Riding Out a Spook! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 10-28-2013, 10:56 AM Thread Starter
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Riding Out a Spook!

So I've only been riding my TB for seven months. Everytime my horse has spooked I have fallen off so easy! and with great force hit the ground with a THUMP lol... But just the past two times he has spooked he does his little half-rear jump sideways maneuver as usual and I have remarkably stayed in the saddle (It wasn't like an OMG HOLD ON response either, I just sat deep and kind of swayed in the direction he was moving, and trying to keep my mind relaxed as my butt felt lifted out of the saddle because I normally go in panic mode when this happens). After all of that movement and everyone around me going "Whoah...What happened?"
I said, "Oh wow, so this is how you ride.. lol"

I figured I must be doing something right if I managed to stick in the saddle both times.

So tell me your spooky ride-out stories and advice for riding out a spooky mount?
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post #2 of 14 Old 10-28-2013, 11:14 AM
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I think after a while you just get used to spooks and can sit them way easier :p I used to hit the ground with every little spook, just like you say! But anymore, even when Cowboy shied from something moving in the bushes, my stirrup popped off and my leg swung all the way over the saddle... I just threw my leg back over and did a one-rein stop, completely calm, like it was the norm. My trainer was laughing her arse off of course, but it was certainly a better stick-on moment for me!

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post #3 of 14 Old 10-28-2013, 11:15 AM
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Spooks are different as first, you never know when they are coming and two, they happen much faster and usually in more than one direction at the same time. My last horse, an OTTB, was sort of spooky. He was one where we could go around the ring in the same direction passing the same items several times at the walk, trot and canter and then the sixth or seventh time we took the exact same track, suddenly the boogey horse would pop up and he would spook. Yet, the birds we have in our indoor arenas, the ones I refer to as kamikaze birds, could fly right into his chest and neck, literally, and he wouldn't twitch an ear. Te main problem is that I never knew what would cause him to spook so desensitization was near impossible. I did know, however, that he hated pink and purple flowers. He would walk by yellow, red and orange with no problems but if we went around a jump with pink and purple flowers, he spooked every time. I was always told horses can't tell colors but I swear that horse could.

About the only advice I can give is that with a spooker you have to stay supple and loose. If you tighten and pinch the motion of the spook becomes exaggerated in your body. Unfortunately, the natural instinct is to keep a tight grip in the event of a spook which actually makes it harder to stay on. I don't have problems so much with what I refer to as the butt scoot..where they spook forward..it is the sideways, drop the shoulder and duck sideways that I have a hard time sitting. It also doesn't help if the horse continues to spook past the initial sidestep. My current horse is very good about that..he may take a hard step sideways but he stops at one step..he doesn't continue across the arena. His standard spook, if he does it at all, is just that hard stop with the front legs.

The other thing is to try and figure out the clue the horse is looking at something prior to a spook. In my last horse's case, he tended to tip his head towards the object as we were coming up to it and the ear on that side would follow...sideways to front as we approached. IF (and yes the double caps were deliberate :) ) I managed to catch the clue he was looking hard in preparation, I could do a simple shoulder in or haunches in (depending on the location of the "boogey horse") and that way his attention was not only back on me but my weight was in the correct direction of where he might spook to..in other words, I had more weight and thus more "stickiness" on the side to where he was going to spook if he did so. That way, as he spooked away from the less weighted side, my weight was automatically balanced just by his movement.

This particular horse was very suspicious of many things to the point a darker colored area of dirt in the arena would cause him to stop and literally sidepass in a circle around it snorting the whole time. The first time he saw the sunbeams on the arena floor as the sun was shining through the closed arena doors, he refused to move forward over the beams...it took 20 mins of moving him in between them (using the sunbeams sort of like poles) and then turning him through them in both directions before I could get him to go "over" them in a straight line.

He didn't spook often, at least not hard enough to even make me blink, but when he had a hard spook where I missed the warning sign or it was just something where there WAS no warning (such as two dogs racing into the arena right in front of him), he dumped me every time...on that last one though..I landed on my feet :).
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post #4 of 14 Old 10-28-2013, 11:21 AM
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I suggest go with the flow, don't tighten up and don't be afraid to let your body adjust itself to find stability. The one spook my mare did happened with me on bareback with a halter and lead rope on her, someone decided to be stupid and opened an umbrella right behind her that hit her on the butt. She jumped forward, and then sideways and I just went with the flow. My gelding spooked once and somehow I ended up losing my balance, but I threw my arms around his neck and managed to stay on that way; to do a one rein stop I realized my reins had fallen so I grabbed his forelock and did it that way (hey it worked!). My trainer(s) couldn't stop laughing for days. It comes with time!
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post #5 of 14 Old 10-28-2013, 01:13 PM
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I agree with the above statement that it comes with time--the longer your ride, the better your seat will get (particularly if you are working with a trainer) and eventually you will be able to "sit the spooks" ( xD ) a little more effectively.

My horse is an absolute saint... but, man, is he a scaredy cat! xD And he has quite a spin on him ._. He can go from gear one to gear four in no time flat, in the complete opposite direction, if he spooks.
I have yet to fall off of him... But it's only a matter of time xD

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post #6 of 14 Old 10-28-2013, 02:02 PM
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You aren't keeping him focused on you so keep his feet busy with lots of serpentines, circling rocks, trees, so he is continually bent. This is also more tiring which helps settle his mind. When you get home work him lots and ride away a little ways before you put him away.
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post #7 of 14 Old 10-28-2013, 03:36 PM
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It becomes easier the longer you ride. I've ridden a variety of horses and always found the spooky ones fun because they kept me on my toes so I've gotten good at sticking spooks.

My horse has been spooky lately and he NEVER is...he's been acting goofy with this colder weather. I've managed to stick most of them except yesterday. Yesterday we were riding bareback in the outdoor arena, and wayyyyyy across the field he saw a man walking around with a red gas can and he thought it was going to kill him...usually he is a "looker" and doesn't react more than a stare and I'll get his attention and we'll keep going, but yesterday he jumped up and bolted sideways and I pulled him into a one rein stop while I grabbed onto his mane with my other hand and held on for dear life, he settled down for a second and then spooked again so I slid off the side and landed on my feet and hand walked him back to the mounting block and got back on, walked a bit, then back off so he didn't get in his mind spooking=rider getting off. I didn't necessarily fall but I know I would have if I tried to hold on any longer and keep fighting through his spooks bareback lol. I had to bring him back to the barn and tack him up so I could make him go through the scary corner without having to worry about staying on bareback during another spook.

He spooked bareback a couple days ago as well and I some how managed to stick that one...not sure how, but I did it and I was mighty impressed with myself! lol
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post #8 of 14 Old 10-28-2013, 04:41 PM
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Willow can spin 180 degrees and be going in the opposite direct before I even realize its happened!!!
She mostly doesn't really spook at anything at all - just an imaginary monster to use as an excuse to liven things up!!!
Being relaxed is the best way to stay on board and teaching the horse to stop the moment you ask is a must - so your own reactions have to be really fast to get that over to them instantly
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post #9 of 14 Old 10-28-2013, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by jaydee View Post
Willow can spin 180 degrees and be going in the opposite direct before I even realize its happened!!!
She mostly doesn't really spook at anything at all - just an imaginary monster to use as an excuse to liven things up!!!
Being relaxed is the best way to stay on board and teaching the horse to stop the moment you ask is a must - so your own reactions have to be really fast to get that over to them instantly
Haha, same with my horse! He rarely spooks, but when he does he is more than capable of spinning in the other direction. I've been with him for a long time though, so my body automatically responds appropriately before my mind even realizes that we're facing the other way. Thankfully the worst my guy ever does is jump to the side or spin around.

Honestly, it's something that you just have to get used to. Everyone and their brother can tell you how to ride out a spook, but none of that matters when you're actually in the situation. Each horse spooks differently too. There's my guy who will merely jump a few feet to the side or spin around and then resume our everyday business, some will bolt, and some will buck. There's one horse at my barn that when spooking starts bucking and rearing in circles. I usually try to avoid riding that fellow :P

I guess the best advice I can give you is to work on your seat. If you have a good, solid seat then you should be able to sit through most anything unless a horse is very talented at getting folks off his back. Some folks are more comfortable riding with a saddle horn or grab strap to hold in case of a "situation", but usually when said situation arises you wouldn't think to grab it. I've had one on my dressage saddle for years since my trainer told me as a kid to get one (back when I did WHATEVER and bought whatever the trainer said), but last time I cleaned it I didn't even bother to put it back on. I'll just grab the pommel or saddle pad if I need to!
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post #10 of 14 Old 10-28-2013, 10:17 PM
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1. Keep your "hind end" relaxed.

2. Look up, stretch tall, and do not allow your body to curl around the bellybutton into a fetal position (something I personally struggle with a lot).

3. Do NOT look down or think "I'm going to fall!" (because you will).

4. Depending on the horse and the circumstances, it may be helpful to drop the outside rein and really pull back on the inside rein. That has helped me in some instances with my mare. On the other hand, there are situations where it is better to allow complete forward movement, because a horse not allowed to go forward will go upward.

5. If you fall, don't be angry or afraid, just take a deep breath, get back on, and finish on a good note =)

A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word 'darkness' on the walls of his cell. CS Lewis
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