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Franklin Levinson's

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Horse takes off for the barn!

Dear Franklin,

I am a new rider, and the horse I am riding will often start doing circles, trot, or even canter towards the barn. My instructor tells me to use my legs to force him to stop circling, but he doesn't seem to respond. Yesterday, he started doing circles and actually bucked me off when I tried to steer him away from the barn! He is not usually this bad, and when my instructor rides him he is quite well behaved. He knows I am inexperienced, so what can I do to keep him from "spinning" out of control?

Thanks for your help, Sarah

Hi Sarah,

Here is a basic thing about a horse's energy; DON'T TRY TO RESTRAIN THE HORSE OR MAKE HIM DO SOMETHING. If you horse is going in circles, keep him going in circles. He will not want to continue going in circles very long. In other words, DIRECT HIS ENERGY. Cue him to continue circling in both directions and tight circles at that. After 4-5 rotations in both directions, ask him to stop and then walk off in the direction you want. See what happens. Do the process again if he keeps doing what you do not want. If your horse is backing up when you don't want, keep him backing. He will want to stop soon enough. What you are doing here has nothing to do with restraint, dominance, power over or show him who is boss. What you are doing is making behavour you do not want hard for him to do and what you do want a lot easier simplpy by directing the horse's energy. Its a little like the martial arts concept of deflecting and directing energy. Please consider the possibilities of not having to restrain or boss your horse around to get complience.

Talk to your trainer about this as you may not have the skills yet to circle your horse as I am suggesting. Your safety is most important. Use one rein stops and one rein for circles and this will help your horse to keep his head up and not drop his head to buck. Asking a horse to lower its head is a good thing that you should learn. Ask your trainer to show you how to ask a horse to lower his head from the ground and in the saddle. If your trainer doesn't know these things (by saying so or avoiding answering your questions) tell me. I will help you. You might want to consider some telephone coaching with me to help you keep on track. I have a few clients that I coach once a week. It is conventient, cost effective and pretty easy to set up. Let me know if you are interested.

Your insturctor is probably a good riding instructor, but few riding instructors know much about the horse itself. They are not trainers. Some think they are however. If your instructor cannot show you how to flex a horse laterally, lower its head from the ground or in the saddle, bend the horse in small circles from the ground or in the saddle, ask the horse to yield its hind or front end to you either on the ground or in the saddle, you are not getting much other than elementary and very limited riding instruction. If she can give you these skills, she has some knowledge as a trainer and she will be impressed with your questions. Tell her you want to learn about horses and how to earn their trust and respect at least as much as you want to learn about riding the horse. She'll either be delighted or intimidated by your question. I would be interested to hear her responce. Keep me posted.

Sincerely, Franklin

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