Watchy Horses

Discussion in 'Horse Training' started by DunsNPallys, Dec 22, 2017.

  1. DunsNPallys

    DunsNPallys Senior Member

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    Curious what other people's opinions are on "watchy" horses. By watchy, I mean a horse that is not typically spooky or bothered by anything EXCEPT for people. Example: a horse you could ride while carrying a flag on fire, next to a tractor with a blow horn, while your cousin shoots a shotgun out of it - but the same horse will half jump out of its skin when you walk up to touch it.

    I've typically always avoided watchy horses throughout my life for 2 reasons. One is that they are hard to resell because a lot of timid or unknowledgable people are intimidated/scared by them when they act silly like that. The second reason is that I typically lose my patience with them. I have tried being super quiet and slow around them, to no avail. I have tried treating them like any other horse and ignoring the behavior, to no avail.

    I always kind of thought most watchy horses got that way from rough handling as a youngster or during breaking. Most of the watchy horses I know were raised in that way - and either get jumpy if you approach face first or get jumpy if you approach shoulder first. Now I own a (very young) youngster who I know has had very little handling throughout her life and no roughness. She is watchy. And she is like the horse I described above - you can go down the hay field, harvesting hay in huge machines and pulling out all the loud, crazy bells and whistles - she will be fine. But the first hand you put on her body results in twitches, flinches, and a "frozen in place but really I want to run away" reaction. This filly is fearless of anything and everything, willing to do anything you ask right away, and overall very pleasant/sweet. You can swing a rope, lunge whip, bag, etc all over her / on her and she's chill - but god forbid it's your hand! She is curious and likes attention (on her face), but about jumps out of her skin every time a person touches her. As I start to work with her through this, I find myself wondering if she will get over it eventually or if it's going to be a life-long trait like so many of the other horses I've met.

    Would love other experiences and thoughts!
     
  2. slc

    slc Senior Member

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    Needs very slow, gradual desensitization. Horse is scared. Possibly has a vision problem, but probably not.
     
  3. CowCatcher

    CowCatcher Senior Member

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    I've been around watchy horses most my life and actually prefer them. My trainer likes them that way too. Horses who are watchy can be awesome. Matter of fact I just bought a filly who is cowhorse bred and was described as watchy. I bought her sight unseen.

    Some of it is previous handling, some its not, its their breeding/nature. Being watchy doesn't always mean the horse is scared. I've ridden plenty who were very bold and confident but were just watchy on the ground. It doesnt effect their ability to be a great horse.

    My advice is not to fight it or fix it, work with it.
     
  4. Puddincup

    Puddincup Senior Member

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    My first cutting bred mare was watchy. She would shiver all over when you went around her and didn't like men to just walk up to her and would cower if they did.

    She was the sweetest natured horse I've ever had and was so kind. With her...and going around her I found that it helped when I walked around her that I kept a hand on her the whole way around. If I was 4+ feet away behind her she'd get jumpy, twitchy and watchy. Tack or no tack. Every time. For 6 years.

    There is only one man that I've seen that could go right up to her and she was as sweet with him as she was a four year old little girl that loved on her. That's one thing that convinced me to marry that man.

    I've bonded with several horses but never have I bonded with a horse so fast and strong as with that mare. We were inseparable right from the very start and went everywhere together. She never took a wrong step. I would give all the money I have to have her with us again or another one just like her.

    She wasn't forward and never tugged on the bit but she also never tried to slow down. She took every command, loved it and waited for another.

    After all that I wouldn't hesitate to get another watchy horse.
     

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  5. manesntails

    manesntails Senior Member

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    Typically, I find it's just a horse that wants to see who they're working with. Reading your mind as you come up to them, I would say.
    The Maggot is like that, my brown toby mule. Some total newbies, never seen a horse in person before, can walk up to her if they are walking up without the thought of “ready to do something with her“ on their face.

    Lots of horses walk off from people who don't act laidback enough, who stare at them as they walk up, who look them over while approaching. The Watchy ones need to be convinced you're okey dokey before you touch them, IYAM.

    Hang around and ignore them and, when you turn around, they're behind you. They just want a little more time to size you up.
     
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  6. DunsNPallys

    DunsNPallys Senior Member

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    @CowCatcher @Puddincup - She is a very, very cutting/cow-bred horse so definitely along the lines of your guys' horses. I actually have been looking for my next "forever" horse for over 2 years, usually selling whatever I've gotten because they don't mark every single "want" on my list. This filly is the first one to check every box, and comes shortly after the passing of my heart horse. Part of what I wanted was to have heavy cow breeding, similar to my mare's breeding - except I wanted known names up front, whereas my mare comes from nobody's until the 4th generation. My mare is Doc's Hotrodder & Doc's Prescription, I wanted to continue with that but add in Smart Little Lena type lines because SLL mares are always dreamy. The filly is an explosion of Doc O Lena, SLL's full brother, Doc's Hickory, all up close and all but 1 horse in the first four generations were money earners and/or money producers in cutting, sorting or barrels. LOVE!

    I could do without the watchiness though lol! She has gotten better though. I think I had lost my patience when I posted this last night and figured I should see what other's have had happen with their watchy horses. 3 of the watchy horses I knew/know became stellar horses, the others I never knew long enough to find out later. I've got the filly doing all the right things for a coming two year old: leading, tying, trailering, brushing, lunging on a line (no more than 3 minutes at a time), the little punk can pivot/spin on her own like nobody's business, moving off pressure, backing, picking up her front feet and picking them out (today I picked her back feet for the first time too), etc. Gave her her vaccinations, wormed her, blanketing/fly mask, and so on. She is very nice to handle and doesn't care about anything other than me touching her, but she's coming around fast from day 1 to now.

    I wanted to start her in January but she's too small (I bought her site unseen - she's 13.2 hands), so I am just going to take my time working on the being watchy. Drag her around to events, pony her, give her plenty of time to just grow, get her feet trimmed one day, etc. So if you have any secrets to the watchiness - lay them on me, I got tons of time!



    ETA: @manesntails I did "no eye contact" today when catching her and she was better about that. I usually look at their shoulder or whatever part of them I want to touch first (my horses know that as the "freeze and don't move" cue lol). No freeze cue for her!
     
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  7. manesntails

    manesntails Senior Member

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    You need to make body contact with her a lot. Lean up against her once she gets relaxed. Just hang out. Walk her around, stop and make body contact with your chest. Let her FEEL your heart beating against her body.
     
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  8. CowCatcher

    CowCatcher Senior Member

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    The filly I just bought is a Doc Tari and Freckles Playboy crossed on a Smart Little Lena.
    The filly I bought last year is a Doc Hickory/Smart Chic Olena(Smart little lena) and Mister Dual Pep.
    Lol!


    I haven't went and picked up the Doc Tari filly yet but she was described as "ouchy" on the ground.
    The Doc Hickory filly I bought last year would just assume paw my head off than let me touch her. After halter breaking she got much better of course and now even though she's watchy she's coming around. She won't seek me for attention but now will gladly accept it.
    I don't make a big deal out her moving away from me and I don't force myself on her either. It seems like if you go "oh easy, easy" and sneek on them it makes it worse. They have a bigger bubble and need a big release when working them on the ground. If she comes up to me and I love on her, scratch her itchy spots and try to be the one to leave first.
     
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  9. Quarter Girl

    Quarter Girl Senior Member

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    I’d describe my Arab mare Zoey as watchy. Don’t dare get close to her if she’s not ok with you being around first. If she doesn’t have warning, she will very well nail you. She is very alert and has rubbed off on me too. She can spot a deer a mile away, she notices a clump of flowers in the ditch, or a lump of dirt in the snow. She is a more spooky horse when it comes to man made things. And cows lol. But I totally trust her. I know that if there’s a steep incline, or tight winding trails she will feel any change in terrain, rocks, or dangers and she will keep safe by not plowing over it and she’ll dodge it. I was doing a longer ride and I was getting back as the sun was setting. The weather changed very fast within minutes the clouds blew over, it was thunder and lightning and pouring rain. Only time I could see anything was when the lightning flashed. I had to trust her to take me home trough 2 miles of trail. She kept her head down and casually walked all the way home. I did not ask anything over her. I kept my reins out of her way and leaned forward I her neck. She trough all the intense weather and terrain. She walked all the way home, she let out one big hollaring whinny just before home, I swear it felt like she knew it was actually a moment where I went “wow I trust you so much”. Wether she bolts at a lump of dirt or not as does “silly” things like that. It has a serious benifit cause she is just so in tune with her surroundings and makes her so much more dependable.
     
  10. CowCatcher

    CowCatcher Senior Member

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    I should add, I believe there's a difference between a horse who hasn't learned to trust or is slower to trust and a truly watchy or ouchy horse.
    I think horses who are slow to trust come out of the watchiness with the person(s) they trust. Ouchy horses never get over being ouchy but can usually change how they react or contain the reaction.
    Yet, this is just my opinion based on my experience and upbringing so take it for what it's worth.
     
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