Archives MAIN PAGE

Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

Professional support for you and your horse!

Rolling while being ridden

I am a middle aged female who had just undertaken learning to ride in the past year. I purchased a 5 year old mare approximately 5 months ago. I have ridden her in the area and on the trail and never had any real problems, although she can be stubborn and pushy . Because of this I just relocated her to a nearby certified training facility to get the basics for me and for her. I was riding her this weekend after not being able to ride because of bad weather. She was being obstinate but I have always felt safe on her. I had done some basic ground work in the arena before saddling up. After a while, she stopped and looked down and before I realized what she was doing she dropped and rolled with me in the saddle. I was not hurt.

The trainer came over and she worked for a while with [her] and we thought we had her back into acceptable behavior. The trainer had no sooner left and she did it again. Now I know what to watch for before a horse rolls, however, I am a little afraid now. From what I can read, this is a sign of lack of respect for me. Hopefully this is not a fatal flaw as I am very attached to her. Any suggestions? Is it likely that continuing to work with her with a trainer will help me feel more confident and the mare more respectful?


First off, and please receive this information in the helpful spirit it is delivered, your horse is not being "stubborn, pushy, obstinate, disrespectful" or any such negative human trait. Using these words put a 'spin' on the horse's behavior that make the horse bad. It is not bad, it is a horse without leadership or the confidence that a leader is at hand. Therefore, the horse does what it can, and this includes laying down whenever it feels motivated to do so. It is only responding as most any horse will, by fending for itself because no one is around who is connected to it and guiding it to feelings of safety through being the appropriate leader. Horses in the wild get their confidence, sense of safety and trust that they are safe from their leader. Domesticated horses crave, need and have to have this same sort of leadership. Only in this case, we humans need to be the good leader. It is our responsibility and obligation not to make a horse bad or wrong in human terms because it is acting like a horse fending for itself because no leader is present.

Please explain what you mean by a "certified training facility?" Who certified it and what sort of facility is it?

Trust, respect and compliance are earned by humans when it comes to horses (this is true between humans as well). If the horse were your child, you might get some education on parenting and not rush to judge the child as 'bad.' Taking responsibility for our education as to horses without the negative spin on the horse will advance your education faster and more efficiently. It is not about you riding your horse. It is about learning about horses and how to better understand what goes on for them and what their needs are. That way you can more appropriately address whatever behavior comes up. All equine behavior that is undesirable stems from fear of not surviving. The horse lays down with you because you have no active connection with it. It is not disrespectful behavior (that does not go to the core issue), it is just fending for itself in the absence of 'the leader.' If your instructor is not telling you these things, she does not know that much about horses and only thinks of the human activity of riding the horse (not about the horse itself). This is what you need education in more than riding. The vast majority of riding instructors do not teach HORSE, they teach riding only. Additionally, they will not admit there is anything they do not know about horses. This is a huge injustice to their students and the horses in their care.

To earn the respect of your horse, give the horse the respect of learning about it's nature, its language, needs and communication techniques. To gain the trust of your horse, become trust worthy by becoming knowledgeable through educating yourself about horses, how to connect with them through appropriately directing and guiding movement, being consistent in how you handle the horse, always being patient and as skillful as possible, learn precision in making requests and, above all, compassionate and kind. Being compassionate and kind means never judging your horse as bad or wrong or any human negative trait. That is unkind, unjust and inappropriate. I am certain you are a kind, compassionate person. It is only your lack of knowledge about horses in general that prompts this error in thinking.

Educate yourself and do not rely on riding instructors entirely. Get some training DVD's as they will open your eyes as to the real nature of horses and how to communicate effectively and appropriately with them. There are many good DVD's out there and easily found in the backs of all horse magazines. I have several within the shopping corral of my website that would prove invaluable to you. You are no doubt spending a lot of money on your horse. How about spending a little on your own education about the horse itself without the emphisis on the human riding the horse? If you take this bit of advise to heart and learn about 'horses' you will thank me over and over again. I have written extensively on gaining the trust and resepect of horses. Q & A's are easily found, for free, in the help center archives of my website. But learning about equine communication techniques only from reading about them is like learning to ballroom dance from a book. You really need to view the process to get it. Education is the key and not riding instruction. The riding should be the icing on the cake and not the first place you start with your new horse. Learn about your horse. Best of luck.

Sincerely, Franklin

Look for: