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Shy behavior of new horse

Dear Franklin

A friend of mine recently bought a four-year old, unbroken mare. Unfortunately, it isn't possible to go near her at all! She seems to be absolutely terrified of hands. In the first couple of days, it wasn't even possible to muck out without her standing scared in the corner. She's more relaxed now (after having her for 3 weeks) but there is still no chance to get the head collar on. Last week, we managed to bring her to the indoor arena where I tried to do the "join up" following Monty Roberts instructions. She was grand and showing all the symptoms and in the end, she was even following me. When I turned round to reward her, she freaked out again and cantered away. I tried it for about an hour with no success.

The previous owner had her in a field, well, at least that's what he told us. She's completely relaxed when we're around, as long as we're not trying to go anywhere near her!

Thanking you in advance, for your help!

Mireille - Dublin, Ireland

Hi Mirelle

Briefly, many horses that are somewhat skiddish will get very nervous if you are facing them directly. A full frontal view of a human to some horses is a fearful thing. The full frontal approach or stance towards a horse is an aggressive stance to many horses. I suggest making certain you present only a side profile of yourself to the horse for a while until you make more progress in gaining the horses trust. Sounds like you are doing very well. If you hadn't turned to the horse to reward her, seems she would have stayed with you.

In the wild and in all other places, horses greet each other by walking straight on up to each other, touching noses and sharing breath. So, you could try walking straight up in full frontal view, straight on to your horse. If the horse even turns its head slightly away from you or moves away at all or leans away, stop and back up a step or two. Then wait and watch the hrose. As soon as the horse faces you square on again, you continue walking straight on. Once you are close enough to touch the horses nose, do so briefly, for an instant (just touch the nose), then turn and walk away. Be patient, this could take little whil to accomplish. Do this a lot and fairly soon the horse will want to follow you around and you will be able to be squared off to the horse without a problem. If you can move the horse into an arena or paddock, practice first just being in the vacinity of the horse. Next step is to develope eye contact and move around the horse so that it keeps it's eyes on you. Next step is to put some hay in the paddock, let the horse begin to eat. Then you wait a minute and gently move the horse off of the spot where the hay is. Then invite the horse to come back to the hay and eat a bit (give the territory back to the horse). Do this a few times. It really sets you up as the leader of the herd when you can control the food and territory. Next step might be to 'haze' the horse around gently by just calmly walking behind it and asking it to move forward. Then consciously invite the horse to companion walk with you. Always give lots of praise for the horses efforts to comply with your requests. The horse soon will begin to mimick your speed and action of starting and stopping when you do.

Good Luck and keep me posted, Sincerely, Franklin

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