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Young Arabian with unusual problems

Hello Franklin, your urgent opinion would be much appreciated.

I have a 3 year old Arab gelding 'Varaz' (he will be 4 in September), which i took home about a week and a half ago. For the first two days i just spent time with him on the ground, taking him for a walk around the property so he could see his new surroundings, took him for a light run behind the motorbike, gave him a good brush and just generally spent time with him so he would get used to it all.

He is prone to tossing his head, whether it be in the paddock when he's coming over to me, just being exercised on lead and under saddle (walking, trotting or cantering). From a lot of info i have read, including on your web site, i will be arranging to have his teeth checked. He had also been getting fed some chaff & pallots to balance out all of the green grass around at the moment.

The more major issues i am having are that when i rode him down a hill he 'tried me out' a bit which i was expecting and didn't find intimidating, though after a while of riding around a big paddock he just stopped dead, and the next thing i knew he was dropping to all fours like he was about to role so i had to quickly jump off. He hasn't done it since, though yesterday he again stopped dead and would not budge one bit, he wasn't looking at anything in particular and his eyes looked calm. I tried steering him left and then right as if i'd accepted that we would go in a different direction since he clearly didn't want to move foward, though that didn't work and i had to get off and lead him back to the mounting area, where i mounted him again and rode to a different paddock. He again stopped, though i managed to get him moving with a gentle flick of the reign. Today on the other hand, he stopped dead and when i continued to try and gently push him forward he turned himself in a little circle and ended up continuously rearing, that high at one point he almost hit me in the head, thankfully his rearing got smaller and i was able to quickly jump off. Once on the ground, again he didn't look agitated or anything, and just looked at me as if to say "what?". When cantering he does the occasional buck, though it is the middle of winter and has been very windy each day which i believe stirs horses up somewhat...I did not go back to unsaddle straight after his episode, instead i rode him elsewhere, and again he stopped but i was able to get him moving again, and then i took him back to near where the 'episode' occurred. Sure enough he stopped dead and wouldn't move, though i was able to steer him to the right and continue foward on a slightly different path. After going back to the big paddock and coming back up, he did a bit of buck and head shake, and then started walking, though at the top of the hill he was going to play up again. I had to get my Dad to come over and grab the reigns and walk him some steps, he stopped again but thankfully followed the motorbike back to the mounting area.

Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated as today gave me quite a fright, and i have been riding since i was 5 years old, and am now 30!

Kind Regards,

Hi Rachael,

First of all, this horse is a baby and you have not had him long at all. These issues could be a result of how he was trained and handled. Also, there could be pain involved. Initially, I would have this horse checked all over, inside and out for any potential pain issues. If you can rule out any possible pain anywhere (including mouth, back, neck, feet, anywhere) it is all a result of his former training, which, from the way it sounds was not very good (perhaps too rough, too quick or inappropriate enough to prompt the horse to simply shut down at a certain point). Very unfortunate for sure.

Something you can do, if you have the skill, is, after you have RULED OUT ANY PAIN, restart the horse from the beginning and I do mean from the beginning of handling, ground work, introducing the saddle, bridle, everything. Allow one month for this training, daily mostly, for about one hour for each session. Lots of reward (removal of all pressure) for any effort even if the horse misses the mark. The total and complete removal of all pressure (no petting, looking at him, totally remove any input of energy) and actually ignore the horse (turn slightly away) for a minute (keep an eye on him with your peripheral vision) and breath consciously, is the best reward you can offer him for any effort.

If you do as I am suggesting and do it skillfully and patiently, you will most likely have a different horse after the 30 days. Go for it and let me know. If you do not have the skills, find a gentle trainer who does and get references. Watch the training yourself as this is just as important as getting the training for the horse. Keep me posted. Head tossing (snaking) is extremely common for Arabians. This is obviously a very, very sensitive horse. Too much pressure will make things worse. It is not an issue for pressure as this is a baby. It is about training the horse properly which it seems was not done very good to begin with.

Sincerely, Franklin

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