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Trust issues and fear?

Hi Franklin,

Greetings from Ireland. I have a wonderful ex racehorse for nearly two years now. Most people thought I was mad when I "rescued" him. He was skin and bone and could barely stand he had obviously been treated badly but since I have not history on him I don't know to what extent. The lady I bought him from was good to him but he was too much for her. He is adorable very affectionate and just plain wonderful. He will let me lie down with him and rest on his back when he sleeps. I can lunge him freely either in a round pen or open field and he will do exactly what I say. I put a bridle on and saddle him up he is calm and relaxed he strolls along waiting for me to give him direction to move out to "play". I never take him out without talking to him and asking him "would he like to come out to play for a while". He will eagerly come up to me and his ground manners are second to none. Then out of no-where he will start backing away from me and lookout he is gone!!! There does not seem to be any apparent reason. He is fine one minute then poof, away he goes. It is making me quite nervous now, and I am afraid that eventually I will be expecting something to happen-therefore it will. He is very nervous when under saddle; every corner has a ghost or goblin. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I think (am certain) the biggest issue relates to trust but I'm not sure what else I need to do. He is in a large field with a cob and two ponies although together they are each in their own paddocks. He likes his space away from other horses but like to be near them.

Thanks, Fiona

Hi Fiona,

Sorry I missed you in Ireland when I was there in early June. I hope to be back by next spring. It was my first journey there and it sure is a great place. I was in Armagh (Keady).

Horses that have raced (amazing they run them on the roads there) often come with a lot of baggage. Generally, they have minimal training other than to race.

Also, being thoroughbreds, they can tend to be rather high strung and flighty. The breed is bred to run and that means a lot. Your experience with your horse is common to folks having ex-race horses and horses off the track. The only thing I can really suggest that has worked for me in the past is to take the horse all the way back to the initial stages of good and solid equine training. Re-start the horse for ground handling and riding. Never put the horse in situation that resembles being in a race. Reprogramming (retraining) the horse should take several months. Go slowly and do not proceed to the next step until the previous one is mastered.

Reward the horse for trying to comply with any request with a break (peace) and a Good Boy. Practice having him lower his head constantly. You can do this on the ground and under saddle. A horse with it's head down is relaxed. If you can get him to lower his head on cue, this will help. Initially, ask for a couple of steps and then lower the head. Use a break in the action often as reward. This helps a horse to relax and stay that way. I ask for a bit of movement when it's head is down to get movement with a low head carriage. Generally, this helps the horse to relax when it is moving.

I have a good friend there and she is my Ireland coordinator too. Her name is Eva Fredriksson. Her contact email is She is a fine trainer in her own right. She may have some good suggestions to offer as well. Good Luck and please keep me posted. Hope to see you when I return to Ireland.

Sincerely, Franklin

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