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Discussion on Can't get a lead rope on my horse

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Carol Proctor
Member
Username: Carol67

Post Number: 2
Registered: 1-2003
Posted on Sunday, Jan 26, 2003 - 8:27 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I have a seven year old quarter horse mare. She has always been a little head shy. I have had her for five years. I have not until recently had a problem putting a lead rope on her. I was leading her into a paddock with a nine month old filly about two months ago. They have been together for four months. The filly ran between me and the mare and caught her neck on the lead rope. I immediately let go of the lead rope. Fortunately none of us were hurt. The mare would not come back to me so I got close to her by giving her oates. This is how how I got the lead rope off of her. I have since worked her in the round pen to regain her trust. She will let me rub her face, neck and body, but as soon as I get close to her halter she backs away. I am not sure of how to get her leading again. I am sure the incident with the filly is part of the problem, so every time I try I put the filly by herself. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Thankyou,
Carol
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Holly Wood
Member
Username: Hwood

Post Number: 232
Registered: 3-2001
Posted on Sunday, Jan 26, 2003 - 9:24 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hi, Carol,

Working in the pen, free, is a great idea. Since the mare still shows fear, though (unless it is just belligerence . . . . can you tell the difference with her?), I would suggest just camping out in the pen with her. I had an unbroke gelding this summer that wouldn't let me near him if I had any kind of rope or halter in my hand. It took four weeks of constant work to get him to have even minimal trust. According to the owner (something I found out AFTER I got him riding) he had a very traumatic experience with gelding . . . . and he never forgot.

I found that the best thing for him was to stay with him when he ate, and just pet him. If I noticed he was about to pull away, then I immediately took my hand to his shoulder and started again to pet him nonchalantly on the neck and every so often, briefly on his cheek, face and ears with the attitude that it was a normal occurance. I held his bucket at feeding time in the a.m. and p.m. Sometimes, I would have him follow me (I couldn't get a halter on him to lead him, so I would just carry a bucket of grain from the paddock into the round pen) and then I would sit on the upside down manure bucket and allow him to pick at the grain, or baby carrots or whatever I had taken with me. If he snatched at a bite and then wheeled away when he saw my hand, I just ignored him (it's a great time to read a magazine or newspaper) and let him approach again. As I said, it took four weeks of this. It took five weeks before I could approach him in the pasture with a bridle or halter and have him NOT step away at all.

Patience is the key here. There's no hurry. Best wishes.
Holly
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Sarah Blanchard
Member
Username: Willie

Post Number: 23
Registered: 12-2000
Posted on Sunday, Jan 26, 2003 - 9:50 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Holly is right. Patience is the key.

Fear can be created in a moment; trust takes a whole lot of time.

Spend lots of time with your mare in her stall, and move very slowly and deliberately. Don't make a big fuss over anything, and don't force her to accept things. Talk quietly, sing quietly, and banish noisy distractions when you work with her. If she startles or jumps back, you must control your own reaction so that you never move quickly, which would only confirm her fear.

You say you can rub her on her face and body, which is good. Do that often without bringing a lead rope anywhere near her. Many horses like having their foreheads and over their eyes gently rubbed; if she'll let you do that, that shows trust and it should feel good to her. You must demonstrate to her (a few thousand times, perhaps) that your hands can bring good things, not bad.

I'd try to figure out what aspect of "leadrope" bothers her, whether it's the snakelike behavior of a rope, or the threat of getting hit in the face by a rope swinging at her, or the action of snapping the snap, or . . . whatever. Then I'd start by eliminating that quality -- get rid of the snap, trade the snaky looking rope for a leather or web shank, perhaps.

Whatever kind of leadrope causes problems, find a substitute. If you previously used a lead with a big heavy snap and a chain, find something else -- maybe a loop of baling twine that you'll just slide through her halter (though with a short piece of cotton rope that you can hold onto safely so you don't get a rope burn).

Ball up a length of twine or clotheslinecin your hand, and rub her with it like a curry. Then gradually let the twine or rope dangle down a bit, and keep rubbing. If she accepts that, drape it over her. Gradually move to where it dangles freely and you can casually loop it through her halter and lead her out.

Don't try to put a leadrope on her in the field until you can comfortably put one on her in the stall. In the stall, you can control the situation; in the field, she'll have the upper hand.

Also, I'd drape real cotton leadropes in several places inside her stall, so she can inspect them, maybe even chew on them, and learn that they're essentially harmless.

I'm not a fan of hand-feeding treats, generally, but it sounds like that is called for here. An occasional bite of carrot or apple is a wonderful reward for when she lets you handle her head and rub around the halter. The smell of carrots in your pocket is also a good enticement.

Good luck. Repetition, reassurance, and positive reinforcement are the keys.

Sarah
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Nancy Reynolds Kiester
Member
Username: Albionsh

Post Number: 29
Registered: 9-2001
Posted on Sunday, Jan 26, 2003 - 10:19 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

This idea might not work with your horse, but it did the time I tried it with a head shy filly. She loved her grain, so I began giving her grain in a bowl held quite close to my belly, having her actually push past the sides of my hands to get a mouthful. Then I started asking her to tolerate a rope held in my hand, and pretty soon she had to put her head through the loop of rope to get those delicious mouthfuls. It took a while, but she soon learned to look for the lead rope, as it always meant the grain was coming next. We had some good and bad days, but eventually she gave up her willfulness or fear. Can't say if it would work for all horses, though. Good luck!

Nancy K
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Carol Proctor
Member
Username: Carol67

Post Number: 3
Registered: 1-2003
Posted on Saturday, Feb 1, 2003 - 12:27 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

HI,
I just thought I would give an update. I finally did get a lead rope on her. Not her choice. I waited, not so patiently ( 2 1/2 hours) by her feed bucket and slipped it on her. We were playing cat and mouse. She broke the first lead rope. The second time I did not close the latch
and she shook it off. The third time I got it on her and closed the latch. This time I did not give her the opportunity to break the rope I just put it on her and left. She still will not come readily, but she does come. After I get the lead rope I can lead her. I have not taken the rope off of her for two days. I have her in a safe paddock by herself. I am not sure this is the right thing to do, but it has taught her not to fight. Now instead of backing up and breaking ropes or pulling my arm off, she steps forward with the rope. I am just waiting for her to come to me without fear. I know patience is the key. I feel guilty about leaving the rope on her and will probably take it off tomorrow. I have been working with two ropes. I put a rope on and take it off without removing the original. It does seem to be helping. Thanks for all of yall's help.
Carol P.

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Holly Wood
Member
Username: Hwood

Post Number: 233
Registered: 3-2001
Posted on Saturday, Feb 1, 2003 - 7:15 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Good news, Carol.
Don't feel guilty about leaving the lead rope on her. I don't know how long of a lead rope you use, but if you are concerned about it wrapping around her leg or getting caught, you can cut it to 2-3 feet long. (Unless it's your prize lead rope . . . and then you may want to find an old one you don't use very much.)
If you can continue to feed her with the bucket in your arms, and just occasionally clip and unclip the rope as you casually pet her and talk with her, you will help her get over her crazy fear.
Holly
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Holly Zukowski
Member
Username: Cowgrl

Post Number: 240
Registered: 6-2004
Posted on Wednesday, Jun 9, 2004 - 5:30 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I know I'm coming in here very late but wanted to relate my experience as it might help someone else. When I got my mustang, I couldn't get near him with a lead rope. He still had on the rope halter he came with and wanted to change it to a leather so he could break it if he got caught on anything. When he saw me coming with the lead, he'd leave, not in a hurry but walk away. I'd follow after him and when he stopped, I'd stop near him and just stand there, not even looking at him. If he moved away again, I'd follow. As long as he was moving away, I'd be right behind him. When he stopped and turned, I'd turn away and stop. Before too long (about 1/2 hour) he'd be interested in what I was doing and come over and let me stroke his head. Then I started stroking him with the lead in my hand after letting him inspect it. At first, he wanted nothing to do with the lead but doing the old pressure and release technique, within an hour he was letting me stroke his neck and shoulder with the lead. After that it was easy to drape it over his neck and then attach it to his halter. He figured that the rubbing didn't hurt but felt good so it wasn't anything to be afraid of. That's still my mode of catching him - drape the rope over his neck then put on the halter.

For the head shy horse, mustang dude also has ear issues and to put on his halter, I open it and standing on his left I grasp the tongue end in my right hand and the buckle in my left so my right arm is hanging over his neck, I slide the halter on and buckle it. I don't do the "flip the tongue end past his ears" bit that I can with my other horses. After a minute or two the halter will slide into place right behind his ears.
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