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Franklin Levinson's

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Mislead Me and Mistreated My Horse

I found your page on the web and was wondering if you would listen to my story and give me any helpful advice. We are very new to the horse world. My daughter had been taking lessons for about 8 months when we transferred her to a new riding coach/trainer. I got really involved also and started lessons. We wanted to buy a horse and he suggested buying a very young unbroken horse and he would make it child safe in 30 days. We were really taken. August 1 of this year we bought a 4 year old Arab/quarter cross, unbroken and a 3 year old Belgium/quarter cross. We never ever owned a horse before. The Arab was the first one to go through 30 days of training in which I started working with the Belgium. I did the sacking out and taught lunging and did a ground game with it. By the time the horse was ready for its 30 days she went right into the saddle because the trainer said I did a lot of the hard work. I thought this horse and I bonded very well. When I brought her to the new stable which she would call home in September I was riding her at walk /trot. The horse never cantered. I noticed I started having problems with this horse on levels that I had never had problems with before. She would not let me clean her feet which I did all the time She did not want her tail brushed she was getting very pushy. This trainer I had came up and watched me and then proceeded to beat the tar out of my horse with a whip and said she was being disrespectful. I was so sick in my stomach and upset about it that I never had him come back or went back for a lesson with him. The "child safe" Arab cross ended up throwing my daughter the first time she got on her. I have to be honest I have heard so many horror stories about Arabs that this horse terrified me and I thought about selling her. I had the other one and she was a bit more relaxed. Well it turned out that the Arab is my favorite and the Belgium is giving me problems. I have her respect when leading her and lunging, she listens and does everything on cue until lately. She however has gotten so nervous over the last couple months. She used to love her head being scratched even her ears and she was never nervous, now she hates me going near her head but when riding she will not slow down, it is always a constant trot. I have taught her the head down, relax cue but that is just getting her agitated with me now. I have a new trainer working with me and she is stumped. I love this horse and have put so much time into her. You just can't even imagine how far I and the horses have come, but MY horse, the Belgium cross is just going down hill more and more every day. Can you please give me any advice you can? I have had many people tell me to sell them I am too green to have green horses and they really got mad at me. I just listened to someone who led me the wrong way, someone I thought I could trust. I have gained those peoples respect now but I can't bear to lose my horse's respect and trust. Why is she so nervous all of a sudden and agitated? How can I help?

Selling her is NOT an option.

Thank you for your time and ear. Anna

HI Anna,

Sounds like you were really mislead by that lousy first trainer. It was horrible advice to buy a young, untrained, untried horse for a child no matter what. A first horse for anyone should always be mature and as bomb-proof as possible. You may pay a bit more, but it is well worth it in the long run. The fact that the trainer beat a horse for being "disrespectful" is testimony to his ineptitude and ignorance. That kind of human behavior really is horrible. Perhaps you can help prevent others from being taken in by this charlatan by letting others know what happened. Also, it is never a good idea to generalize too much about any one group, be they horses or humans. I have worked with a lot of Arabians that were calm, mellow and easy to deal with. So much of it is about the breeding and then the handling. Your first trainer was sleazy, an idiot and dishonest. Enough said on that......

Something that works for me with a horse that at one time was easy on the ground to work with and then becomes mysteriously uncooperative is to go back to the basics. Any change in the horse's routine or environment can cause major behavioral changes. Do not blame anything on the horse. To acclimate the horse to any changes, go back to the basics of good training. Start the horse over again from scratch; begin to sack him out, slowly begin to handle his feet and do rudimentary grooming to get the horse used to the handling and being touched all over, as well as basic leading, stopping, turning, backing and lunging. Do this thoughtfully, slowly and with a lot of patience. Your bond with your horse will be re-established and this should get you back on track, so to speak. The same will work for the other horse as well should problem arise. There is no horse that cannot be brought back from dysfunction and acting out through proper retraining and appropriate handling.

Humans want a quick fix or a magic bullet to handle situations that come up with their horses. Unfortunately, there is no such thing. It will always be a matter of not making the horse bad or wrong (or disrespectful), but rather going back to basics where the horse is comfortable and moving forward from that point in a patient, thoughtful and conscious way.

Thank you for your question. I hope I have been helpful. Please tell me how it all goes. I am interested. Also, if you think there may be interest in my work in your area, let me know. I am setting up my calendar for '04 and am free to travel. Thanks again.

Sincerely, Franklin

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