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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

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My horse scares me!

Dear Franklin,

I have recently bought an 11-year old, ex-racehorse thoroughbred, gelding. He is a joy to ride and a very sweet natured horse. But he has a problem with standing on cross-ties. He will get really nervous and tense than he will rear up and brake the cross-ties. I am scared to even go behind him! I love this horse with all my heart, he is my first horse. But, I do not want to live in fear of him. he makes me nervous. I am even afraid to ride him. He only does this when I am alone with him. He doesn't do it with either of my trainers. I don't know what to do. I hope you can help me.

Sincerely, Samantha

fearful rider

HI Samantha,

Horses off the track frequently come with a 'lot of baggage' that requires re-training. A responsible and knowledgeable trainer (not riding instructor) should evaluate the horse as to its old fears and issues that may be a problem for you as a first time horse owner.

I rehabilitate ex-racehorses frequently and their issues can be varied and serious (dangerous). What made you chose this horse? Why did you buy him and was he really evaluated as the right horse for you as a novice? Unfortunately, a lot of folks make an emotional buy of a horse that is way beyond their abilities as a horseperson. They end up in situations like you are in now with a horse they are afraid of and no one really knowledgeable around to see them or the horse thru the situation.

As far as the crossties, many horses do not like them. They have one bad experience that stays with them and they never like them afterwards. There is no rule that says a horse has to like crossties. There is no rule that says you need to use them. Personally, I like to get a horse to stand patiently for grooming and saddling without any restraint. After that I may train for the horse to be tied anywhere. Ground tying is a great thing for a horse to know how to do.

He doesn't give your teachers a problem because they are confident and move assuredly around him. You are new to this and unsure and your horse knows this. You might consider not using the crossties yourself and practice grooming and saddling in a more comfortable place for you and your horse. Talk to your teachers about your concerns. Unfortunately, riding instructors rarely teach 'horse'. They only teach riding techniques and not anything about real horse psychology or interaction with other than 'riding'. They will not admit they know little of the true nature of horses and go to restraint and control (dominance) whenever a behavioral problem arises.

Be wary of a teacher who continuously says "take control and show him who is the boss". Interaction with horses is a dance, with the human as the great dance partner/leader. You need to consider that maybe this horse is not the right horse for you. There are many, many good, calm horses out there that need good homes. I do not suggest you stay with a horse that you are afraid of. If this horse needs rehabilitation, you are not able to do this and this is unfair to the horse. Please consider the horse first and foremost. Your emotional needs can be met be another horse. If you have a bad experience with this horse it may turn you off to horses and give you fear that is unfounded (simply because you are inexperienced).

Anyway, please keep me posted and the best of luck to you.

Sincerely, Franklin

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