Handling a spooky horse - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 23 Old 08-14-2011, 09:53 PM Thread Starter
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Handling a spooky horse

Hi peeps

What should be the correct way to handle a spooky horse?

SOme people suggested that if I sense something is spooking the horse, I should turn the horse's head in the direction and let him see there's nothing to be afraid of?

While there's another school of thought which advises that I push the horse out to the spooky object. For example if the object is on the horse's left.. I should pull on the right rein to get the horse's shoulder closer to the object. At the same time, I should be using my right leg to press the horse over to the left. All this time, I should be just walking the horse; and not attempt to trot or canter. I should attempt to get the horse closer to the horse each time I go past the spooky object. It's only on the third round, that I should let the horse look at the object head-on

WHich method works better for you and why?

I am only a novice rider with confidence issues. I am afraid that while attempting to coax a horse to address the spooky object or even to get close to it; things might not go as planned.. I.e. That the horse might just rear his head so sharply that I lose control and fall again; or that the horse might just suddenly bolt while we are walking closer to the object?

What should I do to prevent that?

Thanks
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post #2 of 23 Old 08-14-2011, 10:08 PM
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First of all- ignore the spook. Don't make a big deal, just keep riding. Walk the horse around the scary object. Start pretty far away, then gradually move in until the horse is comfortable with the object. Let the horse sniff it, look at it, ect.

Once your horse is comfortable walking around it, you can begin trotting/cantering/putting the horse to work around it. Your horse should be pretty well desisitized to it by that point ;)

Don't ***** foot around it either. Always address the spook, don't just avoid it. After you've gotten the horse used to it, act like it never happened. Pass by the object as if you have no prior knowledge of the spookiness. If you're confident, your horse will be. I know it is tough in the beginning, but pretty soon spooks will just be a "roll your eyes" kind of thing :)

Now- If this horse happens to be an arab you may have to desensitize each time you pass by the object! Lol been there, done that!!

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. ~Harriet Tubman
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post #3 of 23 Old 08-14-2011, 10:11 PM
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When you feel your horse beginning to tense up over whatever object is spooky,
Turn his attention away from the object by using that opportunity
To school him - forward, backward, left and right.
Once you, again, have his attention on you,
use the spooky object (or in close proximity to the object) as his resting place.
Enough work around the spooky object, should help reinforce the reward of rest next to the object,
And help desensitize him to that object.

That would be my plan of action
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post #4 of 23 Old 08-14-2011, 10:15 PM
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Watch the Clinton Anderson Video on this subject. Gaining a horses trust is the first thing. You are the alpha mare, if you're not scared and have the correct ques to keep the horse focused things will turn out fine. You need training, every time your horse spooks you are reinforcing you are not the leader. It's guaranteed your horses spooks will get worse if you don't fix it.
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post #5 of 23 Old 08-14-2011, 10:15 PM Thread Starter
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Erm.. it isnt a stationary spook. It's a spot in the bushes that sometimes has things stirring or moving in them. I was previously thrown off by another horse at the same spot. Last week, I was riding a different horse. I noticed the horse stirring when we went past it cos something moved. And the second time we went past it, he bolted. What can I do about moving spooks in the same spot?

Thanks!
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post #6 of 23 Old 08-14-2011, 10:16 PM Thread Starter
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Ok, I need to be more alpha! GRRRL!

Ermm.. but how do I be more alpha? What if I piss the horse off even more?

Last edited by mavis; 08-14-2011 at 10:19 PM.
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post #7 of 23 Old 08-14-2011, 10:18 PM
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You'll get a lot of opinions here, but in my experience it really depends on your horse's disposition and you'll have to pick what works best by trying different approaches....
Our youngest mare is the most nervous out alone, but is also extremely trusting. If she sees a spook, she'll just stop, but will continue however you want (towards it, away from it, etc) with a little leg and a rub on the neck.
Out middle mare is extremely curious. If she sees a spook, she'll want to stop and take a good, long look. If it's interesting enough to her, she'll actually want to go and examine it up close, otherwise, she'll just ignore it and continue on.
Not much bothers our experienced lead mare. If something doesn't look right to her, she'll just keep an eye on it without breaking stride.

Try different methods, but whatever you do, keep a pulse on the fear level of your horse. You never want to push a horse that is afraid to the terrified level. At that point they will operate on instinct and are no longer thinking (or listening to you). Even if you just pass by the spook, the more times you do it your horse will learn that it won't be eaten by it.
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Last edited by PaintHorseMares; 08-14-2011 at 10:21 PM.
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post #8 of 23 Old 08-14-2011, 10:25 PM Thread Starter
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problem is my horse bolted the second time we went past it.. DUn think I would have had a chance to apply any of the theory I read. Maybe I should get the instructor to ride him out a few times past the spooky object first? Do you think that would help? Would the horse still spook at the same spot when I get on him after?
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post #9 of 23 Old 08-14-2011, 10:25 PM
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Well... First of all you can ride with someone on calm confident horse. If that horse will go first - yours will follow.

Another approach would be to ask someone confident and experienced to ride horse for you to "desensitize" it.

If neither can be used in your situation and if you are novice and horse CAN do something very wrong, I'd get off and walk the horse to/through the scary object from the ground like 20 times (may be less... but I mean till the object will stop being "scary"). Then get on and ride back and forth other 10 times to get over it completely. Yes, not fun and lots of work for both, BUT its paid off. (and no by getting off you don't let horse "win", because you still force it to go through the object, just in more safe for you situation).

The problem with CA (and similar suggestions) IMHO is that they are all great if you are a good confident rider. If rider is lacking the confidence it may not be the safest way to go.

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass: it's about learning to dance in the rain..."

"When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves."

"How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours."
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post #10 of 23 Old 08-14-2011, 10:30 PM Thread Starter
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am severely lacking in confidence after I knocked my head and had to go for an MRI. Think will ask my instructor to ride the horse for me a few times past the spooky spot first. I need to address this issue cos I want to advance. But I can't deal with another concussion right now.
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