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...physically sick because of horse's behavior problem.

Dear Franklin,

Please help us. I'm new to this and I get physically sick because of his behavior problem. He is 12 months old and a miniature stallion. I just bought him 4 weeks ago and brought him home. This little guy was a true sweetheart. He always came running when I called him, always ready to run and play, always whinnied, always snickered when he saw me. We had fun! One day we ran and played together and I got scared because he came too close and got up on his hind legs right in front of me. I almost got hit with his hooves. Now I don't play anymore. He doesn't understand why. He has done nothing wrong. Two weeks ago I started to train him a little but instead of walking nice, he constantly chews on the leadline, like a puppy or a baby who needs a pacifier. I wonder if this is a sign of being happy, sad, scared or depressed. He also started to nip at my hand when I walk him. I yank the leadline and say NO but he doesn't quit doing it. I yell and scream but I'm not getting no where. I yank the leadline again, this time harder and he starts to rear up and tries to bite me. This is making me real scared. I start having nightmares. The next day I take him for a walk again, and it's all the same again. I pop on the nose, first lightly then harder, he rears and tries to get back at me. He tries to bite my arm. Then he chews and chews on the leadline with his head down, this makes it impossible to walk. I'm sick to my stomach because I keep thinking something bad is going to happen. When thinking about tomorrow I'm getting panic attacks and I think he is too. I'm confused and so is he. A buddy is on order. Please help us.

Please excuse my many mistakes but my native language is German.

Many thanks.
Thank you, Heidi

Hi Heidi,

According to how you have described it is being handled, your horse is responding normally actually. Why you purchased a young stallion I am not sure of. Perhaps you might consider gelding him unless you want to become a serious breeder (in which case you need a whole lot more education about horses). As a gelding he'll be much easier to deal with (especially given your level of horsemanship and expertise). I would strongly suggest you stop yanking and yelling. It obviously does no good and you get angry and frustrated and so does the horse. This really works against your possibilities of success with your horse. I suggest you need some solid and grounded education about horses, their handling and training. You are really heading in the wrong direction with this innocent animal. They are not supposed to be obedient. You are supposed to become their good leader and dance partner. But it seems you don't know how to begin that sort of relationship. You are definitely expecting too much, too quickly from your very young horse. The animal's age has a lot to do with how well and quickly it will learn. It's attention span at this young age is extremely limited. You have not learned how to ask for one small thing, reward it quickly and then another small thing (one step) and then have an appropriately short session. I want to strongly suggest you gain some badly needed knowledge about horses through the purchase of a training dvd or two. They are easily found in the backs of all horse magazines. I have several in the shopping corral of my website that would be very helpful to you. No matter whose dvd's you get, get them and watch them. You will have your eyes opened as to the real nature of horses and how to train and handle them. I cannot give you all the information and knowledge you need in a simple email.

That being said, I would begin training and handling the horse at liberty (which allows you to keep a safe distance and still handle the horse). I would do this in some sort of round pen or corral (with the corners roped off as needed). This way you can actually 'haze' the horse forward GENTLY, and ask for a stop when you want with a soft, verbal "WHOA!" and through appropriate positioning of your body and eyes. Through repetition of this simple exercise you will become the leader of the dance of movement. Their will be no stress, danger nor trauma when this is done correctly and over a bit of time (a week or two). Your ability to ask the horse to move forward at a walk and trot is important. The animal at some point will want to face you when you ask for a stop. That is good and is to be rewarded with a bit longer break from movement. All movement is work and can be used as a consequence for unwanted behavior.

Eventually, when he stops, the horse will want to begin to walk towards you and stand. Allow and encourage (invite) that when it happens. Give him a verbal "Good Boy" as a thank you and praise for doing the right thing. Once he is near you, but not on top of you, simply raise your hand and stop him a few feet away. This is setting your boundaries and respecting his. It is also acknowledgement towards the horse to set a boundary with it. Keep it short, simple and lots of verbal praise (a little rub on the neck at some point is OK too, but not too much touching as yet). Quiet repitition of this process is the key. Once the horse accepts being near you quietly, even for a brief time, you would begin introducing a rope and halter to the horse. That is a special technique all within itself. That would begin the next phase of this animal's ground training. Then would come "sacking out" the horse which is getting him used to all sorts of things touching him, flying by him, making loud noises near him, etc. along with continuously deepening the bond of TRUST between him and you. Its a lot. you cannot do this on little bits of info from well meaning people either. Watch some professionals through their dvd's. Making significant errors now can make it a whole lot harder real fast.

TRUST, this is paramount to what you are doing. This is the goal, not making the horse subservient and no less than our equal. They are like very young children wearing guns. If we scare them they may shoot us. We need to continuously find new and original ways of communicating with them that are mutually successful. By always looking to develop trust, we respond appropriately (hopefully) and not out of anger and frustration. We will move away from 'trying' to make something happen to responding at a high level of interaction in the moment, which offers each moment exactly what it needs. We will avoid laying blame and move to take responsibility for the outcomes of things we try to do, even with horses. It forces us to look at all our choices perhaps a bit more closely.

As you can see, trying to give you simple technique in an email is like trying to teach ballroom dancing by writing a book about it. It has been done, but I think one has to see it to 'get it.' Please consider getting a dvd or two. It will be a small investment in good education and knowledge which you really need to succeed with this innocent little animal (who can hurt you severely without intending to do so). Your English was fine.....Please keep me posted.

Sincerely yours, Franklin

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