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Franklin Levinson's

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Older horse challenges....

Dear Franklin,

I have a 21 year old pureblooded arabian gelding. I just purchased him from a stable I was working at last fall. I also have 2 ponies. We tried to keep him in the pasture with the ponies but the fencing was to low and he is able to jump it. So he is now kept at a neighbors. This is not his permentant home, he is just there until we are able to put up higher fence. They have a Quarter horse mare, and some sort of gelded pony. He gets along with them pretty well. We think that he is the leader of them, but sometimes we think the quarter horse is.

He used to be a show horse, was then sold I think becasue of retirement, then a trail horse and sold because his owner died, and then sold again after the stable was not being taken care of well, then he came to the stable i worked at and I purchased him there. He was not riden much, but when he was ridden he did well. He gets spooky and jumpy usually. He is a very scared horse most of the time. I do not know what has caused this.

Now I ride him maybe 1 or 2 times a month because of my job and such, sometimes more depending on the month, and also becasue he is at a neighbors. But everyday or every other day I come and groom him and sometimes take him outside the pasture for grass.

He has now started to rear his head up and sometimes his whole body, but not usually while he's being ridden. Mostly when the briddle or halter is being put on. So the neighbor, whose house that we keep him at, is more experienced then I am, so she has tried to help me stop the problem, by using the nose chain and making him lower his head. He holds it very very high. This is not helping and I fear she is applying to much pressure with the nose chain. I don't mind using the nose chain, but I would like to make sure I/the neighbor is using it right.

I would like to know if you have any advice for me on how to help him, or what I could do to help this issue. I would really appreciate a response,

Thank you, Amanda

Hi Amanda,

Rather than the restraint and force of a stud chain (nose chain), I would suggest moving the horse forward (putting him to work) for behavior you don't want. This provides a consequence rather than a punishment for unwanted behavior. Trying to 'make' the horse do something is really the wrong approach. This is an older horse and something about how he is being handled is obviously stressing him. The stud chain adds to the stress. I suggest more handling on the ground before attempting to bridle or saddle him. Get a connection going everytime you are with him, before asking for much. Perhaps a bit of easy ground play, simple forward movement, asking for lowering of the head (a very simple and elementary horsemanship technique), lots of appropriate reward (short breaks and a little praise) for the horse even trying to do simple requested movement is advisable. The person using the stud chain is trying to speed it all up and not showing skill or real knowledge about horses and doing what most humans do, trying to force the horse to comply. Skillfully 'asking for compliance' is much better than trying to force things and make it happen. Perhaps your neighbor does not really understsand how to 'ask' for compliance from a horse. The best situation is when a horse complies with requests because it wants to from having a functional relationship based on mutual trust with a human. This is developed over titme through lots of ground play that is more like ballroom dancing with the human as the great leader of the dance. Get more education about horses yourself through the purchase of a few training dvd's. Don't just take this person's word for everything. You need to gain the knowledge yourself.

Many good horse training dvd's are found in the backs of all horse magazines. I have a few in my website's shopping corral that would prove quite helpful to you. No matter whose dvd's you get, get some and learn. Also, you need to see these techniques to learn them. Otherwise it is like trying to learn ballroom dancing from a book.

Good Luck and please keep me posted.

Sincerely, Franklin

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