Question: Hi, I hope you can help. I have had my little cob for about 9 months, at first he was very bossy and wouldn’t even let me touch his face without trying to bite and ears flat back , he got loads better and now I can stroke and even brush his face, he is great to catch and comes when called , but lately, even when I go to greet him as he comes over when I get there, he puts his ears flat back and does that trying to send me away thing , he will try to bite if I persist in trying to touch him, unless I can get to scratch him in his fave spot. I spend a lot of time with him , he will not let me pick his feet up most of the time either, I know his previous owner and I know she would hurt him too , how can I get him to respect and trust me, I am rather nervous of him now but I love him and won’t let him down.
Answer from April Reeves: Hello Carol from the UK! I’m glad you spend a lot of time with this horse. It is the best therapy you can give him, short of a few ground lessons that I will give you that should keep you busy for about half a year.
One thing you didn’t mention was whether he was gelded or not. This would make the world of difference if he wasn’t castrated yet. Once that is done, his whole attitude will change. However, even as a young male he should still show respect and manners, as it will carry forward when he is gelded.
I won’t type it all out here as it’s a very large article, but it will help you immensely with groundwork and understanding why he does this and how to move through it.
On the issue of not being able to pick up his feet, I have 2 methods that work well. The first one is to pinch their chestnuts. This is irritating and almost every horse will lift that leg up very quickly, so be warned. Make sure you always catch the foot, and hold onto it especially if he puts up a struggle. If you drop the hoof it may hurt him, with will discourage him even more to pick up a foot. When you start to pinch don’t quit and start again. Keep it up until he responds.
The other trick is to put your fingers on both sides of his leg and as you move your hand down his leg, when you get just below the knee or hock, start to press in quite hard into the middle just behind the cannon bone. This forces blood down into the hoof quite quickly and becomes uncomfortable. They usually lift their leg with this technique. Once the horse gets this, they usually lift just by the feel of your hand start to slide down the leg.
Here are the links to the articles on this blog:
Groundwork: Groundwork and saddle work: https://aprilreeveshorsetraining.wordpress.com/2008/12/08/groundwork-saddle-work-herd-bound-horse/
How do I ask my horse to move her shoulder away? Good article for understanding some of the finer points of groundwork:
The blog has endless material on it, all for free. Have fun and poke around – I’ve probably answered almost every question there is. Keep playing and fussing with him, that way you both gain confidence.