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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

Professional support for you and your horse!

To take 'control' or to take the 'lead.'

Dear Franklin,

Hi, I have been riding in United States Pony Club for 3 1/2 years now and I am having alot of trouble with my pony. I pretty much started on a arab pony who was a "been there, done that" kind of horse. She taught me the basics: simple balance and position, steering and control. But now she is retired and I ride a horse named Dancer who is a QH mare. She has always been sick and infact was born dead and they had to revive her and she was in the hospital from 2 weeks, to about 12 months. In her head, (says my teacher who is also her owner) she thinks she is 2 years old and she sure does live up to that! Dancer is very manipulative and gets away with acting like she is going to kill anyone who makes her mad. She has scared me alot by tensing up and throwing a "I would rather kill you or die trying than be here right now" act. But she really will fight to the finish. It started with her not wanting to jump and or jump ten feet before she should. Now it has escolated to she doesnt even want to turn to the right direction whenever she wants to make me mad and she almost always wins because i get afraid and she runs out or throws herself on the ground and tries to make me disappear. her owners didn't want to risk dying when training her so they would lunge her. I am her first real "rider" that she hasn't completely killed off.. But I do get tense easily and have a tendancy to pull on her mouth rather than using my leg when i want to turn. Does that have anything to do with it? Can you help me find a way to win and take over control without her killing me?

Thanks, Kelsey

Hi Kelsey,

Happy New Year. The key to your having a good relationship with your horse and helping the horse to overcome its past problems is for you to stop trying to ride the horse for a while and develop a relationship on the ground with the horse. It is like ballroom dancing with you as the great leader of the dance. If you learn the skills to play on the ground with any horse, this is where a bond of trust and respect will be formed first and foremost. These skills will assist you in becoming a hugely better rider and horseperson in general. So much of what humans do with horses only involves riding (and usually riding that is not that great or appropriate). To really get something going with your horse I highly suggest you gain some sorely needed education about horses which is way beyond you learning to ride a horse. Riding should be the icing on the cake of your relationship with any horse. First and foremost is the development of a relationship with trust and respect at its core. The knowledge I am speaking of is found easily in dvd's about training horses, found in the backs of all horse magazines. I have several in the shopping corral of my website that would prove very helpful and valuable to you. But, no matter whose dvd's you get, get some and get the education about horses you will not get from a riding instructor who only wants to teach riding and generally will say; "show the horse who is boss." Learn about horses first. Learn about their psychology, their language, their fears and how to help them over come them. Horses are a feeling, sensitive, sentient, empathetic, smart and extremely social animal. They need, crave and have to have good leadership to thrive. That leadership can come from another horse who is the leader of the herd in the wild or from a knowledgeable human who cares enough to get educated about the ways of horses. I have several dvd's in the shopping corral of my website that would prove very helpful and valuable to you and your horse. No matter whose dvd's you get, get several and watch them over and over. They will open up the world of horses to you that it might take you years and years to learn through trail and error and taking riding lessons. Remember, it takes years to fully train a horse and only a few seconds to screw it all up.

If this were my horse I would take it back to the basics of its training. I would treat it like a very young horse and re-start the horse as to everything from learning to lead, to ground driving, to first being saddled and then ridden. This is the only way I know of to really rehabilitate a horse with severe problems. I know this sort of thing may be beyond you right now. But if you gain the education I am speaking of, it won't be for long. Please show this email to your parents. If you really love horses, help them by getting the education about them that will help you help them. I cannot give you a course of horse in an email. Your riding instructor cannot give this to you either. Most don't know and only want to teach riding anyway. Open your heart, open your eyes and mind to the horse. I promise and guarantee you will not be disappointed. You will receive rewards you cannot even imagine now. Good Luck and again, Happy New Year.

Sincerely, Franklin

Hi Franklin

Thanks! Gee, this sounds sooooo much like what I do with dogs and their psychology! To some, I am like a "mini Dog Whisperer." But I really just want to understand this pony and help people understand their dogs. Someday, I want to do this same thing with horses too! For a time, I started spending more ground time with dancer: taking her out in the feild, grazing her while occasionally stretching out on her back and stroaking her, feeding her treats and walking her around, sometimes taking her on trails or just hanging out with her. Is this the right thing? It seemed to work and she was more willing to do things for me but over the holidays I stopped doing that and would really like to start it back up again. The plain truth is I am afraid of her and don't trust her. I really do want a relationship with her where trust and respect are present, just like with my pack of dogs. Are horses animals that will respect you if you are assertive over them, or does it ta ke compromising and letting them take over? I thank you so much for answering my questions~it is an answer to my prayers!

Happy new year! Kelsey

Hi Again,

Horses develop respect for the leader (horse or human) who knows how to appropriately communicate with them, to lead and guide their actions and movements.. The ability of a horse or human to request simple movement and direction and receive willing compliance from the horse is what develops the relationship of trust. Like the leader in a ballroom dance. We must become the skillful and compassionate leaders. It is not so much about being assertive (although the ability to be gently firm/quietly strong is important). It is not about letting them take over as that indicates no leader is present and the horse is fending for itself. They get their sense of safety and feelings that all is safe and good from their leader(s). They are the ones who direct the movements of the herd. They are the ones who are able to determine when it is safe to stop and eat, as well as where to stop and rest and eat or sleep. They know where to 'lead' the herd to (feelings of) safety. Safety does not exist in the physical world. It is a feeling only. Horses use their intuitive skills to determine these things. They use their highly evolved empathytic awareness to communicate (along with physical positioning, posturing, physical displays, sounds and gestures). They, like all other animals, communicate greatly by sending images with an emotional attachment to each other. They will always try to send them to us if we are intune to receive/notice them. The image either feels good and safe or not. This is easy to understand if we hold an image and see how it feels inside of us, in our hearts or guts. Let me know how it all goes. Again, Happy New Year.

Sincerely yours, Franklin

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