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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

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Dangerous and unruly horse

Hi Franklin

I am at a loss with my 14 year old gelding. I have recently had a baby, and during my pregnancy i didn't ride and my horse enjoyed a nice break of just being turned out every day. Now after having my baby I have started to work with him again. His personality has changed and has become vicious and intimidating. If I enter his stable he turns his bum towards me and faces the back of his stable, if you walk up to him he tries to kick out at you or tries to bite. When you approach him in any scenario he will pin his ears back and flap his gums at anyone who passes. Since he has been displaying these behaviours he hasn't harmed anyone, and it seems to be more threating behaviours.

In addition to these behaviours he is showing in the stable, he has become difficult to tack up, won't take the bit, i have started to put molasses on the bit and he just licks it off. When I try to mount him from a mouting block, he tries to bite me and again become vicious, possibley due to me being taller than him, and he turns his bum away from the block so i can't get on.

My horse is not the type of horse where you can become take a riding crop too, and shout, as this just makes his behaviours worse. I think he has had a good beating at some point of his life and he is terrified of sweeping brushes. We have a close relationship outside of the stable and he is very affectionate as long as I am not asking for him to do any work.

Everyone says to be I have to show him who's boss and he needs a good beating, so he can become afraid of humans, I just know this isn't the right approach for him, and I am looking for an alternative.

Thanks, Katie

Hi Katie,

Sorry it has taken so long to respond to your email. Sometimes it is difficult to keep up with all the questions I receive and still work in real-time to earn a living. So happens I return to the UK on October 20th until November 4th. So, there is the possibility I could work with you while I am there. Please let me know if you have any interest in that.

Anyway, the "alternative" you are looking for is called knowledgeable, very skillful and compassionate equine leadership. The folks suggesting a "good beating" for this horse, deserve that for themselves and are showing their complete ignorance and lack of knowledge about horses. We are to partner with horses and not attempt to make them submit. We are not their bosses and they are not our slaves. What I strongly urge you to do is not to listen to these ignorant folks but rather gain real knowledge, education and good information about the mind and psychology of horses. Their mental/emotional process is logical and makes perfect sense. Training horses effectively and gently is not rocket science. But it does take real knowledge and not opinions and egocentric projections onto this most innocent of animals. No matter what the behavior, the horse is always innocent and not doing anything to you personally. It is just being a horse. It is either fearful and acting out of this fear, or trusting and acting in a way that shows it does trust. The people telling you to beat the horse and bend him to your will actually may be decent (although bossy) riders, but truth is, they really know nothing of the horse itself.

Once we understand and accept what we are seeing when a horse acts as we do not want is really a fear based reaction, our approach is very different than if we assume the horse is being bad. Punishment creates resentment and fear. Providing an appropriate consequence for unwanted behavior creates a learning situation and an opportunity to develop some trust. It would be the same if we were dealing with an unruley child. The methods and techniques involved to resolve the issues you are having with your horse would be like trying to teach you to Tango in an email. It is all a dance. It should be a beautiful, smooth and flowing dance, without struggle. When dance partners trust each other and both are very familiar with the dance, it all looks great. When either partner steps on the toes of the other too often, the dance breaks down and the partner getting stepped on no longer wants to dance. This is what you are seeing with your horse. Too much unskilled and inappropriate leadership. Or simply no leadership and frequent attempts at dominence instead. Horses get their sense of safety from the experienced, knowledgable and trusted leader(s) of the herd. It is up to the human to assume that role in a knowledgeable way. The leader of the herd is not the most dominent or the alpha, or the biggest and most aggressive. She is the smartest of the herd. She knows when it is safe to eat, drink and rest. She knows when and where to move the herd. She will provide a consequence for unwanted behavior from young upstarts. But it is always appropriate and never meant to unfairly punish another horse. When training horses, a one-small-step-at-a-time approach is the best way. Lots of reward should be provided each and every time the horse even tries to comply with a human's request. The reward is simple, a brief but total break from all pressure of a request (a few moments of real peace) and a Good Boy. Most humans don't even recognize when a horse is trying to comply and therefore, they miss the opportunity to develop some trust as well as teach the horse what they are trying to teach it. These techniques are easy once you come to really understand a horse and can interpret properly what the horse is doing and trying to tell you.

Anyway, I hope I have provided some good food for thought here. Reflect on all of this. There is a ton of information already written and available on my website for free. Articles, essays, free help center with hundreds of already answered questions relating to your situation are available there for free. There is a handy search engine feature within the Help Center to easily access all questions and answers on a specific topic. If you are serious about wanting to help your horse, check it out. If you are really wanting to improve the situation, tell me and perhaps I can come to where the horse is and help you one-on-one. You can develop a relationship with trust and respect at its core with your horse. It takes some time, good skills, patience, compassion, knowledge and a desire to offer your best leadership abilities to your horse and not the worst (beating a horse) aspects of a human's egocentric personality. Let me know.....

Sincerely, Franklin

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