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Sour attitude and 'turned on' horse

Dear Franklin,

I have followed your website ever since i purchased my tb in november and your insight and advice are great. so, now i hope you don't mind if i ask more questions?

First, my horse has started to become very grumpy when being ridden. he was doing very well for a long while, but now, he does not want to go forward. he is starting to buck and has recently thrown me off. the chiropracter says he's not in pain, but i'm not so sure. do you have any suggestions of which dvd you have would help me with some ground work exercises to strengthen his back a bit? I have purchased the savanna and harry dvd's already.

Second, this is the strange question- he used to HATE being groomed. now he's over that. he loves it. too much. every time i groom him, he gets an erection. i wasn't worried about it much, and never reprimanded him for it, but now when i stand in front of him during grooming, he starts sniffing my chest and blowing like a STUD!! ewwww.

He doesn't squeal or paw or kick. It feels like he's telling me "you're MY human, so there." so, i tell him to back off and reprimand him when he snorts. he backs down right away, but something's rotten here... any insight? should i tell him to put it away when i groom him? if so, how? i have told him to put it away before and tapped it with a sweatscraper, but he LIKED it!!!!!!!gaaaaaaaaaaa. i just don't have the heart to hurt him. what do you suggest? tapping with a dressage whip? I just got him to realize that no one will kill him if he stands still for a sheath cleaning. will i be going backward if i enforce the "no bone" rule? he is a gelding, 5 years old. total teenager, sometimes grumpy, sometimes happy, always testing.

Sorry for being so crass. i just don't want it to escalate into an aggression issue by ignoring it or handling it incorrectly.

Thanks, Rachael

Hi Rachael,

Well, what you are experiencing with your horse (sour attitude) could have a number of causes. So, I will not try to guess the reasons but, rather, suggest remedies. Do a ton more ground games, dances, etc. Notice I did not say "ground work." Stop working your horse and begin to play with it. Dance the dance of going forward on the ground. Light handed loungeing (circles-straight with lots of directional transitions) with an attitude of 'lets have a good time and not get frustrated', ground driving around and over things, in and out of places, etc. will get your horse lightened up again and moving forward. Forget your standard ways of trying to school and work the horse under saddle for a time. I want you to change what you are doing and how you are thinking somewhat drastically. You maybe over using/doing cues, aids, etc. which will make a horse grumpy and frustrated. If you are not rewarding your horse immediately for attempts at compliance, this will frustrate the animal. Learn to recognize any attempts by your horse to comply with a request, even leaning in the direction you are asking it to go. Then you immediately reward the horse with a break in all pressure and let it stand still for a minute while you stroke and praise it. You will see the horse lick and chew and then sigh during these breaks. Learn to do this as a habit of yours during training. Your horse will love you for it. I have attached an essay on rewarding your horse. The two dvds you purchased will be helpful.

Your gelding getting an erection during grooming is not an unusual occurance, as many do. To stop it I suggest putting the animal into movement. This will generally get his mind off of the 'feel good' aspect of the grooming. I do not suggest hitting his penis. As a horse can only focus on one thing at a time, putting him to a bit of work when he does something you do not want, is a good, non-abusive way of changing the behavior. It is called providing a consequence and not a punishment. The difference between a consequence and a punishment, when interacting with horses, is most often the attitude of who is providing the consequence or punishment. They may look like the same thing, movement and action. But, one offers an opportunity to learn and the other advances resentment. Just like the difference between 'work' and 'play' for a horse. They both involve movement, but are asked for with different attitudes and feelings. Consider the differences as they are crucial to your success and overall enjoyment of your horse (and of your horse enjoying you).

As you can have a good day or a mediocre day, so can your horse. When you are having a bad day, it is wonderful when those around you show patience, tolerance, compassion, kindness and support. It is the same for your horse. When he is having an off day, consider not pushing him to perform. Remember one of the Golden Rules for dealing with horses is that "LESS IS MORE." They learn best one-step-at-a-time. If you get something fairly close to what you are asking for, put him away as the biggest reward you have to offer. He will be glad to see you the next day and his training will progress steadily.

I hope I have helped you.....Your DVDs will be shipped within 48 hours. Thank you for your order. You will be emailed again that they have been sent.

Sincerest regards, Franklin

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