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Franklin Levinson's

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Advice on Training an older horse

Hi Franklin,

I have been reading your website and found it to be very informative. I have been searching for some answers for a long while and now I am hoping you can help me.

I have a four year old filly that I purchased as a yearling. I talked to her everyday and groomed her, I could pick up all four feet with no problem. Then unfortunately I had a massive heart attack and my work with her stopped. I had a farrier to come out and trim her feet and he apparently hurt her, she now kicks. But even that is only a small part of the problem. Due to my health I am not able to work her daily. She was supposed to go at the age of three to be trained to ride but finances wouldn't allow it, I tried again this year and I was told she was too old. She has never even seen a round pen, but she is a sweetheart and I can't bare to have to give her up. Knowing she was out in the pasture gave me hope of recovering so I could one day ride her. As I stated finances are very tight so do you have any advice on how I could start her in a round pen or maybe any contacts in central Oklahoma that could help me. I am not physically strong, but I do have patience and I know that her problems are because of what happened to me and she shouldn't have to suffer for it.

Thank you so much for your time.

Hi Kay,

I am quite sorry to hear of your health issues. I send prayers for your speedy recovery.

A horse is never too old to learn or be started under saddle to ride. I cannot imagine why someone would say that to you. It does sound like your ferrier hit her and was abusive. They are not trainers and generally do not have the skills or patience to deal with young or untrained horses. I work with a lot of ferriers and vets to assist with untrained horses. They cannot be expected to take the time to deal with horses that are so fearful they put themselves (vet or shoer) at risk of injury. You have a difficult situation. But you do have a round pen. Begin to play with the horse gently in the pen. Easy free lunging, line lunging, stopping, turning, backing, over low jumps are all easy, gentle and good to do. At some point begin to handle her girth area. Have someone stand on the opposite side of the horse and you both gently bring a girth up so she can feel it and move the girth up and down along the girth area. Someday, after she has been in the round pen for at least 30 minutes and moved around a lot, have someone steady her and begin to 'sack her out' with a saddle blanket on both sides eventually you should be able to toss the blanket up on her and she just stands quietly. The next thing would be to introduce the saddle in the same way. If you have really gone slowly and waited for the horse to relax into each step, it should not be a big deal. However, it is normal and to be expected that once the horse is saddled for the first time and the girth snugged to the point the saddle won't slip to the side and then the horse is asked to move that some bucking occurs. You should be prepared for this. It will only last a minute or two at the most. But it is to be expected and anticipated. Be prepared by giving the horse a lot of room and not getting upset yourself when the bucking occurs. It is normal.

After the horse settles into moving around the pen with a saddle on her, put horse away. Find someone else to ride the horse for the first time. With your health as an issue, I would not attempt it yourself. If you saddle the horse a few times before attempting to have it ridden, riding it should not be a big deal. The person lays their body across the saddle first before attempting to bring the offside leg over and sit upright. Once on the horse, the horse should be allowed to just stand there a few minutes or move wherever they want to with no pulling on the halter or leadrope (no bit in the mouth). Then someone else can lead the horse around for a few minutes and then end the session. Do this quite a few times and it all should go well.

This process should be done slowly and a lot of time should be taken. I cannot give you all of this in an email. It is something that takes years to learn and get the real feeling for. I have tried to do more here than I would normally in an email. People generally pay for advice and technique like this. There is always a risk to it. So I promise no results and assume no responsibility for outcomes of my suggestions. This is a brief description of a process that requires skill, timing, precision, knowledge, practice and guidence. I hope I been of help, but this is not something to teach in an email. If your horse means as much to you as you have said, find the money for a training video or attendance of a colt starting seminar. If you care to help me set up one in your area, I would be happy to and you can partake in the proceeds if you do.

Good luck and please BE CAREFUL.

Sincerely, Franklin

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