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Young boy, older woman! Re: Horses

Dear Franklin,

I very recently bought the horse I have wanted since I was young. He is a sweet boy, TB X QH, about 6 years old. He was previously rescued from the original breeder/owner that had schooled him up to over 3 ft. fences. The man did not "click" for professional show purposes with this boy. He was charted to be destroyed as the man did not care what happened to him after he decided that the boy would not come up to the level of competition desired.

This boy will NOT take a treat (we have continued to try different smells). I had only worked with him on letting me brush, rub, etc. I thought I would check out his riding feel bareback (my prefered way, to feel him better). Needless to say, I got royally dumped and went and re-caught and rode him back to the run-in we had started from. He is intensely food driven (not treats, but grass and hay). He is very social with the other horses around and wants to be "looking and listening to what is going on across the farm".

He is a doll, has a habit of pawing when he does not get to stand the direction he wants (to see what's up), but, I did talk to him about that and he seemed to get the idea I did not care for it and decreased the severity and rate of the pawing. I think he needs me to just "sit about where he is and do some brushing, leading, turning circles for me and call it a day." Does that sound right to you?

The immediate problem with him that I have is he will STOP when being led in a direction he would prefer not to go (i.e. away from the others at the barn area). I start him in tight circles...then bring him in a fairly straight line as he keeps moving. I tell him he is being a good boy everytime. Any other thoughts...or am I on the right track?

Thank you for your time, Lee

Hi Lee,

The subject as stated caught my attention, I must admit. I added the "re: horses" so folks wouldn't get the wrong idea. LOL. It sounds like you have plenty of skill already. Thats great! You are on the right track with getting him going forward in a direction he is not comfortable with. Over time he will get more comfortable with it. The circles are fine (hind-quarter yields are excellent and a bit more efficient). Another thing to try is simply heading off at angle to where you want to go and zig/zag a bit and then go straight. Another thing to try is to: look in the direction you want to go and hold the lead rope so you can simply lean forward, have a rope halter on the horse. The horse will feel the discomfort of the rope on his poll (do not pull the horse forward, but simply lean on the rope making it uncomfortable for the horse to stand there). The instant he leans forward or takes a small step in the right direction release all pressure. Rewarding the horse at the exact moment he 'tries' to comply is the essence of some very good training principles. Providing a consequence, rather than a punishment, for anything unwanted, is another good principle. For instance, for the pawing, if you just "sit about where he is and do some brushing, etc....." I feel you are teaching him that pawing gets what he really wants. You are rewarding the behavior. If, when he paws there is a consequence such as circles, hind-quarter yields, backing and coming forward a few times, etc. that might teach him that pawing means movement, i.e. 'work.' I think that may take a bit of time but will, in the long run, be worth the extra time put in. Please keep me posted and thanks a lot for your email.

Sincerely, Franklin

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