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Franklin Levinson's

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Developing Problems With New Appy

Mr. Levinson,

I found your website looking for a solution to a growing problem with my new horse. I bought a 7 yr old Appaloosa gelding in August. I was taken by his gentle manner and his lack of reaction to noise. I have two granddaughters and have not ridden for several years but I rode and showed hunters and jumpers into my 20's. I believe I have a puzzle piece missing with this horse. I bought him because he represented a horse that was quiet yet young enough for me to hone my skills again. The first day he flew back when tied, but I attributed it to a new place. He is so quiet on the ground that I had no need to tie him until about two weeks later. He flew back again and stood shaking after breaking the line. I called the man who owned him before and he said that was why he sold him. The poor horse had been sold in Michigan, shipped to Florida for two weeks and then was on the way to New Jersey when the man that I purchased him from bought him in Georgia. I believe the man I bought him from did not tie him either because he said he would ground tie. He had him for a month and rode him on trails and in the ring and said he was quiet. After I had spoken to the owner in Michigan, I realized the horse had been abused. The man had sent him to a trainer to be "broken" of the habit and it did not work so the man took him to a sale and that is how he ended up in Ga.

I called a vet and had him examined again and she determined he had old injuries, 3 broken ribs and a sternum. The previous owner told me he would fly back and sometimes fall. I am comfortable with him not tying. The only known bad habit he had initially was flinching badly when the saddle was put on - no wonder. He trusts me now and that is not an issue. The vet said some horses just don't tie. I can accept that. The real problem has developed over the past few weeks. We have a ring and trails in the woods. I ride him at least 3 days a week and on the weekend. I have not pushed him because I am getting back in shape. He was ridden western but he did not like a broken curb with a chain so I switched him to an egg butt snaffle so I could begin to work him on light contact. I still ride in the western saddle because he tended to swerve and sometimes on the trail he would stiffen like he was going to shy. Until the past week, I felt he and I were developing a relationship. This weekend though he was so spooky that he tried to rear and buck. I had to get off and lead him back to the barn. I lunged him for about 30 minutes then my husband walked with me and we went back in the woods. Today was not much better. I feel like he is trying to tell me something. I really want to work through this. I know he has been treated roughly, today he was very uncomfortable when we put the saddle on - reverting back to his old behavior. I do not feel safe now letting the girls ride him like they did. The minute he is back in the pasture - he returns to his old self. My husband has run every piece of equipment around him - no problem. In fact Rusty comes up and tries to take tools out of his tool belt while he is working on the barn. He has worked his way into our hearts and I know if I sell him he will just be passed along with probably more abuse. I was thrown when I was 16 and fractured my skull. I do not want to trigger those memories and up until this weekend I have been gaining confidence. The laziness I can deal with but the spookiness is hard. He also trips a good bit - not stumble just trips and I believe it may be linked to his old injuries. We also live in an area where there are coyotes and deer. We also wondered if it would help if we got another older "bomb" proof horse as a companion for him. He stays in the pasture ( 3 acres ) and comes in the barn for hay when he wants.

I am so sorry this is long but I love this horse and want to find out what he is trying to tell us or how we can bring him back to the demeanor he had when we first bought him.

Sincerely, Shari

Hi Shari,

Thank you for reaching out and asking for some help. I agree your horse is trying to tell you something. It really does sound to me like your horse is telling you he is in pain when being ridden. The discomfort from the old injuries could be what is causing the behavior you are experiencing from him. You would act out too if someone tried to get you to do something that caused you pain. Yes, it is a good idea to get him a companion animal. A horse alone without another equine companion is not a happy camper anyway. The pulling back problem is extremely common and I have several techniques I can use to try and correct the problem. They do work but one must always be vigilant around those horses that are predisposed to pulling back hard. This comes from abuse and unconscious handlers. If you are OK with not tying him, great. I can describe several ways to try and get him out of the habit though, if you like. It is a bit detailed, but I would be happy to if you want to see if it can work for you and the horse.

As the horse has had confirmed injuries of the nature you have described, I would try some equine chiropractic, perhaps some acupuncture and therapeutic message for him. With all those broken ribs and sternum, I could understand him being in chronic pain. Also something else has happened. Since he has acted out and been put away, he does associate being put away with acting out. If he does give you a hard time he gets not to have to carry you around. Consider that he has now learned that he can win by acting out. Horses are smart and this is how they learn. What you might do is, when he acts out, get off if you want, but immediately lunge him (both directions) on his short lead-rope so he keeps working. Then immediately get back on board and try walk off where you want. Or, while still in the saddle, learn to turn him around your inside leg in tight circles, both directions and then say WHOA! If he stands quietly for a moment, then ask him to walk off where you want him to. As soon as he acts out, turn him around your leg again or get down and lunge him and then try to ride him again after a few minutes of this. See if your making it hard for him to act out and easy for him to stand and be nice or to calmly walk where you want, works. Thank you for putting an easy snaffle in his mouth and no curbs. Let me know your thought on all this. Keep me posted.

Sincerely, Franklin

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