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Franklin Levinson's

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Tail swishing

I have a 10 yr old gelding who all of the sudden has started tail swishing when I groom him. Walking through the barn, he tail swishes, not relaxed. Seems irritated. He does not seem to enjoy grooming any more. He used to turn in his stall as soon as he heard my voice and want to come out. Now he stands in his stall, and barely looks at me. We have a close connection, or used to. His herd has changed, feed has not. He used to be the dominant one, no longer is. When introduced to a new herd, he always remained dominate. I have asked the owner of the stables and he says it's probably because he has bunched the horses due to bad weather. He is in good health, never looked better, gets good hay, approximately 6 to 8 hours on pasture. His next worming is due in Jan. Feet just recently trimmed and shoes removed. When he is in cross ties to be groomed, he is constantly swishing his tail, uninterested in me. He would always wait for me to blow air into his nostril, and then he would relax and lay his head on my shoulder just for a moment. This is a Rocky Mountain and the connection all of the sudden seems gone over night. Could the larger herd be the reason? Or could he be ill, sheath infection, or what?

I hope I have given you all the information needed to give me and answer and suggestions.


Certainly changes in the herd can be upsetting. If his feelings (anxieties) are not being acknowledged, he'll turn away from you. One of the things a good friend does is empathize with you. Have you really come forward to him acknowldging what changes have happened and the remifications on your horse's life emotionally and other possible ways. Its big. But sometimes it only takes sincere empathy to get back on track. This is actually a hard one for many people to relate to. It seems a bit New Age. But, I have come to know how big a role 'empathy' plays in the life of a horse. They also think and communicate in pictures, as do all other animals. We do as well, but we use 'words' a lot more. Horses think in pictures that have an emotional 'file' attached to it. The 'file' has either trusting, secure feelings, or fearful feelings.

For a horse that was of a certain temperment over quite a while and then all of a sudden is very changed, if it is not health, it will be environmental. Herd changes produce insecurities and thus, fear. I think he needs a lot more reassurance from you. Do more fun, easy things on the ground. Spend quality time doing simple, easy games with him. Move him consciously, precisely, softly and say 'thank you' when he tries to do as you are requesting. Don't assume anything. Ask him and get really silent and expect to intuit an answer. Send compassionate and loving feelings to him. Don't ask anything of him, just offer to help him. You do not need to touch him to comfort him. You need to be really sincere in your feelings and intention. Forget the cross-ties for a little while. Make certain the brushing and grooming is gentle, soft and feels really good and unrushed to the horse. This is important. Make it as good as you can for him. Move him and do it all precisely and consciously. Make every little step a clear and conscious request. Then when he tries to do as you have requested, give a Good Boy. Give him something to do with you. And, yes, have his sheath checked.

Keep me posted and have a wonderful New Year........Sincerely, Franklin

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