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Franklin Levinson's

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Arabian/quarter horse mare

I have several problems with my Arabian/quarter horse mare.

1.  She backs up on me with her ears pinned back with aggressive attitude
2.  She bites me when I try to pet her and when I saddle her up and mostly when I tighten her girth up so that the saddle wont come off or slide off of her while I am riding.
3.  She won’t stand still while I mount up. I just got her back thirty days ago. The man that I sold her to did not keep his word at all to me about working with her and riding her properly. I had trained her myself and it took me one year before I tried riding her or even getting on her back.
4.  She rears up at me when I lunge her and with her ears pinned all the way back and she has already pinned me up in a corner twice and hurt my back and shoulder.

I am getting to the point to where I want to sell her because I’m afraid that she is hurting me on purpose and that scares me. She bites me a lot and I don’t know why. I have not abused her that I know of but I did smack her nose a few times and plus I was told by a trainer and a vet to try the lemon method on her which is concentrated lemon juice and squirt a little in her mouth and that would stop her wanting to bite because she would think that I would be sour when she bites me. I don’t know how true that that is about the lemon juice thing because I tried it and it did work for a while but since I bought her back from the man that I sold her too she has just been very, very bad. I don’t know if he or the other people were mean and abusive to her but something sure has happened to her and I can’t figure it out. Could you help me with some tips about what I should do about these problems because I love her very much, dearly and with all my heart. It would break my heart in two if I had to sell her again. I think she is pregnant though this will be her first baby. We had her bred on June 12th of 03. I don’t know if this is the problem or not I really need some help with these problems. Could you please help me?

Thank you, Elizabeth

Dear Elizabeth,

Thank you for your question. I am sorry you are having such a difficult time with your horse. She is not doing anything to you to be bad or willful. She is reacting out of fear and nothing else. Please do not blame the horse. Horses are innocent like children. Your horse has been abused by the people you sold her to. I am on an airplane coming from presenting a three day seminar at a hunter/jumper farm in Cleveland. Many of the horses I worked with there had the same problems as your mare. You see, a horse being a prey animal is always looking for a leader to help it to feel safe. In the wild horses look to the leader of the herd (the head female) for security and confidence that it is safe, something like a parent does for a child. In the absence of a strong, confident leader the horse will fend for itself. Domesticated horses take on the type of behavior your horse is doing because no one is there to lead it appropriately. No one is speaking to her in her own language. This causes the horse to ‘lead the dance’ herself because no one else is. A horse fending for itself will bite, buck, rear, bolt, kick, run off and any number of undesirable things because there is no one around to direct its energy in an appropriate way. It’s a little like a 12 year old child (weighing in at 1000 lbs.) who would hurt itself and those around it because of lack of direction and leadership. It also does some things simply because it can with no consequences. I do not mean punishment, but rather appropriate direction with a bit of discipline (not hitting or slapping).

Here are a few suggestions: Get your basic and beginning ground skills going again and do them as good as you can and a lot with the mare. Have her bend around your body as you pull her head to one side or the other and walk towards her butt. Have her turn 3-4 rotations in one direction and then the same in the opposite direction. Do this several times in both directions and then offer the mare some peace by saying ?Whoa? and stopping immediately. If the mare stands peacefully let her stay a minute or two. If not bend her around again. Do this a few times and then ask the mare to walk off straight and calmly. If she does not, do the process again and again until she does put her attention on you and walks forward peacefully. If you know how to lunge a horse, I would begin to do that a lot until her direction changes are smooth and easy. When she rears try not to make a big deal of it but rather go back to having her moving around in the circle again just as soon as you can. Once the horse really warms up she won’t be that extreme anymore. Get the horse backing away from you easily and softly by gently giving the lead rope a few tugs and saying ?back? and moving towards her front feet. There were 4 girthy horses where I just was. What I do is to take a soft towel and begin rub the girth area with the soft towel reassuring the horse all the way. Then I have someone stand on the opposite side of the horse and hold the other end of the towel and we gently pull it up and down along her girth. This gets the horse used to the feel of something on her girth area again. Then, talking soothingly all the time, I slowly and thoughtfully snug the girth just enough to keep the saddle in place and lunge the horse a bit to get it used to the feel of it all again.

As far as the biting, I use a rope training halter on the biting horses. If they look to nip I vigorously shake the lead rope under the horse’s chin which is very annoying and back the horse up a ways. I have popped a horse right on the upper lip in front of its teeth if it was a particularly nasty bite. I only do that if it was really a bad one. Do you have access to a round pen? They are a great tool if you can get her into one. Let me know and I will tell you how to use it.

In short, I would do the basic training of this horse over again. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks to get it all in. Sounds like you really do love the mare and want to ‘save’ her. You can, but you need to retain her back to trust. Do you think you can do that? Let me know and I Bless you with the strength and knowledge to help this horse return to peace.

I hope I have helped a little.

Sincerely, Franklin

Hello Franklin,
I was writing to you to let you know that Lucy is doing a little better and that her progress is coming along but she still has a few habits about biting me still when I saddle her up. But we will get there it will just take time and patients. I was also letting you know that I was sending you a couple of pics of her too. I am still going to keep in contact with you on her and that to say also thanks a lot we are very thankful that we had advice from you and its helping us a lot with her.

Thank you so much, Elizabeth

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