Butter is an untouched mare rescued from a kill pen that is around 2.5 almost 3 yo. She was brought onto the property around 1.5 yo (they guesstimated). She is untouchable at this moment in time. We have been feeding her in the round pen. She will take treats from the owner while she is sitting on the ground ignoring her and holding the treat up for a long time and only after her pasture mate takes the treat. She snorts horribly the moment I walk into the pen and runs away without being asked. She refuses to even try to sniff me, any of the paraphernalia I leave in the pen if I walk out, or even be curious really. I think she has been abused or had really rough treatment. She is terrified mostly of hands.
I had already done JoinUp with her in multiple previous sessions and she still won’t let me touch her. Through body language, I have had her yield her hindquarters away from me so she is only presenting her head to me so I can be safe. She has followed me a couple steps in the past but then she breaks away and I have sent her off again.
I have been trying to approach her via zig zags and head down eyes down to take some pressure off. She is absolutely Terrified with so much snorting. She doesn’t even try to smell me, she just bolts away. I made a makeshift pen out of cow panels since that is the best I can do (I am on someone else’s property so I can’t build anything on it).
In the chute after doing JoinUp with her not really using the lead bc she is so sensitive, I approached her like the wild mustang videos with a hand extension so I didn’t get any closer to her to try to take some pressure off and she couldn’t get out of flight mode. Her eyes rolled back and I could see the whites of her eyes and she threw herself/partially jumped over the cow panel and got stuck for a second then wiggled herself free making a dent in the panel. She didn’t hurt herself thankfully.
The second time I went to work with her I came into the pen and ran full on to the damage panel and cleared it. So that was a bust.
The next time I did Join Up with her again without the lead. I had all the signs, ear locked, head down, licking and chewing, and smaller circle. She was much calmer than previously. When I turned my back to her at the 6 oclock, she very easily walked over to the damaged bent fence (4.75 ft high at the 7 o’clock position) and hopped it like it was nothing. So she will be a great hunter jumper.
I fixed the panel as much as I could. The next time she came into the pen many days later, I did Join-Up with her again without the lead line this time making the repaired fence panel as the 12 o’clock since that was her escape route. I got all the signs but she would very frequently stop at the damaged panel to see if she could escape. I didn’t get any closer to her. And she wouldn’t follow me.
The fifth time I worked with her I opened the chute and was just causing her to go around the pen not really doing JoinUp totally bc the chute was open. She went into the chute. So I left the chute open and open enough on the side so she could escape if she really needed to and I could jump aside. Yes I know that was probably stupid.
I approached her head and eyes down and turned slightly away as slowly as possible. I would take a step and wait for her to stop snorting. Then inch again. I had the hand extension that it could have touched her muzzle, but she avoided it at all costs. I felt that the hand extension made her freak out more than just my body so I threw it out. I finally, after 1 hr, got within 3 feet of her that I could reach out and would have been able to touch her. When I extended my hand she would snort and I could see the whites of her eyes and she would almost rear and push against the paneling. I take the pressure off bc I don’t want her to hurt herself on the cow panels.
I walked away and she followed me for a few steps. Which confuses me bc she is in such flight mode. While following me she still snorts just as if I was approaching her. When I go back to touch her again as slowly as possible she snorts and tries to avoid me at all costs. I finally gave up after an hour. I felt like we weren’t getting anywhere. I let her out of the chute and let her go where she wanted in the pen and she kept returning to the chute, so I feel she isn’t super traumatized by the experience.
What should I do to get her to let me touch her muzzle. I feel once I can touch her she will realize I won’t hurt her and I can start trying to put the halter on her and then working with her normally.
Thank you in advance for your help.