Half of me wasn't sure if she was just yanking our chain and half of me was afraid of pushing her too hard and tipping her over the edge and shattering her poor little spooking, I'm sure you are a horse eating monster, I've been abused, sort of mind. She was soooo reactive. Little changes in body language had her flying out of her skin like I'd taken half a tree limb and was trying to beat her senseless. The lead rope was an electric wire and if it touched her she jumped five feet sideways. Once she was caught she was meek and trusting and loved all over you. It was just the catching and getting the halter on.
Enter my friend Dana. Dana is a horse trainer and is even competing in the Mustang Makeover in Boise this year. Scott and I aren't complete horse morons, and I admit it was a little satisfying in a way to see Echo being a rotten bitch for Dana too. After half an hour of all Dana's tricks, the decision was made. We were going to have to rope her to catch her.
I say, "We," but in reality it was Dana and Corey who got her roped. After assessing her it was agreed that most of her problem was that she's six already and never been Made to do anything. She never had a job, she never learned to respect the people around her as higher in the herd standing than she was. Once Dana got the halter on her, it was also agreed that she needed to stay haltered with a short catch rope attached so I could work her everyday and get her over her fear of ropes and being haltered.
The rope halters were a bad idea for this. They have no give, and a horse can get them hung up on stuff, or get a hoof hung up on them and that's a good way to end up with a dead horse. So we fashioned a break away halter for her. Andrea had an old nylon yearling halter laying around and a few old leather straps with a snap on one end. We cut of the piece that goes over her poll and attached the leather. The idea is that the copper rivets will fail and break, the snap will fail and break, or the leather will stretch and break, but not easily.
Dana worked with her getting the halter on and off, some yielding of the hindquarters and gave me some homework to do.
And so we Worked. After three days of sidling up to her, stopping when she went to trot away, and a lot of haltering once she was caught I knew she had the idea of what we were looking for. So every time she ducked out away from me when I walked up to her, I made her move her ass. I let her trot off two steps and then I was after her. I flung the rope at her, and made her run. Then I stood swinging the rope over my head until the panic side of her passed and her brain took back over. As soon as she settled down into a trot and started paying attention to me, I quit swinging and gave her my shoulder. She'd stop moving and I'd walk up to her. If she ducked out again, off she went again.
I think the first day it took five times sending her out for her to stop running off and just stand there snorting at me with her head bowed up in the air, but she let me catch her. Then it was three times and then it was just her standing there when I walked up to her. I upped it again after that. I started walking up to her holding the horse eating lead rope and halter. Don't stand there, and you're gonna run. It was only about three laps before she was asking me to stop. Now I can walk right up to her with the halter and put it on her pretty little head. She may still look sideways at me and back off a step or two, but I can walk right up and halter her. I even took her out in the short pasture and turned her free, and was able to walk up and halter her.
We've been working on a ton of other things as well. She'll yield front and back to me. She isn't perfect with her pivoting around yet, but when I lean in and cue her to move, the back end moves away. When I lean in and point at her face and shoulder, she steps over her front end away from me. She'll flex her head back to me when I tug on the rope while standing at her side. I can toss the rope over her back without her jumping out of her skin. She still flinches when I start, but she settles down. I can throw a loop of rope over her, again still flinchy but settles.
I can send her through the gate of the round pen stand on either side. People who have tried to lead on horse through the gate, while two others are trying to follow you out, or keep the horse you are leading from bowling you over through the gate, understand how nice it it to be able to stand there blocking the others, while the horse you are leading walks through and turns to face you.
I even stood next to her, jumping up and down while applying pressure on her back. Sure she skittered sideways at first, but didn't loose her mind and just check out. She thought about it, realized it wasn't a big deal and stood there while I jumped up and down like a crazy person.