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Franklin Levinson's

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New Rider & Arabian problems

Hi Franklin,

My daughter, who is 13, and I have taken on a rescued Arabian. He is a 9 year old gelding, with a lot of attitude, strength, and energy.

I knew when we met him he'd be a challenge. His favorite thing is to buck and rub up against the trees while being ridden. Many times he has gotten away from either of us (we both ride him), and run us through the trees, which resulted in us coming home with scratches and leaves in our mouths. He has been through several homes in his 9 years, mostly his original owner lost her farm and couldn't keep him. My daughter was gone to her father for the extended summer visit, and I rode the horse with only a very few minor issues. He did really well with me. I thought we had most of this behind us.

He is trained to ride as an english rider, and has a long history of showing and jumping. Supposedly, he is very good. My daughter started riding him with an English saddle, but after the fourth fall (between bucking and hard cornering the horse wanted her off) I bought her a western saddle. She has not fallen off since, but today scared me.

Today my daughter rode him in the paddock, walking and gently trotting, with no issues. After about 20 mins. she decided to take him to the riding ring in the lower pasture. I followed her on foot--I never let her go alone. The lower pasture is his "play area", and once in the ring he did not try any wild behavior, but did not follow directions to trot. My daughter worked for a long while and got him trotting. It looked as if we had the behavior issues worked out. I allowed her to take the horse out of the ring to try to canter him. He always trots and walks wonderfully. He trail rides nicely, as long as his other horse friend is in front. She normally rides him once or twice a week.

She walked him toward the starting point, and without warning he turned and galloped right at me. He bucked and tossed his head and ran as hard as he could. After about 500 yards he turned a sharp corner and cantered to a slow canter. She was screaming and crying. I got her calmed down and reminded her the more screaming the more the horse would react. I reminded her that she needed to use her "whoa" voice deep and strong, and that screaming would only make matters worse. But, as a mom, I was ready to say, "get off." I made her go back to the area and canter him on purpose. He did canter for her, with his head down and trying to buck her off. The next thing he tried was to try to get up the hill, which he did...right back to the paddock. I could see my daughter did not have any control of the horse.

We were warned that he liked to take control of the situation when we first met him-and that he needed a strong rider. We were also warned he had not been ridden consistently for almost two years. My daughter had only been taking lessons for about 6 months, but was jumping and doing well, when we agreed to allow her to have him, a decision now I am seriously questioning.

My questions are:

  • What is the best way to approach this?

  • Is she not riding him enough?

  • Should she lung him (we have never done that)? Do you have advice? What about ground work?

  • Should we go back to lessons and find a trainer to work with him at his farm?

  • Should we give up and find another horse?

  • Is this a confidence issue with my daughter?

  • Trotting and walking are fine and done with no issues...why?

My daughter does not want to quit, and does not want to give up her this horse, so please help me out here.

I appreciate any insight you might give me.

Thanks. Worried Mom.

Hello Worried Mom,

Your horse will need a skilled confident rider for quite a while. I would not recommend this horse for your daughter at her present skill level. Maybe in a few years after consistent riding and instruction. This horse can seriously hurt your daughter (and you). That would be terrible and not worth it. I always recommend a lot of ground play before riding and horse. With this horse it is most paramount, but will not overcome all issues around being ridden. Finding a trainer is a good idea if you and your daughter will stick by and watch the trainer work the horse. Do not just give the horse over to the trainer without you both being active participants in learning the techniques the trainer uses. Make certain it is a gentle horse trainer. Abuse and punishment are not needed. Strong and skillful leadership is what is required. It is a skill issue for your daughter. Working with a horse that consistently shakes her confidence will work against your daughter having a life with horses. She is severely overmatched at this point. You may be as well. Trotting and walking are not so much effort for the horse. Cantering is a much more exciting gate for a horse and raises the adrenalin level immediately. Trotting has a calming effect on the horse. A lot of trotting would be good for this horse and no cantering for a good while. Serpentine movement at the trot and a ton of it will help. Gradually, and I do mean very gradually, this sort of schooling will settle the horse. This horse is extrememly habituated to its behavior. Younger horses can be much easier in certain ways. This horse has learned its behavior from unskilled humans. It is still being reinforced in its behavior. Forget cantering for several months and do as much trotting, serpentines as possible and, after 2 months, see where it is......Be careful...

Sincerely, Franklin

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