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The horse who just says "nope, not doing it!"

Dear Franklin,

I have a beautiful 7 year old welsh gelding who I have owned for nearly two years now and although we still have a few problems to iron out that he inherited from his previous owner ( who had him from a foal) I believe we have a great relationship but we now have a new problem that I can't seem to help him overcome.

When out hacking there is a spot he just will not go past-it is a small decline on a country path very wide but it does have a small drop to the left of it. I know when Taffy is frightened of something and in the past I've found that by just letting him look at the obstacle and talk quietly to him he usually goes on past it but this spot in the hack doesn't have him exhibiting his usual signs of fear and though I hate to use the word, he just seems stubborn!

He has recently been out to grass for 6 months and has only been back in his stable for a month. Before he went out I never had a problem with this spot and he will happily go down now but only if I get off and lead him. I'm not a fan of carrying crops but I have taken to carrying one and just using it against my boot. I don't want to use it on him as he bucks when its used so I dread to think what his previous owner did with one and I have never before needed one with him anyway.
When we get to this incline he just refuses to go down or he'll go so far then turn and start backing towards the drop ( its about a 6 foot drop but as I said the path is about 15 foot wide, when frightened he starts to blow through his nostrils, his back tenses under me and his head couldn't get any higher but he doesn't exhibit any of these traits at the incline - he just won't do it full stop !

Because this is becoming dangerous ( the backing up to the drop) we are at a standstill - I know he picks up my fear of him going backwards so its just getting worse yet I don't feel frightened going down it only when he suddenly turns and backs up so I don't know what to do to ? I approach it calmly and feel fine until he turns.
When I first got Taffy he had been allowed to roll and buck when lunging as his owner believed he just needed to "get it out of his system" Great! until you came to ride and asked him to canter - you had to jump 6 foot to get away as he went to roll!!! With a lot of hard work and patience he no longer does either. We still have a few problems lunging because he can suddenly turn when being lunged on his right side and although he has had all the checks by vet and farrier to see if there is a physical problem there are none. I now lunge using his bridle and double lunge reins which helps.

He has a beautiful character, eager to learn, to please, usually well behaved but definitely opinionated which I love about him but at the moment I feel like he is deliberately ignoring me! I ride with a quiet seat and as I said I don't like using the crop because usually he does what ever I ask without the use of one but this situation is starting to feel like he is just putting his foot down and saying no and I don't know how to correct it I have tried treats, I have gone down with other horses in the lead (he went down hesitantly at first but was fine doing it again straight after) and he has gone down it once or twice on his own but then the next time he just refuses. Its a very quiet lane and, as I said, he doesn't seem to be frightened of the spot.

I would be really grateful for any advice you may have.

Yours sincerely, Sarah-Jane

Hi Catherine,

Some of the feedback you got from other has validity. Stallion behavior does become habitual over time. Gelding a horse of his age may not change any stallion like behavior. But, then again, it might. You will have to wait and see about that. The only suggestion I have around getting him socialized as a gelding is this; do a lot of ground play with him and get really good and comfortable with it. Then have other horses, mares and geldings alike, move around him and be in close proximity to him while you are playing with him (you can do this in the saddle as well). Get so that it is no big deal if any horses are around while you are with him. This may help him do well when he is with other horses and you are not around. The suggestion to put him in with other 'select' horses and let them work it out, is a very commmon way to deal with this. If you can really keep an eye on them for a while, it is valid. If you cannot watch them a lot, consider turning them out together only when you can observe the interaction for problems. Lots of action and movement with other horses around is a good thing to do. Also, simply handling him with other horses around is good as well as just tieing him in the vacinity of other horses moving about with handlers and riders and watching what happens will help. Good Luck and please keep me posted.

Best regards, Franklin

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