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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

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Different Behavior at Trainer's than at Home

Hi. I came across your web site and was rather impressed with your articles. I have investigated so many training methods who just try to sell you expensive programs, that your site makes for a nice change.

I was wondering if you could give me some advice. I have a lovely 8yo standardbred gelding, Jack. He is an ex pacer, that was found neglected by a rescue organisation and re-educated etc. I bought him because he has a really good quiet temperament, which I needed after my previous "problem horse". However after a few rides it became apparent that he had issues with going forward. Didn't want to move at all really, despite me kicking or using a crop (which I hate). I sent him to a western trainer (though I ride english) for three weeks to re-establish the basics. The trainer did a good job whilst he was there, and I rode him out on the roads etc at the trainers and Jack was really good. We encountered barking dogs, cars, everything and Jack handled it all without a problem and was completely happy and calm to walk and trot forwards.

Now that he is home however he is no where near as good as he was at the trainers. He is better as he will move a bit, but is still lazy and I need to use a lot of leg and sometimes the crop to get him to move properly. At least thats the case when we go away from the paddock. He doesnt appear to like leaving his paddock or his friend. He will constantly try to turn back to the direction of the paddock. I have taken him out to the trails on the property and he gets agitated, and spooks at the tiniest of things like logs and rabbits and birds. I then take him back in the direction of his paddock and he is more than happy to go forward. If I take him down to the stables where there are lots of people and horses and noises, he will spook at everything. Clanging buckets, running water, anything that rattles.

Now as a bit of background about me. I have been riding for years, leased a few horses and then owned a moody tb mare for 2 years. The moody mare I had was a real terror and despite my constant efforts (and small successes) I just couldnt handle her dominating, disrespectful personality. She totally destroyed my confidence. I dont consider myself experienced, but I am not a beginner either, just a tad nervous. Thats why I went for a quiet standardbred, as they tend to be known for being good placid pleasure horses. Jack is no exception, and when I tried him out, I rode him along a road, in wind and rain, with cars, dogs, galloping horses beside him etc, and he was totally calm, just lazy. Now I dont understand why, with all his training correctly established and I have seen that he can be calm and confident with me riding at the trainers place, why he suddenly is spooky and wont listen or cooperate with anything I want to do. I dont want to bore him by doing endless circles in an arena, I want to have fun on the trails and have him happy to go forward confidently. I think a lot of it probably has to do with my lack of confidence and knowledge. I have been trying to make him go forward past scary objects so he learns to trust me, but it isnt working. I really do love him, he is an awesome little horse with such a great personality on the ground. He is just totally unwilling under saddle for me.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.


Hi Sarah,

Actually, it is more about you than your horse. When you said "I think a lot of it probably has to do with my lack of confidence and knowledge.", you were right on target. The horse can only come up to the level of the rider/handler and not beyond. When you were at the trainers, your confidence level was higher and the horse knew that. At home you have anxiety and your horse knows that as well. I would suggest taking some lessons on this horse. You really do need to build your confidence up and this will come from building your skill and experience level. That is what I would suggest. Remember your horse knows it all and you have seen him behave really well. You are the 'why' about what is going on. No offense intended, but if you up your level of horsemanship your horse will come up as well. I have some DVD's and tapes that might help you. It is really a blessing to have a visual aid to refer to when problems arise. There are plenty of other good DVD's and tapes out there as well to learn horsemanship from. Riding lessons have to be had in the physical.

Good Luck, Sincerely, Franklin

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