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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

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Saddle Fear

I have a good horse that has been trained but he is afraid of the saddle. When I bring it out as soon as he sees it he wants to get away from it. Then once I get him saddled he is jumpy at everything and wants to go faster and faster. He is afraid of lines on the road mailboxes and even if I lunge him he still jumps at everything. I just don't want to take the chance at getting hurt out on the road should I be more stern than just pulling back like a martin gale. Will he ever stop going.


Hi Katale,

Thank you for your question. Forget more control or being the boss. Your horse is innocent and not doing anything to you personally. It is either uncomfortable, in pain or fearful. First thing to find out is if the saddle is too narrow or hurting the horse’s back in some way. That is the most common ailment in this situation. It is also the most misunderstood and least thought of by riders. You wouldn’t want to wear an article of clothing or equipment that hurt you and if you were forced to by an uncaring or unconscious person you would be upset also. This is usually the case with a problem like yours. This will follow you on the trail and anywhere you are riding the horse. Once you can determine if the equipment is not hurting the horse the next thing to look at is the way the horse was started under saddle. It could be the horse was abused and rough handled. The way to overcome that is to go back to the basics of re-starting the horse under saddle the proper and gentle way. For this you may need a professional as it is a skill it takes time to acquire and has a real element of risk. Ever started a horse under saddle? Do you have access to a round pen? Have you ever watched the process and know a good, gentle trainer that can do it? There are a lot of videos out that show the process. Get a copy of Western Horseman or Equus Magazine and they will have many options for you. I am doing one too, but it is not out yet. Please remember, good horsemanship is not about control or dominance, it is about compassionate, parental type of good leadership, kindness and being the best we can be for our horses. I know I may not have given you definitive answers as there is no ‘magic bullet’. If I have given you good food for thought, hopefully that will get you on the right track.

Good Luck and keep me posted.

Sincerely, Franklin

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