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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

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My New bucking bronco

Dear Franklin,

I recently purchased my first horse, I am 30yrs and beginner/confident rider. Wrangler is a 7year old, beautiful Clydie X Quarter Horse. I had an experience rider with me when I went to see him, we both rode him and thought he would be an ideal first mount. A few days after he came home I took him out for a ride and he was ok, a bit nervy but that is to be expected.

The next day I thought I would take him out again to the same areas to familiarize him a bit more. My sister in law brought a couple of her horses home and Wrangler switched instantly. He was all calm before the other horses arrived but got all excited. He wouldn't stand still, I had trouble mounting then out on the ride he was twice as nervy as the day before.

This week, I was planning on going out with him on Wednesday and he was a little anxious about being away from the other horse but he calmed down as I was grooming him. As I saddled him the other horse called out and he got all nervy and wouldn't stand still. When I mounted him he started trotting then just went into a bucking fit and I fell off. Fortunately nothing other than my ego was battered so I went after him, brought back to the place where I get him ready and this time only half mounted and sure enough he started again so I got off quickly enough.Unfortunately I lost my temper at him and he reacted quite badly to that and took some calming down.

I am too scared to get back on him in our current state. He just adored his last owner and I really want the same relationship with him but have no idea how to go about it. Everyone talks about groundwork but I have no idea what that is. I cannot lunge him, he doesn't know how all I can do is groom him, talk to him and hopefully one day soon, ride him again.

Now he has only been home for 2 weeks. I know he is in a strange place, new owner, more grass, new sights and sounds so I expect he is scared, he loved his last owner so he is probably sad and confused as to why he is not with her. I found our after our little mishap that he may have been abused somewhat by his first owner which would explain his adverse reaction.

I really would like a great relationship with his young boy, how do I help him and how do I help myself? I would really love some advice, even if you could just give me one good pointer.

Sincerely, Naomi

Hello Naomi,

Horses need a whole lot more than just to be ridden. You really don't have any relationship with this horse as your focus has only been on riding him. You are not trusted by him, you have no respect from him, you have not tried to become his good and trusted leader. In fact you have said nothing other than your experiences trying to ride him. I see no reason the animal should trust or respect you, or you him. Why should he be compliant to your requests? Why should he want to dance with you when you have had basically no introductions? Why should he follow you if you have not stepped up to the plate to lead him?

Your relationship with any horse is formed first and foremost on the ground directing movement. I suggest you forget riding for a couple of weeks and develop a 'relationship.' This is done through your skillful abilities at providing leadership. Directing simple movements consciously and precisely is what is required. Every step you ask him to take with you, every stop, every back up, every change of direction should be precisely asked for. When the horse tries to comply a reward is immediately given. The reward is a very short break from the pressure of the request (a few moments for him to lick and chew and process what he just did) and a little bit of praise (Good Boy is all that is required). Less is more with horses. Get precise and have clear intention. There is a world of the horse that has absolutely nothing to do with the human activity of riding the horse. This is what you need to discover first. What a concept huh? Being with a horse dancing and playing without riding will touch your heart and bond you with your horse. Take some time (two weeks) and do not ride but spend a lot of time directing simple movements on the ground. Lunging is good but needs to have more of a purpose and more variation than the horse just doing circles all the time. You want to engage the horse's mind. They really do have a mind you know. They are very empathetic and extremely smart. Learn about the animal's mind and how it works. Learn about their psychology too. Do not project too many human attributes or human ways of thinking on to the horse. You are only guessing and projecting. This is unfair and wrong. Let him be a horse and not your 'baby.' Learn about who he is really.

To be quite honest and clear in this communication, you need education. Its that simple. Please make a small investment in your own education about horses by purchasing a training DVD or two. They are easily found in the backs of all horse magazines. I have several in my secure shopping corral that would prove invaluable to you. Whether mine or someone else's, please - please, get educated about horses. Knowledge dispels fear. Training DVD's are the fastest and most economical and efficient way to get equine education I know of. Better than attending demonstrations, DVD's can be viewed over and over which reinforces the lessons. There you have it in a nutshell.....Education!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not even advice and tips......EDUCATION AND KNOWLEDGE.........Not opinions or projections from folks who may have had horses a lot in their lives and only relate them as animals to control and ride. Nuff said......Good Luck.

Best regards, Franklin

Dear Franklin,

Thank you for such a prompt reply. Your absolutely right, I have no relationship with my horse .... yet!!! Thank you for your direction it really is appreciated. Do you think your Training Through Trust DVD would help me? Do you also think that learning some T touch techniques would benefit Wrangler and myself in forming a bond? Its so hard when you first start out with all this horse stuff, so much conflicting information its hard to know what is the best way of doing things, all I know is I hate the old way of thinking you have to be "in charge of your horse" I really just want to work with my horse not control him. Anyways I am blabbing so thanks again, I will take your advice on board and get some dvd's and some books for a little light reading.

Sincerely Naomi

Hi Naomi,

Ttouch is great. Those things are all terrific. Appropriate body contact is wonderful. We humans tend to overdo everything with horses. Remember less is more and that it is important to be appropriate. Your horse will tell you if a touch is appropriate by how it responds to the touch. If it makes the horse fidgit or attempt to move away, it is obviously too much. Be aware of the horse's responses to what you are doing. I think the Savanna DVD or the Harry DVD would be good as it shows pushy horses and horses that are not paying attention. The Training Thru Trust DVD will show you good, solid, foundational moves with the horse. It also shows me riding a horse that was a bucker. So, perhaps consider two and I will discount the 2nd DVD. But, AOK to just chose one. In that case perhaps the Savanna DVD. If you have any interest in Equine Facilitated Learning the Training Thru Trust DVD is exceptional. Also, get 'Naked Liberty by Carolyn Resnick (available at You will love this book. It will open your heart and mind.

Best wishes always, Franklin

Dear Franklin,

I just wanted to say a big thank you for your guidence with my beautiful boy Wrangler. I have been watching the dvd's almost daily to reinforce the lessons and have been amazed by some of the traits of Harry and Savannah and even Abby I saw little glimpses of Wrangler in each of the horses you were working with in the dvd's. I love the fact that you talk about the dance with the horse as this concept I understand fully ... having been a dancer all my life I have a firm knowledge of the importance of a good leader and a good follower I just never thought of using that concept with horses.

I am firm with the belief that Wrangler will probably take a bit more time to develop his trust and respect in me but am proud to say we are beginning to make some head way. I go into his paddock everyday and spend as much time as I can with him. I would like to spend more time but a girl has gotta work! On days when I am off I tend to do a lot more dancing with him and ask him to follow me on the lead rope, changing directions etc he has actually started to lick and chew which he had never done before with me. On days when I work, I get home and go straight out into the paddock with him. These days I tend to just hang out with him, to be in his space and to watch him to get to know his personality a little. Sometimes when he lets me, I do a little massage down his neck and over his shoulder area, last night he yawned like no tomorrow and he let me know when he'd had enough by moving away from me. He licked my hand last night too.

There are times when he makes me nervous still but I think that is more my lack of confidence, I am concerned sometimes when I ask him to back up he may rear and carry on the way Harry did when I ask him to move .... how do you know he is not directing that reaction towards you? I think Wrangler is quite a scared horse but we are slowly over coming that. He is quite smart and very proud though not quite as spunky as Harry was. I was going to ask .... why do you get a horse to yield its backside to you? and how long should you work with your horse in each session? how much is too much ?

Thanks again for everything, I wish you were out here in Australia it would be nice to have someone who works with your training system to come out to the farm and work with me and Wrangler. I am never 100% certain that I am doing things right and no doubt I am missing Wranglers subtle messages but still what better way to learn.

Sincerely Naomi

Hi Naomi,

Sounds like you are doing things just perfectly. The horse responds and tells you through these responses how he is doing with everything. What you are developing, besides trust, is a 'feel' for the horse as to how right things are. A great rule of thumb is to take it one step at a time. Better to ask too little than too much. If you ask for one little step to the right and he just leans to the right, praise him as he is trying. If he seems to get a bit fearful (looks like resistence), back off just enough so he drops the fear element. Then continue on with a smaller request. Never take anything personally a horse does (or a human actually). So when you say something is directed at you, that is a bit of a misconception/interpretation. He is displaying his comfort level (degrees of feeling safe about something). it really has nothing to do with you actually. It is his response to requests and his environment.

BTW, the big yawning is great. Its like advanced licking and chewing, showing a more advanced letting go, relaxation, acceptance, etc.

You ask a horse to move its feet and yield the backside away from you because in the horse's mind he would never show the leader his backside as that is disrespectful to the leader. So, always asking the horse to face you is much preferable and desireable and actually required for a healthy and appropriate realtionship with a horse, if you are to be the leader. If the horse is leading you, he will keep his backside towards you. As they habituate to interaction and leadership they usually will just keep their eyes on the leader. I like a hour session or up to two hours a session for schooling. Assuming some time for grooming, etc. that leaves 30-45 minutes for the actually learning time. It does depend on the individual horse Once a horse is maxed out with a learning session, they usually will tell you by sort of checking out mentally, not being as responsive, drifting off and things like that. At that point, give the guy a cookie and put him away. Always end your sessions on a positive note. If you are asking for something and it is not working but you run out of time, change your request to something simple you know the horse can do. Ask for that, give praise and a cookie and put him away. Never end a session in a frustrated way or feeling. Its like not going to sleep with your partner upset with each other. Always do something loving before falling asleep. You will be glad to see each other when you wake up. It is the same for the horse. Again, end everything on a positive note.

Best regards, Franklin

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