Archives MAIN PAGE

Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

Professional support for you and your horse!

Horse problems on a long line & more

Hi Franklin –

I have a question about lunging. My horse can be somewhat unpredictable on the lunge line. He often backs up and tries to get away from you. He’s never been successful, although he has successfully dragged me across the ring as I try to settle him down. It doesn’t happen once he’s moving—only when you are first moving him out away from you onto his circle, or when you bring him back in to switch direction and ask him to move out again.

As for bringing him in to groom him...In this situation, perhaps it is me who is nervous. He does come in two to three times per week to get brushed (by our grooms), and the blacksmith trims his feet every 6 weeks or so, so he does get human contact. My “paranoia” stems from the fact that I really feel his ground manners went straight down the tubes after an incident in the cross-ties: he was tacked up and ready to go, but my trainer wanted me to get draw reins. Since there was no one to hold on to him, she suggested I just put the halter over his bridle, and re-hook him to the cross ties. I did, and as I walked away, we had a little disaster. I’m not sure whether, because he was all tacked and ready to go, he thought he should follow me, but regardless, he must of felt pressure and it scared him. He ended up jerking back so badly, he actually snapped the chain on the cross-tie --not just the safety release clasp. He reared back and ended up kicking out and splintering two of the top boards on the arena rail (which butts up against the cross tie area). Since that time, of course, he began acting out in multiple ways—tightening his girth while in the cross-ties became a definite no no, but even tacking him outside of the cross-ties often led to him shying away and getting loose from me, taking a little jaunt around the ring until we could lure him back with a peppermint. The behavior then began to manifest itself at the mounting block, etc...

I guess I’m just being a “nervous mommy,” but I just would hate to have something happen when I bring him in. And again, perhaps it’s my nervousness that is the problem, I don’t know. It’s just that I don’t want to make a mistake. For example, he’s REALLY mouthy—not a biter, more like a little baby with an oral fixation. Always has to have something in his mouth, often your shirt. And of course, sometimes he grabs some skin along with that shirt. Yet he’s been so flighty, and he doesn’t seem to mean any harm (or does he?), I would hate to overreact or discipline him inappropriately.

Thank you, Hallie

Hi Hallie,

Thank you. I have found that if you just go with the horse if he moves away from you when on a line, that is much better than tying to hold him. If he backs away you move in the same direction so the line doesn't go tight. Only lunge him in an enclosed space and just go with him if he moves anywhere. Then the thing to do is get him going in a circle ASAP. That way he doesn't have a 'win' by ducking out. Don't make a big deal of his moving back or away, just get him working in a circle again as soon as you can. To smoothly change directions, gently back away and call him to you or merely move into the direction he is traveling and he will stop and face you and turn.

I would forget the cross ties. Let him be groomed while standing untied. Forget restraint. If he won't be still then he should be moving around the handler in a small circle (both directions). Then offer him some peace by asking if he is ready to stand. If not, he keeps going around in small circles. You want a partnership with this horse, not a slave who is only standing if restrained (i.e. chained). To keep him 'willing' he must be free and doing what you request because he wants to. He does not mean harm and does not require discipline. Did discipline work with you or did it just make you resentful and angry? You do not want to be a task master (or any kind of master over him). I think what you may want is called 'mastery'.

Keep it all very pleasant for the horse. Do not try to restrain him or discipline him. If you can do something easy and pleasant, go ahead and do it. It is true your tension is transferred to him. So, don't approach him unless you are feeling calm and confident. This is what will help him to feel that way also. Please don't worry. I can help this and you will learn a lot and become more of the horse handler, trainer and equestrian you want to be. Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

Thanks again for having me to your ranch this coming fall in Ohio. I look forward to it.

Aloha, Franklin

Look for: