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We have been away from the forum for a few days, but will catch up here with everyone in the next couple of days. 

Fun pics Donna! 

I can answer for Lakota and say that she is used to being on pasture 24/7 before you took her home, and it shouldn't be an issue whatsoever for her, other than she is a very easy keeper and may pack on a couple of extra pounds with all of the extra length in the grass.  (Lakota has never foundered or colicked.)  The other comments were correct in that it depends on what Sugar Bear is used to as far as grazing.  The longer grass and at this time of the year does not pose a lot of danger, unless Sugar Bear isn't used to being on pasture that much, but I suspect she has 24/7 turn out as well on pasture.  I also doubt there is anything very rich in there, since it wasn't planted or anything.  I don't remember the size of the pasture area, but I bet it won't take the two of them very long to mow it down for you.  :) 

Donna M
Thanks for the advice. I knew there was something I should be concerned about but wasn't quite sure what it was. Sugar Bear does have 24/7 turn out but there is also a round bale accessible 24/7. My guess is she grazes 80-90% of the time. Both Sugar Bear and Raven are easy keepers and I can already see Sugar Bear is chunkier than in the spring!

Having them is a continuous learning experience. I don't want to put them in danger or jeopardize their health because of my ignorance. Last weekend was the first time I loaded, hauled, and unloaded both of them by myself. I even backed up the trailer all by my lonesome!! I learned that when a horse faces a trailer sideways it means "You want me to go WHERE!?!?". I also observed something interesting about Raven. If given a soft tap on the butt to enter the trailer, she will rear. Tried it twice with the same reaction both times. Definitely won't do that again. To calm her down I walked her away from the trailer and talked softly to her. After that she went it with minimal hesitation.

I'm sure I will be asking lots of questions down the road as I learn this wonderful world of horses. :0)
Both girls definitely have it made! 

Just a word to the wise on the rearing at the trailer, then walking away and calming down.  Be careful on your timing of that and how far away from the trailer you go, as you do not want it to appear to Lakota that you are rewarding her for the rearing and refusal of the trailer.  Just stay away from the tapping on the butt and whatever made her rear, continue to be calm about the loading and not putting too much pressure on her rear (it sounds like the tapping to her probably seemed like more than it was at this point), but rewarding by giving a break and walking away, etc., could bite you in the rear.  LOL!  She hasn't had a problem loading before, but if you run into problems go ahead and shoot me an email.  In the meantime, you can work on desensitizing her to cues from her rear like that.  A small tap on the butt should definitely not cause her to rear.  Did you tap her with an object, such as a lead rope or whip?  What I would do is work on rubbing that object on her, the more easy spots, slow and gentle, that she accepts first and work your way around her rear and teach her that a small tap is nothing to worry about, but just a "request" from you. 
Amy T
I have never had problems trailering or loading Raven. She does get anxious with different things and just needs time to "let down" (relax) before proceeding. This is where your bonding with her will make a huge difference. She is very sensitive to any thing that could be taken as a reprimand. When I first got her snapping my fingers would set her off. It took me weeks to convince her she could allow me to pick her feet without worrying! After settling in she soon became the first to greet me at the gate, and it was nothing to pick her feet in the paddock without a halter and lead. I also noticed that she quickly picks up on others feelings and attitudes. Try to stay mello and calm in her presence and she will soon follow suit. She just needs time. Just my two cents worth....but I also don't want to intrude, thus I won't be offended if you'd prefer I didn't comment :)
Scott: MHWF
No Amy, go ahead, you had her a long time and probably know her better than anyone.
Donna M

Hmmmm .... I will have to try to figure out what caused the unusual behavior for Raven. I have never used any force with her but maybe I was anxious about loading her and Sugar Bear by myself that caused her reaction. Or maybe I was in too much of a hurry. When she reared I stopped trying to get her to enter the trailer, made her stop fussing and turned her around so she wasn't facing the trailer (as if I was going to circle her). But I stopped midway and tried to settle her before trying again. I can definitely see how that would indicate to her the behavior was being rewarded.

Amy ~ I appreciate your input. You did a fabulous job desensitizing her to having her feet cleaned. She is perfectly relaxed for it.

I'm leaving work to go spend some quiet time with the girls before coming back for evening dog chores.

Donna M
Raven met her new farrier today. She stood like a statue for her trim! Having been pushed around by Sugar Bear during farrier visits, I was sort of expecting a slight protest from Raven ~ but nothing! I talked softly to her while he was trimming and she started to close her eyes. The only time she showed any concern was when she saw the gelding from her pasture who chases her away from the herd.

Today when I went to get her, she actually approached me! Wooo HOOOOOO!!! It was only a step or two but at least it was a step in the right direction. We spent time in the barn and she enjoyed a thorough brushing before her trim. She also enjoyed some treats and a walk around the farm to meet some new people. On Saturday we are going for a trail ride. Sugar Bear will be ridden by a friend and I will ride Raven.

Two people commented on Raven today. The farrier said she is put together well and has nice hard feet. There is another boarder at the farm who has connections to MHWF. Her names is Ellie(?) Amsley. She commented on how beautiful Raven is. She also said she looks like Appy/Paso Fino and she wasn't the first person to say that. All I know is Raven is beautiful and she a very special softness about her that I love.
Donna M
Raven has been out on a couple short trail rides and for the most part did well. She does spook easily but generally calms down. We did have one experience where she sensed something in the brush and REFUSED to move forward one more step. I felt her rear a teeny bit so I calmed her down, turned her around and headed for home. I don't want to force her to do something she is obvious frightened of. If it was simply belligerent behavior that would be different but she is genuinely frightened.

Today, however, was one of those days when we took 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. She now allows me to approach her in the pasture and put on the halter without any hesitation. I consider that a great achievement. She follows me without question and easily enters the barn. She enjoys grooming, is good for saddling, and remains calm unless she hears an unfamiliar noise. We walked down to the outdoor arena and worked on lunging. She sometimes stops unexpectedly and turns toward me. I'm starting to read her subtle cues and can prompt her now before she stops. Before I returned her to the pasture I was able to get the deworming paste into her mouth followed by a few cookie chasers to help get the aftertaste out of her mouth.

Okay ... so maybe it was 3 steps forward and 2 steps back. Today for the first time she refused to take the bit. I tried in the barn and the arena. I kept trying until I was getting frustrated so as not to elevate the tension. I realize I should not have ended with her refusal winning out, but I didn't know what to do. I kept backing her up each time she refused and then would touch her head and face with the headstall before trying to feed her the bit. Each time she felt the bit, she would toss her head and if I was able to get the bit to her mouth, she seemed masterful at avoiding it.

Given the treatment she received during her early years, I'm guessing she developed an aversion to the bit; however, she has never done this for me before. Any suggestions?
I've known horses to do the bit avoiding...and to get them to take it, its a lot of approach and retreat. If she's comfortable with having the headstall on her face, great! But what about the bit? Have you rubbed the bit on the side of her face, or golly, her LIPS!? She seems to be reacting to that darn piece of metal and when it touches their lips, uh uh, no way, not taking it. LOL. I would rub the bit on her face until she stands still for 15 seconds, or shows signs of relaxation, such as licking her lips, cocking a foot (doesn't count if it's already cocked ;) ) or letting out a big breath. Then retreat, rub her with the free hand, and do it again. Work up to getting her to like it on her lips and be okay. Once that happens, stick your fingers in the bars of her mouth, like you're going to open it. Once she opens her mouth, stop and rub her again. Repeat a few times. Then reintroduce the bit by first rubbing it on her lips and then asking her to open her mouth. See if she'll accept the bit, leave it on for a minute or so. Then remove it and rub her like it was the best thing she could've done! Then do it again. And again. End the day by NOT getting on her, but letting her do something fun. Like grazing, grooming or getting treats. She'll be baffled why you're doing all this work to get a bit in her mouth and suddenly she doesn't have to work. They associate these thinks with work, so sometimes its good to show them they don't always have to. 

This is the same process I went through the one day Haze refused the bit. He never has since. 

Good luck and let us know! 

Oh! And the reason she stops and turns to look at you when lunging is because you're in front of her drive line. Always align yourself with the area their girth/cinch would sit, not their head. Took me months to figure that out with Haze, and he reared to tell me I wasn't getting it right. LOL!
With some horses you can put your thumb in the corner of their mouth as you're bringing the bit to their mouth.  By doing this it makes them open their mouth wide enough to insert the bit.  However, if she tosses her head too much to do this, you could try putting applesauce or molasses on the bit to sweeten it up a bit.  They also sell bit wipes for this purpose.  Was she acting like the bit bothered her before when you were riding her?
While this definitely could just be a behavioral/testing situation with Lakota, please make sure to take the time to check her mouth.  If she will let you, open her mouth with your thumb, and try to look at her teeth, or just run your fingers along her gums as much as you can.  My mare did this all of a sudden out of nowhere, and she had a tooth growing sideways out of her gum where the bit had probably been knocking it for quite awhile.  Not saying you have a problem, but I think it is generally a good idea to double check health issues first, then work on behavior issues after.  She could have a bad tooth, an abcess, or just a sore spot for some reason.
Anna WI
Donna, when she gets spooked and wants to rear, I would get off her and work her in some small circles but do not go home. This will only teach her that all she has to do is rear, and she will go home.

She has to learn to trust you as well, but rearing isn't an option no matter what so that is why I would get off and work her. Get the tension out of her body and then lead her past whatever it is that upsets her. If she spooks and looks at an object but doesn't rear, just keep her pointed at the object and let her figure out that it won't kill her. Once she relaxes, rub her neck.

I know you are shorter and it can make it hard to get back on, but do not ever stay on a horse if you feel you are in danger or can't handle what might come. Make it a game, if you have to get off because she is rearing, she has to work. If she spooks but it's under control with no bad behaviors she gets lots of love. I have dismounted countless times to work my horses through issues because to me trying to stay on isn't worth it when I can do everything I need on the ground. I would keep a halter and lead on her when you ride so you can work her without hurting her mouth, especially since she is now having some bitting issues.

Just take everything in stride, you have not had her for long and still need to build that relationship. Heck, we had Wesley for a year before we could say we completely trusted him.
Donna M
Thanks for the feedback. I will have the vet check her mouth the next time she is at the farm. For the time being I think I will continue to do ground work and try the molasses trick along with desensitization exercises. I've heard of that before and thought about using that technique next time. I can see Raven is starting to trust me more each time I see her. She doesn't retreat from me in the pasture anymore and she does settle down in the barn very quickly. Yesterday she was agitated because of the tractor moving about nearby while we were in the barn. Other than that, she usually is very calm inside.  She really enjoys being groomed and it looks like she is almost falling asleep when I talk softly to her.  Sometimes I catch her looking at me like she is trying to figure me out.

Anna ~ I do keep a halter on her when I ride and take a lead rope. I never know what to expect from her and she is still very new to this environment. I think part of her resistance was because we were on our way back to the farm but I passed the driveway and was going to continue down the road another mile or so. I think that choice on my part increased Raven's anxiety and she decided she had a better idea ~ head to the comfort and security of home!

She is so sensitive. Yesterday when I was lunging her, I gently tapped the end of the whip on the ground to keep her moving forward. She flinched and slightly bucked like I was going to beat her. I did it a couple more times just to get her used to the sound and she was much better - no reaction the last time and LOTS of praise. I hate to think of what that poor girl was put through.
I just have a tiny bit of feedback on this also. 

I just want to address this part.  You say,

1.  "Today for the first time she refused to take the bit."
2.  "Given the treatment she received during her early years, I'm guessing she developed an aversion to the bit; however, she has never done this for me before. Any suggestions?"


3.  "I hate to think of what that poor girl was put through." 

I am going to address #3 first.  Don't.  Simply do not think of what she did or did not do in the past.  That is not going to do you nor Lakota any favors.  It has been years since she has known anything but kindness, and if you keep in your head about what "may have happened" in her past and treat her any differently, then you are not going to get the desired results.  Please take that piece of advice from someone who has been there and done that....it just doesn't work.  Horses are such masters at reading our body language, it is almost as if they can read our thoughts, so it is best for you to get in a frame of mind of here and now, not in the past.  Think positively and directly and you will portray that to Lakota. 

Now I am going to combine #1 and #2.  This is the first time she refused to take the bit.  Step back for a moment and think about that for a while.  Think about how long she has been taking the bit just fine...(years now).  She has not had bitting issues.  She did not develop this now because of some treatment that she has had way back in her past, it just does not work that way.  You have to take a few steps back yourself and figure out what it is that caused this here and now in the present, not from previously.  It makes no sense at all that she would be fine with the bit for years and then all of a sudden develop an aversion to it because of something from her past.  Horses live in the present, not in the past or in the future.  Other advice given here regarding this is good, sound advice that I agree with.  You need to figure out exactly what happened or what it is that you are doing or have done that made this happen, or if there is an issue with the particular bit you are using, how you are using it, or an issue with her mouth or a combination of any of those things.  I can guarantee with 100% certainty that she did not all of a sudden develop an aversion to the bit because of something that may or may not have happened to her 8 or more years ago. 

I hope that you give these things some thought and think through this, and I hope you can get it figured out.  I would try riding her or just working with her without the bit for a while to be on the safe side and not make things any worse. 

Good luck Donna and please let us know how it goes. 

I know everyone here has lots of specific advise.  I just want to point out that Raven is still new to her home and all should be going slow.  her actions and reactions indicate tension to me.  Just b patient and give her some time.  hang in there...lots of tlc. 
I agree Tricia.  Some horses need more time than others to settle, and all of this is very new to Lakota, being in a new place, all new horses and all new people to deal with.  Throwing too much at once at any horse can lead to all kinds of things going wrong. 
Donna M
Thanks for the sound advice Karen. I should have known how wrong that comment was. I've rehabilitated many mill dogs and every single one was different in the amount of time it took for them to understand they were safe and could trust people. My own cocker spaniel was caged for the first years of her life and didn't touch grass until the age of 4. I never approach canine rehab with any kind of pity for the dog because if they are treated like poor babies they will BE poor babies. It takes a ton of patience, repetition, and positive reinforcement to gain desired results and many times I need to go very slowly.

For Raven, I need to use that same approach. I hope I am not conveying any kind of weakness to her. It's definitely something I will have to be cognizant of when I'm with her. I'm trying very hard to be patient and kind and pray that my ignorance does not set her back.

My plan for the next couple weeks is to spend time with her doing the things she is comfortable with and enjoys. She loves being groomed and getting lots of affection and she does well lunging but I will keep her in just a halter for now. I was hoping to have her at the camping trip in September. Maybe I am expecting too much too soon from her?
Donna, I know you understand and just putting it to horses is another thing.  I've worked with many rescue dogs too, and horses and dogs are very different, and then yet some similarities in some ways.  I am not sure, but I think you may have missed part of my point though.  My main point was that after all this time, she isn't going to all of a sudden develop an issue with the bit because of something in her past or because of her past, when she has been fine with it for years now.  You need to look elsewhere for what is going on with that, not at her past, not anything that has anything to do with her being "rescued" or anything that happened in her past.  This is a "here and now" issue, and this kind of thing could happen with a horse that you picked up from someone who coddled the horse from the time it was born.  Regardless of her past, she is in a new place and all new surroundings, and regardless of horses pasts, they all take a different amount of time to settle and to bond with their people.  I think maybe letting her settle and bonding with her might be the right route, as it sounds like you may be coming to that conclusion as well.  I wouldn't hold too many expectations and put any timelines on anything, take it as it comes and don't feel rushed or hurried or like you have deadlines to meet.  She will decide when she is ready for a big group camping outing. 
Donna M

I knew what you meant but I guess I didn't address that part of your reply. I know I need to live in the moment and look to the future. Whatever happened in Raven's early years has little to do with what I'm experiencing now. Raven had great care in her previous home and Amy worked through several challenges. I'm committed to Raven and learned with Sugar Bear that it's generally something I am doing that causes unwanted behavior. That's why I'm down shifting and taking it slower with Raven. My expectations of her have been a bit over zealous. Even if she was well cared for and coddled from birth, she would still need time to adjust to the new surroundings in which she now finds herself. I keep thinking about how long it took Sugar Bear and me to establish the connection we have. It didn't happen overnight but it was beautiful when it did happen and continues to amaze me. Raven has a very sweet nature which is a wonderful place to start. I'm more of a work in progress than Raven is which is why I've come to rely on these forums.

I just wanted to be sure, because I felt that was important to realize and will help with moving forward. 
I've known horses who I would take out on a trail ride within a week of moving to a new home and horses that it would take a couple of months to get to that point, all with varying backgrounds and it really depends on the horse and the situation.  Each one comes with their own personality and their own set of needs.  That kind of thing can be hard to predict, but listen to the horse and let the horse tell you what she needs and you'll be golden.  :) 
Jenni O.
Karen, I started to type something along the lines of what you did, about not thinking about Lakota's past, but deleted it because I thought it wasn't my place to say anything. I'm definitely no horse trainer and I don't know Lakota, so I thought maybe I'd keep my mouth shut.

Karen said it all better than I could have. But I will still throw in my two cents. Rule out a medical issue as the cause for the bit problem. If you can't figure out some other reason as to why she's doing this, it could be that she's just testing you because she senses that you're willing to make excuses and she gets out of work. Have someone confident tack her up.

If she is lacking confidence and you approach her with the pity attitude she might read it as a lack of confidence on your part. And she probably needs someone who can be a confident leader. I would do more groundwork, grooming, maybe teach her to pony. That could be a great way to introduce her to trails. If you aren't comfortable with that you can just lead her on trails. I feel more comfortable riding but occasionally my mare won't budge but she will let me lead her over the scary bridge or whatever.

Donna, I know you'll figure her out in time. She's just a different horse than Sugar Bear. Think how much you'll learn!
Donna M.

Sugar Bear and Raven came home today! I couldn't pick just one pick of the hundred I took so I created a collage of the first half hour or so. They seem just as happy as I am and Raven is so relaxed! She approaches me without hesitation and enjoyed a couple apples I offered her from one of the trees in my yard. They spent the first couple hours running, rolling, and coming back to check in with me while I sat by a small fire in my back yard enjoying the view with an adult beverage. ;-) Having them here is  .... I can't even think of the words to describe how this feels but I'm guessing you know exactly what I mean.

I've checked that fence so many times already but I don't know how I am going to sleep tonight! I can't believe I will see them when I wake up!

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Wow, what great pictures. Sugar Bear and Raven make a great pair. The one of the two of them rolling side by side is priceless.
*Rolling* in HAPPINESS is how I see it. I love the collage, and tomorrow will be a wonderful full day for them to be together. That should be a highlight for you to remember, and don't forget to take the camera. You are one LUCKY horse lady, kiddo. *Sugar Bear* & *Raven*. the terrific duo.
mel d
How happy can you be to see your sweet girls getting along so well! Looks like they've been buddies forever, and the rolling together is awesome! So happy this is working out so well for you, Donna :)
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