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New Horse. Help!

I have recently bought a 5 year old gelding. At the start he was really good and didn't scare at all. But lately his been a real pain and shies at nearly everything and bolts once he gets a fright. It's really starting to annoy me and I had a bad fall just the other week because I was galloping along and he just quickly swerved for no reason and I came off. How can I train him to not shy at everything. He is very scared of things waving behind him. When I am on his back and I wave my arms even the slightest, he freaks and starts to take off. How can I help this?

Also I need help on jumping and teaching him to jump better because at the moment he can't canter up to jumps, only trot and when he does, he does a massive cat leap and I come off!! Please help because at the moment I'm feeling like I've picked the wrong horse!!!

From, Blair

Hi Blair,

Thanks for your question. What I would suggest is a lot more ground work first and foremost. As this is a new horse for you, I think he is trying to find out how good leader you are. Well done, appropriate and consistent ground work will hook the horse on to you as his trust worthy leader and do it quite quickly actually. He will have confidence that you know what to do and where to go so he will continue to feel safe. I would do a lot of ground schooling now and then regularly later. After he settles into you, do it occasionally or whatever to tune your relationship up. It is unreasonable for the horse to accept everything you want him to do if you are not well connected with him and a good leader on the ground and in the saddle. He is sensitive, perceptive and astute. He knows your weaknesses and strong points already. This could be why he was fine for a little while thinking you knew your stuff as well. Once he found out you perhaps were not that confident and knowledgeable after all, he is getting scared and not very confident in you and is taking matters into his own hands for his survival. Does this make sense to you? I hope so because that is what is happening. A five year old horse can still be green, have you schooled green horses, because this is what it will take?

As far as "sacking him out"&Mac226; (i.e. getting him used to things over his head, his being really spooky and nervous) this training begins on the ground. Getting the horse used to all kinds of things like tarps, flapping things, things behind and over him, all takes place on the ground first. It is a slow and subtle process with a lot of "feel"&Mac226; for the horse's comfort level, your safety and your ability to determine the horse&Mac226;s fear level and how much is too much for him to handle. It is a simple process but hard to teach in an email. Have you ever seen colts started? It's like that.

As far as getting the horse to jump, again I would go back to the ground and lunge the horse a lot and then lunge him over some low jumps. That should begin to get his jump going, so to speak. Your ground skills are more important than your riding skills at this point. I know many fine riders who know little of the real nature of horses or how to train them. Perhaps you might consider learning a bit about how to train horses as well as how to ride them. This will up your horsemanship to a much higher level. While your friends will be trying to stay on board a spooky horse, you&Mac226;ll be able to help that horse not be spooky, but rather have confidence in his/her rider and handler. Please consider this possibility. You are seeking help and that is the first step. How about really learning horses and not just the human activity of riding them?

I know I probably have not given you the quick fix answer you might have wanted. Truth is there is no quick fix for horses. Its all about developing trust and confidence with this animal. These things take being consistent over time just like with a human. Horses are not automatic and not supposed to be. They are also not stubborn, willful and never are they devious, bad or any other negative human trait we want to put on them. They are fearful plain and simple. They require very good leadership all the time. They get confused and that produces fear. If the leader is uncertain or frustrated, so is the horse. With a good leader they will do most anything they can for that leader. barring prior abuse issues and the like.

Anyway, this is getting too long I think. Please let me know your thoughts on all this. I would like to help. It is possible that this is not the horse for you if he is too far beyond your experience level to teach him trust. Unless, of course, you consider becoming a trainer as well as well as a rider. By the way, I am emailing you from an airplane on my way to Cleveland to present a 3 day clinic at a hunter/jumper farm. I am free to travel and present Training Thru Trust clinics around the country and in Canada. Perhaps there may be interest in your area. Please let me know what you think on this too. Thanks for reaching out and asking for help. That is a great first step for you and your horse.

Sincerely, Franklin

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