me starting to open it, and I knew I had two choices--slow or fast--and my feeling about slow is that sometimes when you go too slow you teach them there's something to actually be scared of--so instead, I ripped the band-aid off fast! Not too fast, normal speed, but enough that she started scooting backward and fell into the wheel barrow.

After the wheelbarrow, things could have gotten really bad, but she recovered herself and came back up to me. We proceeded through the 3/4 open door. On the other side of the door--in the driveway--she bolted foward and we were in that tug-of-war position. She started to back up and there was no way I could get to her side. I was like one second from losing the lead--she could have so easily ripped it from me at that point, but I faked calmness and stood still--I figured the only chance I had was her stopping herself. I held on tight and firm. She stopped!!! Thank you!! Thank you!!

Delimma. I thought I'd better use that time for some work going in and out, but when I brought her back up to the door, she'd have none of it and seemed ready to bolt again.

So, here's where my fear comes into play. Last year a friend's filly actually did get free of her and broke down all of my fence, almost releasing my herd. This morning I'd let my herd out to graze and there's only a thin electric wire keeping them in. I use a thin electric because wire isn't a real barrier for horses, and if they're going to go through it, I'd rather it not cut them up--but I'm under NO illusion that it's a real barrier for a scared horse.

I listened to my fears and just took her on in to the turn out.

My thinking is that I'll work her around the doors again tonight when I have someone to back me up and the other horses are locked in their stalls. That way, if she does get free of me--which I'm 99 percent sure she wont', but NOT willing to take a gamble--she'll return to the barn to be near the other horses.

I might also use this evening to introduce her to the pasture with one other horse.

Wish me luck!


  1. It'll be OK - those doors, and doorways, and changes can be very scary (and so can wheelbarrows!). Just leading back and forth through the open door might be enough to reassure her that things are back to normal. I think trusting your gut and not getting into a fight with the horse is a very good decision - a fight just reinforces that they're something to be afraid of.

  2. I know what you're going through. Echo does the same thing. I'm just trusting these mustangs to keep calm heads when they take off and not go through fences. I only just managed to get Echo through gateways, but he refused again the other day because there was a wet spot (which he made earlier) in the gateway. Last week I was leading him through, holding his halter, and he spooked forward and whirled his back end around, but the darling boy stayed with me and I was so proud of him. In the past he would take off in a huge gallop ripping away from me. We have cattle fences here which are barbed wire with electric fence in front of it. I worry when the two horses are released together they will run through it, even though it's very visible. So far Wildairo keeps well away from the fences. I will release Echo alone so he can get a good look around first. Funny thing, where Wildairo is there's a long cattle feeder with just two thick cables, one of the cables is hot. It kind of looks wide open and would be easy for a horse to jump, but he steers well clear of it. I think the more we know the more worried we become. A few decades ago I wouldn't have thought twice about turning the horses out there.

  3. Good luck! My thoroughbred mare, Gigondas, was a real bolter! I've worked with her. Now, she is pretty calm, but I always cross my fingers when I'm working with her!!!

  4. She went back into the barn with no problem, so I didn't work her back and forth through the doors. I guess we'll just keep doing it every day like normal, and I'll keep working her on bending. I have the same issues with the fence scare, although Beautiful did surprise me last year with them. After she put the electric tape in her mouth and got ZAPPED, she had a healthy respect of them. I do worry that the other horses will push her through them if she doesn't know the boundaries well, so I'm like you--let her out alone first until she knows the fence line.

  5. I should add, the reason she doesn't know the fence line already is that none of our horses got to be in the pasture last year since we were giving it a rest after seeding. So, she just got to experience the dry lot turnout. This will be her first year running the fourteen acres. It'll be fun to watch.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.