Archives MAIN PAGE

Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

Professional support for you and your horse!

Distressed 1st time horse owner

Hi Franklin,

I have been using your website and training videos as a preparation for when I was ready to get a horse. Well, the time came! Even though I felt prepared, I think I have done everything wrong!! I work at a large animal vet hospital for a local univeristy. I adopted one of the teaching horses here. He is a QH, 10yr old gelding, very loving and an easy keeper.

I found a barn near my home and arranged for him to be on field board (he is used to 24 hr turnout and has HYPP, so he cannot be stalled). The first day he was in a seperate paddock, unfortunately with no shelter. He could not see any other horses from where he was. The second day the weather turned and an ice/sleet storm was predicted. The field board side has 4 horses, plenty of acreage, and shelter. Rather than leave him exposed to ice, I put him with the other horses, thinking at least there he would have shelter. Of course, the other horses ran him down, tried to kick, etc. I stayed observing for 3 hours. Things calmed down. Its been 3 days. They are still chasing him, but not trying to kick him.

My question is how can I make his adjustment easier. He already knows me a little. I would like to spend quality time with him, but I can't get too close without the other horses trying to run me down!! I feel like I may have really messed things up and put him under undo stress. Should I have just left him out in the ice? Should I put him back in the single paddock with no shelter now for a while? Or just let him be where he is knowing that eventually they will work it out and i will have time for bonding once things calm down? Thank you so much for your time.

Sincerely, Chris

PS.... He was at previous place for 8 years

Hi Chris,

First off, don't be hard on yourself. Professionals, as well as novice horse people, can and do make judgement mistakes. Your intentions are right on. Asking for help is right on as well.

Several things were working against you in this situation. When introducing a new horse into an established herd (new place), it is best done over some time by setting it up so the new horse can be greeted and gotten used to (and vice/versa) by the others over a sturdy/safe fence. Also, one-on- one introductions, in hand are a good technique along with keeping the new horse safe by having initial introductions be conducted over a fence. You could have, maybe, blanketed the new horse to protect it from the weather rather then put it in so soon with the established herd. You can blanket him now and separate him for a while to give him a break from the others. Perhaps this option was not explored.

Yes, he has been put into a stressful situation and horses become habituated to behaviors very quickly. This means that he will be low man on the totum pole for a while. But if the other horses have not seriously hurt him by now, they probably won't. But they will dominate him. He may eventually gain some status within the herd over time. But it will take a while for sure. This situation will tend to make the horse a bit more (or a lot more) anxious or nervous generally. Its like living with bullies all the time. Horses do things simply because they can sometimes. They can push him around, so they do. So long as they do not become dangerously aggressive, it should be OK.

You could handle him when he is with the others by having the ability to move the others away and keep them away. This takes certain skills and abilities you don't seem to have as yet. It is about becoming the confident and skillful herd leader. If you cannot move the others away and keep them away, you need to take the new horse out of the common area. Spending "quality time" is a lot more than just spending time petting, grooming, feeding and hanging out. Please read up on the many essays I have written on 'developing trust with horses.' They are easily found in the essay section of the website. There is a lot there for you that will help. Trust, respect and good relationship with horses is developed, over time, through your abilities to ask for and direct all movement of the horse(s) and then immediately reward the horse for its efforts at compliance (the reward is to immediately remove all pressure, stand still and be quiet and very peaceful). Simple movement (coming forward a step or two, stopping, turning, backing, etc.) are all this is required. The reward for effort (even one step where you want) is very important. Again, I have written extensively on this. See essays like "Give 'em a Break", "Providing Consequences" ... there are many that will give you good information.

Additionally, I suggest the purchase of training DVD or two. Handling horses on the ground or riding them, is all a dance. Or, at least it should be. Dancing needs to be seen to be learned. You cannot learn to tango from a book. You have to see it. This is similar. There are many good training DVDs in the back of all horse magazines. I have several in my secure shopping corral that would be very helpful to you. No matter whose DVDs you get. Get several and learn through observing. DVDs are the most cost effective, efficient and available ways to gain knowledge of horses and how to handle them that I know of (other than one-on-one coaching and attending a lot of seminars).

So, there are a few suggestions. Let me know how it all goes. I am about to get back on the road for a couple of months. But do keep me posted.....I will have my laptop with me and hopefully will have internet access much of the time. Good Luck.

Look for: