Archives MAIN PAGE

Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

Professional support for you and your horse!

Leading the herd

I have a beautiful chocolate RMH gelding that has become lazy and will balk when being lead or ridden, esp when someone new tries to handle him. I have to get after him with a crop and spurs and I am worn out. His saddle and bit are not the problem. Neither are his feet or teeth. He is stubborn and just doesn’t want to work or move forward. When he sees the barn and knows it is time to be put up he will ride like the wind. What can I do?

Thank you, Thomas

Hi Thomas,

Your horse has become the leader of the herd you are both in. He is habituated to controlling the situation, so he does this because he can. This is how they survive in the wild and is quite normal behavior. Actually, judging him as 'stubborn' is a misnomer and rather unfair. He is acting perfectly normal for a horse who has not had great leadership. I would begin on the ground to get him bending and moving forward. Do some 'bending exercises' and then without stopping begin to go forward. Once you get him moving on the ground fairly well, then go back to riding him. I would definitely use a round pen if one is available and if not, go to long lining him and ground driving him. If you cannot get him moving appropriately on the ground you will never get it from the saddle. Have only experienced horse people handle him. If he can intimidate someone, he will. This means he gets rewarded for his behavior. He needs to be with a very competent leader very consistently for a while. It is quite normal for a horse to consistently challenge leadership. This is part of how they are assured survival in the wild. They fend for themselves when no leader is available. This is what is going on. Even the most simple and basic requested movements (leading forward, stopping, circling, backing, etc.) must be done consciously, precisely, skillfully and that handling needs to be consistent, with no assumptions that the horse should be compliant simply because it is a horse. We humans need to be the great leader/parent every moment we are with a horse. Just like we are for our children. Without constant guidance and leadership children develop very bad habits when left to fend for themselves. Sounds like this horse is just behaving normally having not had appropriate, conscious, skillful, precise and consistent leadership for a while. The horse tests the human's resolve and abilities to lead all the time. This is normal. It is not the horse's fault and he deserves no blame or judgment that he is being bad. He is as innocent as a child. Many humans are unwilling to accept responsibility for the behavior of their horses (and their children). However, it is not so much about the horse actually. Horses are easy to train and deal with, usually, unless there has been real abuse in their lives. Because you are saying your horse 'has become' something other than he was, is 'behaving differently than he used to'..and baring any physical pain issues.....this tells me there has been a lapse in the quality of his leaders and their resolve and ability to lead. There is no mystery.

Sincerely, Franklin

Look for: