helping a spooked horse. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 04-28-2014, 07:57 PM Thread Starter
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Question helping a spooked horse.

when my horse gets spooked she doesn't run away but she wont walk towards it if im on her so I would get off and I walk her to what's scaring her thats the only way I can get her to do it but the other day two of my friend told me that I should not do that and that I should stay on and make her keep gooing. they say that she needs to have confides in me when im on her but she does just fine when im beside her wouldn't that mean that she still has confidence in me ? am I doing ok or should I do what they say ?
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post #2 of 17 Old 04-28-2014, 08:15 PM
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Some say to just ignore the things that scare them. Concentrate on keeping their attention on you and not what else is around. You can't desensitize to everything that could spook them.

She does have confidence with you but it is with you on the ground. You need to build her confidence with you on her back.

Personally, I push them forward. As soon as they take a step forward, relax. Then try again. Because sometimes the object that is spooking them is one you have to go over or through. I try to get them to touch their nose to it and then stand calmly near it.
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post #3 of 17 Old 04-28-2014, 08:34 PM
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Horses spook at things, some more, some less. yes, it is largely affected by the confidence of the rider. But, horses will spook at things.

It isn't necessary to make her go up to the thing that scares her. just do not allow her to turn away and bolt away from it, or to rush all goosey past it. She does not have to go touch it, but she cannot "flee" it, either. and, she must return to your direction (go the way you want her to) as soon as she is ready.

So, to me that means that if the horse is really scared of something, so much that he'll want to spin and bolt, I will , using one rein, pull him/her back toward facing the object. if they spin right, I pull them back to the left and let go as soon as they are facing the object. I will let them look at it for a bit, on as loose a rein as I can, just be ready to put their head back in that direction if they spin. or, if the try to goose on past it, I'll pull them up, turn them back and go past it again until they can walk past it without their neck in the air and a hollowed out back and dashing past.

if the horse is really, really scared, I allow them the time to stand and smell or think about the object. other experienced riders do not agree with that approach. for me, if the horse is really scared, and I push it forward, it will certainly feel pinched between a rock and a hard place, and likely spin. if I wait for a sec, and look to see a change in its body, like, it heaves a sigh, licks it's lips, turns to look in another direction, lowers its head, then I know it is ready to take my direction to move forward. I ask for forward, and do not clench up on the rein, if you can manage.

and , as soon as you can, go back to the loosest rein you can. you can pat your hrose AFTER she passes the scary thing, not while she's spooking or thinking about it.
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post #4 of 17 Old 04-28-2014, 11:16 PM
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Well you should always make sure you are safe, and if you don’t think you can handle the horse spooking at something while you are on its back, then it might well be a good idea to get off and get past the thing that is scaring the horse. The trouble is this is why the horse might get scared while you are on its back in the first place, because you might get a little tense about it. You may not even notice, but the horse likely will.
Like Tinyliny said, you don’t need to walk the horse up to the thing. If that were the case you would be walking the horse up to everything all day. Like usandpets said, just ignore whatever it is that’s scaring the horse and show that you aren’t bothered by anything and it will start to draw confidence from you. It might take a bit of acting on your part at first but if the horse starts to get a calm and relaxed vibe off you (even if it is a little bit of acting at first) it will start to chill out too.
Basically, if you make a big deal about something, like walking the horse up to something to show it isn’t a danger the horse will likely think “well this must be a big deal” and make up its own mind. Just ignore it and keep the horse going along as per normal.
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post #5 of 17 Old 04-29-2014, 12:39 AM
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It can work both ways when having them check the object out. Our TWH I made check out things, while she was young, that scared her. Now, the things that scare or spook other horses, she wants to check out.

We were riding a new trail. There was a yellow antifreeze bottle near the path. The other horses tried to keep a distance from it but not Lucy. She walks right up to it, without me encouraging her and sniffs it.
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post #6 of 17 Old 04-29-2014, 08:32 AM
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My first horse was wicked spooky. the last lease I had spooked less, but when she did, she spooked with intent. My first horse, at the end of his life, still spooked at three things: garbage cans on the curb, double yellow lines on the road, and palmetto bushes. Everything else, he'd stand and snort at. My lease horse was getting better and braver by the time the lease ended. My tactic is a combination of "let them look at it" and "work them towards it." I'd crank your horse's head around to face the object and then (smoothly and quickly) find a place near the object to ask for movement. Don't waste time staring at the scary thing. Get moving. Trot circles as close as you can (where the horse is responsive to you and only marginally aware of the object) and slowly move closer to the scary thing. change direction, flex, sidepass, back up, do anything you can to make him work and listen to YOU. Keep working toward the object. It might take a while. Keep working him like that until he is moving past the object without looking at it at all. Then you can let him stop and rest near the object. Other things I've done is (when trying to get my lease horse to ride into the indoor arena--something she was really set on not doing) ask for forward motion, and when she backed away, kept her backing for a few extra steps. Ask for forward motion, and when she took a few steps in the right direction, I changed my mind and asked her to back up. Asked for forward motion and let her take a few steps past where she'd gone before, then changed my mind and asked her to back up. Eventually, after about fifteen minutes, she calmly walked into the arena. I had to do that a few more times, but she eventually went into the arena like a steady eddy. The trick there is to not let her turn away left or right, but to only give her two options--forward and back, and back is okay...but we're going to do it a lot.

The most important thing to do on a spooky horse is to regain control and attention. The second thing is to teach the horse how to spook safely. Jumping in place, snorting--that is safe. 180 and 360 bolts? not safe. The more they realize their riders aren't punishing fear and are consistently helping them work through their startle, the less reactive they'll get, though some will always be dynamite. The third thing is to teach the horse to work even while frightened. It just takes a lot of time and patience.
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post #7 of 17 Old 04-29-2014, 10:06 AM
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Get her attention back on you by making her work, small circles, figure eights and make her hustle. Then ride on. Don't look in the direction of what you think was making her want to spook as this confirms in her mind that she was right to want to spook. Keep your focus a hundred yards ahead and that's what you ride to. When the horse tenses up and looks in a particular direction that is the time to bend it the opposite way and make it work.
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post #8 of 17 Old 04-29-2014, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Saddlebag View Post
Get her attention back on you by making her work, small circles, figure eights and make her hustle. Then ride on. Don't look in the direction of what you think was making her want to spook as this confirms in her mind that she was right to want to spook. Keep your focus a hundred yards ahead and that's what you ride to. When the horse tenses up and looks in a particular direction that is the time to bend it the opposite way and make it work.

I ride a horse that has certain weirdnesses in arenas. So when he spooks sideways, I'll try to circle back around but I do not look over at the spooky thing, I look up and ahead. I've been told you should always end a ride on a positive note, and avoid ending on a negative one because they remember this stuff.

That's the best advice I can give you: your tendency is to look down at your horse who is being a total knucklehead at that moment. And when you do that, according to their thinking, you're letting him or her lead you.

Also my feeling is (in addition to being unsafe) is you're giving the horse a double reward - because you're letting him or her call the shots, not listen to you and get a break. But most important to my thinking is when a horse is spooking, they're not thinking about you, they're thinking about whatever - brooms, garbage cans, cones, and running away from them. Some horses will stay put while spooked but I haven't seen that. From what I've seen they often won't. Unless it's an absolutely stone cold emergency, I would try to stay on board until the horse calms enough to dismount safely.

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post #9 of 17 Old 04-29-2014, 12:53 PM
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Anrew made an important point--be safe.

That said, the bottom line for me is.. I made my horse do his job. If he spooks at something, I make him refocus and keep working. Sometimes that means he has to go by whatever scared him... But that's something he's just going to have to get over xD

The sensitivity of the internet baffles me.
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post #10 of 17 Old 04-29-2014, 01:15 PM
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You know what made my old herd that were seasoned Veteran CW Re-enactor horses so much fun? They spooked at NOTHING.
I like the Clinton Anderson solution, teach your horse to lunge past everything you can think of, and, like Zexious said, make the horse work hard and get tired of moving just bc it was fun to spook.
It is an emotional high for a horse to spook. It is a prey response, but I've watched my 3 horses spook bc a twig snapped and gave them a good excuse to go running. NONE of them are afraid of wood.
One time we were at a small event, and I had tied "Corporal" and "Ro Go Bar" to a fence to graze. They were about 35 ft from a cannon, and the guy with the cannon had a small group and was conducting a demo. He double loaded this cannon, presumably with the intent of creating a big noise and spooking my horses. Didn't work. My two didn't even raise their heads, and they continued grazing. I noticed that he was disappointed that they didn't panic, break their leads and run.
The hobby was great for many different horses, and I even saw this draft mule pulling an ambulance, and the mule took lots of breaks to graze when he wasn't moving all over the field during the battles.
You need to think about anything and everything that your horse could be afraid of and drill the fear out of them. Plastic bags, umbrellas, raincoats and anything else above them, loud noises from trucks and lawnmowers and other machinery ALL can produce a spook.
It's just the training work that comes with any horse.

A Jack and Three Queens, the latest book by James C. Dedman,
Hope that you fall in love with "Trot", like I did!
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