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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

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Horse is not going where I want

Hi Franklin,

My name is Jenny and my husband bought me a horse about 6 weeks ago. I have always been a horse lover and in my younger years took riding lessons and went to horse camps. Mack is a great horse and he is 12.

The only problem I have is when we ride he will sometimes not go the way you want him to and wants to turn around and go home to his pasture. An example; my husband rode Mack and when he got back I took him for a ride. I usually can get him to go where I want even though when he doesn't want to go there. But this time he did all he could not to go. He would back up, turn around, walk side ways, pull his head right down to your foot on the side you were trying to turn him to. He would not try to bite the foot by the way.

Would it be helpful if I got off and walked him through whenever he does this if he just will not go? Or is there something I'm missing that I should be doing. Usually if you can get him through his unwillingness to go at certain times the route you want he is great the rest of the ride. When he does good I always pat his side and tell him good boy.

I understand you should have a good relationship with your horse. I think our whole family does. He has become part of the family along with out 3 dogs. One by the way tries to act like the horse and hangs out with him in the pasture. He sees our loving relationship with our dogs as well. When he is out of the pasture he will follow me around the yard he will nudge me when he wants attention and it is given to him. He loves rubbing his face on everyone.(I hope that is a good thing) Can you give me some advice on what to do when he has an unwillingness to go the direction we want him to. I am not sure if he is scared of something or just does not want to go that way. The day I rode him we were in a field and you cross over an area with water on bot h sides (very wide area and stable heavy equipment and dump trucks d rive on it). He has crossed the same place before with me with no troubles the only thing different was on the other side in the field was a bulldozer (not running it was just parked there). This is the field next to our house behind some trees. Finally I said where do you want to go show me. He turned around and galloped all the way back to his pasture and stopped at the entrance to his pasture. Maybe he was tired of riding? I am open to suggestions.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this email.

Thank you, Jenny

Hi Jenny,

The answer to your first question; "Would it be helpful if I got off and walked him through whenever he does this if he just will not go?" is to not get off as this will reward the horse for refusing to try to go where you ask and train him it is OK to balk at things as he gets rewarded for it. Only get off if you feel your safety is in jeopardy. Personally, I do think your horse is showing a bit of home/herd bound behavior. He feels really safe when at home with companions and in a very familiar environment. Also, your interaction with him may be more confident and with less being asked of the horse. He will always prefer to be at home until you get more of a bond of trust going with him. This is accomplished through your playing with him on the ground and being the good, skillful and appropriate leader of all movement.

Even simple leading from one area to another is an opportunity to be the leader of the dance of all movement. Like with the Tango, it is all a dance with the horse and he wants a leader and that is supposed to be the human. I have written extensively on this topic. To avoid writing over and over again on the same thing I request you do a simple search of my archives using the handy search engine feature on the home page of the help center. Type in herd bound behavior, developing trust, bonding with a horse, any such thing will get you a lot of free information on how to get a great bond of trust going with your horse so he feels safe enough with you that he would be willing to go just about anywhere with you that you ask. Also, your confidence and skill as a 'active' rider (not just a passenger) is important. This is another metaphor for leading the dance, the dance of riding a horse.

If you are a weak and less than confident rider this will make the horse unsure if you can keep him safe and he will not want to be up for very many adventures with you as his rider. He will always run back to the pasture given the chance. Understand it is your ability and skill at directing all movement, even one step forward, a stop, and one step back, then immediately rewarding the horse by allowing him to stand still for a moment (release all pressure of any input), is what will begin to set you up as his trusted good leader. It is not about feeding him, petting him or verbal praise as much as it is about requesting simple movement, recognizing the horse trying and immediately rewarding him. This is the basis of all horse successful training. Be an active rider (take a few lessons perhaps), consciously direct all movement on the ground, even the most basic and simple and you will be amazed at the changes in your horse's attitude. BTW, you can let him use you for a scratching post if you want. But I don't like it. It is not cute and is not him being affectionate. It is him disrespecting your boundaries, your personal space. Setting and keep good and appropriate boundaries is a part of being a good leader. He will respect you for it.

I strongly urge you to read a good many of the essays in my essay section as they will provide you with a lot of the knowledge you lack at the moment and perhaps inspire you to want to gain even more knowledge about horses. They have their own world and ways of being that actually have nothing to do with humans.

Good Luck.

Sincerely, Franklin

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