Help with spooking - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 11-03-2012, 04:38 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: UK
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Help with spooking

Hi need some help, I've had my 15hh 11 year old welsh cob X gelding 3 years, its always been a bit rocky with us 2,
His ground manners are ok just have a few barging out the stable issues, which i would like to correct, as soon as i put his head collar on and open the door he tries to run out, i do try and hold on tight but he knows his strength the little bleeder, He is a very spooky horse, hacking he is excellent on roads and traffic, but will spook out on fields at a bird, a dog walker, walking next to woodland or bushes, something that has moved or changed either in his field or out hacking, will jump spin 360 and try to run, he's been out of work a year as I've had a bad back and had to have surgery 9 weeks ago for a slipped disc.
Now i've had surgery i can't keep playing russian roulette, i sat on him 2 days ago to take some photos and the flash on the camera came on, he spooked i fell off i was not expecting it!, now he wont let me aproach him even for a little pat or a hello, started being a bugger to be caught since i fell off and spooks away from me! which is really upsetting considering i didn't even take the photo! he just seems to be scared of his own shadow all the time, i can't hack with anyone as im on my own yard, brought a companion pony that turned out to be unridable (due to injury), so the company thing is out the window. I really don't know what else to do i love him to bits and he has some good quality's, i used to be able to ride him in the field bare back with a head collar and is like a dope on a rope but if you tack him up and go out he really thinks he is a hyped TB. I've had all the relevant checks done, his back (pelvis was out and sternum) this is now correct, had the saddler out a few adjustments done to lift and free his shoulder, didn't like this and bronko'ed, saddler came back out and completely re flocked the front of the saddle, now is all ok, teeth checked fine.
I brought this horse to get back into riding and enjoying hacks now i dread them :(
Now his fear is genuine, he will physically stop and shake, but other times i don't have time to react, he does not blind bolt he will just run away but i can stop him by circling him.

I really need some advice :( before i just give up
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post #2 of 5 Old 11-03-2012, 10:11 AM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Ontario
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When he's in the turn out area, carry your lead in your left hand and don't try to hide it, just whatever is comfortable for you. You are going to do some walking so wear what's good for walking in. As you approach him don't look at him, no eye contact but look at a distance object. Make a wide arc so you come in behind him. If he starts to move, change course so you walk farther away working your way so you are directly behind. If he doesn't move, stand still for a few seconds, relax your breathing then begin to approach his butt with low energy. When he thinks you are too close he'll scoot off. This is important. Walk to and stand where he was eating for 15 seconds. Then repeat as before. You are actually driving him off his spot as a more dominant horse will do. Keep doing this until he will turn and face you with both eyes and ears. Stand still and look at his knees or hoof, not his eyes. Try taking a step or two back and see if he will come. Don't rush this process. An ear will tell you if he's thinking of moving away, usually followed by his head turning away. When he does this, turn the opposite way and look away. This often draws them back. If he does walk away, immediately walk away in the opposite direction for half a dozen steps then see how far he's gone. By doing it this way the horse often moves just a short distance. Then try circling as you did before. By now he should be keeping his eyes glued on you. Again stand still then step back. If he takes a step or two toward you stop, slouch forward and extend your right hand, fingers downward to say hello as horses greet each other, eyes on his knees. Step forward. As soon as you touch his nose, turn and walk away to take the pressure off him. Don't look at him. Wait a minute and think of anything but him. Then approach again. You now have the basics of how to deal with this. When he will stand, don't put the lead on but instead walk to his shoulder and rub his neck with it and his back then walk away always turning away from his head. We want him to always be thinking "that wasn't so bad". When you do put the lead on, allow lots of slack but not so it touches the ground and just groom him with your hands, pick up a hoof or two, then undo the lead and walk away. This method works if you are patient. When you are happy with his progress offer him a treat immediately as this can go a long way to winning him over.
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post #3 of 5 Old 11-03-2012, 11:50 AM
Join Date: Jul 2011
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Spend some quiet time near him without asking anything. Get a chair, grab a book and sit down in his pasture. If he comes over, talk to him, offer him snacks. If he lets you get up, approach slowly, at an angle and see if you can walk up and pat him.

His ground manners are NOT 'okay' if he's barging past/through you. That is NEVER ok. It's dangerous. He sounds nervous and reactive, which is probably a combination of lack of confidenec in you and in himself.

I'd also suggest that you stop riding for a while and do LOTS of groundwork. He doesn't respect you and has no faith in you as a leader. Clinton Anderson's techniques are fantastic and I highly recommend them. You can stream his show from or buy his discs or try to rent them (big line though) and I think his website may have some too.
wild old thing likes this.

* I'm often reading and posting from mobile and Siri loves to make a mockery of the English language.
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post #4 of 5 Old 11-03-2012, 03:16 PM
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: yankee ct where we live forever
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I'm no expert but these are my instincts reading your post:
you've been hurt. you stopped riding. so did your horse. so maybe you're a little anxious about riding? a little?
plus you say it's always been a little rocky with the two of you. so this doesn't help.

I think you need to reestablish a relationship with one another - maybe a better one than you had in the first place. he has to trust you, that you're going to take care of him. and you have to trust him that he's going to follow your commands.

maybe you need to get back to square one. both of your health and safety make it a necessity I think. horses sense when you're fearful. your body acts different, you're not relaxed for starters and if you're fearful (and you're the leader) perhaps your horse is worried that there's something to be worried about.

so the two of you seem to be in a circle of anxiety. he can't help how he feels. and neither can you.

maybe starting a different kind of program with him might be good for you both. plus you'll get to know your horse on a different level.

maybe I'm talking out of my butt...I don't know. but that's where I would go: to learn how to do ground training and learn as much as I can about reestablishing trust. I'd try to spend a LOT of quiet off time with him.

good luck and take care of both of you.

wild old thing is offline  
post #5 of 5 Old 11-04-2012, 03:05 AM
Join Date: Jan 2011
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If he's been out of work for a year, then for about a month you should treat him as you would any other green horse.

Start out every ride by tacking him up, leading him a little and then lunging him to assess his mood and responsiveness. Lead him on some walks out where you ride to reacquaint him with the area. Horses don't lose their training they've had in the past, but some horses need to come back into work slowly again, both mentally and physically.

It sounds like you've addressed causes of pain for his behavior, but has he been getting too much high energy food for not being in work? He might have too much energy to control himself and needs backing off on the grain.

He sounds like he might be a high energy horse. If that is the case, sometimes it is better to burn off a little energy before the ride on the lunge.

How is your seat? Are you confident riding spooks and 360s? It can help to study how eventers ride. The good ones ride with their lower leg firmly underneath them and in a position where if their horse fell out from under them they would land on their feet.

Colleen Rutledge Cross Country - YouTube

I can tell you from experience that if you ride in this "ski position" on a horse that you are unsure of, it can add a lot to both your confidence and your horse's. I call it the ski position because you can practice it by standing on the floor and pretending like you're getting ready to ski down a mountain.

If your horse is truly spooky, then you either should not ride him until he gains more confidence, or else you should ride in such a way that you are secure and can't be taken off guard no matter how he spooks.
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