Halter Training with a Head Shy Horse

apollo, chestnut paint coltApollo is a three year old paint colt who I have been working with at the rescue for the past several months. He had no previous handling and was pretty skeptical of people to begin with.

He warmed up to us pretty quickly and enjoyed being brushed and scratched, especially on his belly!! However, was was extremely wary about anybody or anything coming anywhere near his face or ears.

I got where I could rub the front of his face and he figured out he really liked having his cheeks scratched!! My friend Dionne (the one in the photos working with Boomer with the fly mask) worked with him quite a bit while she was here. Once he got to know her, he loved having her scratch his face and cheeks too.

Haltering progress went in fits and starts, but it was often one step forward, three steps back. This was because he was still terrified of having his ears touched and to put the halter on, I had to get close to his ears. Get close to his ears and he’d back up, throwing and tossing his head and generally work himself into a state of panic.

So, we had to forget about the halter for awhile and just work on the ears. We worked in bits and pieces, slowly going from the bottom of the ear all the way up. I’d touch as far as I could, wait for him to relax, and then remove my hand. He gradually realized that I did not, in fact, want to kill him. Then, pretty soon, he realized he actually kind of liked to have his ears rubbed.

Here’s a recently clip of haltering him and rubbing his face. Much better now, which is a relief to both of us! The next step is to see how well this will generalize to other people and then to begin working on fly mask training. Stay tuned!

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