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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

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Getting to know 'Bert'

Hi Franklin,

I have just purchased a 12 year old arabian gelding. He has been used as a school horse. I have been told that he has no vices. Many years ago, I was hurt badly on a quarter horse mare that I was breaking. She had been my 3rd horse that I had owned but the first to get hurt on. A few years after that, I purchased a horse that was too hot for me and it took all the joy out of it. It was work just to ride him. Wish this sight had been around then... Any way I figured that It was time to get back in the saddle since this has been a life long passion, and I have missed out on so much. My husband is an experianced horseman and dosn`t have much patience with my fear. A timid 13 year old has been on Bert during summercamp and little kids from 8 to 13 have been riding him. He has been rated at a level 3 So it seemed that he could help me overcome a lot and inspire me to continue riding and enjoying all the wonderful things that horses bring.

Today I learn that Bert might experiance some separation anxiety.. Sounds like he could have some herd bound tendancy. My question is, should Bert and I become friends on the ground first, before riding him? I know my husband will want me to get on him as soon as possible. If I should do ground work with him first, how will I know that I have gained his trust? How much ground work will it take and when could I expect him to work through missing his buddies. We do have 2 real sweet quarter horse mares that will most likely welcome him with open hearts.

Thank-You for answering these questions... He`s being delivered tommorow.

Sincerly, Elizabeth

Hello Elizabeth,

All good relationships with horses begin first and foremost on the ground playing games, dancing and 'schooling'. When we ride many riders are too concerned with surviving on the horse, they are afraid of falling. The horse picks up this fear which they feel in turn. Therer is no hard fast rule as to how long a great bond takes to form. It has to do a lot with you and not the horse. When you become able and comfortable with directing this horse's movement anywhere you want, move his hind-quarters, his front-end, lateral movement, backwards & forwards smoothly, fluidly and easily, along with speed transitions up and down, you would probably be well on your way to having a great dance partner. You will know you have gained his trust when you are able to ask for something reasonable from the horse and he always 'tries' to comply. How long this will take is up to you and how much time and skill you can bring to this 'party'. Dealing with his herd-bound tendencies is more of a serious training issue. It is beyond whether or not he is bonded to you. The training technique is to provide a consequence for the behavior you do not want. NOT A PUNISHMENT!

Providing a consequence sets up a learning situation. Dishing out punishment creates fear and resentment. I have written on this topic so extensively that I am hesitant to keep repeating myself. Please look in the archives of my help center for 'providing consequences' for unwanted behavior. Also, in the essay section. Additionally, there is a lot I have already written on 'herd-bound behavior'. Please use the easy, handy search engine within the website to find a lot of information on that and related topics. Simple ground work is not enough to overcome the horse being herd-bound. Again, please read everything I have already written on this subject. As you are a novice rider, when you attempt to ride out with the horse alone, his herd-bound behavior will probably scare you enough that you will go into 'survival' mode and be unable to deal with the issue at hand. Providing a consequence (like movement in small circles) needs to be done confidently and skillfully without the rider/handler being unsure or lacking in confidence. Otherwise the horse picks up the human's fear and responds in kind (more fear). Remember, most often the horse will only come up to the confidence and skill level of the human with it. They are perfect mirrors of what the human brings to them (emotion, attitude, calm or not, etc.). Please read more of what is in the site. You will gain a lot more understanding.

Your husband may be (I really have no idea) very pragmatic about horses, with a 'show him who is the boss' sort of attitude. This is quite common amongst folks who grew up on ranches and around horses. It is an old paradigm that they may tend to have towards their children (and others) as well. Their parents probably had this same attitude. It does not mean they are bad people or cruel, but they may tend to go to punishment quicker. Punishment is expedient. It takes no thought and is a 'knee-jerk' reaction. Providing an appropriate consequence requires thoughtfulness, leadership, skill and real compassion to come forth quickly. Unfortunately, this sort of attitude is at a premium today.

I suggest you learn to ride on a 'school horse' at a riding stable. They may have the same 'show them who is the boss' attitude when they teach. But you would probably develope your riding skills faster. Then when you ride your horse, you will not bring so much fear along with you. This will help your horse out tremendously. Good Luck......

Sincerely, Franklin

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