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Horse Behavior and Training

Can’t touch my horses legs

I recently rescued a said 4 year old gelding. The “cowboy” that had him said he came from Nebraska and the poor guy has a brand on his back. I just couldn’t leave him so I brought him home. He doesn’t know what good people are and we’re putting weight on him, slowly trying to gain his trust. He tries to nip at my arm, he’s pulled up his leg when I brush him towards his hind end. I don’t feel he is being aggressive. I feel that he is scared he is going to get beat again. I’ve had him for 3 days and I can now touch the forearm but still not the hind end. I have done join up with him and he does well with me on the ground as long as I don’t touch him past his girth area or below his belly. Any and all advice is much appreciated. I’ve never seen a horse this mentally damaged and I want to make sure I’m not doing any more damage. 
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Hi Jess & welcome to the Uni. Gaining this horses trust will take time, patience & a bit of know how. There are lessons on the Uni relating to nervous horses but in this case there are a couple of physical tools you will need - garden cane with plastic (initially tightly rolled up & secured with an elastic band) & a wooden walking stick with crook handle. Having padded the handle of the walking stick you hold the other end - this extends your arm & it can be kicked without pain/injury to you or advantage to the horse (the stick stays put). Introduce these strange things incrementally after Join up. There is a sweet spot at the withers where mares scratch their foals. Bring the tool slowly towards the horse, pause & then take it away. Repeat, repeat, repeat. You will see him start to relax & as that happens you increase the pressure until you can scratch his withers & he relaxes. Once that is fully established you can begin to extend your area of 'scratch' to his shoulder, then back to his withers. Repeat, repeat, repeat until you can rub the padded stick all down both front legs. Finally, you can use the crook to pick up his feet. Be quick to praise. Use a Dually halter as this schools unwanted behaviour simply by you closing your hand on the line - the halter twists & gets tighter (uncomfortable but not painful - there's no need to yank on it). Once he fully understands his front legs are safe you can address his body & back legs in the same way. The cane with plastic is an upgrade which, as you gradually increase the plastic, will help him be less nervous & spooky with touch. Good luck. Cheers, Jo.