Mike explained that his mare was deathly afraid of both the saddle blanket and the saddle. He further indicated that this fear was a result of the saddle rolling underneath her because the cinch was too loose. She spooked and crashed into the fence virtually tearing up his roundpen. Since that experience, they have never been able to get close to her with the saddle and blanket.
He set the saddle and blanket on the roundpen fence, and proceeded to lead her into the pen. She snorted and refused to even walk up to the blanket and saddle. After observing her it was obvious that this was a fear issue rather than attitude. As far as her nagality, I concluded she was more submissive rather than dominant, but Mike disagreed with me.
I proceeded to do some groundwork with her to begin building her trust. I finally got her to relax somewhat, and proceeded to pick up the blanket and carry it while I was leading her. When a horse is scared of something it is much easier to get them following it rather than being approached by it. Once I had her relaxed and following the blanket, I held it up next to her body while disengaging her hindquarters. Once she would stop, I would pull the blanket away giving her a release. By the end of the hour session, I was able to hold the blanket next to her right side with her standing relaxed.
We ended the session with me explaining to Mike that it was going to take a lot of time on his part to get her over this intense fear of the blanket and saddle. I further explained that the only chance of fixing the problem was taking an approach of building the horse’s trust, progressing in baby steps, and incorporating a method of approach and retreat. I left him with the following set of instructions to follow:
1) Ideally, take her through our Level 2 Groundwork program to build trust
2) Get her following him with blanket in relaxed fashion
3) Hold blanket next to her until she relaxes, reward by taking it away
4) Rub blanket on her until she relaxes, reward by taking it away
5) Lay blanket on her back remove right away, repeat
6) Lay blanket on her back and remove when she relaxes
7) Gradually leave blanket on her back longer periods until fully relaxed
Once successful through number 7, I told Mike I would give him the next set up steps to follow for reintroducing the saddle.
Since we are dealing with a very bad past experience that has created intense fear in this mare, a quick fix is not likely, however with patience and perseverance, it can be overcome.