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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

Professional support for you and your horse!

Getting that new horse to trust you.

Hi Franklin,

My name is Charlotte I am 15 years old and I've been riding since I was 7. Unfortunately, I didn't have the best teachers so I'm not a great rider. But I am getting better instruction now so I should improve. Everyone says I'm quite a good little rider anyway.

About two months ago I bought a new horse. He is a 16.2hh, 8 year old, Belgium warm blood x thoroughbred called 'JJ.' He is my first horse that is completely mine and mine alone. When I tried him out he seemed great; forward going, been there done that, great jump on him, but most of all nice temperament.

I fell in love with him and we left a deposit. We sent the vet out and unfortunately he had ringworm but I still wanted him and I decided to treat it myself. When he arrived I was so proud he was mine and I wanted him to be the best horse ever.

A couple of days after I had him I was treating him for the ringworm and he began to show aggression swishing his tail ears back pushing me around a bit etc. I ignored it and put it down to sensitivity because of the ringworm, but it persisted even after the ringworm. He even started kicking out when I was picking out his back feet. But that problem was sorted out. However, he is begging to be a little bit like it again with his feet. When I go into his stable I am scared to bolt the door as he frequently turns his bum to me and acts as though he wants to kick me. But he hasn't as of yet. He is quite protective of his food but is a lot better than when he first came. He is starting to put on weight and pick up condition but he still has an attitude. He is slowly but surely beginning to trust me and we have already formed a strong bond; he comes to me when I call him, follows me around in the field and can be very affectionate. He has a very nice horse inside of him but it's as if he is afraid to completely trust me. I don't know what else to do and how to go about gaining his full trust. My theory is that he was born and trained with a very nice home and schooled very well. He also bucks when I ride him in canter and a couple of times in trot because of this I made the decision to wait till our sand school is finished (which hopefully shouldn't be long) before I start properly riding. I am hoping you can give me some tips on the behaviour issues and how to gain his full trust and respect and also how I can go about stopping the bucking.

Yours truly, Charlotte

Hi Charlotte,

Please read some of the numerous essays and articles that are already available for free on the website on this exact topic of developing trust, respect and a high level relationship with horses. There really is a ton of information there that would be very useful to you. Conscious, successful relationships with horses built on trust and respect, are first experienced 'on the ground' with the horse doing conscious, action and interaction that is supposed to be led by you (the human) as leader of the 'dance.' Simple movements such as walking forward one step at a time (very slowly and precisely), stopping, back one step at a time, smooth directional transitions done on a long line perfectly, at whatever speed you say, fluidly, softly and willingly. Understanding how and when to reward your horse for even 'trying' to comply with a request is vital. A short break (15-30 seconds) for three perfect steps forward, accompanied by a simple "Good Boy" is all that is required. No food treat needed. Every step, every move you direct, and the horse trys or leans in the direction to try to do, should get a "thank you" from you to your partner the horse for trying to move as you have asked. Like thanking your dance partner for a few good steps of the dance. You must do more than ride the horse to get a real relationship. The riding should be the icing on the cake of your relationship and not the focus. Trust should be the focus and that is gained by your ability to ask the horse to move away from you or around you, or towards you, or anywhere, and the horse 'tries' to comply and gets rewarded. That is a mutually successful interation. You also need to be able to fend the horse off successfully. You need to keep youself safe. If you are being intimidated by the horse, it makes the problem worse. You might consider asking for assistance to show you how to set boundires and fend the horse off successfully w/o making the animal afraid. You need to have that skill and the knowledge and confidence that you can keep youself safe with the horse. Sometimes I begin to ask a horse to move this way and that while I am still outside the stall. I 'haze' him back and forth (sometimes holding a rope). Then put a Whoa! on him and let him rest, give him a Good Boy. I don't touch them. Then start hazing him back and forth again for a minute or two. I do it slowly as I do not want to scare the horse. I only want him to go back and forth so I only use as much pressure as it takes to do that. I try to be as light, calm, quiet and sensitive as possible and still 'get the job done.' 'Quietly strong' is a good way of putting it. Its more sensitive than 'firm.' After doing that for 3-4 minutes most horses are 'in my pocket' before I even get into the stall.

Once you really begin to be able to interact successfully on the ground with this horse everything will change for you with the horse. You will have begun to establish a relationship of trust. Earning trust takes time. Be consistent, very consistent. Always be compassionate and kind. Never take anything the horse does personally. It is NEVER doing anything to you. It is just being a horse.

All behavior you do not want will be fear based if you done the job of establishing a good relationship over a bit of time. The horse will trust you would not put it in harms way by a stupid or thoughtless request. So anything he does that you rather he not do, will be a fear based reation and your responce should be leading and guiding the animal back to trust by asking again for the simple movement he is so used to already doing and happy doing for you. If you had A round pen I would suggest some at liberty training with your horse. Its a ton of fun and would greatly enhance your bond. A training dvd or two would open your eyes even more to techniques and things to do on the ground to dance with your horse. There are many good ones in the backs of all horse magazines. I have several in my shopping corral in the website that would really help you. No matter whose you get, please get some and get the education and knowledge, along with the techniques and skill required to be succssful with horses. Please show this email to your folks. Let them help you with gaining more knowledge about horses. you will thank them and me if you do.......

Sincerely, Franklin

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