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Franklin Levinson's

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"Flinchy" Horse

Hi Franklin:

I have a 3-year-old Tennessee Walker. He had 30 days training with saddle and is doing relatively well there, but the day I purchased him he was castrated. He has become really flinchy. He doesn't like his tail brushed, I tried showing him a stick and gently rubbing it on his neck and shoulder and he went bonks. I showed it again to him and he went bonks again. I talked to the lady that I bought him from and she said he got that way after he was castrated. What can I do to get him to pick up his feet, let me brush his tail, touch him with objects (I do this so that if I am out riding a stick brushes against him he won't panic). I trained my old 23-year-old horse from a 3-month-old foal and now this guy seems to be a challenge. Is it just repeat, repeat? Or is there some type of other thing I can do to get him to trust me. I can medicate his eye when he scratched it just fine. I finally can pet him without him ducking down from me. Also the lady that I bought him from just had him in the pasture from birth so is that it just like a wild horse, just start from scratch. Thanks a lot. I could use any advice I can get.

Thanks, Valerie

Hi Valerie,

What I suggest is that you go way back to the beginning of appropriate training and re-start the horse – Sacking him out€š again extensively will help you tremendously.

He'll come around with patience and time. Go slowly and only advance to the next step after the previous one is mastered. Let the horse decide how long it should take. It's not so much repeat, repeat, as it is consistency, timing, skill, a lot of rewards for compliance (or even attempts at compliance), rewarding relaxation is very good, every time he does not flinch reward him, etc. There is a specific and deep "connection" that needs to be in place between you and your horse. This connection comes over time and will develop into deep trust between the two of you. Like any relationship that is successful, it takes time, patience, thoughtfulness, kindness, great communication, forgiveness, compassion, and, in the case of horses, great leadership that is skillful, precise and compassionate all at once.

With his feet, stand in the appropriate position, simply say "foot" as you slide your hand down his leg (you can pinch a little as you get near the fetlock if need be). If the horse even shifts his weight properly, give a "Good Boy" and a little rub on the neck. If that cue is too much, simply point at the hoof and say foot. Keep repeating this, offering praise even if he just lifts the foot a little and jams it back down. He is learning to trust that it is OK to offer you the foot. He is not being stubborn, simply afraid. At some point he will pick up the foot and hold it up briefly for you. Take it by the front of the toe first off. Hold very briefly and then set it down or simply let go. Give lots of praise. I have had tremendous success with horses that will not allow their feet to be handled using this technique. Most folks do not recognize the horse as trying to comply. I have other methods as well. So, keep me posted.

I send along best wishes to you for a wonderful Holiday Season!

Sincerely yours, Franklin

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