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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

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Ex-racehorse challenges

Dear Franklin,

I was just wondering if you could give me some advice on my 8 year old thoroughbred gelding. I got my horse in August. He had come out of racing with a tendon injury. They also think he had laminitis in the foot due to the trauma. By the time I got him he was being turned out and was still slightly lame. The vet advised to put some shoes on him as he was very foot sore. When the furrier arrived he said he also had a dropped sole. I thought, “Oh no, what have I let my self into?” But I persevered and he came sound. I was getting ready to get him back into some work but, “Oh no”. In October fireworks were let off causing him to run around and his shoe twisted puncturing his sole. It was a long haul of polticing, etc. But he is OK again. Before all of this happened he was a perfect gentleman. Then I started noticing him pawing the ground and paying a lot of attention to the muck heap. He also used to rear up a lot at my other thorough-bred ex-racehorse who I have had 16 years. He began biting and tearing his rugs so I split them up in the end. I have since found out from Wetherby’s that he was only cut 3 years ago which explains a lot. He was in very poor condition when I got him so I have been feeding him up calm and condition and alpha A. He then started chewing the wooden rails. Then he tried to challenge me once. I was very firm with him and, touch wood, he hasn’t tried again (just a lot of laying back of the ears). He has started a lot of nipping and biting at me. Is there anything you can suggest I can do? I have changed his feed to quiet pencils and dengie hi fi. He is sound and I think also getting back into work would help. It is this biting which I feel is the problem. I hope you can advise me as I just want my old blue back. Thank you.

Yours sincerely, Julie

Hi Julie,

I understand the challenges of owning horses off the track. A lot of wonderful people ‘rescue’ ex-racehorses and want to rehabilitate them. They do no understand the challenges facing them. Sometimes they get lucky and get by with little difficulty. But more often than not, the challenges are hard and take a lot of time. Also, sometimes you’ll take two steps forward and three steps backwards. I hope I can help you to keep moving forward.

If he is sound and healthy, which is always your first consideration, I always suggest folks take the horse back to the basics of the horse’s training. This means re-starting the horse from the beginning. This is the only way I know of to totally rehabilitate the horse and build the lasting bond and connection you are looking for. Sounds like you have had a lot of horse experience. Can you take this horse back to the beginning? This is what will give you and the horse the best chance of moving forward, changing old patterns, developing a huge amount of trust and respect as well as a deep and profound bond. It really is all about how much ‘trust’ you can develop between you and this horse. It all happens on the ground and in the basics of gentle and appropriate communication.

If you want to address one issue like the biting, here is what I would suggest; you’ll need to be able to send the horse around a round pen or on a lung line immediately upon his looking to nip. What you want to do is put him to work as soon as he does anything you do not want. You are not punishing him, he is merely going to work. He will quickly associate the behavior you do not want with his going to work in circles. Another way of putting this is to make what you don’t want hard for the horse to do and what you do want easy. Its hard for him to bite if he is going around in circles. After a few minutes of circles, offer him a rest and some peace next to you. If he looks to nip again, send him to work. He’ll figure it out quickly. They are very smart.

Let me know how it goes. I am most interested. Sorry it took a while to respond. You wouldn’t believe how many requests for assistance I get and sometimes I fall behind. Also, I am free to travel to teach. I have time in July, Aug. and Sept. if you think there may be interest in what I do in your area. Please keep me posted. Thanks for your question.

Sincerely, Franklin

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