Can anyone give me as much advice on how to help him with spooking?! He is such a scardy cat. Dogs scare him. Birds scare him. Leafs blowing in the wind scare him. Someone help with advice please.
I personally do not think you can teach a horse to not be scared. What you can teach them is how to better manage the fear which eventually helps them build up their confidence which in turn...helps prevent spooking!
We were walking down the trail and he noticed a few cranes sitting there in the field along with some cows. He got alert right away he would not turn around or listen to my commands AT ALL. Then all of a sudden I started to feel him shake beneath me! The cranes started to make noise and made him shake more then they took off at that moment I realized oh shoot he is going to freak out and run. As soon as I thought that I was right he did a 180 and booked it down the trail with me on him.
I'm very familiar with this situation. There isn't much less fun than sitting on a rock hard quivering body that stands 4' above the ground and weighs 1100lbs and has zero interest in your input. To manage this successfully, you have to keep your cool and stay a step ahead. You also have to work this problem backwards. (hope you're comfy because here comes a book)
Okay, when you got to the shaking, not listening horse, he was already past his threshold. All that was left was the spin and bolt. Once they are shaking like that, they're only interested in leaving. What do you do? I'll give you a hint. You control those 1100lbs, not him. If you have someone who knows the one rein stop at your barn, have them show it to you. I'm not talking about the pulley rein. It's the one rein stop, hind end disengagement, used to prevent the bolt in the first place. For open space riding, this is by far the most handy tool you will ever have in your rider toolbox. Learn it, teach it to your horse at W/T/C in the safety of a fenced ring. Once your horse understands that you can stop him 100% of the time, it will translate into open field riding. If you had that tool with you when your horse started shaking, all that would have happened was the spin (which you sat out successfully) and then you would have taken his engine away and he'd still be standing there facing the monsters.
So now you're saying, what the heck good does that do me? He's still shaking and just going to try to bolt again. Sure he might try again. Most likely he will. But you will sit out the spin again, maybe even prevent that too the second time and prevent a second bolt. After a few times of trying, he might calm down and proceed on with his ride. If not, use your tools to slowly bring him away from the monsters. Once you get a safe distance from the monsters, he should calm down. At that point throw a big party and praise him for coming back to his senses. Let him know he's the man and can handle those monsters. Then start testing the waters again. Bring him as close as you can without him getting to the shaking point and take him away on your terms. Any time he even thinks about bolting, shut him down.
Okay, here's the good part. You've now done this a few times with him, prevented bolts and stayed on. He's probably thinking his rider feels more confident and in control up there. Maybe those monsters aren't so scary after all. At some point, you're going to take him to that same spot, and he's going to look at the monsters. You'll see him put one ear back on you asking for guidance. You will calmly ask him to move on...and he will!
How do I know all this? When I said I was very familiar with that situation, it's because my horse used to be petrified of wildlife. We're talking rock hard, shaking time bomb scared. He got himself so worked up in a field one day over a group of wild turkeys, it took us 30 minutes and a zillion one rein stops to get safely back down off the field. Two weeks ago, this same horse walked calmly past another group of wild turkeys, a few coyotes, and a deer. Where he used to just get rigid and panic, he now looks to me for guidance. As long as I am there for him to provide and answer for what to do, he's fine.
Hope this all helps.