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Franklin Levinson's

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Setting boundaries with your horse

Hello Again,

Well I have to say of all the sites I've searched for answers, yours is just loaded with real useable common sense & knowledge... I've been reading all evening and have gotten some real clues into this pony & her behavior... She is handled daily by an assortment of knowledgeable and not so knowledgeable teens, they muck out her stall & feed her mornings, I do most evenings. Clue #2, we have a big treat box about 7 feet from her open top stall door, she leans out begging treats all day long, we happily give her them, she's gentle & soft in taking them, but leans far out of her stall, we laughingly & happily give her about a dozen a day.... She is not required to stand back or yield in any way for her treat... She's only fed about 1/4 cup of grain twice daily, plus two to three flakes of hay, so her grain is minimal. She is not ridden or broken to drive, does little except be haltered and led out of her stall into her paddock morning and evening back into her stall. I intended to have her sent out to learn to drive this spring, if I could find someone kind & knowledgeable, I so wanted her to be a kind sweet pony, but every time I walk into the barn, this pinned ears, grumpy face greets me, it's not pleasant and she looks foul with that face!

Thanks again! Terry

Hi Terry,

I am delighted you have gotten some insight into the ponies behavior. Horses crave good leadership beyond all else. Allowing them to earn treats is showing the animal respect. Keeping your boundries intact and respecting the horse's boundries is another way of offering respect and becoming trust worthy for the horse. The simpliest of requests made appropriately, consistently and with compassion, will assure success over the long term. The "grumpy face" that greets you is due to how the animal is being handled. That face could just be the pony's way of trying to get food again. As it has been given to her so freely and without her having to earn it, she probably feels it is her right to have whatever she wants, when she wants it and that is the meaning of the sour face.

Once she is handled by a good leader consistently and treated with respect, as opposed to merely be given treats all the time, that will change her behavior. She will develop respect and trust for humans and become more the horse you desire.

Sincerely, Franklin

Hello Franklin,

I stayed up late reading with chagrin your web site... I obviously am at fault with this filly, and hopefully can turn her around to the loving companion and friend that has indeed been my dream : )

One last question, and perhaps I'll avail myself of a phone call or two as well, we'll see how I get on with the new program! What about her issue with trying to manuver people against a wall to stop them from making her do something she deems as unpleasant? I'm quick & pretty smart, should I be super concerned about this behaviour, is it likely to just go away with my becoming a better leader?

What about the youngsters who handle her, she didn't try to smash my neice, just "held" her on the wall firmly, I've not heard of horses using this particular method before, but you I'm sure have more experiance with such things. I have a home business, and I know what it's like to answer hundreds (thousands) of emails, I truly appreciate your generocity to all the bewildered horse owners out there, if you help me "save" my filly I will ever be grateful, I had prayed the Lord send me the answer with her, I really want this to work.

Kindest Regards, Terry

Hi Terry,

I would address this behavior now as it will only get worse if you do not help it to get better. One thing for certain, it will not just stay the same. Nibbling on a human becomes nipping quickly. Nipping becomes biting. Moving into a human's space (invading boundries), no matter what the exact movement looks like, will become worse over time. Establishing and keeping good boundries is essential for a good relationship, any relationship.

You do not have to be close to this horse to begin to lead the dance and establish boundries. One does not have to get in the stall to begin to direct movement. Simply ask the horse to back up a couple of steps (or even one step) from a safe distance in front of it. If it will not, bring up the pressure of the request just a tiny bit, then see if you get a step and keep increasing the energy behind the request (perhaps holding a rope or wand and activitating it a bit towards the animal's feet - not head, not to scare it but to simply increase the resolve behind the request) until the animal takes a step back. Then the horse is immediately rewarded by the human stepping back a step, lowering the 'tool' (wand or rope) and thus, making the animal feel safer. He is rewarded when he complies with the request with a total, immediate release of the pressure (a peaceful moment). This sets up what I call A Winning Cycle of request, attempt or good effort at compliance and immediate reward (release of pressure and a peaceful moment).

This sort of consistent, simple leadership of movement and action will quickly establish boundries, a bond of trust and where the human has become the good leader. This conscious request of simple movement done extremely consistently over time will give you the relationship of your dreams with most any horse.

The key words here are "appropriate" - "consistent" - "simple/clear" - "reward" (positive reinforcement). Good Luck.....

Sincerely, Franklin

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