Archives MAIN PAGE

Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

Professional support for you and your horse!

Nervous horse when being mounted

Hi Franklin,

I bought a mare 5 months ago from France (a Selle-Francais, 6 years old) and while for the first months everything was going very smoothly in our training, for the last 2 months, under no apparent reason, she is now starting to gallop wildly as soon as I ride her and even started to rear up during our training sessions.

I have checked thouroughly her mouth and back as well as all the riding equipment and there seems to be no problem at all.

I have spent hours in the stables to see if she is mistreated by any of the stable hands, again nothing alarming.

Since she is not staying quiet anymore in order for me to mount or dismount, the only solution we found is to give her carrots and treats during these instances.

I am 25 years old, I ride since I was 9 and I train mostly for jumping. Before buying her, I spent 1 month in her old stables in France and also participated with her in a few competitions. She had no problem there and even now she seems quiet in the stall or when we excercise, with the exception of the moment of mounting and dismounting.

Could you please help in identifying this problem and possible solutions?
Thank you very much

Hi Anastasia,

I notice you do not mention anything about ground 'play' with your horse, only riding and competition. You really don't know your horse and she does not know you. Your relationship with any horse is formed first and formost on the ground leading and guiding movement. This is what will develop trust between you and the horse. This is what sets you up to be the great, trusted leader for your horse. You should not expect your horse to be compliant or trust you without this primary step. Without trust becoming the first goal and agenda you should have, eventually your horse will lose faith in you, which it has. I hear similar stories time and time again where a new horse is fine for a while and then, all of a sudden, the horse acts fearful as your is. Another thing to consider is that your horse is not enjoying the experience of you riding it and is showing fear around that activity. Have a look at the routene you have when you eventually do get on the horse. Is it only 'work' or do you and the horse have some fun? Your horse knows your intentions. Is your intention to only have the horse perform? Or is some of your intention to develop trust and feelings of safety within your horse? Do you work towards that goal which looks and feels very different than wanting to work the horse for competitions. Some of this may have to do with your attitude (all work and no play is no good). The effect and results of your ground 'play' has to do primarially with your intentions during the process. It should be much more than "exercises" for the horse. It is all a dance and it should and can be a fun dance. Holding this paradigm will change what you do, how you do it and the outcome. Being a 'task master' with your horse gets very old quickly. Its the same with humans as well. Coersion, such as bribary or threat of abuse is not a desirable solution.

Here are a few suggestions: Do 20-30 minutes of ground play before you attempt to ride every time. This is not to tire the horse out or wear it down. The goal is to become the trusted 'leader of the dance' before you get on the horse's back. When trying to mount, do not attempt to hold your horse and restrain its movement. Rather simply direct the horse's movement around you. If it needs to move, let it, but let it only go in small circles around you (mainly to the left). It may do this for 10 minutes or so (probably less as movement is work for a horse). I promise you eventually it will want to stop. When it does stand still, give a little praise and end the session. Or, try to mount again. The horse will probably move as soon as you lift your leg a little. Let it and repeat the process. Again, when it does stand still you should offer a bit of praise and even end the session. You are now rewarding behavior you want. Repeat this process over a few days. Eventually, your horse will stand for you to mount. Do this if you are using a mounting block as well. Just stand on the block and let the horse move around you. Pass the reins behind your back. Stay with this process and trust it. The horse will stop moving at some point and this is what you want to reward. The release of pressure is the reward. Ending the session and putting the horse away is the 'big' reward.

Your challenge here is to change your mind and thoughts about what you want as an initial goal. Consider the value of rock solid trust with your horse and how that is achieved. As with any great relationship, mutual trust, respect, compassion and kindness must be at its core. This is absolutely true with horses. The element of great leadership (as a parent is for their child) is a 'must' in relationships with horses as well. It is not about 'control.' It is not about being the 'boss.' It is about trust and willing compliance and not obediance. Consider all the possible benefits here including winning more. Let me know if you need furthur clarification. Thanks for your question.

Sincerely, Franklin

Look for: