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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

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Noisy Pony

Hi Franklin,

I am so thankful to have this opportunity to ask for your help!

I have a POA mare, aged 12 who I have had for 10 months. I purchased her for a good price from a family who under-estimated ponies, (hence some pushy behaviors) and after seeing her move, and seeing how few repetitions it took me to teach her to do what I asked her to do, I thought, for the price, I got nothing to loose. Annie is an awesome trail horse, an easy keeper and cute as a button. Within one week at my home, on a low-protein diet and plenty of turnout, she was trotting circles compliantly for my six-year old and seemed to be on the road to becoming a nice children's hunter pony. We did some schooling shows last year and even brought her to my parent's ranch in Idaho and trail rode her everywhere. She began a training program with a hunter trainer last August and she and my daughter have been taking lessons since then with me lungeing her in side-reins and riding her at home, as well. She learns fast, 1-2 repetitions, and for the most part does really well at home.

At lessons, in an indoor arena, she has some power struggles and spooking, but for the most part is better with a regular work schedule (5 days a week). It is horseshows that are the problem both this year and last, even schooling shows at our training barn. Annie enters the show ring (moments after having schooled in the same ring) and begins whinnying. Even with side reins on, she attempts to look out of the ring and whinny. If she gets herself upset enough, she'll then over-focus on something she has passed 100 times and run side-ways. I do not understand how she transforms into such a basket case. I have been taking lessons on her for the past month, since she is not safe for our daughter with this behavior. My daughter is still riding her on a lunge-line at home. I try to examine my own response to her & the class, I feel like I am trying to stay calm, but know I may be affecting her, and my child may be too. What can I do to stop this behavior? Being a trained behaviorist in the education field, my training tells me to punish this type of behavior to extinguish it, but it doesn't work, I have tried just pulling on one rein and saying no, this worked last eyar, but after having th winter off, she is back with a loud mouth at full force. I have tried rewarding incompatible or different behavior, with treats but it doesn't seem to make a difference...any ideas? I am squeezing my outside rein in & out to distract her as per my trainer, and stroking her neck with my other hand...this works great at lessons, but at shows, I have to lunge her until she is too tired to whinny....One trainer at the barn thinks she's afraid, my trainer thinks she has an attitude, my husband and mom think its an escape behavior that has worked in the past. I know she is herd bound and wants my other daughter's horse, but if she can see him during a class she whinnies more than if she can't see him!

Annie is coming along with her training so nice, and looks like she is going to be a fancy little hunter/jumper for my daughter, if we could get her head together for shows. Please help! I have had horses for 33 years, am hooked up with trainers and have parents who are ranchers, I will take any advice and apply it as purely as possible! Thanks so much!!


Hi Shelly,

I agree the pony is showing herd bound behavior. This fear (herd bound behavior) is being exacerbated by the show environment. Providing a consequence for behavior you do not want is a good way to go. The consequence of movement (work) is a non-abusive way to modify unwanted behavior. A good and convenient action to request is hind-quarter yielding. This is a basic dressage manuver. It should be a basic manuver learned by all equestrians. I would practice this at home in a quiet place until both horse and rider are very good and natural at it. Practice this before you really need to use it as a consequence. Get very good at it (again both horse and rider) before you need it.

Then you would need to be willing to give up trying to win in a show for a while and give the show environment over to training the horse. As soon as the horse does what you don't want, you put it to hind quarter yields, several rotations in both directions and with some energy. You would then offer a HO to the horse and a few seconds break. Then ask for what you want again. If you do not get it or the horse shows you behavior you do not want, do the process again and stay with it until the horse stops the behavior. I have had great success with this with herd bound behavior. I have been able to stop horses being distracted by being herd bound (pawing, calling out, nervous, distracted, runnning out, etc.) through doing this manuver both on the ground and from the saddle. Please let me know you understand what I am suggesting.

As you have seen from my website, I travel internationally and around the states to teach and train. If you think there might be interest in your area for a seminar involving my work, it is easy to set one up. Thanks a lot for your question and please keep me posted.

Sincerely, Franklin

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