Need Some Dog Training Input...for My Horse

Discussion in 'Dog Behavior Problems' started by tx_cowgirl, Jul 8, 2011.

  1. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Okay, so obviously this is not exactly what this website is for, but there just aren't forums for horse trainers like this. I have tried to think of this situation as if I were training a dog with the same issue, but I just can't make my brain merge the two creatures, lol.

    One of my horses, Beamer, has an eye infection, due to the fact that we haven't had moisture of any kind in over two months so their is a lot of dust, and a lot of flies. Plus he's just prone to eye problems; during the summer we always have to make sure his eyes are reeeeaaaally clean, mainly by heavily fighting flies with repellants, etc. get rid of this eye infection we have to spray his eyes, which will also spray around the eye and kill any bacteria.
    Here's where we have a problem. It is very common for horses to have a fear of spray bottles. The sound, the feeling, the motion, it's all very scary to a prey animal. It's important to TEACH horses that water hoses and spray bottles are not scary, and can in fact be enjoyable. Well, unfortunately, whoever had Mr. Beamer before us didn't do that. I have spent a lot of time and effort just to get him to accept being sprayed with a spray bottle so that he can be sprayed for flies, veterinary purposes, grooming purposes, etc. He has made such huge improvements. But asking him to let me spray his eyes is sooo much. The first time was yesterday. He was NOT happy. Just like solving a behavioral issue with dogs, one bad experience can erase years of work.

    As soon as I bought the spray I was thinking of ways to help create a positive association with the spray bottle even though he is being sprayed in the eyes, because I knew this would set him back so far. Today, when I went to spray all the horses with fly spray and then doctor Beamer, it took me 15 minutes to get him to allow me to even catch him. I didn't doctor his eyes, I only sprayed fly spray and also wiped the spray on his face to keep the flies from making it worse. If I had made him take the eye spray today too I would have had such a hard time trying to spray him next time.

    So, I need suggestions. Think of it just as if you were teaching a dog to accept this. Should I spend twice as much time creating a positive association as I do doctoring him? He HAS to have this spray on his eyes, so I know that each time I have to doctor him it will erase a ton of work done to make him accept getting sprayed.

    Any suggestions I said, think of it just as if you were teaching a dog to accept this. There will probably be modifications, but still...same sandwich different bread, if that analogy works, lol!

  2. jackienmutts Honored Member

    I love horses - but don't know squat about them, as far as what you're doing, so I'm coming from just shaking my brain and seeing what falls out. :eek::LOL: Scary, right? Have you ever done any clicker training with your horses? My thinking - if you can clicker train whales and chickens.... not the easiest to train, I'd imagine (cuz I've never attempted either one), then why not a horse? I know that's not helping your immediate problem, but I'm thinking more long-term here, thinking dogs LOVE that clicker, they hear it and know good stuff is a'comin'. Why couldn't a horse get that same warm fuzzy feeling?

    Ok - so now back to eye medication. Instead of spray, will he let you wipe it (at least for now)? And is it possible you could wipe it? ... meaning, is it a med that can be wiped, as opposed to spraying, even for a short time, until he gets more used to it? My thought, if you can get by with getting it on there somehow for now, great. Then, if you could start on clicker training with something he likes already (maybe accepting pets someplace, maybe a wonderful stroke down the face, c/t - or brief handling of a leg, c/t, etc) and is familiar with, once he gets familiar with the clicker, and trusts that click sound, maybe he'd more readily accept that spray bottle. Then you know the drill - look at spray bottle, c/t. Then spray a distance from him (maybe with the bottle empty) - c/t. Then work at spraying closer and closer to him, c/t, then finally putting water in the bottle (or something 80 proof to calm your shattered nerves by now :LOL:), - and so on.

    Ok, just re-read your post. You did wipe it today, but it has to be sprayed. Duh. What about if you sprayed it not directly 'bango' into his eyes (cuz that'd freak me out, too) but kind of like you spray perfume - you spray then walk thru it? Would something like that work? Would enough get into his eyes? I told you, just shaking my brain here - and admittedly, not much is falling out (cuz not much is in there!:ROFLMAO:).

    I have a friend who does horse rescue, they get a lot of sick ones/really different personalities in -- I'm thinking I may email her and see if she has any ideas - I'll post back when I hear from her.
    Hayley Thompson likes this.
  3. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    We've gotten to a point where he will accept a spray bottle. Doesn't love it, but he does accept it. But, spraying his poor eyeballs is another matter.
    My thoughts were to raise the spray bottle to face, verbal marker, reward. Then eventually, raise spray bottle, spray high on the neck but not face yet, verbal marker, reward. And so on... I have seen many YouTube vids of people clicker training horses, but I personally have not done it.
    The growing popular method is "natural horsemanship." Part of this method is that you start with a stimulus in the comfort zone of the horse and work in. I'll put this in dog terms. You don't move so close that the horse reaches his threshold. You go only to where the horse acknowledges that the stimulus is there and isn't completely fine with it, but is still in control of himself and not fearful. The stimulus goes away when the horse shows signs of acceptance and relaxes. No more work with the stimulus for that training session. Next session, start in comfort zone, if horse is still comfortable, move to the place you progressed to last session, if comfortable, increase stimulus. With horses everything has to be incredibly tiny baby steps. If it's the waving of a plastic bag, you not only have to start with the bag far away, but waving slowly. You have to work up to not only the bag closer, but how much movement the bag has, and eventually, to the bag touching them anywhere on their body, including ears, face, under their belly, under their tail, etc. I imprinted my filly at birth, and have continued to work with her throughout her 4 years. In her first week of under saddle training I was able to ride her over a tarp(SUPER SCARY) with a tarp draped over her neck and dragging an object. This would be comparable to a one year old dog at a world agility competition during a thunderstorm. A horse is a prey animal, so anything on it, behind it, or under it that makes noise, moves quickly, has a different texture, different smell could be potentially life-threatening. One of the most important parts of horse training is being able to move past that and train your horse's brain to trust that you will not lead them into anything they cannot handle, and to THINK before reacting to anything.

    I've worked with loooots of behavior problem horses, but with Beamer already having an issue with spray bottles, and needing to accept it RIGHT now, I'm afraid any work I do will be erased by the mandatory medicine. Just not sure what to do here.
  4. jackienmutts Honored Member

    I did email my friend (I copied/pasted your thread) - I'll let you know if she comes up with anything. They deal with a whole host of 'stuff' (as you can well imagine), maybe they've thought of innovative ways of doing things, who knows?

    I see where you're coming from and agree tho - you certainly don't want to undo in a minute, all the work you've done . *sigh*
  5. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Silly horse. If I could only tell him it's for his own good. :) Definitely have seen what training early does--I spray my filly, anywhere, and she stands there calm as can be. I spray our other filly, who we got at age 5 and didn't receive much training early on, and she is mostly okay with it anywhere. I spray Beamer, who received looots of excellent training throughout his life EXCEPT desensitizing him to all things scary, and he is uncomfortable and frightened. He is excellent to ride in terms of being responsive to cues, but evidently his previous trainers did not spend time making sure he was "bombproof." After lots of work, most things are not scary and he is not spooky at all; his only weakness is spray bottles. And with all the progress we've made I have already killed much of that with just the first day of medicine.

    He has a funny personality. If he were a person, he would certainly be a jock. Captain of the football team, full of himself, and all about wooing the girls. He hates to be dirty, absolutely hates it. Very much a male diva. When I first started working on the spray bottle issue, when we finished and I let him go, he would throw a fit. He would run around, bucking and snorting like, "UGH I can't believe I had to stand for that!" He does this when it's cold too, so angry that the weather DARED be cold. Now only once in a while will he throw his tantrum after being sprayed, lol. He enjoys to be petted, but does not want to show it. He plays hard to get and tries to act like a touch-me-not, but will eventually give in and accept some affection. But not too much, or it might kill his reputation. At least that's what he makes it seem like. :p He's a character, that's for sure. By far one of the best horses I've ever owned, despite his quirks, and certainly fun to work and live with.
    Hayley Thompson likes this.
  6. Hayley Thompson Well-Known Member

    Aww I wish I had some advice for you too tx_cowgirl, but sadly I don't :( My only suggestion was going to be clicker training again, like jackienmutts said, they clicker train chickens why not horses..but again that takes a lot of boyfriends parents used to have miniature horses, and I loved them so much! When he and I were at his house one day I noticed one of the girls laying down in the field and wouldnt get up when I approached, she had colic :( It took all my might to get her to her feet and walk her...finally after lots of walking and some meds she made a full recovery. My point is is that I was exhausted both physically and mentally and sore for days trying to get this 300-500 lb horse up and walking and she was only a mini, so my sympathy goes out to you for trying to make a 1000+ lb horse let you spray their eyes :( I hope you get some good advice here from jackienmutts' friend.
  7. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Thanks Hayley. :) Ugh, colic is awful, have been through that with two of my horses too. Not fun at all for horse or owner.
  8. jackienmutts Honored Member

    Ok Tx, I emailed my friend who does horse rescue. She did come up with a suggestion - but it's along the lines of what I'm sure you've done/are doing. I'll post later as it was very late last night - but today, she was going to toss it out to a few of her favs on a few horse forums she's very involved in, and a few friends very involved in horse rescue, she has no doubt they'll come thru. She asked for your email. I can't figure out how to PM on this new version, try as I might. I'm sure I'm not seeing something that's right before my eyes. Her thought was maybe you could correspond directly with her or one of these folks - it might be easier. Your choice. She's wonderful, and always willing to help, especially willing to help a horse in need. My first love being Germ Sheps and GS Rescue, I met her at the dog park a couple years ago, when she walked in with a beautiful older GS. Turns out, she had just recently adopted him from the shelter at the age of 10-1/2. Anyone who would adopt a 10-1/2 yr old Germ Shep is ok by me!! We started talking at the park that day, became friends, and have been friends ever since. Amazing how animals bring people together. I just took my sheppies to visit her and her husband and two 12+ yr old dogs a couple weeks ago (they live about 12 miles from me).

    Am leaving for work shortly, am hoping you get some meds in your boy's eyes today - and maybe by the end of the day, we'll have some suggestions for you (and you can tell me how to PM, or I'll have figured it out). Good luck today!!
  9. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    I will PM you, but here's how you get there. Under the Border Collie at the top of the page, you have your username, then Inbox. My message will be there. To PM someone else, you can either go there or you can click on the user's avatar and then click "Start a Conversation."

    This morning I just rubbed it on. Fixing to go give it a try again and see how it goes...
  10. Anneke Honored Member

    My first thought was, can't you use drops in stead of spray?
    I used to ride a Haflinger, who belonged to a friend of mine. He wasn't afread of a spraybottle as long as it wasn't near his head. So we used drops and desinfected around the eyes with a cloth sprinkled with the desinfectant. A little more work, but he didn't freak out that way.
    Oh it's been so long since i've been with a horse(that doesn't sound the way i want it to:D but you know what i mean), i really miss that! Such incredible creatures. But I was no good at riding them:D Was always falling off:whistle: I did some clickertraining with Winnetou though. Taught him how to take a bow. I used pieces of apple for a treat.
  11. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Lol, Beamer is also very very picky when it comes to treats. xD So training with food rewards is very difficult. You don't have a whole lot of options with a horse.
    I just want to make sure he gets what he needs. I guess if I can thoroughly cover the area around the eye AND the eye itself it will be alright....?

    On the plus side, tonight went GREAT. I started by spraying away from him where he was comfortable, and eventually got to where I was raising it as if I were going to spray his eyes. I held it there until he relaxed, praise, petting, etc, then raise it again. Relaxing means spray bottle goes away, plus raising the spray bottle is not a sign of discomfort. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat......raise and spray, nonchalantly, and go on to raise, lower when relaxed, raise, lower when relaxed as if nothing happened. So each time the spray bottle is raised, there is a very high probability of getting attention, and only one or two times you actually get sprayed....but it's not a big deal. He's in a calm state of mind, so he doesn't react as much to the spraying, and I keep going on as if nothing happened so he doesn't have time to panic about it.

    He did really, really well tonight. We'll see how it goes, I'm going to keep trying this. Hopefully if I just spend a looooooot of time creating a position association with the spray bottle near his face, then maybe he will learn to cope with having his eyes sprayed. He's come such a long, long way I'm just afraid to kill any good work. Along with a fear of spray bottles, he used to be very head shy too(fear of any touching anywhere on his head or ears), so needing to spray his eyes dilutes my work on both of these areas. But tonight gave me hope that he can learn to cope with it....we'll see.... :cautious:
  12. BruceLover Active Member

    Well my suggestion(I am a horse woman) Is to first have Beamer get used to the bottle. Maybe on a hot summer day give him a nice bath with a spray bottle! Use it like a toy. Me and my dog like playing spray bottle wars. He likes to try and bite the water LOL and we play tag and have fun with it. Now horses are a little different. But I think you'll get the idea!;)
  13. jackienmutts Honored Member

    Tx, just wondering how you're doing with Beamer's eye spray? Check in when you have a minute and let us know, hope it's all going ok.....
  14. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    He is doing well. :) His eyes are looking better and medicating him is pretty easy on both of us now. Not much time to talk right now so no details. :( Sorry!
  15. PonyRider New Member

    I have a horse that is prone to eye problems too, and we don't use spray, just an ointment our vet gives us. Although you may need spray since your horse's eye infection is most likely quite different from my horses. First, instead of taking your horse to be sprayed last, do it first. If you spray all the horses before him, he'll know what's coming. Going first will make him easier to catch. Also, associate the spray with treats. Feed him a treat AS your spraying him in the eye, if possible. Then he'll think "Hey, I get food when they put that scary thing near my eye!" It might take a while, but hopefully that will help.
  16. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    fascinating thread.

    Off topic completely, but my brother has horses, for many years now, many kinds and types of horse,
    and he said he has to keep the grass in the area they graze, at a certain height.
    He apparently can use a weed-whacker to lop off the too tall grasses if it is a small area, or cut and mow various fields in rotation, and move the horses to the fields with proper heights of grass.

    He said, everytime that grass gets too tall, his horses eyes get irritated from the grass poking their eyes...which stunned me. He insists this is true.
    I'm certain Tx knows more about horses than my brother, but, my bro insists if he keeps the grass low enough, that when his horses bend down to graze,
    that if the grass is tall enough to hit the horse in the eye,
    then they all get irritated eyes.

    for whatever that's worth. and it's probably not worth a thing.:ROFLMAO:
  17. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Lol, with the drought down here...GRASS IS NO ISSUE! ;) We have to buy hay and feed it to them. Hay is so expensive here because it's having to be trucked in from different states, because of the fires and the extreme lack of rain throughout the state.

    Happy to report that Beamer is doing well and was able to put up with the medicating quite well. :)
    tigerlily46514 likes this.

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