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Franklin Levinson's

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Off the track and mine


My name is Lauren and I just adopted an off the track TB. I am very excited to own such a beautiful animal! My question is this: He is very agitated it seems, while he is somewhat nice (he will let you pet him and walk all around him closely without kicking or bucking) he gets in positions to kick or "charge" and buck at you when you are around him but not up against his body (like in his walkout area or stall). He is a little nippy as well. The guy I adopted him from (the program owner) and the owner of the place I board him say it is just the steriods and he will calm down 110% in about 4 months...But I am still uneasy and am worried I may have gotten too much of a "project" horse and not the gentle gelding I was promised...Let me know what you think.


Hi Lauren,

The condition of your horse is not unusual for off-the-track, ex-racers. You horse needs time to settle, that is true. The drugs will move through his system in a while. Some horses it takes longer than others. In the meanwhile, remember this and try....your relationship with this horse is formed first and foremost on the ground. Becoming the trusted leader is not that difficult. You must make requests of the horse he can do like taking two steps forward and stopping. He complies and gets a "good boy". Do this a lot with simple movement like leading, stopping, turning, backing. Make every little mundane thing you do with him a conscious and precise request. Keep it simple at the beginning. He may have a hard time focusing for more than a few minutes. As time goes on, you will see the horse looking forward to seeing and being with you. He will trust you and look to you as the leader. Even a seemingly always gentle gelding, will, over time, 'sour' and act out without a skillful and confident leader around to make precise and appropriate requests and reward the horse for trying. This 'dynamic' of the good leader should become part of how you interact with all horses, all the time. This is how you make them feel acknowledged, respected and safe with you. You can even do this at a distance from the horse by speaking to it in a confident, soothing and appropriate manner. Somewhat how a great parent speaks to and treats a ten year old child.You don't speak down or in a condesending way, you speak to it clearly and with respect. Same with a horse. However, your relationship will develop well mainly by having good, right and appropriate activity, where you are leading the dance. It would make a huge difference even now if you could practice as I am sugggesting with this horse.

Do you have the skills to do this? Please let me know. If you don't I can offer you coaching to get you through this, if you would like. Keep me posted and let me know if I can help any furthur.

Sincerely, Franklin

Hi Franklin,

Thank you for the advice...There is some good news and bad news though - tonight I was having some difficulty with getting him in his halter and a nice man stopped and asked if I needed help (because I obviously did with all the commotion of my horse stopping and kicking and "growling" at me) I told him my situation about how he was perfectly nice the first two days I had him and now he wants to be a little devil! He came in his walkout area and asked to see his halter and I handed it to him...long story short with some time and effort he managed to get him calmed down and the halter on him. And oh my goodness! It was like a COMPLETELY different horse when his halter was on. He walked nicely next to me, stopped when I asked, backed up, turned, and stood nicely like an angel. I tied him up and started to pet his side and neck and he actually seemed to enjoy it as where before he would just tolerate it temporarily. I walked around him and leaned in to pick up his feet and he was so perfect and had them picked up and ready as soon as I stood next to the leg and began to put my hand on it. Then when I walked him back (It was a little dark) I stepped on some dry leaves and it spooked him for a second but I held firm on his lead rope and said halt firmly and he perfectly stopped and waited until I continued.

But I noticed as soon as I took him out of his halter in his stall and walkout he started to become angry again and acted like he did when I would come in his walkout with him before. So I am confused and don't know what this behavior is about. The nice man who stopped to help me said he could be bored in his stall, but I didn't think it was something as simple as boredom...Let me know what you think and thank you for your help!


Hi Lauren,

I think what you are seeing with your horse is frustration (if you frustrate a horse by not knowing what you are doing with it, it becomes fearful). In order for a horse to 'trust the leader', the leader must move confidently and precisely, just as their leader in the wild does. If you are trying to halter a horse and are unsure how to do it, the horse picks up on that and becomes insecure with that human. The horse knows your confidence and skill level, as well as if you are feeling unsure and a bit or very fearful. This prompts the horse to fend for itself which looks like the horse challenging you, being angry at you, trying to get away, being stubborn and any number of undesirable actions and attitudes. They all stem from the horse's natural survival instinct to survive on its own if need be because there is no leader around it can trust.

Your bond and relationship with he horse is formed by successful, right and appropriate action and activity with the horse on the ground. Petting, grooming and feeding are nice. But do mostly no good in establishing your trusted leadership of this horse. You must actively and appropriately dictate what occurs while you and the horse are in the same space. As the 'leader' you control the space, not the horse. By controlling the space (what happens in the space) you lead the horse into compliant and willing partnership with you. Horses do not need controlling, they need, want, seek and desire leadership and guidance. Again, they feel secure and safe in the presence of their leader. This is the nature of it. Also, your horse may not like being stall bound (kept). It is always great when horses can be kept outside for, at least part of their day. I can help you approach your horse in the stall or outside. Again, it is all about confidence, skill level, attitude and intention.

Sounds like this fellow may have some skill. Perhaps he may be willing to teach you some good things. Anyway, keep me posted and let me know if I can help. I also am happy to offer you a telephone coaching session or two. You would find them invaluable. Good luck and keep me posted please.

Sincerely, Franklin

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