Horse who is fearful and reactive to foot handling

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Hey there, Shawna Karrasch here with another
Ask Shawna answer. OK, I have a a great question from Kaylee, and I appreciate what you’re
doing.So let me read it; “Hi Shawna, I recently got a horse that has some pretty neglected
hooves. Unfortunately, she is also quite scared of everything, and while she does try to cooperate,
a lot of it is too much for her. She doesn’t really even want people on either side of
her. She will pick up her front feet, but she will try to take them away once you start
working with any rasp or knives and refuses to extend her foot out to put, uh, to allow
it to be put on a hoof stand. Her back feet are worse, she tends to get a little kicky
even just picking them up, not mean, just scared. What would your steps be to get her
to be more comfortable with people being around her and then eventually to train her to cooperate
with hoof care, holding all four feet, allowing them to be placed on a stand, etc.? I don’t
really want to resort to forcing her through it if I don’t have to. We live in cowboy country
and that usually the number one way it’s done out here. Since she seems very willing, once
she starts to understand uh, what you want and she and that she’s in no danger. I do
our horses’ feet myself, so I also have full control over the process. I can go as slow
as needed or break it into many sessions, etc.” Ok, Kaylee, that is fantastic, and what
I love, the first thing I really love is that you recognize it’s fear. She’s not mean, she’s
not trying to be uncooperative,s he’s not being stubborn, she’s not, she’s scared, she’s
just scared. So, and it sounds like kind of all of her training has maybe been fearful
for her, and I think it is so important that we recognize this. Even the most aggressive
horses aren’t being mean, they learn this out of fear first. I mean now they may want
to kill you, but that’s how it started was it was fear, then they learned a way to cope
with that fear to get the fear or the scary thing to go away. So, so I really really appreciate
that. And, um, I’m going to direct you 1) to I do have a podcast, about um, I think
there’s tactile and touching might be a podcast if it’s not I will make one shortly, but I
definitely have one for feet. So, I would recommend you go to my website, which is
and there’s a podcast page, and listen to the one about feet. It’ll go into more depth
than my answer is going to be today, and honestly I mean I answer things, I fly off the, I mean
I just say it off my top of my head and then later I always think of more things so I’m
sure there are different things in there than what I will say today. But the first thing
I would do is you recognized the first component is she’s afraid of people, I would even maybe
start her a little bit because her relationship with people I think while she’s learned to
tolerate them, I don’t think she likes that you know I think she’s fearful of what people
are going to bring to the equation, period. Because if she doesn’t even want them on her
side, I mean that to me says that she’s saying I don’t even want you around me because I’m
fearful. So it might not be a bad idea to go back even there’s I know I have one for
untouchables, and while she’s not untouchable, I think the emotional component that is part
of her being touched isn’t exactly what we want, you know, it’s not, she’s thinking I
love people I like to be touched, she’s thinking I don’t really like people and I don’t like
to be touched. So I think you will go faster through that, but I think some of the things
that are in there will be good ways to help start giving her control. One of the biggest
things I find is a lot of these horses that are very fearful, they respond very, very
well when we give them 1) we do use food because food is, it changes their emotional component
and it puts something in it for them and even if they’ll take, she might not even take food
right now, I don’t know, but it means that they’re relaxed enough to eat and we can start
changing, through classic conditioning or counter conditioning and desensitization,
which is really what you’re going to be working on, the emotional component of seeing people
and what people are about. So I’m going to suggest that you also listen to the untouchable
podcast. I love I use podcasts because I can send people all over! But what I would do
is, and also I want to point out for other people, that may, whatever training she had
I imagine it was too much for her. And it doesn’t mean that people were abusive, you
know, this I’ve had these, I’ve had a horse come to me myself that he had training that
worked for lots of other horses, for him, it was too much, so in his eyes, it was abuse.
You know, because he didn’t understand it, he didn’t get it, he never knew what they
were doing or what they were saying, so it just got more and more and more and more fearful
and they’re raising the pressure, escalating the pressure trying to match his uncooperativeness
and all he’s doing is going I still don’t know why you’re yelling at me! You know, I
mean, in his language. So while it wasn’t, it’s worked for lots of horses, it didn’t
work for this horse and his fear threshold wasn’t recognized and kindof dealy with. But
that’s something that’s kind of newer for the horse world. So, so, regardless, it sounds
like, in her eyes, she, she hasn’t understood or accepted her training, so going back to
those feral steps, do classic conditioning and the desensitization, counter conditioning
really for a lot of it. But what I would do first of all try to figure out her threshold.
So where is it? How close can you be that she is still comfortable? I mean, ok, so for
me this is threshold, the horse is standing around and let’s say I walk up with a tarp
in my hand, but I come in from the paddock, far away. They’re kind of looking and at some
point, they go, what? that’s threshold to me. So it’s just that little extra observant,
a little extra alert, a little extra focused on, without all the, it doesn’t mean (snorting
sound) I mean, that’s way over threshold and you know, it’s when they go wait, what is
that? that is the threshold. So, for me, that’s what I look at and I want to keep them, we’re
going to approach threshold, but I want to stay at that point below, and that point below,
and that point below, so that I don’t have them in fight or flight. If they’re in fight
or flight, they’re not learning, so I want to keep her in a place or them in a place,
he, they, whatever they are, I want to keep them in a place where they can learn and process
and learn that the world is safer, and then what I can do, so let’s say you’re approaching
her and you can tell it’s you get six feet away and at six feet, she starts to be kind
of worried, you know that she starts going what are you doing? that’s gonna be her threshold.
So maybe at seven feet, she’s still like hey, ok, and then at six feet she starts to kind
of tense up a little bit and looks just a little bit more worried.That’s threshold for
her. So what I would do is get it where you can at least get close to her, and maybe approaching
from the front is easier than approaching from the sides. So approach from the front,
feed her, feed her, feed her, feed her, and walk away, and leave. And so a lot of times
what I do with ferals or untouchables or worried horses, I feed and I take a step back, I feed
and I take a step back, so what I’m really trying to give her control so she starts learning
to pursue you, as opposed to her being pursued or chased off or displaced or whatever you
know training has happened that may have been you know, fearful for her. So I would start
with that really basic step until she gets used to following you and then say, ok can
I go out wide and maybe just go, so, the key is teeny, tenny, teeny, teeny, tiny steps,
so let’s say this is her head and you, you’re feeding from the front, and then now you’ve
got where you can kind of shift where you’re still at the head but you’re feeding from
the side, and, and this may be enough to send her over threshold, or, or, kind of peak where
she is emotionally, can you rock back like that, not even feet. Can you go back a little
bit, if you can I’d click and reinforce and reinforce and reinforce and reinforce, and
I wouldn’t even start the clicker training until I really feel like she is comfortable
with the people, but sometimes people want to start it right away? I, I sometimes I do,
sometimes I don’t, it depends on the horse a little bit, but I don’t want to if there
is so much fear then I don’t want to poison the cue so that’s where I go back to sitting
on the ground- you’ll hear all that in the podcast. But, so, the slightest little thing,
when you’re just beside the head and she’s ok with being fed from here, and can you do
this then reinforce reinforce reinforce, and then do this and by this time it would be
great if you could do the clicker, because now the clicker can kind of click YES you’re
good there, reinforce reinforce reinforce, until you can actually take one little step
back and then come back to the front. Now keep in mind, and then so go from there, I
mean it’s that tiny steps and it may take weeks, but who cares? You have the right attitude
about it that it doesn’t matter how long it takes. And so, um, start in the teeny tiniest
steps and if just watch so closely, watch those eyes, that’s another podcast I have
is body language.Watch the eyes, watch the jaw, watch the teeth, watch the lips, watch
the head carriage, watch the tail, watch the body tension, tension in the neck, you know
where, all those things are information, they’re constantly giving us. So, it is a way that
they are communicating, and if you can watch that and go, well that was a little bit much
maybe, but that was a good choice, don’t go past that until she’s really solid there,
and thenkind of go to the next thing. The other thing I want you to keep in mind, humans
it sounds like right now kind of still have an aversive quality for her, so she’s still
while she may be kind of doing things and but she still may be so on guard that she
doesn’t because she’s just worried what might happen, you know, so she may be doing things
but recognizing that she still could kinda be like (inaudible) in her head. So what I
would do, I would keep her sessions very short because if we still have an aversive quality,
we, you’re gonna keep it short and what you’re gonna do is actually utilizing negative reinforcement
because what you’ll do is you’re gonna be using positive reinforcement to feed feed
feed feed feed feed feed feed but you also leave, because if we still have an aversive
thing, for it to be a really sort session and the human didn’t go where she anticipated
that they might go, you know it didn’t turn into what she thought it was gonna turn into,
it’s quite reinforcing. So when I work with ferals, when I get one little thing, I go
that’s great, that’s great, and I give, I leave with a pile of food and I leave, you
know so I’m like see? it’s ok, it’s not what you anticipated was going to happen. so we
are reinforcing them by taking ourselves away if we still have an aversive quality or the
things we’re doing our movements may have an aversive quality. So pretty soon it won’t,
but in the beginning, to recognize that and to keep them really short and sweet will help
her out. Then, the going to the feet, go to the podcast for that, because it is, this
could be a forty-five-minute answer, but I really do give them control, I teach them
to pick up their feet, so if I have a horses there and she’s like ‘oh no, oh no,’ first
get her good where you can go to the side, you can go all the way around her and she
doesn’t have the tension, that’s gonna be a huge step towards breaking that down. So,
then, when you can do that, and she’s really good, when you go to the side, I will ask
for the leg kind of high and, and sometimes I just go down a little bit and say can I
have your leg? Can I have your leg? and at some point, you may see this, and I click
that, because she needs to take the weight off of that foot is the first thing you need
to do. So even getting the weight shifted off of that foot is good and I say yep, that’s
the idea, that’s all you had to do today, you know maybe I do that a couple of times,
and then pretty soon I’m going to look for the knee to start to bend, so I mean you can’t
see it here because my elbow goes the other way, but start to bend just a little bit or
to soften, I click that, until eventually they’re picking their own foot up. I want
them to have control of the foot, I want to build such a good, strong reinforcement history
with lifting their foot that they love lifting their foot, but I’m not touching it, you have
control of it, because I’m sure what makes her so fearful is she thinks it’s gonna be
grabbed and then she can’t, she doesn’t have support and balance and she doesn’t know what’s
happening, and it just becomes the while process becomes scary for her. So if you teach her
to lift it, and then leads her to have a little bit of time, pretty soon she will like doing
that, when you’ve got that good and I would start with the front feet first since those
are her best feet, so she gets the concept a little bit, and then I’d go to the back
foot, and again do the same process, and if you need to get like a pool noodle to touch
her, desensitize her to the pool noodle first, but to touch her back legs so you don’t get
kicked, then you can do that, it’s a way to touch her back there without having to be
in peril, you know being too close to a flying foot, because of her defensiveness. So, there,
there’s a lot, there’s a lot in your question and I love what you’re doing and what I want
you to do, so again, go to the On Target Training and, and look up the on-target, or just google
Shawna Karrasch, if you google Shawna Karrasch you’ll find On Target Training and you can
go to the podcast tab on my website and that will take you to I have 28 podcasts published
now, I’ve recorded thirty, so more on the way. So go there and you can look up the different
things and that will give you more ideas about what to do with her, and, and getting her
in a better place, so I’m really glad that you did tbat, for anybody else, again just
google Sahwna Karrasch, you’ll find On Target Training, you’ll find Terra Nova Training,
which is where I live and work anad find out what we’re up to here and what my schedule
is, is uh, you can do that through Terra Nova Training and sign up for our newsletter, it’ll
keep you apprised of all the, all the happenings here at the learning center and our outreach,
um, and also I do have YouTube videos as well as uh, the Ask Shawnas, so if anybody, you
clearly know how to do it because you sent it in, but for anybody who doesn’t know you
can go to or go to Ask Shawna, which is on my page, my, my website and then
you can submit a question. Ok, so keep up the good work, I would love to hear an update
from you and how you’re doing with her. Ok, so until next time, enjoy getting your horse
o target. Bye!


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