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Franklin Levinson's

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My horse will not walk.

Hi Franklin,
I have owned my pony now for 15 years. He has allways been a very excitable little chap, he is a 13.2hh Welsh section B with a large attitude. He has done quite a bit in his time from jumping to in hand showing. He is now 21 years old and I am 28 and would really like to take a back seat and just quietly hack out through our forest. But he will never walk. I have never raced him round the forest. I have only walked (or should I say jogged) or the occasional trot. I feed him Lami lite by Blue Chip, high fibre nuts, speedy beet for laminitis and high fighber lite. He is stabled at night and out grazing daily with a large hay net at night. I am just at the end of my tether with him. I will never sell him he's my pet. But I just wish he would walk and not jog constantly. Why doesn't he understand how much easier it would be for him to just WALK. By the time we are back from a 30 minute hack of walking he has sweated up so badly it looks like we have done 3 hunter trials on the go!!!

I have had his back looked at previously and numerous saddles fitted, teeth have had work over the years and they are checked by equine dentist every 12 months. There is nothing physically wrong with him he just won't bloody WALK. Have you any ideas so help end my suffering????????? Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

Kind Regards,
Becky and the crazy pensioner hos Alfie

Hi Becky and Alfie,

Horses won't walk for a lot of reasons, some of which you have touched on (pain and the anticipation of pain is the primary one). Anxiety and nervousness about the great outdoors is another. Herd bound behavior is another (anxiety again). Being fed too much protein is a possibility as well. Also, habituated behavior is extremely common. Sounds like this pony was never really encouraged to walk, but rather was allowed to trot or jog only and, over time, became habituated to that gait. Consider providing a consequence for what you do not want. That consequence could be hind quarter yields. This is where the horse pivots on the front feet and moves his rear in a circle, crossing one hind leg over the other to move his rear-end. It is not abusive and is a legitimate and basic horsemanship manuver. However, it is no fun for the horse. It can be used to modify and alter a lot of behaviors you do want want from your horse. The moment the horse begins to trot he should be immediately put to the task of hind quarter yields in both directions and several rotations. Then offer the horse a HO (a short rest) and a little praise (Good Boy). Then ask again for what you do want. If he trots repeat the process and be ready to repeat this process as much and as often as neccessary to modify the behavior. If he walks for a little ways, reward him by standing still for a longer period or, the big reward is to put the horse away. Practice this first in the yard and not on the trail. You should get very good at this and so should your pony, before you really need to use it to modify behavior. By that time excuting the move should be simple and smooth as you will have practiced it enough to get proficient at it. In fact, try practicing walking in the yard for a while. Change what you are doing with the pony to spark some interest. If the pony has a hard mouth and pulls against the bit constantly, that is contributing to the problem. The constant pulling on his mouth will create anxiety and the desire to get the whole thing over with as soon as possible. It is a way to avoid a drawn out unpleasant experience. If that is the case, you should go back to some good solid basics of horse training and put a better and softer stop on the horse. If he won't walk he probably won't stop well either. The behaviors are related. A horse cannot move very fast doing these hind end yields. In fact when you really bend them tightly, they can barely move at all and it is an excellent way to slow and stop a hard to stop horse. When he trots, lift one rein, tip the horse's nose up and in to a side and bring the inside leg back and scoot the horse's butt around with it. He'll slow if you do this correctly......

Good Luck and please keep me posted.

Best regards, Franklin

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