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Franklin Levinson's

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Starting a young stallion under saddle.

Hello Franklin,

I have a 5yr old quarter horse stallion with great bloodlines that I do plan on breeding to my mares. This is my first stallion and as far as working with him on the ground he has very good manners and I have not had a problem with him at all. He stands tied bathes loads clips stands for farrier and I can lead him past mares with no problem. I have started to school him for riding and so far we have lunged with and without a saddle. We work at walking trotting and catering transitions. I have been on his back the first few times just getting up and down and laying across his back. From there I went to sitting on his back. We also work on ground driving with the saddle on his back. He does all this sometimes with some tension but he does relax after a while. We have done this for 2 weeks and today was the first time he took one step forward in the arena. That is all it took and my normally easy to get along with horse became airborne. I only lasted for one very large buck. He than ran to his stall and looked like he was begging to get in it.

Did I push him to fast? Did I shatter his confidence? Did he do it because he was scared? Please help I do not know what to do now. I did not put any pressure on him with my legs or heels. I did get back on and off 4 more time before putting him away . I really love this horse and have owned him since he was a baby but now my confidence is not where it once was.I thank you in advance for any help and advice you can give me.


Hi Carol,

You missed a step (or two). When I start any horse, I do it in a small paddock or, preferably, a round pen 50 or 60 feet in diameter. I sack the horse out as best I can given the allotted time. I will then saddle the horse and, without getting on the horse, ask it to move around carrying the saddle. This is when I generally see the bucking. If I think the horse may hurt itself, I keep it on a 20 ft. line to prevent it going over backwards or doing some damage to itself. The bucking usually does not last for long. Often less than a minute. Sometimes it is a few crow hops and sometimes it is rodeo style big bucking. But still it does not last long at all. Once the horse begins to go around smoothly w/o any inclination to buck, moving in both directions, stopping, turning, etc. I allow a nice break in the movement and give praise. Then I send the off again to see if there is any residual buck present. If not, after about 20-30 minutes carrying the saddle, I will slowly and thoughtfully prepare the horse to handle a rider.

I may flag the horse back and forth from the top rail of a fence so it can have the experience of having someone handle it who is above the eye level of the horse. I don't always do this, but it is a good idea. I may bounce up and down in the stirrup a few times before mounting, I may flap the stirrups on both sides of the horse as well. Once I feel the horse can be safely and calmly be mounted I will step up into the stirrup and lean over the horse first. Then come down. The lean over it again, etc. a few times. Then I will bring my leg over and sit upright. I do not ask the horse to move. I remain quiet and centered up there in case the horse gets afraid and moves abruptly. I do not ask the horse to move. I prefer to wait until the horse moves off on its own. If, after a reasonable time, the horse does not take a step, I will bring the horse's head to a side (generally the left side), and attempt to motivate a step to the side (NOT STRAIGHT AHEAD). If a horse is going to buck, it does it straight ahead and not to the side. Also, asking for a step to the side allows me to apply a little leg to begin to get the horse used to that. Sometimes I just sit up there without going anywhere and then get off and put the horse away until the next day when I will ask for movement. It is also important to be able to ask it to bring its head side to side and down. This should be done before mounting and again, a lot, once in the saddle. If you cannot bend a horse's head to the side, it is a big problem and unsafe to ride the horse.

Anyway, that is basically it. Giving this information in an email is like trying to explain how to tango with the written word. Be careful, take your time, go very slowly. It sounds like you already have some good knowledge. I think you just asked a bit too much too fast from this young stallion. Let me know if you have additional questions.

Sincerely, Franklin

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