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Yearling avoids pressure by flipping over

I’d like to preface this by saying we are working with a trainer, but I like to do extra research for my own peace of mind and get all kinds of perspectives.

We have a yearling APHA filly that is generally very stoic and doesn’t seem to spook at much. She likes attention, she’s friendly and she’s been handled. But she has adopted a lovely little habit of sitting back, losing her balance and flipping over backwards when she feels pressured/trapped. It generally happens during farrier appointments - she will be good, good, good… and then she’s on her back. We let her flip, pick up her lead and continue with the task and she usually stands nicely after that. I don’t think it’s a lack of balance when doing her feet - we handle her feet regularly in the field and everything without a halter and she’s good 99% of the time. But as soon as she feels any kind of bigger pressure on her face, the world ends. This filly has never been abused or mishandled, we’ve owned her since she was weaned and met her at about a month old.

I know part of it is our fault - she was so cute as a baby and we invited her into our space. Now she doesn’t understand boundaries and wants to be with us and can’t understand why we don’t want her to rest her head on our shoulders anymore. So we’re fixing that and she’s doing really well at not coming into our bubble.

This is kind of a new thing for us, since our other young horse (2 year old Appy) did not have any of these challenges. The Appy is a little spookier, but gives to pressure like she was born knowing how. Teaching her to tie took about 5 minutes, before she figured out she could just relax wherever we left her. We haven’t even attempted to teach the yearling to tie yet, because that’s a recipe for disaster at this point and I don’t want to set her up to fail.

Has anyone ever encountered a young horse with such an extreme reaction to pressure? How did you work with it?

How many times has she done this? I am sure you know horses can die or be seriously injured flipping over. It is far from a normal reaction. I would have a professional work with her and be there for the farrier. And maybe a vet check as well.

And what happens the other 1%?
I would not do anything with her without a halter on her. Is she brought in/handled every day?

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This horse would not be tied without a belly rope until this was good and over. The belly rope will help her not flip her balance so far back that she flips.

And, screw that. If she keeps this up she’d be put down in my world. She’s going to kill someone.

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I think we’re up to 4 flips now - once at her two most recent farrier appointments, once with the trainer who pushed her to actually see it happen and once last night when we pushed her because she didn’t want to get out of our space. When I say she flips, it’s probably less dramatic than it sounds. Her head flies up, she sits her bum down and just kind of flops over backwards. She immediately stands up afterward and doesn’t do it again the rest of the session. She does not shiver or sweat or even get white rimmed eyes. No snorting, no signs of fear, nothing. It’s almost like she goes, “oh yeah? And what if I do THIS?!”

The 1% of the time, she might pull her foot away, maybe shift her weight so we can’t pick her foot as easily. Nothing crazy.

We handle her daily, even if we don’t bring her in daily. She is handled, at a minimum, twice a day. That handling could involve walking out to her, putting a halter on, leading her a bit, picking up a foot or two, maybe brushing her. A lot of the times, we will drape the lead rope over our arm as we’re working with her feet in the field and she doesn’t have any issues with it. Sometimes we take her out of the field, sometimes we just handle her in the field to reinforce that not every time the halter comes out means work. Sometimes, we catch her for the sole purpose of giving her a piece of a treat or a quick scratch and check over. We live on a farm and our horses are at home, so we have eyes (and hands) on them multiple times a day, every day.

She was just vet checked and had her vaccinations and everything. She handled all that really well, with a droopy lip and sleepy eyes during her vaccinations. The vet was actually quite impressed with her demeanour, but did ask me to try and video the next time she flipped over because we didn’t want to try and replicate it that day. She also left me some dorm gel to give the next time, to take the edge off. Her logic was that maybe the filly is a little bit caught in her habit of flipping during the farrier appointment and by giving her a little bit of something to take the edge off, she might have an easier time reconnecting in her brain that its not a necessary thing to do. She will still be fully aware of everything that’s going on around her, but a little less apt to do anything about it.

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Belly rope? Do you have a video or something of this, because I’m having a bit of a difficulty picturing this in my head. Not to try it myself, but to familiarize myself with it as a method.

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A blocker tie ring could help the flipping issue since it will give some slack if she panics. I never tied any of my young horses to a solid post/ wall but always to bailing twine tied to the post if a panic attack should happen.

I am not a fan of tying hard and fast when the farrier is working. I prefer to hold them myself . Each time she panics and flips you are more likely for it to happen again.

You are asking a lot for a young horse who was never taught to tie. Hold her for the farrier and work on tying.

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We’re not asking her to stand tied; I said we haven’t attempted it yet because of her seeming inability to give to pressure. :slight_smile:

This horse will set herself down if she feels pressure on her face, her bum hits the ground and she flops over. This happens during routine farrier appointments while she’s being held. The pressure she feels is someone holding her lead rope and not letting her move around or take her foot back when she wants it back.

I posted this thread to see if anyone had experience with horses who had a reaction like that to pressure and what methods they used to fix it. We are working with a trainer, I just like to do extra research.

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This trainer is someone who I really like and has a great, clear approach to many issues: trailer loading, pushy horses, etc. He just posted a video with a foal who panics when lead. You may find it helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2osyXCrwIjg

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Thank you for this. That foal in the video - that is similar to what our yearling does. Backs up, backs up, fights a little and then just sits down and flops over backward. Her front feet don’t even really leave the ground so I hesitate to say she rears, but she does exhibit much of the same avoidance as the foal in the video.

Our farrier is of the mind that there’s something unfixable in her brain, but I’m more of the mind she has no idea how to safely handle her fears. She’s so stoic and we’ve never actually seen her spook, so I’m wondering if this is how that manifests itself. Instead of going forward or sideways like most horses do, she learned to do this to avoid scary things and now this is what her brain tells her to do in situations where she feels out of control. I understand that horses have a fight or flight aspect to their brain and they tend to default to flight, but is it possible that some horses have less of an inherent instinct for self preservation?

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When she flops, does she have a side she prefers to land on? I’m assuming she’s not actually flipping over onto her withers and poll…

I’d park her butt in a corner with a wall on the side she prefers to land on and do any slightly higher pressure tasks like that for a while until she realizes backwards is not a solution.

I had a young horse that would sit partway down and hop backwards when his front feet were getting trimmed. My farrier solved that by keeping the foot up in the air as my horse hopped down the aisle until he hit a wall with his butt. My horse never tried the sitting/hopping again.

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When she goes over, she seems to want to go over onto her back, but tends to roll a bit to the right (if I was standing, facing her). But for the most part, she seems to want to roll straight backwards. When she rolls over, the most “violent” part is her sitting back. Then she rolls over and I guess the scariest part is she doesn’t seem to really mind what is behind her - she will just as easily roll into the round pen metal panel as she does the centre of the round pen. She’s land on her back, roll herself to the side and stand up like nothing happened. No sweating, blowing, white eyes. She’ll actually meet us as we’re going to pick up her lead rope and it’ll be business as usual. So I can’t even confidently say what she does is out of fear so much as a bit of spoiled baby tantrum/testing the limits.

Lusoluv - I love Steve Young too! :heart: He’s incredibly gentle and gets amazing results. I’m using his methods with a new mare I’m currently working with.

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Yes, I have learned to keep calm and composed when dealing with “issues” thanks to Steve! You can keep your personal space, stay in charge and give a horse options to do the right thing without escalating. I’ve learned a lot about aids and responses and being quietly CLEAR while self-loading my mare. Steve learned most of his skills from Ray Hunt, Tom Dorrance, Buck, etc.

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I second this video, Steve is really very good at balancing instruction of people, training of horses, and humor.

I think the filly in question isn’t messed up, she just doesn’t know that yielding is really important- she’s never quite had to learn that. She says NO in that moment, and flops like a fish. gets what she wanted, gets up, and she’s fine.

I would study the video and a few of his others. In the meanwhile, be careful. If she must have her feet trimmed/handled- put her butt in a deeply bedded stall and get help- keep her against the wall and make her slither out of it if she just has to flop until you can tackle it.

And in general- quit babying her. She needs to be seen as a future adult, not a cute baby. I see too many horses with zero sense of anyone’s bubble. Smack them in the chest with the flat of your hand (when they’ve ignored other non-violent interventions asking her to back off/scootch over), and they get offended/irritated. That often escalates to spin/lash out. Lots of little subtle differences in how you interact 24/7 all adds up.

Does that make sense?

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Thank you. We got her feet done with the farrier - once she got her initial flop out of the way and had a slight attitude adjustment midway through, she stood decently well. Since, we’ve been making an absolute point of handling her feet to the point of being annoying - we lift up a foot, pat the bottom, clean it, stretch her fronts forward, and pull her back feet back to mimic where they would be with a stand. We have learned that she prefers them done in a specific order - off front, off rear, near front, near rear - so we’re running with that new knowledge at the moment. She seems to have a larger tolerance if we go in that order.

We no longer coddle her. The general rule is she has to be arms length from us, unless we go into her space. She is smart and has caught on quickly. When she approaches us in the field, she stops on her own accord about 3 feet away and waits. If she gets into our space in hand, we give her a sharp “quit” and she usually adjusts herself. If she doesn’t, we wiggle the lead rope at her and increase that pressure until she backs up. If she ignores that, she gets popped with the leather end of the lead rope. We’ve also been working really hard on disengaging her hip and she’s getting very good at that too.

Her next farrier appointment is in July. The plan is to give her a touch of dorm gel and see if that makes the entire situation less stressful for her and allows her to realize that it’s much easier to just not flop over.

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Have you done any work at all on teaching this horse to give to pressure? It sounds like it’s well past time for that lesson. I like to start with lateral yielding and then progress to a “head down” cue once they start getting the concept. This is halter breaking 101 and usually accomplished in the first week or two of life for my foals as a precursor to leading and (much later) standing tied, but I have also dealt with a lot of remedial adult horses, and it works just as well with them. With the older horses, you do have to obviously be more careful about your body positioning than with foals. Most remedial horses, like your filly, have a long history of being rewarded for fighting pressure, and they can be quite reactive at first when the rules suddenly change. Your timing is critical to training this skill; you need to be able to recognize the slightest “give” on the horse’s part (at first it may just be softening the muscles in their face) and reward that instantly so that you can build up to the correct behavior over several sessions. If you aren’t sure you have the reflexes/experience to do this, I highly recommend finding a trainer who is very good at this type of remedial foundation training to work with your filly. The longer she is able to self-reward for her behavior, the more ingrained and dangerous that behavior will become.

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I used to work at a large standardbred breeding farm and we had hundreds of babies a year.

Leading started on day one. While they were in the barn getting daily turnout, our babies lead with momma. Butt rope around their back end attached to momma and we would hold their halter and lead them.

Once they were a few weeks old, they would get turned out in small herds with their mares and of course weaned at 6 months.

I understand that this is a yearling. When we would turn out our weanies into large groups during the winter. (small herds of 20 or so) Everyday we would go to the fields and walk those babies in their large shelter. Around and around and around. For about 15 mins or so on each weanie. We would break in to groups and do 3 fields in the morning and rotate so we were at every field at least twice a day.

When they were brought in for sale prep as yearlings, which took about 4-6 weeks. They continued to get their walks. In the barn, around the barn, all over.

Your baby needs to be hand walked. a lot. With stops of varying time. no eatting, just standing. then walking and more walking with turns.

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This yearling leads exceptionally well. Very nice on the ground. Easy to catch, stands to be haltered and unhaltered. She goes for walks with us fairly often all over our farm and down the road.

Her issue is she flops over when she feels trapped or “held”, or when she feels she’s not getting her way.

I might be obtuse, but how would more hand walking help in this instance?

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This is all great to hear. She’ll get there, and so will you.

I do think it’s possible to ramp up the asks, too, in reasonable chunks, meaning lead and guide her over small obstacles, up onto a bank, down from a bank, over poles, etc- lots of little ‘listen and feel and follow, please ma’am’ and yes, a solid head-down cue as others suggested.

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We are currently working with a trainer. From what I understand from the breeder, this filly was harder to halter train than the other foals her age, which is probably the start of the issue. We have been working very hard to teach her to disengage her hindquarters and move her bum away from us versus toward us. She has a harder time with the head down cue, but is making progress there too. I can see she’s started to make the connection in her brain, so I think it’ll get better and better very quickly.

I admit that my timing isn’t always bang on, but it is getting better. The trainer is definitely helping with that. My gut tells me a lot of her reactions is because she doesn’t understand why the rules suddenly changed and she’s confused. She’s also a much stronger willed filly than our other young horse, so it was quite a learning curve for us too.