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Franklin Levinson's

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Scared horse and a Scared Human

Oct 24, 2008

Hello there from NZ. I am an adult rider of around 30 or so years riding and horse ownership experience. I have had, in the past, many horses - a mix of thoroughbreds straight off the track, to well schooled warmbloods. I have never, however, had a complete youngster until now. Recently, I sold my good dressage mare, and decided to embark upon the world of young horses. I bought a lovely 2yo clydesdale/tb cross, with a view to eventually showing and hunting him. He is a lovely type, but had been handled very little.

He arrived here 4 weeks ago, after a very long, and stressful trip. After a couple of days of being totally bewildered, however, he became quite sociable, and allowed me to catch him, tie up, be introduced to rugs without any fuss at all, and have his feet picked up. (not all at once, obviously!) Although he was slightly "on edge", he would always give the benefit of the doubt, and was generally very cooperative, and sociable. He would come into the yard when the gate was opened, and park himself in his tie up spot, and if I were to go into his paddock (which he shares with a pony) he would approach me, rather than vice versa.

Around 2 or three days ago, however, this has all changed. Nothing has "happened", and by that I mean that there has been no stressful event that I can think of, but the grass here has taken off, as it is spring. Anyway, he no longer wants a bar of me. I cannot catch him anymore, so therefore, everything else has also gone out the window. He is currently in the yard with hay and water, as I think the grass has probably had an impact, but it is as if he's just "had enough" of the learning, and of people, and just wants to be left alone with his pony friend.

It came to a head today when I went into the yard with a halter, and he became so stressed at my being there, that he jumped out, from a standstill, over 1.40m post and rail fencing. That was awful for all concerned!

Anyway, I'm at a loss. I don't mind spending time getting this right, as he's a lovely horse, but it's soul destroying when I cant even get near him. If he needs a bit of space, then fine, I'll give it to him, but at this point in time I'm not sure if its fear, or just that he's "had enough". Initially, he could be bribed with food, but this has proven to be a short term fix, as he no longer falls for it!

Its frustrating - just when we think we are getting this horse thing sorted, something comes along and throws us a curve ball doesn't it! I can see the huge rewards in young horses, but this particular challenge has me at a complete loss. Any help gratefully accepted.



Oct 24, 2008


A too rich diet can change a horse's personality. You may need to keep this horse totally off of spring grasses there until next year. It is a new place for him, he is a young horse, new to the area, he is still getting used to the environment and I think he was put on that grass too soon and eating too much. Changes in diet must be done very slowly and gradually. He can founder if you are not careful. Something big has changed, his environment and...his diet. Perhaps grass hay in a 'dry lot' for the spring grass season. Try it for a while and see if things don't improve. You have nothing to lose at this point.

Good Luck, Franklin

Oct 25, 2008

Good morning,

Thank you for your prompt reply! Yes, I've taken him off the grass as I agree that it's probably a significant factor. After two nights and a day off it, he is a little better. I also took a look through your archives and will try the method you suggested to someone involving putting myself passively "in his space" as it seems to make perfect sense. He just panics if I am too overt or "predatory", and I think that's what prompted the jumping out incident.

Again, thanks for replying, :o)


Oct 25, 2008

Hi Rachel,

Please keep me posted. I am interested. Quietly and gently 'occupying' his territory (simply go and stand where he is, he will gently move off). May just do the trick. Repeat the process 15-20 minutes then leave. Do once or twice a day for a few days and see what you have got....He should start to keep his head to you and eventually begin to come to you if you start to back away from the spot.

Aloha, Franklin

Oct 26, 2008

Hi there Franklin,

Today we took Troy's pony paddockmate to another property for a couple of weeks or so - I was in two minds about doing it, knowing how they need company, but he had become very bonded with her (she is an older mare and quite maternal) and would rush to her for comfort whenever I was around. Our property is quite small so I couldnt put her out of sight of him. - she's been gone an hour or so and already he is looking to me rather than her, which is good? I think.

Today I have been working, as you say, on occupying his territory, and moved onto the "hazing" idea - after a few goes he will turn and come to me. I can then scratch him all over which is lovely, and then I leave his yard.

I am assuming that at this point, I should not reintroduce his halter? At present, I know that even if he can see me with it, he will lose faith in me. I think I need to get past the fact that a week ago, he was tying up, having feet picked out, and halter on and off without fuss, and get right back to basics.

I think what had happened, was that he was doing things for me because he was sort of, well, "shell shocked" at the move, new environment etc, and now that he has settled in, had a lot of the new spring grass, and a lovely pony-mom, I don't have the bond that I need to get him to do things for me when he really doesnt feel like it!

Gosh does that make sense? perhaps not...

Anyway, thanks for keeping in touch. I am learning the art of patience, which can only be good!


Oct 26, 2008

G'Day Mate,

The spring grasses are a big factor. Heavy on the sugars and carbohydrates. I would feed more grass hay and less on the spring grasses. Keep him off the grass most of the day. Only allow a few hours on it. It is better for the horse and will help his attitude.
Now, when you do the occupying territory thing, simply carry the halter. Let him get used to seeing you with it. Do not try to put it on him as yet. Once he comes to you easily when you have it, begin to rub it on his body, gently, slowly, only a little and then walk away. Then gently all over him. Eventually work your way to his neck and head, giving a lot of praise at the same time. Then go away. Do that for a little while and then, when you can tell he is ready, put on the halter slowly and right away remove it, and go away. Do this for a time and then leave it on him for a little while and remove it. Nobody said there were quick fixes with horses. You seem to be doing quite well though. Good Luck....

I may come to NZ in March. I shall be in Oz for the month of Feb. See attached.

Sincerely, Franklin

Oct. 28, 2008

Aloha Franklin,

I am having some sort of progress. I am impatient and this is teaching me some very good lessons, both in training young horses and parenting!

I have been carrying the halter and lead with me, on my shoulder whenever I go into Troy's yard.He's fine with that. Today he also called out to me when I arrived home from work with the kids which was nice.

He follows me back into his yard when it's time to take him off the grass, which is good also. I can get close enough to scratch him, with the halter over my shoulder, sometimes all over, and sometimes not - he just slowly moves away, so I'm guessing that he's still not totally comfortable with the halter idea. Last night I was able to rub it over most of him - today, not so much. Sometimes it seems I'm taking two steps forward and then one back.

Should it take this long? I'm worried that I'm doing something wrong! He does seem to "like" me now, which is nice, but in some ways it feels like I've hit a bit of a wall with the halter thing. Can it take several days like this? I don't see him accepting it in the next day or two, anyway.

Thanks again for your advice. If you are here in NZ I'd be keen to come to any clinics etc you may be running.

Kind Regards

Oct 29, 2008

Patience, patience, patience and then more patience....

Can you not see the progress you have made in a few days??? Humans have so little patience. It can take months to turn fear to trust. You are doing perfectly. patience, patience, patience. Have your goal be trust and nothing else for a while. It can take a long time to trust someone. specially if old abuse was involved. good job...Franklin

Franklin Levinson

Nov 4, 2008

Franklin, Hi.

I just wanted to touch base to let you know what a fabulous few days I've been having with Troy. I am learning so much. He is now wearing his halter again - and happily - I didn't have to trick him or bribe him using feed either. It just took small, small steps. (and a lot of singing songs to him - ok, so thats a little strange but he seems to relax... ) He calls out to me when I get home, and he is in a nice routine of going in and out of his yard and onto/off the grass.

I have had a couple of occasions where I have really though that I was at a brick wall with progress, but I am learning that if I just leave things as they are, on a good note, and then carry on the next day (or later the same day) things always seem much better.

This evening I tied him up for a very short time, which was fine. I have learned, through your emails, that I simply cannot rush him (no matter how frustrated I may be!) and I am finding that each new step that I teach him, as long as it is a tiny step, is able to be dealt with so much more easily. Each day I also do a little of the "basics" with him - just moving in and out of his space, and letting him come to me. He no longer walks off when I approach.

Thanks so much for your help, albeit remotely! I will take a digital photo of him in the next day or two and email it to you.

kind regards
Rachel. :o)

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