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Ground Manners/Lungeing my nervous mare


I will try to keep this short and sweet. Going on 4 years ago, I came across my horse online. We took a trip to Iowa (we are in wisconsin) to see her, and after spending several days with her we all knew she was the horse for me. She is a half peruvian/registered half arabian mare. She is going on 8 years of age this october. We bought her when she was 4. I was the first person ever on her back to do more than sit when we bought her. We did lots of longe work with her in the round pen before we brought her home with us, we worked wonderfully together. Even had a little accident (owners lead her as I rode her, giving her a feel for the saddle, just a little walk outside of the round pen. They wanted to release her under my control, I was not comfortable with this. They insisted they knew the horse, so I did not argue. BIG MISTAKE!) As I expected, she walked about 5 feet, when asked lightly to turn away from the gate, she took off into a fast gallop refusing to stop. In fact moving faster when asked to. I managed to safely get off. That was that.

After seeing what this horse would do in a situation such as the one she was put into, I knew in my heart we could start from the bottom and work our way up. Unfortunatley many things in my life came between us, and I recently, and finally have come to the point where I have overcome everything and am ready to begin my journey on rebuilding my relationship with my girl. We have moved her to a much better barn, (indoor arena, nice roundpen, great set up for the both of us!!) she has come a long way since we bought her, she has ALWAYS been fine with my riding her. Occasionally we have our problems but she has NEVER ONCE bucked or done ANYTHING drastic since the incident when I bought her. She has, however reared and bucked with others on her.. but NEVER with me. (never say never though, right?)

My reason for writting is that I feel strongly that where we need to start is the beginning. Working on simple ground manners. She is understandably nervous about the new place, she has been there going on 3 weeks and I have only missed two days out of those three weeks. I go every day. It however is not just her new surroundings. She is a very sweet girl, wants to please... has so much potential. I really am impressed with how good she is having the lack of work done with the two of us...but we really need work on our relationship. I am working on even simple leading. Stopping, going, backing (she will only back straight a step or two before moving her rear to the side and trying to turn.), she is showing improvement.

I know this doesn't happen over night. Our relationship will take time, and patience. Right now I am torn, I feel as if I am trying too much at once with her. I am thinking perhaps I should cut out the riding all together until we have better ground manners, and have worked through our problems and strengthened our relationship and built trust... however I feel it might not be good to stop riding that I've tried to include riding into this .... we are having issues longeing in the round pen also. She seems so confused, even afraid at times and I don't like this at all... she gets in there and immediatly tries to trot or sometimes will walk nicely... but I always feel once she's had enough she fights with all her might to get what she wants. The other day when trying to longe her, she started fighting it almost immediatly, only maybe 3 times around and she stops, puts her head down to eat, walks to the gate, even jerks her head about.. And when I raise my whip (in correct hand) and step towards her hips, she freaks out! She'll either take off trotting faster with her eyes wide and her ears perked as if she is terrified, or she immediatly stops and turns her rear towards me ready to kick. She has kicked when I tried to move towards her to get her to move out.

At this point she fights listening to voice commands as well...I don't want her to fear me, and I feel that right now it is having a big affect on our relationship and building trust. If she is fearful, how can she trust me? I have never touched her with the whip yet... as I feel if she is already that afraid, if I actually tap her hiney with it she will be even more afraid? Or maybe it will show her .. hey, that's not so bad..okay I don't like it so maybe I will that I know you raising and snapping that thing isn't going to HURT me... I really need to work on getting her to the point where her focus is on ME because she trusts me as her leader not fears me as a disciplinary..or fights me whether it is out of fear, or out of being testy.. I also understand being a mare can affect all of this when it is her "special time"..I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on all of this, Franklin. I have read many upon many emails posted on your site, and am also considering phone sessions with you! You are so wonderful, the way you have with horses is phenomenal, and I feel blessed to have come across you!

I hope to hear back from you!

Much Thanks, Jennifer

Hi Jennifer,

Quite a story. Thank you. I would definately take this horse back to some good basics and begin by 'sacking her' out again. I would do this over a month long period. Do you understand that process? Just doing that process alone and doing it very thoroughly will resolve many of the problems you are experiencing. Also, try using a 'flag' (a 5 foot whip with a piece of plastic shopping bag affixed to the end) rather than a lunge whip for your aid. Use it judiciously and sack out the horse with it so you can rub her all over with it. This prevents her from being afraid of it while still respecting it. I would do the same with the lunge whip as well and a host of other things too. A well sacked out horse can have all sorts of things tossed at it and around it without fear. Yet, the same horse will move compliantly when asked to appropriately. A well sacked out horse will have much more confidence doing new things and going new places (like over new jumps). A lot of your the horse's problem is that is lacks confidence. Building confidence means exposing it to new things a lot and very appropriately, over some time.

Not riding the horse for a little while will not hurt anything. However, if you feel you want to keep riding during the 'sacking out' process time. Thats fine. I might suggest having another lunge the horse with you riding the horse. She be less inclined to stop, run off or challenge the person on the ground. I have some DVD's that would prove helpful and I would very happy to 'coach' you through any of this via the telephone. However, I leave for Greece for one month this coming Tuesday. I shall be teaching and training there. I return on October 6th. So, perhaps taking this month to focus on 'sacking out' ia a good idea. After I return, you will have many questions and be looking for the next steps, probably (hopefully). So, be careful, go slow and be precise. Thanks a lot for your contact and send Blessings to you and your horse...

Sincerely, Franklin

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