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Dangerous, rescued ex-barrel racer loved by a 12-year old girl!

Hi Franklin,

I am working with an ex-barrel racer and I have been having some bad problems with her. She is a VERY high spirited horse at a therapy ranch. She is about 10 and her name is Sassy. I have ridden her and she has never given me a problem. Before I ride her I lunge her and she decides to run into me and rear and as soon as I make her back away she will do about 2-4 laps then throw her butt at me and turns and starts again the other way! Do you have any ideas on how I can get her to stop? I love her very much and do not want to see her put down!

Thanks so much! Get back to me as soon as you can,

Thanks for helping!!! :)

Hello Franklin,

My name is K... and it was my daughter who e-mailed you earlier (A asking for help with horse "Sassy").

A is 12 yrs. old and I cannot describe in words how OVER THE TOP PASSIONATE she is about horses. She takes lessons since she's about 6 yrs. old and helps out at the barn since she's 8-9 yrs. old. Most recently she started volunteering at a local animal rescue that has horses, donkeys, llamas, goats, pigs, etc. She absolutely fell in love with this ex-barrel racer horse named Sassy. The owner of the rescue is not particularly fond of this horse because in her eyes it 'killed' her horse (by kicking it and they had to put it down). Also the horse was dropped off there - she did not agree to take it. She feels that as long as this horse is there, she can't bring in any other horses because she feels it is dangerous.

As A stated, the horse is very high spirited and the owner is threatening to put her down. My daughter comes home and cries herself to sleep because she wants to save this horse. SHE WANTS TO FIX HER so that the owner falls in love with her too. My daughter would spend every day there with this horse if she could. She goes there from morning to night on weekends and provided she gets homework done on time, she'll go evenings during the week as well. She's already stated that she wants to go every day in the summer. My heart breaks for her and I am praying that you have the answers. This is a very special girl with a HUGE heart and compassion for these beautiful animals. I wish we lived closer. I would love to visit you!!

Respectfully, K

Hi "A",

You can love a horse to bits and it can still hurt you. You seem to know this. You also know the horse is not being bad. It is dangerous because of its having been neglected and abused. But that doesnt make it less dangerous. Also, it can take a very, very long time to rehabilitate a horse such as you described to me. This is something that I would not generally suggest a youngster to take on, no matter how much they love the horse or how talented the youngster is. If you do continue on with the horse I am sending a DVD that will be very helpful. If you had a round pen available that would help immensely. Do they? You MUST be able to set a boundary and keep it. Sounds like you are actually doing OK. Swinging her rear at you, so long as you stay out of range, is not that big a deal. What is important is that you simply keep the horse moving (but not too fast). Do your best to ignore behavior that is not dangerous to you and simply keep asking the horse to go forward. Dont worry about it moving fast. Walking is actually fine when lungeing. A little walk and a little trot and then removal of all pressure (a break from moving). The removal of pressure is the big reward. Better than a carrot. Ask for small things. A few steps at a time and reward. Training one-step-at-a-time and reward is the most effective training technique I know. Most people dont ever think of it. This way things stay calm and quiet. This is how you want the horse to be and it can become a habit. Also, keeping the pressure to a minimum helps the horse to come to trust you. Most people ask too much, too quickly and have it all be going too fast. Along with trust, respect comes naturally. Trust is developed with horses through your abilities as the great leader/parent. If you trust someone, you probably respect them too and vice/versa.

Use a flag (a half of a plastic shopping bag, affixed to the end of a dressage whip). It is on the DVD. Introduce it gradually and thoughtfully. Bring it up a bit and put it down. Gradual, one step at a time again is the way. It is a great tool. But like any tool, it is only as good as the hands using it. Use it to set a boundary and KEEP the boundary. Its important you are extremely consistent. The horse should not invade your personal space at all. Better you go to it. Extreme patience and consistency is paramount. Keep out of range of the horses feet. It may just surprise you with a kick at anytime. Avoid so much pressure that the animal wants to rear in front of you. But you dont want to be wimpy either. Quiet but strong, skillful, consistent leadership is required. I call it Quiet Strength. Coupled with skill and confidence it is very powerful. Please do not be over confident. Understanding where you need to gain strength and wisdom is just as important as anything else. No matter how much you love horses, training them has serious and very real dangers. Catastrophic dangers!!! Loving them is wonderful and your desire to help this horse is big, I get that. You cannot do the animal any good if you get hurt.

The owner of the facility, in truth, will probably be harder to deal with than the horse. I am making an educated guess that no matter what you are able to do with this horse, the owner of the place will not want to forgive the horse for making a fatal attack on her horse. Put yourself in her shoes. She will probably never trust this horse. She is justified actually. If you wish to have a life with horses, you will need to understand and accept that you will not save every horse you will love. There are many horses who need help, saving, decent homes and more. Sometimes, letting go of a horse is the best thing to do. A horse that remains dangerous to humans will always be problematic and generally it will only be a matter of time before something really serious happens. Having to put a horse down because another horse kicked it, is very, very serious. I have rehabilitated many horse actually. Most come around fairly well, but still a rehabilitated horse can always become dangerous in a flash and never be fully trustworthy. Just like a psychotic human, if they miss their medication, can become deadly. Trauma from abuse and neglect and mishandling often is very deeply rooted and never fully leaves the individual. Please be aware of this.

All this being said...go slowly, lots of reward (breaks from all pressure including you even looking at in the eyes and touching it). Any input of energy is pressure (from your eyes, body or anyway). Peace is the greatest reward. Feelings of safety are the most important things to a horse. Beyond food, shelter, friends, water, anything...its feelings of safety are the biggest, most important thing to any horse. If you can help a horse to feel totally safe, it will be in your pocket. Trust=safety=peace!!! for horses. Earn its trust though your wonderful and compassionate and kind and skillful leadership and you will gain more than the horse actually. You will gain even more of your wonderful self.

Keep me posted. Regards to your Mom, who loves you very, very much.....

Sincerest regards, Franklin

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