View Full Version : Head-shy girl
24th Jul 2004, 12:08 AM
I have just been given the task of bringing around a small horse for future sale. She is about 4 and half (closer to 5) and was started under saddle this winter, had about 2 months training and is now coming back from a couple months off. Her flat work is going well and she is very willing and cheerful about her work. However, she is extremely headshy and next to impossible to catch. I am not sure of her history before coming to me. Does anyone have any advice on teaching a youngster to be caught politely. I would like every experience to be a good one for her and I'm not quite sure how to approach this with her. I have tried tempting with grain etc. with no result.
Also she is very headshy, to the point of being rather rude about it. Throwing her head very high and spooking herself. She only does this, however, when I am taking off or putting on the halter, and is very happy when being bridled and does so without a fuss. Any ideas on solving these problems? Are these simply related to inexperience? She was pretty much wild up until age 4, so I'm not sure if these behaviors are related to being handled very little. Any help would be great!!
24th Jul 2004, 09:49 PM
My recently-acquired previously-neglected mare started out very headshy due to a lot of tenderness in her ears. I've modified a lot of typical handling to be very careful of her ears: if I can, I don't even halter her; if I do halter her, I take it very slowly and make sure to bring the crownpiece around well behind her ears; when working on her face or neck near her ears, I always start well away from the ears (halfway down the neck, or closer to the nose) and work my way up.
If you can figure out just what it is that sets this filly off, you can do something similar. If it's her ears that she's touchy about, avoid the ears while you're developing your relationship. If it's her eyes, stay away from the eyes--or forehead, or nostrils, or whatever. Ears are probably most likely for a touchiness due to pain of one kind or another, but a horse who's had bad experiences may have negative associations with any area.
I wonder if her reluctance to be caught is a result of the head-shy-ness--that is, when she's caught, she's haltered; she dislikes being haltered; being caught is therefore unpleasant.
You can try using a neck rope instead of a halter for a while. Don't put a halter on her at all, just loop the rope around her neck (most control up toward the jaw, but much more gentle toward the shoulders) and lead her with the rope.
You can also try spending multiple sessions just catching her and letting her go, *without* haltering her or putting a rope on her. The goal of this is to help her see that being caught can be pleasant.
I've got a few more tips on catching a horse here:
26th Jul 2004, 02:26 AM
Tahoe was very headshy when i got him. i started by petting teh neck and working my way slowly the the cheek and doing that just for a while until the horse is comfy then i move to the other areas of the face and what really got tahoe fine with it is EVERY time i came out to the barn to feed, check up, ride, groom muck out ANYTHING i would ALLWAYS pet him on the face everywhere for a couple minutes every day and he got better and better and now he looks for it and will come to you and put his head out there to be pet, he expects it and wants it :)
27th Jul 2004, 02:16 PM
Thanks for the info, I've been working with her for just over a week now and am seeing lots of improvement already. I have been just giving her a lot of praise and treats while putting on and taking off the halter, and I have been brushing her ears and face with a soft brush quietly everyday. I will probably take her halter off in the field next week and start trying to catch her with the neck rope method and hopefully ventually graduate to catching with a halter, we will see how it goes. thanks again!
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