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Franklin Levinson's

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Appy refuses to trust me

I have a 9 year old Appaloosa gelding who seems to have severe trust issues. He is a calm horse, but he acts as though he's afraid that everyone is out to get him. I think he was treated very roughly in the past, and he's afraid that I'm going to do the same. I can't touch his muzzle at all (too much twitching?) and he rears when he is asked to load into a trailer. I love this horse, but he will not bond with me. How do I show him that I'm not going to hurt him and that he can trust me? We've come a long way from when I bought him in October, but it bothers me that he doesn't trust me totally. Any suggestions you may have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!!
Olivia Carroll

HI Olivia,

I have a horse that wouldn't load when I first got him. He would do just what your horse is doing, stand by the entrance to the trailer just fine (with his head in) but not take the final step. What got him through this was getting him used to stepping up and over something. I began to guide him over a one and a half foot jump. Once he would go over the little jump with me sending him over it, he went right into the trailer and has ever since. Some horses have to learn to step up and over something. Mine needed to learn that. Try it. Having him walk up and over things in the round pen is a good idea. Don't make them unstable items though. That may scare him. Horses like solid, firm footing. More like a foot high or 18 inch jump. Lunging him over a low jump would be good for him I think. I believe you are on the right track by circling him around near the trailer and giving him a break only if he approaches and gets his head in. My horse Pete gave me the longest trailer loading session I had ever had, nearly 6 hours of continuous effort before he loaded. He had so much fear. The one thing that I think really helped was getting him used to stepping up and over something.

Never punish. It doesn't work with humans or horses and will only make matters worse. Yes, his trust issues get in the way of his relationship with you and all humans. When he gets fearful on the trail you could try asking him to make small circles in both directions around your inside leg. This will probably distract him and make his getting nervous and rearing harder for him to do. If he has to concentrate on going in tight circles, he'll forget (at least temporarily) anything else that is going on. Practice this on his back in a paddock first before you do it on the trail. Get him circling nice and smooth. I wish I could just scoot on over to your place and help out.

Perhaps sometime I could. I am going to be giving a clinic at a dressage farm in Cleveland the 20th of July for four days. I am flying in. If you would be willing to pick up part of the plane ticket and a little extra I could stop there for a day or so on my way out. Let me know. It would be fine with me. Anyway, keep me posted.

Aloha, Franklin

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