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Franklin Levinson's

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My 11 yr old gelding (QH) may have a problem. I've owned him for 7 mo. In the arena he does fine, pays attention, calm..., I want to ride trails so last week I moved him to another barn where that is possible. I rode with another more experienced person in case I had trouble. He was very nervous ( tail swishing, head up, wide eyed, ). As we exited the woods (45 min into the ride) he bolted hard towards the barn, 50 yards later I had him stopped and returned to the woods again to repeat, same thing, bolted as soon as we cleared the woods. This is not trotting off, it's an explosion. After each time he bolted I circled him left and right to work him some. The next two times we left the woods I circled him as soon as we entered the field. He did it, but just barely. No bolting. On the way back to the barn I was careful not to hurry and in fact would stop and turn around a few steps and then proceed. Not very happy about turning around but did it. I was riding him in a pinchless d-ring snaffle.

The next day we worked in the pasture reviewing turns and such until he was head down. I opened the gate to leave the pasture and expected him to not want to go (barn sour), I was surprized when he went without any hesitation. He did not want to come back however, circle left, right and back we went. He did better the more we came and went through the gate, but he was always more willing to go than to come back. I've only been riding 1 year so bolting can up my heart level try as I may to remain calm. Is there anything I can do different other that work him through this behavior untill excepts me as the leader? and hopefully doesn't get us hurt in the process?

Sincerely, David

Merry Christmas David,

I apologize for the late response. I get so many questions these days that I get behind a lot. I hope it is not too late to offer some suggestions....

Relationships with horses that have a deep bond of trust and respect begin on the ground (which you do not mention at all). Understanding and having the ability to play and dance on the ground with your horse is what will really develop trust. This sort of interation with a horse is far beyond riding the horse (which should be the icing on the cake of the relationship, but most often is never even attempted, learned or understood in deference to the human activity of riding the horse). During the experiencing of dancing on the ground with horses, the human gains great knowledge of how to interact through a common language with their horses.

Making something happen or forcing the humans will on the horse is out of the question. Providing a consequence rather than a punishment for unwanted behavior is practiced and learned by the human. I school and train an average of 10 horses or so a week. All horses get 20-30 minutes on the ground with me before I get in the saddle. All horses are compliant, trusting and perform better under saddle than ever before since beginning this sort of training. There is so much more to the world of horses than the human riding the horse (which is un-natural for the horse anyway).

So, if you want to improve the situation and relationship you have with your horse, consider stopping riding for a few weeks and play on the ground with long lines and at liberty in a round pen, arena or paddock. You will be amaized at how your horse will develop in his trust and respect for you and what you request of him. Then when you go to riding, practice providing a consequence for behavior that is unwanted (all fear-based anyway). The consequence should be one that develops trust and helps the horse learn he can trust that you will not put him in a situation that he will be hurt in or unable to survive. At present it sounds like he doesn't trust you very much.

It takes a lot of time to build the sort of relationship I am speaking of. Consider gaining more knowledge and education about horses through the purchase of training DVD's. Many good ones are found in the backs of all horse magazines and in websites of trainers. I have several you would find helpful in my shopping corral. But, no matter whose you get, get several and gain the knowledge and information that will help you develop the relationship you seem to desire with your horse. Remember, the human activity of riding the horse should be a dance, just as everything you do with your horse should be a dance, with you as the great and skillful/compassionate leader. If you are not dancing or your horse refuses to dance with you when riding him, go back to dancing on the ground. Develop that dance and become good dance partners with you as the great leader. It will translate to dancing while riding as well. You will gain so much more with your horse if you do..........

Again, Merry Christmas and the best to you in the New Year,

Sincerely, Franklin

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