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Franklin Levinson's

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Retired Harness Racer


Hope you can give me a few ideas. In November I adopted a 9 year old gelding who is a retired Standardbred. He was underweight and had a few minor medical problems that we have corrected.

He started off as being inpatient when I mounted and he doesn't like to stand very long. He started off doing some little pop ups when he didn't want to stand still or didn't want to go the way I wanted him to walk. But now it has progressed into bucking. He has become herd bound and somewhat barn sour.

He has had a full exam and everything physically is fine in fact the vet stated for an retired harness racer he is in great shape. I have recently gotten back into the world of horses after 30 years. I rode a great deal and competed as a teenager.

I am wondering if part of the problem is a bonding issue with me? That he may need to feel more secure with me as with the herd. I have some ideas in mind to help develop our bond by doing groundwork and games as well as going out into the pasture with the all the horses and walking around and petting/rubbing them and just hanging out a bit before I actually get Solution haltered and bring him into the barn. Then just taking Solution to the barn to groom and mess with a bit and then leading him back into the pasture. Then adding more time with me and began going into the arena to do some hands on groundwork while playing some games with him.

Do you think I am on a right track? Could you give me some pointers or hints. I hate to have to return him to the adoption program.


Hi Irma,

You are DEFINITELY on the right track. You need to develop a trusting bond with him. This can only be done with lots and lots of time on the ground. In the saddle is the icing on the cake of your relationship. If you have a round pen I would suggest you use it or get one if you don't have one. You will love how it can transform your horse (and you). Lunging can be done as a fun and interesting activity (dance) for you and your horse. It should not just be the horse going around in a circle. You can lunge a horse in a straight line and being to 'send' him places like over a short jump and then have him stop and come back over the jump to you. You can send him in and out of a trailer or stall. You can even send him thru gates and back. He can go half way around a tree and come back. If you can get good at sending him places this will develop his trust of you and your bond with him. It will be interesting for him and you. You should be doing a minimum of 30 minutes of ground 'play' before you ride this horse. It is not to warm the horse up, although that is not a bad thing. It is primarialy to 'get connected' with your horse. So often folks just get on and ride without any real connection or bond and they wonder why their horse prefers the company of the other horses than the one who feeds them. It is really not had to understand. You can be fed by your captor, but that doesn't make you love them. There is a wolr of things to do with your horse that is beyond riding the horse. At liberty play in the round pen will really get your connection big and beautiful.

Spending time quietly with the horses in the pasture is good as well. Release any agenda other than your horse's sense of safety and comfort. Forget riding for a little while and concentrate on the bond. Becomming part of the her and actually the 'leader' of the herd is what you want. That is done by actively 'leading activity' and not mere riding or feeding.

I have taken on a few clients who I coach usually twice a month. It is efficient, effective, cost effective (about what a piano or riding lesson costs). I coach them over the telephone. Usually folks do this for a month or two and then they are on their own and I remain available to occasioanlly coach them through a problem. Please consider this as a viable alternative and good opportunity to getting some professional coaching, consistently and reasonably at least for a little while. Let me know if this interests you at all.

Let me know how it all goes and know I am here to help.

Sincerely, Franklin

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