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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

Professional support for you and your horse!

New Horse Owners

Hello Franklin,

We recently became first time horse owners. We purchased a 5 year old quarter horse gelding and a 10 year Freisan/Tenn Walker mare. We have had our gelding for about a month longer than the mare but had to board him at a horse farm close by because our barn was not completed. Being "green" at owning horses I have enlisted the help of my 17 year old niece. She has worked on a horse farm for a few years and has two of her own which she shows. We were doing great with the gelding and were basically just learning the basics (feed, halter, cleaning their feet and brushing). My 12 year old daughter was to be the primary care giver for him and was getting along very well in the beginning. When the mare arrived the vet said she was about 200-250lbs. underweight so we have had to feed her rice bran twice daily. We feed 2 flakes grass hay and 1 flake alfalfa in the morning. 1 flake grass ha at noon (started this because of food aggression) At night we feed 3 flakes grass hay.

[See Franklin's Comment #1, below]

While our gelding was being boarded we noticed he started having lots of bite marks on his back and rear end originally we assumed him being the smallest guy out there he was being pushed around. I think we might have had that backwards. When he was introduced to mare he was very good they seemed to have no issues, but it didn't take long to see that we were going to have problems. Our gelding "Diesel" appears to be very jealous of the mare "Sierra". If you give her attention he immediately pins his ears and attempts to bite her, he is very aggressive with his food and he often eats extremely fast so he can steal hers.

[See Franklin's Comment #2, below]

He is very good with me and pretty decent with my husband however he did try to kick him recently when he tried to move him. My major concern is my 12 year old daughter. The other night she went to give him a hug while he was eating and turned around and bit her really hard. Luckily he only pinched the skin through her thick jacket and left a large bruise. That was her first bad experience and she turned and ran, I was in the barn also and immediately went after Diesel by slapping him on the neck and then chasing him out of the barn which i would not let him return to for awhile. Now i have been disciplining him whenever I see him being aggressive with mare or anyone else. I do this by raising my voice and yelling knock it off or by slapping my hands together. Sometimes it works and other times I have to grab a lead rope and go in after him. The problem is there is so much information out there I don't know what the right action is. I want my daughter to be able to have a good relationship with him and not scare her away from horses all together.

[See Franklin's Comment #3, below]

COMMENT #1 - Along with putting some weight on this horse, it needs to be exercised. It needs muscle as well as bulk weight. If it does not get exercise along with more food, it will have too much energy and will be bundle to deal with no matter what. Please keep this in mind.

COMMENT #2 - Jealousy for attention and hoarding food, amongst horses (and sometimes humans) is not uncommon. Several things that may help this are: feed horses widely apart and not close together. Separate completely at feeding time if possible. Set boundaries with horses. This will develop respect and therefore, trust with horses. If you do not or cannot set a boundary around your personal space, feed, etc. do not expect much respect from a horse. If a human does not have personal boundaries, this shows little self-respect and others will not have respect for that human either. Same with horses. Setting boundaries with the horses will set you up as their trusted and respected leader, which you are not at this time. This would help everything. When the gelding displays its jealously you need to immediately step in and correct this. This is what the natural leader of the horse herd would do. In the absence of a leader horses fend for themselves. This is when humans and horses get hurt. I cannot give you this technique in an email. Its just too much is not about being dominant, the boss, alpha or anything like that. It is all about conscious and compassionate leadership via excellent communication, appropriate energy accompanying the communication (with horses it is primarily body language).

COMMENT #3 - If a human is unconscious around a horse, that human appears and is vulnerable to the horse. Thus, your husband nearly getting kicked. Approaching a horse unconsciously and inattentively is dangerous. Children are especially vulnerable as they can be totally unaware of the body language of a horse as they approach it. Usually a horse will tell you something us up before they nail you. But if you do not understand the language or miss that initial communication, you get hit. If you are a novice, when horses are eating it is best to not do anything, just let them eat. They can get very protective of their food and it can be very dangerous to mess with them, especially if a horse is in the habit of being aggressive around food. It sounds like this horse already is. The horse does not need discipline actually. It needs consistent leadership, sometimes firm leadership, whenever a human is with it. This is different than discipline. Think about it....being a disciplinarian is very different than being a leader. One gets you respect and the other gets you resentment. Besides, if you merely discipline a child, they will keep trying to get away with stuff and give you a sour attitude. If you become the trusted/respected leader for a child, you will get respect, cooperation, trust and more of what you what and what is good for the child. It is exactly the same with horses.


There is a lot you need to learn to be safe and have a good time with your horses. A few general principles: never assume anything with horses, do not have expectations. Either of these things has you living in the future, and take you away from being totally present with the horse. The horse lives totally in the present moment. When the human is not totally present with the horse, effective communication is greatly diminished. Never take anything personally a horse does, ever. It is never intentionally trying to go against your wishes. But why should a horse try to comply with a request made by a human it does not respect and has no connection with? Horses will connect and comply with their leader. Horses never lie. The horse will only come up to the level of the human as far as performance, attitude and behavior. A human who is unable to be the good leader for a horse should not expect anything from the horse except disrespect, aggression and unwanted behavior. A good horse is made a sour horse very quickly in the absence of a good leader. Horse love equals the amount of respect and trust a horse has for that human. Trust=feelings of safety= horse love. The most important thing to any horse are its feelings of safety (survival). It gets these all important feelings of safety (trust it is safe) from the leader of the herd who know where to move the herd to, when it is time to move and other matters important to the survival of all members. No leader means no feelings of safety and therefore, the horse fends for itself (behavior you would rather not have) as it tries to feel it has some control over its own safety.

Let me know if you wish to have a phone session. I leave for Australia on Jan 8th for 7 weeks of teaching. It would have to be before then or when I return. I live on the Greek island of Corfu. We are 8 hours ahead of you time wise. I have Skype and can call you very cheaply. Let me know. Thank again for your most generous contribution and I wish you a terrific and fabulous horsey new year.

Sincerely, Franklin

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