New Herd Leader for Tru Native

Hi Elizabeth,

Thank you sooooo much for the phone call consultation two days ago and all the links about training, it has been a great education for me. Here is my story for the website success stories, and what a success it has turned out to be, thanks to you…

These last two weeks have been quite confusing and chaotic for both myself and Tru Native aka “Truman”. I was so busy being a loving and caring Mom to him, wanting him to feel comfortable in his new life, he figured that he needed to keep up his role of the “herd leader”. He could tell from day one immediately that I was not, which turned bad quite quickly as he is extremely intelligent!! Also, which did not help the situation was the training progressing WAY too fast, i.e., lunging with side reins, the lunge-line over the poll (which turned the bit into a gag!! OMG!!), and pushing him to try to canter on a 20 meter circle, all me, unknowingly, and my trainer’s mistakes, lead Truman to become very frustrated, upset and he even started throwing tantrums. So each day became worse and he started pushing me around, rearing on the lunge, getting in my space, and pulling away on the lunge-line, dragging my trainer all across the arena to the aisle door, pushing his way through each and every door or gate he could muster.


Tru Native Learns who is the "Tru Leader".

The one thing that did not change was his dynamic, sweet way he had to be so loving, he even calls out to me when I come into the barn. He never kicked out or was intentionally mean during all of this commotion, a sign that he is really a SUPER, level-headed horse. We definitely love each other tons, but I knew I needed the help of Elizabeth and something had to change. I never once, though, regretted buying this horse through all of this, because I knew I was doing something wrong and it could be corrected efficiently and quickly, if I just knew what it was!!!!

I needed to be the “HERD LEADER”!!!! and get tough and firm about his pushing me around. I had to give right back and even harder, and more swiftly than he gave. You know what, IT WORKED. He is so smart and a quick learner, and most of all wanted and needed a leader, almost seems relieved now. I have taught him to back up from doors and wait while I open them, and claim them as my own. He is to wait until I allow him to make a move, if he doesn’t he gets a HARD whack on the shoulder. It has only taken once or twice and now he is patient at gates and doors. He also stands completely still at the mounting block while I get on. And… waits for my signal to walk off.


Tru Native and his herd leader, Lauren.

In the beginning, before I talked with Elizabeth, when I rode off from the mounting block, he would turn and run back to the door that leads out to the aisle. I tried to turn him the other way, and it did work, but he always wanted to get back to that door and would protest, trying to scare me. After, my phone call with Elizabeth, we don’t have any of that anymore. I followed through with the HARD smack on the shoulder with a stiff crop when he would turn toward the door. Now, he has given that up, because he knows that he made the wrong CHOICE to do that and there is a consequence now. I let him CHOOSE to make the right decision and praise like crazy, or the wrong decision followed with annoying him anyway I can. He has been so much fun to ride, even though we still swerve a bit, but he is getting better everyday!! No cantering yet, just getting him stronger and happy in his work.

I know the road ahead will be filled with new obstacles, but I know have a great support system in Elizabeth and this time won’t hesitate to call for help and not wait until things get so bad. So, Tru is still my baby but a baby with rules, regulations, and limitations. I have learned that every time I go into his stall, I am teaching him something and have to be consistent from the get-go for him to become a good-horse-citizen!! I am so happy with his progress and am so proud of myself. You were right, Elizabeth, I can do this myself. Your encouragement means the world to me!!

Attached are some new photos of us and my first “official” ride as Truman’s boss.

New Herd Leader,

Elizabeth’s Note: Wow! I wish everyone could read this Success Story and learn from it. Off-the-track Thoroughbreds are no different than any other horse breed when it comes to training. The natural horsemen trainers all say the same thing. It is most important that you to take charge and be the leader. How you do it will vary from horse to horse, situation to situation but the basic concept is to make it easy for the horse to do what you ask, and difficult for him if he does not choose to cooperate.

More than anything, the horse just wants to get along and be a part of your herd. If you do not take charge and become the leader, he will. In the wild, it can mean life or death to the horse is the herd leader is weak. The second horse in the herd (beta) will always challenge the leader (alpha) to make sure the leader can lead and protect the herd. If you show weakness, don’t be surprised if your horse gets bossy and difficult. If you are afraid of your horse, get help or get another horse.