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Horse that will not allow haltering

Dear Franklin,

I hope that you can help me. I have just been given an American saddlebred named Major. Major is a lovely horse with great manners except one thing. He will not allow anyone to put a halter on him. I can approach him with the halter on my arm, I can groom him and pick up his feet without a halter on. But as soon as I reach up to put the lead around his neck he walks away. He will then face his butt to me, never threatening to kick, but in an effort to keep his head away from me. When we got him we had to corral him in a round pen and my husband roped him, but we have no round pen at our facility and it will be a few months before we can erect one. I want to work with Major before then. Do you have any advice?

Judie Spencer, West Virginia

Hi Judy,

Sounds like you and/or your husband have some horse experience as your husband was able to rope the horse successfully. Assuming the horse can handle confinement (a stall or very small area), I would suggest getting him used to the rope and halter while confined at first. Put the rope around his neck and then remove it. Don't leave it there. He is habituated to something being unpleasant when he is haltered (maybe because it means he has to go to work). So in order to change his habitual way of being with and thinking about a halter, you need to change what happens when he is haltered. The biggest change would be to remove the halter right after you get it on him. He will come to change his mind about the rope and halter if it doesn't mean something unpleasant. If he will not stand for it in a small space, haze him gently around either the stall or paddock a few times, then ask for a stop and try to put the rope around his neck. Quietly repeat the process until he stands for the rope and halter. Bring the rope under his neck and the up the off side and over his neck. Do not use an overhand move to put the rope around his neck. Removing the halter a minute or two after you get it on him is a great way to change his mind about it.

You could consider giving him a treat when he allows the halter. Then remove it. Huge rewards. This is not a difficult problem and I am certain you can overcome it. Good luck and let me know how it all goes.

Sincerest regards, Franklin

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