Helping a Head-Shy Horse
- July 20, 2017
- Savanna Simmons
Meet Leroy. Leroy is head-shy, and in particular, ear-shy. He is the type of horse that isn’t crazy about human contact, but isn’t aggressive. This has more to do with his personality than anything in his past, to my knowledge and based on watching him. Leroy, as you can imagine, is also hard to catch and has a bit more fire than some other horses we have, but he’s a good one and willing to try.
As soon as Boe got Leroy home, he went to work immediately rubbing him all over and getting him familiar with being touched. Horses that are watchy on the ground or overly-sensitive can be a nuisance, so desensitizing them is the first-priority. Boe rubbed Leroy all over, watching for touchy spots, though Leroy didn’t offer to kick or bite at all; he simply didn’t appreciate the touch. Boe is not desensitizing Leroy to annoy him, but rather to help him be more comfortable and at ease each time he is worked with.
When it came to his ears and head, Leroy tosses his head and tries to evade Boe, who does his best to stick with him and not remove his hand. Leroy is hoping he can successfully duck out of Boe’s reach, so Boe keeps a short enough lead rope to keep him from getting too far away, but long enough that yielding to Boe is Leroy’s choice, not out of force. As soon as Leroy gets quiet — no head bobbing or ducking away — Boe offers relief by sliding his hand off his ears.
At first, Boe gives as soon as Leroy is quiet for the littlest second, and as time goes along, if Leroy is quiet for more than a second or two, then Boe yields. The goal is that Leroy allows Boe to eventually rest his hand on his ears for any length of time. This is necessary in case Leroy needs to be doctored in his ears some day or, more importantly, in order for him to be bridled with ease.
If horses are aggressive, be ready with the lead hand (left hand in the video) for biting, but this video is more for a horse that is a bit worried about being touched than absolutely panicked or aggressive. Boe does this without tying horses, so it’s Leroy’s choice to be with him. He also then does not create further problems about being tied that stem from the head-shyness.
About Savanna Simmons
I'm Savanna Simmons and I live north of Lusk, Wyoming, on the Four Three Ranch with my husband Boe and our sons, Brindle and Roan. I grew up evolving my horsemanship with clinicians like Ray Hunt, Joe Wolter, and Jack Brainard, but not within a...