Is This Normal?


Tru Native learns to lunge.

Hi Elizabeth,

Today I had my first “official” ride on my beautiful boy Tru Native. Just walking though, or should I say swerving all over the place!! He has been doing quite well in most aspects and I do have some questions and need some advice from you. I figured your the best person to ask for help because of your great expertise!!

Let me explain what has been going on the last eight days. The first few days I just lunged him with the help of my trainer, Jaime. Truman is very “stall sour” so to speak. And I understand why, I think. Let me know if you agree. Since he has lived alone for about a year with no rules, no horses, and no limitations, he is having a harder time dealing with the “new rules and work”. He LOVES his stall and my grooming and constant attention. When we go into the indoor, or out to his paddock for that matter, he seems uneasy and wants to get back to his stall. Do you think this is because he lived outside and he loves his new stall and safe area and is worried that it might go away? When we go to lunge in the indoor, he pulls, sometimes very hard, dragging us to the door which leads to the isle. He is VERY strong. I always bring him back to the lunging spot, calmly, and start over. He is having trouble cantering as well, and we are not pushing this at all. Small steps. He has been getting better each day, but still has that tendency to want to get out that door and pull out of the circle, with front legs stomping on the ground, like a child having a temper-tantrum!!

Today, I was so happy to get on him. I had been working at the mounting block, and did get him to stand still after quite a few attempts. When I mounted, he just stood there. What a good boy. So I pressed him on, and he did go, but quickly turned back towards the DOOR!! I just kept trying to circle him to get him farther away from the door, but his mind was just on getting out of the arena. After about 15 minutes of this, I asked him to halt in the middle of the arena. He backed up and I pressed him forward to the halting spot. After a few minutes of back and forth, he stood still. I had him flex right and left and then gave him a sugar. I sat still for a few more seconds and waited to see if he would stay put, and he did. Then I dismounted.

Is all of this behavior normal? He does seem to get strong-willed when he wants something and knows he is big!! He is really a sweetheart, very loving, gentle and kind. He even calls to me when I come in the barn. I just wonder if all of these “tantrums” are because he is insecure about leaving the stall and worried about being “put out to pasture” again?? How would you handle these outbursts during work? I think my situation with Truman is a bit different than other horses that are sold directly off the track. Truman has been alone, living on his own accord for a very long time, not at the track, getting ridden everyday, having someone work with him on a daily basis, etc. So, this may be a slower process for Truman and I, comparatively speaking. What are your thoughts?

Looking forward to hearing from you!!

Thank You,
Truman’s new mom, Lauren

Elizabeth’s Training Note: I asked Lauren to call me so we could discuss some of these issues. She is correct that it is harder training a horse that has not been in work. I much prefer to take a horse that is still racing over one that has been doing nothing – or a home bred. A lot of times if a horse goes back to the farm to rest, he will not race well again. They have learned there is a better life.

You need to establish who is the boss on the ground – you, not your trainer. Read any of the natural horsemens’ Web sites and you will find books and DVD’s on the subject. Tru Native is not respecting his owner. The stall is his safe area. You need to make him choose to work with you. If he chooses his way instead, you have to make it harder for him by making him work. That is the whole concept in a nutshell. Now how to apply it to your horse?!

Some of my favorite trainers:

Once you have control/respect on the ground, you will have less of a challenge. Let Truman run to the gate and then make him work at the gate. Raise the energy level and turn him from side to side at the gate. Make him back and turn. Make it very uncomfortable for him to be at that gate. He will soon try to get away from that spot. Make it easy to do what you want and make it hard to do what the horse wants.

I am happy to help and this is not really going to be a big issue if you come out as the “herd leader”.