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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

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How can I get my new horse to relax and trust me quickly

Hello: I found your web site and really like it, keep up the great teaching! It's so comforting to find more people willing to interact with horses on a level built on trust and understanding. Long may it last and spread.

: I've recently bought a 7 year old Arabian gelding. He came from a place where he was turned out in a large area with 2 mares. I've had him 2 weeks and he's very herd bound, he displays considerable anxiety when he's led away from his stable mates (he's in his own pipe corral with horses all around him) including rearing and trying to return to the herd. When I turn him out in the arena (which is about 50 yards from his stable mates, he can still see them) his anxiety really escalates and he paces up and down the fence nearest to his stable mates and tries to jump out. Not fun, for him or me. I have worked with him on the ground, taking him for longer walks away from his buddies and he is gradually calming down. When his anxiety surfaces I do various exercises with him such as backing him or circling him, anything to bring his attention back to me.

I know that this situation needs time and to reinforce his trust in me, I need to demonstrate to him that he needs to trust me and have confidence in me, I guess showing him I'm the alpha mare. Do you have any suggestions as to what else I can do to help my gelding relax into his new environment with his new owner? I know this change in his life has been very stressful for him and I want to alleviate his stress as best I can. I have yet to ride him, but when I do I plan on having another rider with me to "baby-sit" him.

Thank you so much for your time and attention to this question. Joanna

Hi Joanna,

Any change in location or any environmental change in a horse's life is traumatic. A period of adjustment is to be expected. If you horse has a tendency to be rather dependent anyway, this trauma will be a bit worse. Sounds like this is the case. As your relationship is formed first and foremost on the ground with your horse, I always recommend lots and lots of ground time together. Playing, dancing, moving, whatever you call it, you need to have a ton of activity on the ground where you are leading the dance. Its not so much about becoming the 'alpha' horse. It is about becoming the trusted, consistent, confident, skillful leader. This is who you need to become for your horse quickly to help him over his trauma from the relocation. It is not about dominence. It is about partnership and leadership.

Do not show the horse who is boss. Show the horse you are the great, compassionate leader. Make every little move a clear and conscious request with a "Good Boy" following any compliance or 'try' no matter how small. This what will assist your horse in moving through his current and even future issues of fear. It is fear only you are dealing with, your horse's fear. Treat him like your son who is afraid of something. Lead him to feelings of safety and trust through right and appropriate action, requests and thank you's (praise for trying or doing). Let me know how it all goes.

Sincerely, Franklin

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