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I bought a 10 yr old mare ( previous owner had boarded her for 8 yrs and I was told had ridden her a total of about 5 times. The owner of the horse farm had broke the mare for the previous owner of the mare. The lady that owns the horse farm felt sorry for this mare because she was not being worked with or ridden much after being broke. So she took it upon herself, with permission, to ride her atleast once a month)
I bought this mare a month ago and rode her three times a week with some ground work. Since this mare was raised at this farm, this farm has been the only thing she knew. I kept her boarded there for a month so the both of us could start to get to know eachother. I finally brought her home a few days ago. I have a small hobby farm where she is the only horse. She is acting like a spazz! She spooks at every little thing, she is very hot, and is upset with her new surroundings; rightly so! I know this is a big change for her and she will need time to adjust. And I know that every horse is different on the amount of time it will take to settle in. But.. she is making me nervous to handle at my home. How normal is this? And how long should I give her to settle in and to trust me before I give up on her. Two weeks? Two months? Any thoughts are appreciated and if any of you have had a similar experiece, then please share.
 

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It's normal.

So, with your mare, wait a week or two and then start working with her. I am sure she is so scared, and so confused, I don't blame her much for acting the way she is! Just make sure she doesn't get out of hand.
 

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The first question I'm going to ask is what are you feeding her and how much per day? It is very normal for horses that have spent most of their lives in a pen with no stimuli or experience with the outside world to behave this way. The thing you need to remember is that horses are prey animals, and that is what drives a lot of their behaviour. How long it will take her to adjust is going to vary from horse to horse but, generally speaking, the less she has been exposed to, the the longer it will take her to adjust. Now, having said that, she could be the exception and adjust in a relatively short amount of time, but that is going to depend on you. I think I would give her at least 2 weeks and maybe a month to adjust to the new place then start expanding her horizons. I would start with basic ground work to establish a bond of trust and respect of personal space between the two of you. Do not skip this because that trust is vital in how she is going to respond to the new situations you are going to expose her to. Without it you are risking a skittish mare becoming a downright dangerous mare. Once the bond has been established then introduce her to grocery sacks tied around her feeder. She has to brave them if she wants to eat. Don't worry, she will. Next step would be to tie a tarp to her fence with a corner flapping. Next step let a bit more of it flap. Then move on to introducing her to grocery bags on a up close and personal level by rubbing her down with them. Next step might be brooming her with a push broom. Rub down her belly, sides, and legs with it. Work with her on letting you pick up her feet and messing with them. Then try leading her around for short trips outside. Make sure it is calm and the wind is not blowing stuff around for the first couple of trips. If she flips out and tries to bolt, take her on around you in a few tight circles to maintain control. Use the lead rope to keep her going by twirling it at her back end if necessary. Talk to her calmly and keep your demeanor calm and deliberate. Stop her, pet her and try again. If she flips out again, do the same thing. Repeat as necessary. Always give her some time to assimilate each new experience and let her decide she hasn't been killed or hurt by them. Watch for lip licking as that is a sign that horses are thinking and learning. Never put her or yourself in a position to be hurt. Always praise her for displaying the behaviour you want, and keep your movements calm and deliberate. Give her every reason to trust you and do your best to never give her a reason to distrust or fear you.

As for experience with this type of horse, yes, I've had to deal with several like her. We once had a horse that was so afraid of the outside of a pen she would not set foot in a field of grass and would literally try to run over the top of you if you had to take her out of her pen. I did what I outlined here and she came around to realizing that the world outside her pen was not going to hurt her. It took several months, but it happened. We also had a mare whose owner thought he was a horse trainer and used such methods as barbed wire for a bit, running her up and down the banks of sand draws, and other such things. She got a bit interesting because if her hooves even touched a piece of barbed wire she would totally flip out. We had a number of sand draws on the ranch, and she would take off at a dead run every time she came to one - there was no stopping her. I never knew what to expect from her, but got it worked out eventually with help from Dad. It is much easier to establish trust with a horse when they are colts, but it can be done when they are older, too. It just takes longer. I hope this helps and good luck with her.
 

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Did you put her into a lot or a stall? Even in new surroundings she would probably feel safer at first in a stall. If she was at a facility for horses all the creatures at your hobby farm every little sound they make is like a mountain lion for her. She is a young horse in her mentality, it would probably be best to stall her (that's where she feels safe) then gradually introduce her to new things and new animals. If she smelled her own species that would help to you might consider getting her a mini horse friend. But you should probably wait on that as well until she bonds with you instead of the mini. But if you "stall" her then take her out daily and introduce her to everyone on your hobby farm she learns to trust you to keep her safe in new surroundings and she is also learning new stuff is not going to hurt her. You can't rightly give up on a green horse in two weeks our even two months. Wait at least a season, if you work with her daily she is going to improve unless she is just a trash horse. Since they kept her so long at the boarding facility that is probably not the case. She needs consistent work and it sounds like where she was boarded she was not made a solid consistent horse. How broke is she? If she stood for weeks in a stall then rode once out of a month that's not very consistent and since she was never hauled anywhere she is like a green horse that's meeting everything new. If she's spooking now she is probably going to be a little spooky when you ride her at first also. If she is trying to run over you when you are leading her she needs to learn some ground manners, that no matter if there is a mountain lion over there in those bushes she cannot run over you to get away from it. I advise giving her several months, a change of season brings new things especially in fall. All the sounds if leaves rustling can make bushes seem worse than they are. She is like a colt you are going to have to school.
 

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I pretty much agree with everyone else. Give her time. Is she acting skittish of you also? If she is, then a fairly quick way to get her to look at you as her saviour is that she ONLY gets food and water if she takes it from you. It's more work for you since you will be carrying buckets of water and feed a few times a day and then waiting for her to decide to eat or drink. But....once she figures out that the only way she gets those things is when you are right there, it changes the attitude! Usually only takes a couple days, but you have to be firm about it...no feeling sorry for her because she hasn't drank or eaten. Ground work. Google lunging for respect. As GoatCrazy said, if she flips out while you're leading her make her do circles until she calms down...just make sure you wait until she is totally calm and relaxed before stopping the circles and petting her. If she isn't completely calm, then you will be reinforcing the bad behaviour.

It's going to take some time. She may be spazzing because she was buddy-sour too. Having her without any other horses is the best thing you can do for now. Unless you want another horse, there isn't really any need as long as you can turn her out with your goats once she settles down. They will become her "herd" and she'll do fine. Oh, and being afraid of handling her now...completely understandable! Using the food and water method above will reinforce that YOU are the herd leader and should help with her spazzing around you.

One other thing. What kind of halter are you using? If you are using the flat nylon type, ditch it and get a rope halter. I never thought I'd advise that until I actually started using them and they are so fantastic! You get a quicker response when you need to correct.
 

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I bet for the most part she is looking for other horses and just working herself up. Have you tried to walk with her and lead her around and show Ber different things? If she was a good horse at the last place I wouldn't give up on her she just needs to realize there are no other horses around for her and your her only buddy now. My horses were either born here or have been here for years and still act like crazed dorks if we seperate them for a few days. We took my fillys friend away a week ago and I think its just now setting in its just her now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for all the responses!!
Yes, she is in her own horse stall.. and turned out to pasture for excercise. I decided to hold off giving her grain for a couple of weeks. The grain is a semi-sweets horse feed for performance 10% protein. ( this is what she was being fed before I bought her) I figured she did NOT need the extra energy from the oats and molasses right now. I like the idea of only allowing her to drink and eat if I offer it to her.. does this include hay too? She sees me giving her the hay by putting it in her stall. Or does she eat it only by eating the flakes of hay from my hands?
I am not comfortable yet walking her around our property. I wanted to wait until she calms down more when walking her to and from the barn to the pasture every day. She is broke to just ride and had only had used a hacamore. She was exposed to free-lunging but had never lunged on the line. But I had worked with her for two weeks in line-lunging before bringing her home. I wanted to establish some sort of ground work with her since I do not have a round pen. Before I brought her home, we introduced her to the "bit" for the first time.(she does not like the bit)
 

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I only use a hacamore with my horses and the bit is more for if they misbehave. IMO if she does well with the hackamore keep using it. I mainly like it because we ride a lot in the summer and is nice to let them eat when I sit down to eat. I bet you anything she will be just fine in a week she just doesn't understand what is going on. There are new things and smells right now.
 

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When you are leading her does she try to run over you when she spooks? If she is, you definitely need to establish space. She needs to learn to keep her attention on you and not on everything that is going on around her. You can start by simply walking her and stop. She should stop when you stop. If she doesn't, wiggle her rope back and forth (more of a hard wiggle, with enough pressure that she feels it right away but you aren't jerking on her) and make her back up, do this again and again, she will eventually learn that when you stop she stops and that she does not have to stop on top of you. You can also work on her yielding her hindquarters and forequarters, get her to move her feet and learn that she does not enter your space.

Lunging her would probably be good for her to expel some excess energy, you can also work with her while she is lunging on maintaining a consistent space away from you and on yielding her hinquarters. I would even work her when she is acting goofy, she will eventually learn that acting silly just means more work and acting calm means no work.
 

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Any and all feed comes from your hands only. At least for a little while. When she comes right up to you for her feed, start leaving some hay for her to eat without you there. But...don't let her become pushy about the feed either. If you only plan to ride her for your pleasure, a hackamore is fine. A bit is NOT about more control or misbehaviour....you should never have to rely on the bit for your control. If you think you will ever sell her, work on getting her to accept a bit. It truly does make her more saleable. That is the least of your worries right now tho. Getting her to settle down and allow you to safely handle her is what you need to concentrate on right now.
 
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