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Napping.....and to tell 'true' separation anxiety

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Joined: 26 Apr 2004
Posts: 3
Location: Northumberland UK

PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2004 3:35 am    Post subject: Napping.....and to tell 'true' separation anxiety Reply with quote

Hi Galadriel.

You know about Rupert, for any that don't - we are looking at a 13.1hh New Forest (type) pony (just turned 8yr old this spring) who was broken in a riding centre and then sold to a 12yr old with a slight disability. Within a year she had sold him on (to me) as she was terrified of him. This was primarily due to bad ground manners - he nipped and barged - but he was also slightly nappy and shied when ridden.

When I first got him he was very bad mannered but also very withdrawn and anxious. I believe his riders lack of confidence had contributed to his bad manners on the ground (apparently he was fine in the riding centre). Also her disability led to unconcious tightening of muscles in her arms/legs particularly when tense, I believe this may have led to the evasion of the bit - he refused any contact and overbent - and also perhaps to his anxious and erratic way of going as he had not had consistent rein/leg contact (through no fault of the rider, he was just too sharp and young a pony for a disabled rider).

We have totally resolved the ground manners through use of Parelli and he is lovely to handle. The shying and bit evasion has also ceased and now he is responsive to bit, leg and seat aids and he is generally a happy relaxed and very friendly pony. However the napping still remains....

He is basically impossible to ride out alone...he will just about go if someone walks ahead but otherwise will nap, back up and try to spin around. He will also throw 'tantrums', stamping his feet and champing the bit. Normally in company with Pablo (herd leader) he is fine, however occasionally he will still do this. He naps badly if asked to go with anyone except Pablo. Within the herd he is subordinate to Pablo and is a very submissive pony and can become frightened very easily by the others.

What I am having problems with is distinguishing true separation anxiety from stubborness and lack of respect (I mean this is in the best way...not the 'show him who's boss!' version). He is very wiley and I have been mislead by him before into making allowances when in fact the problem disappeared if I rode him more positively (possibly he gained confidence from my firmness..or he just decided I really meant business!). He is a fizzy, sharp pony and quite prone to dancing about and getting excited and/or anxious....

All his other issues have been resolved apart from this one, we have come so far I just need ideas to resolve the napping. We are continuing with the Parelli to build up trust and are starting the ridden part soon which should help, I am just seeking any suggestions to
a. reduce/stop the napping
b. distinguish stubborness from anxiety.....


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Joined: 20 Sep 2003
Posts: 113
Location: Florida

PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2004 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know you know most of this, I'm just going to put it down so you can see my thought pattern Smile

If he's insecure leaving his herd, then he needs to view you as someone to turn to when he feels alone.

In order to turn to you for comfort when he doesn't have his equine buddies, you need a firmly established relationship, one in which you are the "leader."

You've been working on the Parelli games which are designed to help you establish just that relationship (if I understand correctly).

If you are seen as an effective leader, then he shouldn't be having separation. He has you--you're not just company, you're *good* company. If you feel that you are having good success with the Parelli stuff, then he has NO excuse. He's not feeling alone, because he's got you.

If you think this is an accurate verdict Smile then...well, what are you currently doing when he's nappy? [Incidentally, I love the way that word sounds. I think for you guys it means both "refusing to go forward" and "baby diaper"; for us all it means is a short sleep in the daytime.] Anyway, are you coaxing, asking, quietly pushing?
I do see the comments about what he ignores, but what is your general attitude toward it; is it more of a "darn it, this is still an issue, what have we got left to cover?" sort of an approach?

Have you ever just said, "Look buddy, you CAN do this and you ARE going to do this"? If you're the leader, and you expect him to treat you as one, you may have to show him that you expect--and demand--that he listen to you, even when he's having an issue of some kind or another. Because it's probable that this isn't the issue at hand anymore; now it's "I don't wanna and you've never really demanded it, so if I act up maybe I just won't have to."

There is certainly a time to nurse him through his issues, but there is also a time to say, "Look buster, we're done with that. This is no longer an issue. You're ready." And sometimes the whole approach, just the way you're thinking about it, can make so much of a difference in how your body telegraphs the aids. BELIEVE that he will listen to you, because you are The Leader and you deserve respect--sometimes that's all it takes.
--more in next post--
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Joined: 20 Sep 2003
Posts: 113
Location: Florida

PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2004 7:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BELIEVE that he will listen to you, because you are The Leader and you deserve respect--sometimes that's all it takes.
But sometimes not. This may be such a firmly ingrained behavior that you'll have to have more than that. I'm going to guess that you're going to need a bit more in addition to the Leader Attitude. If he's really, firmly set in this behavior, then he may still think that he's afraid, because each time he "naps" he puts himself in the same situation (balking, being corrected) where he first felt the fear--and that stimulates the same emotion in him, even though he no longer has the reasons he had before.

So you need a way to convince him that you're there, that you ARE a good substitute for his four-footed buddies, and in fact you are better than just a buddy, because you're the Leader. You're someone who he can look to for comfort. But you're also someone who corrects him when he is naughty.

What occurs to me off the top of my head is that you might want to look at some of the elements on my pair bonds page:
Skip the progression to getting the horse to listen to you in sight of his buddies, and look at the steps after that (starting at step 5). There might be something you could adapt to your situation, which I know is not one with arenas and structures in which you can confine other horses while working on Rupert's "separation anxiety."

Let me know what you think about what I've said--if I'm way off I can start over Smile
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Joined: 26 Apr 2004
Posts: 3
Location: Northumberland UK

PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2004 2:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Galadriel.

A little more specific detail in answer to your questions, these are relating to the recent issue of napping in company:

when he naps he tends to plant his hooves and refuse to move, he may go backwards or he may try to spin around.

I have tried the following:

- waiting it out (didn't work, he just stands there quite happily and rests a hoof)

- pushing him on firmly (as above, totally umoved and ignores me)

- talking to him firmly at the same time (as above..)

- carrying a schooling whip and slapping it against my boot (as above..)

- giving him a firm tap with the whip (put his ears back and otherwise no response)

Generally the only two things I have found to work are:

- persisting in being generally annoying until he moves off (eg keep pushing him on and generally bothering him until he gives up and moves..this takes a couple of minutes)

- if he is backing up then I make him back up twice as far as he wanted to, then generally he will decide that he didn't want to back up and will go forwards as soon as I ask.

These are for the napping in company which I believe is stubborness as he shows no sign of fear or anxiety. When he is going foward he is fine, there is no evasion or chomping of the bit which usually signals anxiety in him, he goes along quietly and sensibly, doesn't shy. But then 500yrds on he will nap again.

On the way back to the horses he will jog sideways and generally try and hurry back, so I make sure he walks sensibly and quietly and don't let him trot.

We have had very good results with the Parelli, but recently (about the same time as the napping...and coinciding with the new spring grass coming through....) I have experienced some resistance. I wondered if he was getting bored (that is why I gave him a hack as a change of scenery), or whether it was just a natural plateau in his learning. However I am now wondering whether it is more in the way of a challenge as he is feeling full of spring grass and energy and is a lot more confident in himself than he used to be.

However the napping when alone is much more serious, this does seem at least partially anxiety based and will occur whether ridden or led. I cannot get him more than 100yrds from his friends before we have backing up, spinning round, evasion of the bit (overbending), chomping on the bit, and general agitation. I have never managed to ride him through this for more than a few yards, I usually try to make him go a little further than he wanted and then turn around when I say he can. However this situation has not improved and if anything it has got worse, when I first bought him I could ride a couple of miles alone with Stephen walking with us. He was very spooky and nervous but would go, however he then got to know the other horses better and bond with them and I have never managed more than 100yrds alone since. I am particularly interested in resolving this because one day he may have to go alone for some reason (vets etc) and also I would like to drive him eventually so he does need to be happy to go alone.

The napping is quite an ingrained behaviour as I believe he used it in his previous home to get his own way.

I have found that riding him firmly and positively actually got rid of some of the remainers of the bit evasion and shying and he is a lot better if pushed to do things as I believe it gives him security as well as discouraging naughtiness! However so far the napping has withstood this treatment...

Thanks Galadriel Smile
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