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Franklin Levinson's

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Horse keeps challenging me

Hi Franklin,

I looove your site and I have to say that I cannot wait for your videos to come out so that I can play more games with my horse, a 9-year old thoroughbred gelding. He was a racer for 8 years both in the United States and England (born in England, actually). My husband and I rescued two thoroughbreds, one 5 year old mare born in Kentucky... she only raced 3 times and did not do very well whereas my gelding was a real performer and won numerous times but a tendon injury stopped his racing career. The vet examined his leg and said that it healed itself and does not appear to hurt him any. Vet said that if it hurts him I will find out when I start working him more and from there I will see what to do.

My husband and I are both working with a Parelli Trainer and doing the 7 games (I assume you are familiar with these). We are almost done with our level 1, Partnership. Our trainer is really impressed at how well they and we are all doing so well.

One of Tricky's ex-trainer said of him in a newspaper article that I read about him, and I quote "he is not named Mr. Tricky for nothing... he has a mind of his own and goes only where he pleases". Well, I am playing circling games with him and indeed he does like to decide where he would like to be leaded... although I always win the games it is sometimes quite difficult and although I am very confident and non-worried when working with him, when I think of the way he was behaving the day after I am almost scared to get back into the round pen with him. My trainer does not think that he would ever hurt me or hurt us and says that the most intelligent horses will always test you to see if you are up to the challenge of being the leader. I just wonder if he will at one point trust me and just behave or if it will always be like that.

We are not riding these horses at the moment. They were rescued from a killing pen in Texas. They stayed at the Habitat for Horses for 6 months and then we adopted them. The two of them have become extremely bonded and when my husband is not working his mare and I am alone in the arena with Tricky he is forever looking for the mare and the mare keeps looking, if not calling, for him. My trainer, who I really really love and she is extremely competent and never ever hurts them but rather corrects them and believes in consequences rather than punishment, says that it is good for us to separate them here and there and then eventually the mare will realize that he always comes back to pasture. I work with the gelding much more than the mare as the mare does not seem to have issues whatsoever. She had some emotional issues at first but she seems to have gotten over that pretty much but Tricky has MANY issues, specially with the carrot stick. I am still working at desentizing him to it..... but every single day I still have to make him smell the stick and touch him with it, rub him with it, show him that the stick will not hurt him. However, if I must lift the stick to make it go a little faster or to tell him that the door is closed on that side or the other side.... He totally freaks out.

My trainer says that before riding this horse I may have to send him to a professional riding trainer. Sometimes he takes off and will buck a bit and he can really really move. I am not an expert rider and for now I am just happy to play the games and I try to play at least 1 hour every day and more on the weekends but still after over 2 months of this now he still gives me quite a few problems. Sometimes, however, he is in a much better mood and will do everything so perfectly but other days.... He scares me crazy. Thank God that I never seem to get scared when I am there, living it with him. I get scared when I look back at what just happened. I guess your suggestions will be just to keep at it and keep playing the games and just be careful.

My husband gets very worried when he sees me in the round pen with him and I appear so confident and calm..... my husband does not know how I can remain that way when the horse is like that and I have to say that even myself when I look back at the episodes that he has at times I wonder how I can keep my cool.

Our trainer says that it might be good for us to switch horses when we play games so that we get a different feel as every horse will have a different feel but the truth is that Eddy is kind of nervous and scared of handling Tricky. Tricky is 17.2 hands and ways some 1250 pounds... I am 5'4" at 104 pounds... will he ever see me a the leader? Please do let me know when your tapes are coming out. The more creative ideas I can get to play games with him, the better.

Thank you.

Hi France,

Quite an email. Thank you for reaching out even more. Something that does not seem to be very evident in the 'Parelli Method' (actually techniques he got from old timers who came before him) is real awareness and addressing of the emotional element in a horse's life. Many Parelli 'certified' trainers have not worked with that many horses. They come to a training with Pat with their own backyard horse, get certified with that horse, and have minimal or no experience with a variety of different horses over an extended period of time. This can work against a horse owner like yourself. Your trainer sounds OK. I can only assume she has vast experience over a lot of time with many different horses. Your horse is herd bound. Your trainers suggestions in this area are good. It is normal for a horse (either from intelligence or insecurity or both) to daily ask 'are you still able and willing to lead the dance?' It is survival for the horse. For horses that are more insecure, that question is asked with more of an emotional content (insecurity within your horse showing up). It needs to know where you are (are you still able to lead) in this on a daily basis. It is how they survive. This horse will only accept you as leader on a daily basis. That is normal for an insecure horse (and a horse that has alpha tendencies). Over time it may get better, but I would not expect major changes in this horses personality. If your trainer knew how to safely and gently lay this horse down on the ground, I would suggest it. That would be a good thing for this horse. Most folks, Parelli or not, are not familiar with this technique. Do not let her experiment if she has not done this before and many times.

I would suggest practicing working this horse without the 'carrot stick' for a while. He may have some old abuse issues. I am not a fan of 'gimmicks' anyway. Sounds like the stick scares him continuously, so why stay with it? Go back furthur in his training. Develop his trust without the stick. He needs to trust you and not the stick. Once he really trusts you, he will begin to trust the decisions you make around him and this will include using the stick. I have found that 'trust' is the big carrot anyway. Develop the trust and things will fall into place. At least that is my experience. Yes he needs to get accustomed to all sorts of things. But not much will happen really until he trusts you implicitly. This has not happened yet (even with your Parelli trainer and the carrot stick). If Eddie is not confident with this horse, I would not suggest he work with him. The horse knows all and knows Eddie is unsure and this will make the horse more insecure and the problem worse. What about your Parelli trainer? How does she do with the horse? If she is really good, she should be able, over some time, to bring the horse along. I would suggest going back to the horse's basic and early training. Try re-starting the horse. A very good thing to do the help develop trust. Go back to the horse's beginning and begin, yet again (on the ground first and then under saddle). Go to solid, good, foundational and fundamental training and drop the name brand methods, nifty techniques and catchy phrases a bit. Ask your trainer for good, basic, re-starting of this horse and she what she says. It will be worth whatever time it takes. Ask her how many horses she has started and finished out. You might discover some things you never knew about her. I am sure she is a lovely person and I am very happy you 'love' her. But there is obviously something that is not happening here.

My DVD's and vids should be listed on the site within a couple of weeks. Thank you for asking. However, the Parelli Method stresses how they have all these great games to do on the ground. I am surprised your Parelli Certified Trainer doesn't have a wealth of ground games for you and your horse to try. Can you comment on this please? Does your trainer talk to you about developing the bond of trust with your horse? Please comment on this as well. Does she talk about how to earn the respect of your horse and what that really means? I look forward to hearing back from you. I am sure your Parelli Certified Trainer is well intentioned and probably does a good job as far as her experience can take her. I would guess she is fairly young, gung-ho, and has some talent. There is something to be said for long time experience though.....I look forward to hearing back from you.

Sincerely, Franklin

Good Morning, Franklin,

THANK YOU SO MUCH for always replying so very promptly. My husband and I are most interested in getting your videos and are actually considering, perhaps next year, going for a weekend in Colorado and meet you there. We would book way in advance, of course. Anyway, I made my husband read your last reply and he thought that you made a lot of sense and loved your answer. As for Kathy, no my trainer does not have the expertise to request the horse to lie down. I know for a fact that she does not have that expertise and, therefore, will not ask her to do so with Tricky. At the moment, I am doing just what you recommended and I am just retraining him from the very beginning. I try to keep the sessions not too long but always make sure that we do finish on a very positive note. Last night, I sent him out doing circles and I am trying to put as much energy as I can into my request ... Tricky starts off real nice with a real pretty trot but then after one circle of this goes back to walking very slowly. I am, as you also suggested, trying to let go of the stick. I have not been using it now for a 2 days and he appears to be calmer.

I will go to your website and explore further the idea of your doing a clinic here. I am a member of Lone Star Equine Rescue and will see what I can come up with.

Franklin, again, THANK YOU for your advice. I am trying hard not to push Tricky too much... patience and understanding, I trust, will pay off in the end.


Hi France,

Thank you for your kind email. I would love to host you here in Colorado. Please let me know when you feel might be a good time for you to come. Also, coming there would be wonderful. Can you tell me a bit about Lone Star Rescue, please? I train for many rescue centers and for folks who have rescued horses. In the UK (I go there for three weeks at the end of this month) there are many, many folks rescuing horses. Also here in Colorado it is getting bigger and bigger all the time.

As far as the training of your horse goes, I always suggest having the goal of establishing feelings of trust and safety with your horse as the first and foremost agenda. It is from that place of trust all training begins and moves forward. If that is not first on your agenda it will be a lot harder and take a lot longer fro any training to occur. Here is a good motivator to get Tricky moving a bit affix half a plastic bag, like from a super market, on the end of a five foot want, whip or some such stick. Use that instead of your carrot stick. Shake it, bang it on the ground, wave it at him (his rump) and see what happens. You may even have to chase him a little at first. eventually, he will get that moving is better than being chased by a plastic bag.

Franklin Levinson

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