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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

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My Ex Racehorse

I was wondering if you could give me some advice on my horse. he is a six year old thorobred ex race horse gelding. He is fairly lazy and we have problems cantering. Whenever I give him the aid to canter it seems like forever before we get going.

Also, I have trouble getting him on the bit. He has a really long neck and it always sticks out. He looks like a giraffe. please help me!!

Kind regards
Jess Bouwman

Hi Jess,

Thanks for your question. I would begin 'softening' this horse's responses by going back to basic ground work for a while. Working him on a long line and/or a round pen will be invaluable in getting your connection going more dramatically and appropriately. The horse will also begin to do speed transitions upon your request without the burden of someone on his back or a bit in his mouth. Ex-racehorses can be rehabilitated and I do mean actual rehabilitation. They can have hard mouths, no stops or turns, difficulty in collection, speed transitions, personality disorders and, frequently are able to only move to the left (the way horses run on a racetrack). By going back to the basics of ground work you will give the horse the opportunity to relearn how to move, which is what he needs.

Once he is going good on the ground for you begin to ride him while someone else has him on the long line at the same time. Ride him in a halter and leadrope at first to develop a soft stop and soft responses. Then take him off the long line and continue to keep him in a halter and leadrope for riding in the arena for a little while. Ride him very easily and don't ask too much until he tells you he is ready by his responses. Take it one step at a time. There is not quick fix. Your horse has a hard mouth which is exhibited by him sticking his neck out when you ask for collection. Ground work is frequently neglected by riders because they don't want to take the time and have a tendency look for 'quick fixes' to problems. By going back to the basics on the ground, you will fairly quickly get the horse moving off your cues to a walk, trot, canter and back down again. You will also gain more ability yourself in cues for him to do what you want. Your ground skills (which are the real nitty gritty basic training skills) will come up immensely. These skills will come with you when you begin to ride. Please forget trying to make him do anything and take the approach of the 'leader of the dance' by covering all your basics steps for the dance you want to do on the ground first and then in the saddle. 'Ground driving' this horse would be invaluable in beginning to get him to collect also. Do you know how to do this and are you set up for it?

These are a few things I would suggest to help your horse become more of what you want. I think the question boils down to, are you willing to go the distance and take the time to rehabilitate this horse. I believe totally that this is what you horse needs. I have worked with numerous horses 'off the track'. They all exhibit the same problems, more or less. I guess it goes with being a racehorse in that world today.

Please let me know how it goes. I am most interested and here to offer suggestions to help. Thank you for the opportunity.

Aloha, Franklin

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