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Horse kicking when jumping

Dear Mr Levinson

I would like your help with a matter. 7 months ago i bought an 8 year old horse, which for many people athletic horse riding may not seem very expensive, but I literally gave everything I had to buy him so you can know how much care for him and how much important is my problem. When I first bought him, everything was great we went together to couple of games of show jumping in the category of 1.15. Everything was great and we were just fine. He was the horse of my dreams. But one day, while we were practicing when he was jumping, he started kicking in the air and generally at the end of the lesson he was waving his tail nervously and kicking his legs as he would do if a fly was in his belly. From that moment it has been 3 months and he has been refusing to do anything. I tried to just ride him and when I pushed him a little to walk or trot he was trying to throw me. On the other hand when I let him free or work him with the lunge line he trots or gallops just fine. All the vets I know have seen him, even two Germans Eik and Rudi (I don't know if you know them) and the tests are negative in any desease. He is healthy. So if nothing is wrong in his health why does he act like he is in pain? I gave him some tranquilizing pills for human to calm him to see if this is the problem. it has been 2 weeks now since me and my coach started riding him again and because of the pills he is better but he is still nervous. Yesterday I tried, after all this time, to jump a little X over and although we were fine then he started, he again started to kick. The truth is that this made really unhappy and I was dissappointed again because I really thought he was fine now. Some people tell me to hit him so I can discipline him, because they think he is just playing with me, but I can hurt him. On the other hand I'm thinking maybe he is exploiting me and the huge love I give him. And the funny thing is that when my coach is riding he is an angel. His previous owner had since he was 3 years old, and I've heard that he doesn't treat his horses very nice. Is it possible that maybe because of this man, the horse behaves like that now? Maybe he has learn to be treated in a bad manner and now he is exploiting me? And last, is it possible a horse with this problem to recover? What do you think should I do?

Thank you in advance, and I want you to know that your advice will be really helpful and appreciated.
Thank you very much.


Well, the first thing is for you to stop attributing human characteristics to your horse. It is not a human and does not think as a human (exploiting you, or doing anything to you personally). Horses do not think that way. They think in pictures and all pictures have an emotional content (feeling). The pictures either feel good or are scary (either they help the horse to feel safe or prompt the horse to be afraid).

You do not say you do anything other than ride or lunge. You do not say you attempt to develop any trust with your horse. This tells me you do not have much of a relationship with your horse and only look for your horse to perform for you. If you do not trust a partner, you would be reluctant to perform for that partner. Trust is developed with a horse first and foremost by 'playing and dancing' on the ground and not in the saddle. I strongly urge you to first get a good relationship with your horse based on trust. This is achieved not by 'working' your horse. What would you rather do work or play? Work has a particular attitude/feeling associated with it. Play and dance has another feeling. The movements asked for may be the same for the horse. It is your attitude that is different. Many traditional trainers only think to make a horse perform. Let your overall goal be whether or not your horse feels safe with what is asked of it. Do this by initially asking for only simple movement, slow and precise movement, one-step-at-a-time movement. REWARD YOUR HORSE FOR ANY AND ALL SMALL EFFORTS AT COMPLIANCE. When the horse TRIES to do what you ask, immediately stop and give the animal a minute of total rest and a little praise "Good Boy." Usually within a minute, the horse will lick and chew with its mouth showing acceptance of a good leader and that it is thinking about what just happened. Usually it will sigh soon as well, which indicates the horse is relaxing a bit. Never keep pushing a horse into its fear by continuely asking it do what what is making it fearful. Go slower. Take things on-step-at-a-time and not advancing until the previous step is mastered. Consider lungeing and long lining (ground driving) your horse over low jumps for a while. When you begin to ride start out with cavaletties, then very low jumps and take them slowly (walking and then trotting) at first. Gradually build the animals confidence again. Go back to more basics.

You say your instructor rides the horse without the problems you have. This indicates the instructor is riding the horse more confidently, perhaps with better skill and technique. Attempt to discover the difference between how you ride the horse and how your instructor rides the horse. You do not need to be a diciplinarian. DO NOT PUNISH! You need to be a good leader, a good dance partner who is also the great dance leader. Dance partners trust each other. The dance leader does not force anything with their partner. Then simply, skillfully, quietly, precisely and confidently ... lead the dance. Where you are not confident and skillful, expect your horse to be the same. If you aniticipate a problem, you will find one. I strongly suggest you go back to more basics and do them slowly and patiently, making certain your horse is comfortable and confident with all requests made before making bigger and more difficult requests. This sort of paradigm about horses and their training is not traditional. But it does work and is much more lasting and effective. Harsh training techniques create fear within a horse. They make the horse fear the human and compliance to the human's requests. Let trust be your overall goal and not the jump. If you have the trust of the horse, and skills, as well as the confidence, you will have the jump, assuming there is nothing physically wrong with the horse. Control is one thing and leadership is another.

Please do some more research on my website. There is a lot there that can help you. Good Luck and please keep me posted.

Sincerest regards, Franklin

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