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Difficulties and bad habits

I recently bought a 13 year old welsh section D and he has so many bad habits I don't know where to start. The biggest issue is his bolting. Any opportunity he gets to do it he will, mainly to the field to try be with the other horses (he's a gelding). I can't even tie him up outside, and he started doing it with other people before I got him. I have had everything checked to see if there is any medical explanation or if it was due to his tack but it was neither, he is perfectly healthy and tack fits perfect. I have tried working on it and sorting it out but fail after fail.

I muck him out in his stable and that's where the biting comes into it, every now and then he will get a cheeky bite. He pulls you where ever if you have still manage to keep hold of him, he tries to kick. This has only been recent because he was in a riding school and did very well and had children of all ages riding him. His old owner was very under educated and I know its due to her mistakes and letting him get away with these for the past 19 months and he in the routine.

I'm running out of options and I'm wondering if you can help me because I know he can do it, he is so lovely and I will do what it takes. I just want him to be happy when he is doing what is asked. I would be greatful of any advice that you can give me because I really have ran out of options. Thanks.

Manchester, England

HI Jodi,

Remember old habits are difficult to change for horses and humans. Sounds like you have some good horse experience. So, I think if you try my suggestions you will see improvement. First of all, this will take 6 months or so of steady (one or two hours per day) training. Maybe more. The horse needs to set the time frame. If you attempt to rush this nothing will change. Secondly, I suggest a lot of liberty handling in a small paddock or round pen. It needs to be fun and easy for the horse when you are with it. Nothing demanding. You would begin with very simple exercises like simply asking the horse to walk calmly ahead of you for a short distance and then stopping and waiting and then repeating. Simply being with the horse in the small area and doing nothing (reading, etc.) will be good too. After a while go to where the horse is standing and merely occupy that space and the horse should willingly move off it. Simply go to where the horse is standing and take the spot. Don't make a big deal of it. If he doesn't move of flap your arms like a chicken and make some noise and he'll move. Doe this for a number of days. Vary this routine (swap one for the other on alternate days). You will notice the horse beginning to trust you and beginning to seek you out after some time. If he doesn't don't be concerned. He will eventually. Next when asking him to move forward (this does not mean chasing him around or lungeing him forward). All this should be done calmly, quietly and precisely. Next you can begin to lunge him quietly. Walking is fine. Just ask for a little distance at first and stop and count to 10 and breath. Gradually, increase the distance. Keep it all as calm and precise as possible. Better to work in slow motion and be very precise than try to speed things up and not be so accurate in your requests (even though you think you are). You can always speed the horse up, but you cannot always slow it down with precision. Consider using a flag when you begin to set boundaries and setting spatial boundaries is how you will develop respect and more trust. This requires extreme consistency. Be aware of every move every instant when with the horse. Set and keep a one meter (suggested) spatial boundary around you. Introduce the flag thoughtfully and desensitize the horse to it thoughtfully. He will respond correctly when you use intention when using the flag. When leading the horse carry the flag. Put it out in front of his face to slow him down and stop. Train a few steps at a time and reward (stop and breath). Get him really good with this. If he steps out in front of you you must use the flag before he takes that step in front (awareness and timing). If he attempts to move out in front back him up two steps each and every time he steps forward. EACH AND EVERY TIME. Eventually he will not attempt to move ahead of you. He should stay in the correct position every moment you are leading him. Do not allow him to lead the dance. You must become the leader of all movement. This is where this is all leading.

So, I must end this as I am on the road teaching in Australia. As you have some understanding of horses you would benefit greatly from some telephone coaching. When I return to Corfu at the beginning of March it would be easy. Be patient and let me know if this interests you. Keep me posted as to your thoughts about all this. This is just a taste. There is no quick fix to highly successful horsemanship. But I can help you and move you forward if you are willing and interested.

Sincerely, Franklin

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