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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

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Preparing for a Career with Horses

Dear Franklin,

Marie's Mom here.

I sincerely appreciated your second email

, and how you explained that Marie's gelding "Justin" was acting out of fear, and uncertainty, from being by himself, and that horses need other horses. In your first email you begged Marie to get educated about horses. I felt like that was a bit like telling a new parent to get educated about children. When it comes to horses, (and children), there is SO MUCH information out there (and believe me, she has done A LOT of reading and studying. We've went thru all the books in 3 libraries, and countless books borrowed from others. Anything she could get her hands on for the last 4 years. She even read out loud to Justin while he was eating grain, just so she could be near him, and he could hear her voice) but so much of it can be conflicting, and it leaves one confused, and sometimes overwhelmed. But I am to blame for a lot. I truly feel, that Marie (much like
in the other email you forwarded) has a natural calmness, and patience with animals, and perhaps I encouraged her to go ahead with her dream of owning a horse before she was ready, and she may feel like she is in the " deep end of the pool." However, her main concern is for her beloved "Justy". Most of all she wants him to be happy, and content, even if that means she would have to give him up. But maybe it won't come to that.

My brother owns about 10 horses of various ages and has offered to board him there, (he lives much closer as well). He has a round pen for training, and spends quite a bit of time working with them, as he finds this a very relaxing thing to do evenings, and weekends. Marie could spend a lot of time there, watching, learning, and adapting to various other horses as well as time with Justin.

You probably wonder why we didn't do this in the beginning. Well, chalk it up as a dumb idea on my part. Actually my parents were very excited about it, and wanted to help as well as spend some time with Marie. She and Grandpa have had some wonderful times together just standing at the paddock, and watching Justin run, and being in the moment. I am so sorry Justin's happiness was sacrificed on account of this. We plan to go up to my folks place tonight and spend the weekend. I read several of your archive emails, and here's the plan; I want to calmly walk up to Justin's paddock. Stay on the outside of the gate, and keep my hands at my sides, instead of trying to pet his face and invade his space. Talk to him in a gentle, soothing voice, and tell him how much we love him, and hope to make his life much better. And repeat this often over the weekend. I liked your tho't of gentleness and compassion being a good start to any situation where the animal or person is scared and confused.

I appreciate your time, and insight. I'm sure Marie and Justin do too!!!
Sincerely, Marie's Mom.

Hello Marie's Mom,

I am filming a western movie up here in Calgary. I have the day off, so I thought I would try to respond a bit to your kind email. In learning about horses, there is so much mis-information, mis-conception, human projection, erroneous judgement being spred around (by well-meaning people who think they know horses) that I really push education. Riding instructors teach little about the horse itself. It is all about the human activity of riding the horse and maintenance. Most riding instructors actually know little of the horse itself it seems (although they will not admit it and move immediately into dominence when a behavioral issue arises). Your daughter sounds terrific (as do you). I support your daughter and you spending a lot of time with your brother at his ranch. Sounds like he understands the concept of developing a relationship based on mutual trust and respect. Once humans really understand the horse feels best and most safe in the presence of the great leader/parent, humans begin to always assume that role when with horses. Once your daughter really understands that to help the horse feel its best always when she is with it, she needs to show up as that great leader/parent all the time, every second she is with the horse, she probably will begin to attempt to do this. It is an attitude the human should bring when with the horse. It is more than petting, grooming, feeding and hanging out. There has to be a bit of appropriate interaction and action for the horse to understand that the great parent/leader is with it. If things are too passive, the horse really doesn't get much of an understanding of the role it has in the relationship with a human. In the wild, in the herd, the leader is precise and always has the attitude and 'presence' of the leader and allows acknowledgement and affection from the other horses when it suits it. As horses are prey animals, their sense of safety is paramount (more important than food or rest). They get that sense of safety from the leader. The leader of the herd is the mare that is most knowledgeable and balanced in temperment. She is not the most dominent. Domiment horses are the bullies. Leaders lead and bullies push the other horses around. So, it is never show him who is boss. It is always 'am I safe with you, doing as you request?' Leaders are extremely precise and know exactly what they want from the other members of the herd. There is never confusion from the leader. Always precise action and requests.

If, when you go to the horse, you tell him what you said you were going to, that will be fine. Have a rope and maybe a halter in your hand or even a pair of gloves in your hand may do. After you speak to the horse, ask him to take one step back, just one step. Do this by gently swinging the rope towards his legs and saying "back." You do not need to get very close or touch him. You can be on the opposite of a gate as well. Bring the energy of your request up gradually as needed to get the horse to take a step or two back. This is done by a more vigorous shaking/swinging of the rope towards the horse and a bit stronger voice request. The instant the horse complies, immediately you back up a step and say "Good boy" in sort of a praising way. The principle being the pressure of the request comes off the horse the instant it complies. The immediate release of the pressure of the request (and just a tad of praise) is the horse's reward for doing as asked. By doing this a few times, your request to have the horse back up will get softer and softer as the horse will learn what you are asking for quickly and will not need as strong a request as the first one. This is the basic concept of training horses. It sets you up as the great leader of the dance and begins what I call a 'winning cycle' for the horse. A winning cycle is when a request is made, complied with and immediately that compliance is rewarded. This help horses and children (employees, co-workers, etc.) feel a sense of accomplishment, enhanced self-esteem, safety, personal power and more. By immediately stepping back when the horse complies with a request, we become the leader who can make a request and then immediately give a reward for our wishes being met. It is quite straight forward.

Blessings to you and your family.....Sincerely, Franklin

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