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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

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Fear and horses

Dear Franklin-

I have recently read through nearly almost of your Q & A's and I have found that I have a different but similar situation about horse love and respect. I have only been a horse owner for just over a year; however, I have always had a deep love for this beautiful creature. I did not go into horse ownership blind, my husband grew up training and showing horses so he was knowledgeable and secure around them.

My family had friends with horses (my husband's family included) and I used to play in the barn, brush their horses, love on them and when I was lucky I was lead around on them.

About a year into being around them I was bitten in the forehead by a mare with a foal at her side. After that I felt this overwhelming fear of being "hurt" in general by horses. Although I still had a deep love for them I did it from afar and didn't get too close to them. Through the years I rode at a stable and helped mentally challenged children ride horses, rode on occasion at "rent-a-stable" type places, and set up riding lessons for our daughter, but the deathly fear of them was still there. When my husband and I bought a new place in the country we soon bought 2 horses. I was so scared of them that I couldn't even feed them from across the fence without nearly being sick to my stomach. My horse was a 6 year old mare that had a heart of gold and not a mean bone in her body (our at the time 5 year old daughter would lead her around without any problems) but I was still scared to death to do anything with her without my husband being right there. Her ground manners were okay, but she was green under saddle and I didn't have the knowledge to work with her so we decided to go on the hunt for "the right horse" for me. After searching for over a month and looking and riding over a dozen horses I came across a gelding that picked me. Mind you when I started looking for the horse of my dreams I was scared and I noticed through the process I was becoming less and less nervous around them. Anyway I went and looked at this gelding and when I got there he was everything I was looking for. I didn't have any nervousness around him and when I was standing at his shoulder I asked him if he wanted to come home with me and he tucked me into his neck with his head over my shoulder. I knew then and there that he was the one.

Anyway I have been a confident leader with him to the best of my ability and have really worked on overcoming my nervousness around him. Just over the last month I have noticed that I am becoming fearful again and I don't know why, maybe it is because I am still an insecure horse owner and don't want to do anything wrong with him. Let me explain a bit further...

We now have 2, 12 hand pony and a 16 hand gelding and I will work with them all day long with no fear what so ever and with great confidence but when it comes to my horse I think I want his love and respect so much that it causes me to be fearful or nervous. Let me explain a few of the things that my horse does and maybe you can enlighten me with your knowledge.

When I go to the pasture to get him he will lower his head for me to put on the halter (50% of the time he meets me half way), I always rub on him after he has his halter on and he leans his head softly into my body, I walk him over tarps without hesitation (he is not sure about water but is also not spooky about it either), I can back him up without much movement on the lead rope, I can yield his hind quarters and have him give me his eyes without any force, at times he will rest his chin on my head or shoulder and one time I felt his teeth on my head (although it hurt I don't think he bit me to be aggressive), he will put his nose to my face and sometimes when I softly blow air he smells it other times he turns his head away, I have placed a chair in the pasture and just sat there and he will eventually come up to me (it may take 30 minutes but he comes up to me), when I am at the fence he will walk up to me and show put his body against the fence and turn his head to look at me and at that point I rub his neck and withers. When I lead him out of the pasture his head is down and he is relaxed, but his ears are turned listening behind him and I was told that is because he doesn't trust me as his leader and he is listening for any danger behind him. I used to ride him 2 times a week and do ground work with him at least one day a week, but now all I can bring myself to do is take him for walks on halter and me walking beside him around the neighborhood and trails.

Just the other day we went up the road and a noise spooked him to a stand still and head high looking, I talked to him and stroked his wither and he lowered his head and followed me with slack in the lead. I talked to him all the way home and returned him to the pasture unharmed (did that show him to trust me?) There are times he lowers his head and points his ears to me and I rub them and whisper in his ear and he keeps his head still, I know horses can be funny about their ears, but I feel he trusts me. I know I am rambling but I want to think that my horse loves me and respects me but with my fear I am just not sure. I am actually considering using a telepathic service to help me communicate with him. I guess I just want to know if my horse first and foremost looks to me as his leader (respect), feels safe with me, and loves me. I know no amount of reading, watching videos, attending clinics and demos will help me with my nervousness, but I will take any advice I can get.

Thank you very much for your time,
Misty, North Central Florida

Hi Misty,

Fear and nervousness about horses can be dispelled a lot by gaining knowledge and education about horses as well as time spent with them and interacting with them in an appropriate and mutually successful way. I strongly suggest your purchase a few training DVDs, attend as many seminars on gentle horsemanship as possible and perhaps even spend some time with a good, legit, natural horsemanship trainer.

That term, Natural Horsemanship, is being used to market a whole slew of BS trainers and products. So, be careful. Get the education you lack. That is the first step. Then practice simple, basic movement with your horse. Do this a lot, daily if possible. Simple requests for movement, the horse tries to comply and gets an immediate reward of a brief break from the pressure of the request and a Good Boy. This is all that is required. No fawning over the horse or overdone praise. A good rule of thumb with horses is "Less is More." Get efficient and appropriate with communication and reward the horse for any and all trying to comply. This will set you up as the good and trusted leader of the horse. Set and keep boundaries of personal space. The horse will respect you for that. Keep me posted and the best of luck to you.

Sincerely, Franklin

P.S. Check out the DVDs in the shopping corral of my website. There are several there that would prove very helpful to you.

Look for: