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This is a discussion on Scared within the Driving forums, part of the Riding Horses category

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    06-29-2008, 12:00 PM

Our barn just received a horse who used to drive. She was abused and is startled by any movement behind her. As people who I'm sure have had to deal with this more frequently than riders, how do you regain trust and desensitize them? It's quite difficult to trail ride her in a group because of this despite an otherwise calm and laid back personality.
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    07-01-2008, 12:16 AM
Do you intend to put this horse back in harness?

Some horses never recover from accidents in harness, its not the same as riding. If the horse is concerned about things following her, she may have had a very traumatic accident.

If you intend to put this horse back in harness, I would get an expereinced person to help you and be up front about her problem.

If you just want a riding horse, just treat her like a horse who is being started under saddle, and get her use to things at her pace.
Work her in a busy area (from the ground),as you say you only need to desensitize her.


    07-01-2008, 12:42 AM
No, she isn't going to drive ever again. She had been driven (and abused, apparently) two owners ago. Her last owner started her under saddle but got pregnant and rarely rode. She was treated very gently and mostly rehabilitated. Now it's just things like being nervous when the rider is mounting or shying for a stride if another horse rides past
    07-01-2008, 05:20 AM
Perhaps then its not harness related, her issues may stem solely from not have being started under to saddle correctly.

Most harness horses have never worked without winkers, so they never see what goes on behind or beside them.
So perhaps she would be a different horse with winkers on.

I would say from what you are describing she just needs to get use to working in a bridle.
Treat her like a
green horse and introduce her slowly, but she should become accustomed very quickly once she is comfortable. But I would stop having horses rush up on her and ensure the mounting rider does it slowly and is not kicking her as they get on.
    07-01-2008, 02:04 PM
Thanks for the advice. She isn't one of the horses I ride but the lady who does is very quiet and we are training her like a green horse. We are still working on building up muscles to lift her back and bring herself off her forehand. We haven't tried winkers, I'll pass on that tip. We think her reaction is from having the driving whip 'shown' as a cue. It's common and not at all abusive (although we have reason to believe there was more going on than showing the whip) but now she goes forward suddenly when she sees movement behind her. SHe isn't usually ridden when there are others in the ring yet. One of her lessons, though, the owner asked my trainer to get on another horse and ride past at the same gait. To desensitize, you know. They started off passing very far apart and have progressed quite a bit. Now you can pass her with little fuss as long as you give the rider a 'heads up' and pass about five feet away.
    07-01-2008, 08:25 PM
Perhaps if you do try winkers, you maybe able to make some up with velcro and then you could work her with them on and take one off at a time. If you make some up, try and make them sit off her eyes a bit enabling her to see more.

Possibly it is all a reaction to an accident she has had in harness or the mistreatment or not being broken to a bridle correctly.

Keep us posted on her progress and how she goes.


    07-01-2008, 08:48 PM
I suggested winkers to the owner but she kind of politely ignored it. Which is fine, the horse is doing a lot better. I believe she was started under saddle gently. She was the only horse the owner had so I guess she never had a problem trail riding and all. I think it's probably just a learned response. You know, the driver picks up the whip and a moment latter theres pain that makes you jump and go faster, eventually the horse learned if they sped as soon as the whip was moved from the holder then they avoided the pain. It sounds cruel but that's how almost all training goes.
    07-05-2008, 09:24 PM
Hmmm. I don't know that many harness horses ever see a whip.
Perhaps if the horse was broken without winkers then possibly, but generally the horse never sees a whip or vehicle behind them.
I have seen horses learn to run from whips when they are lunged though.
    07-06-2008, 11:00 AM
I don't know, maybe, but he actually lunges fine. I guess he can see the person holding the lunge whip and not really moving it closer to him. Or maybe he just learned that it only applies when he's got a harness or a saddle on.
He's improving still, we took him out yesterday and rode in the geldings field and he didn't do anything when we circled behind him or rode a length or two behind him
    07-10-2008, 03:27 AM
Thats great news.

Keep us posted on the horses progress.

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