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My horse is spooky!!!!

The circumstance:
Hi, I am writing to inquire about some training.  I purchased an 8 yr old paint/draft cross (I am guessing by his build) last fall, to be my new trail, organized ride, parade, fun show, basically all around partner.  Long story short, we've got some problems.  I am only able to guess, but I think someone has not been real nice to him somewhere in his past before.  He's very hard to catch,  I have to bring all the horses into their stalls in the barn and catch him in his stall because I don't leave halters on either, not that you can get close to him anyway without grain, he's very untrusting, jumpy, somewhat spooky, etc...all the things you don't want in a trail horse really...on the ground.  He is broke to ride, but is buddy sour.  He does seem to have more confidence under saddle, and I have had people tell me to not worry about it because he is better under saddle, but my experience tells me if and when I put him in the right situation under saddle, that behavior will come out, and it'll add up to a wild ride or a wreck, neither of which I want.  I recently began studying Parelli, and I can't even get in the round pen with him with the carrot stick...I believe I need help.  I am on that edge of giving up, but don't want to...I have such hopes for a relationship with him.  He deffinately needs the kind of training you do, I really want to get him a little jump start so I feel able and safe enough to begin level 1 with him. 
I can't tell you much of his past, just what I was told I basically do the opposite of...his past owner told me to 1. never take his halter off or i'd never catch him again  2. always use a rope to pick up his back feet 3. always make sure he's tied to something solid even to brush him, not sure why that was, but I don't do it, if he feels he needs to get away I want him to be able to, not stand there and fight instead.  Maybe I should be doing that, not really sure, everything i've learned before tells me not to though.  He's not really done anything wrong he's just very tense and jumpy, but he's never bucked, kicked, bit, anything like that before.  Thanks so much, I was really wondering if he's something I could tackle on my own.

The answer:  

It is funny but you are describing a horse we had at one time... A belgian/quarter horse cross gelding we sold a couple years ago.... He was incredibly jumpy and spooky.. Not a mean bone in his body and very lovable but a tweety bird flushing out of a bush would send him into orbit... Also, last year we had a client who owned a Hanovarian dressage horse trained to the third level... Again, incredibly spooky and jumpy but not a mean bone in her body.... So, yes we are familiar with these types of horse personalities and we have had success with them.... Basically they need a gentle firm handler to do 2 things: Slowly introduce them to the unknown (The scary things) and to also build their confidence in themselves...


We are strong believers in going at the individual horses pace allowing them time to process and to think about what they are doing and how things are going, also what is being asked of them... If you think about how they are wired (Instincts) everything we ask them to do goes against their instincts... The confinement (Halters/ saddles, being tied up) Getting on their back and having them carry us actually magnifies all of their fears by a factor of 10 times... Instinctively the only thing that would normally get on their back is something trying to eat them....

So, some are ultra senstivie to comprimising their safety and their ability to feel in control or safe... So, finding their comfort zone then asking just a little more and then allowing them to retreat back to their comfort zone is very important... And the most important thing we can do for them once they have accomplished what we have asked is to praise/ re-assure them and then give them some time to think about it and feel good about it... All too often we are in a big hurry and rush them... Rushing them does not build confidence... Which is ultimately what we want them to have...

The most important lesson I want to emphasize here is "allowing them to think about it"... Horses are amazing animals and guess what???? They are fully capable of "Thinking" and "Making choices".... And guess what else???? If they get to think about something and make a choice and the choice is theirs they will feel much more confident and you and your Amazing horse will have a much better relationship.... We just have to adjust their training (to the individual horses personality) so they make the choice we want them to make...

Sorry to say there is no magic bullet and there is no "one technique" that will make everything happen.... Also as important as it is to match the owners personality to the horses personality... The trainers personality is just as important.... My daughter and I work with many horses every year and sometimes I am more succesful than she is and sometimes she is better with an individual than I am....One size never fits all.... and they are all unique....

Just be patient and give your horse time to think, make choices and build their confidence....



Don't Believe It

Following are nine common myths regarding lethal white syndrome. The correct information is provided by the University of Minnesota Equine Genetics Group.

Myth #1: All overo horses are carriers of the lethal allele.

Fact: There are many overos that do not carry the lethal allele.

Myth #2: Twenty-five percent of foals from two overo parents will be lethal whites.

Fact: Because there are overos that do not carry the allele, the incidence of lethal white syndrome is less than 25 percent in overo-to-overo matings.

Myth #3: Registered tobianos, Solid-colored Horses, or Paint crosses cannot carry the lethal allele.

Fact: There are tobianos that have overo bloodlines, and these horses can be carriers of the lethal allele. Solid-colored Horses and Paint crosses can carry the lethal allele.

Myth #4: Totally white Paints are not carriers of the lethal allele.

Fact: These white horses are often carriers of the lethal allele.

Myth #5: All totally white foals born to two overo parents are lethal whites.

Fact: There are totally white Paints that are not affected by the lethal white syndrome.

Myth #6: Mares cannot produce lethal foals in consecutive years.

Fact: The genetic make-up of one foal does not affect subsequent births.

Myth #7: Only one parent determines if a foal will be a lethal white.

Fact: Both sire and dam contribute a copy of the lethal allele.

Myth #8: Crop-out Quarter Horses cannot carry the lethal allele.

Fact: A small number of crop-outs have been tested and found to be carriers of the lethal allele.

Myth #9: You can reliably tell the carrier status of a Paint by their color pattern.

Fact: This is false.

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