Did I do the right thing? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 3 Old 08-16-2011, 05:08 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2010
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Did I do the right thing?

Well, today I was riding and it was going fairly well, but near the end we were riding down the road to get back home. I am the one who nursed her fear of traffic. In a split second or two I taught her a vice that, months later, I'm still working out. She's mostly ok now with normal vehicles (vans, trucks, cars, pickup trucks pulling stuff, sometimes dump trucks), but farm machinery is still a problem. Well today, just my luck, a big tractor pulling a long haywagon was approaching us from behind.

Honestly, I don't know who started it-whether I tensed first, unconsciously, causing her to get scared or whether she started getting nervous and then I followed suit, but either way, she was nervous.

She wasn't flipping out, but she was going to. She danced a bit and sort of walked sideways, and shook her head and was getting really tense. I have been on her enough times to know that as soon as the tractor came near or passed us, she would blow up (most likely spin, bolt one of those three-strides-of-canter-bolts, and maybe crowhop...though perhaps it would have been worse, I can't say for sure).

I rode her on a little ways before realizing that I am not a rider enough to sit her out, so I pulled her a few feet off the road and angled her slightly towards it (facing the direction we'd been going in), and stopped. As soon as she could see it reasonably well, she calmed down immediately and stood there as the tractor passed, and did nothing besides watch curiously.

Through my own stupid beginner mistakes, I've taught her that whenever she gets scared, she should stop and look at what scares her. I don't mind this to a point-it's a lot better that she settle when she's stopped and facing the object than take off wildly bucking, but at the same time, I know it's wrong. I know that a horse should continue on and listen to its rider when it's scared, and I sort of feel like, by stopping her, I'm agreeing that there's something for her to worry about.

So...did I do the right thing in this situation? How can I teach her to continue on and listen to me when she gets scared, not need to stop?

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post #2 of 3 Old 08-16-2011, 05:36 PM
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Uk
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Firstly don't beat yourself up. Problems can be fixed easier than broken bones. You came out of it without trauma or drama. Thats always a positive and for the horse too. After all a big spook and drama might just reinforce the fear all the more. Your response (decisions taken in the moment) seems sensible.

Now moving on. Firstly I would say that yes the horse should ideally follow you, but that cannot be expected when you are already making assumptions about her reaction before it's happened. Horses don't live in yesterday. They live now. Today. We need to gauge risk but we also need to be there in the now. Studies have proven that if your heart rate rises, so will theirs to the point that they will spook over something that isn't even there if you are nervous enough.

So firstly you have to overcome your fears. That means doing what you can to prepare her so you feel confident. It's a two sided coin.

Personally I would take her looking for machinery. Go visit a farm and ask them if you can just hang out there with her for a bit or even if they'll help (done that before and it's amazing what people will do to help). I'd do it from the ground first but that's my preference. Walking away always helps acceptance. So I'd have a tractor or whatever following her. Then walk past it up and down. Closer and closer. Finally ask her to touch it.

If you can't find help then go stand by the side of the road where you expect to see such traffic. Anything to expose her. Also if you know a bombproof horse you can use them too.

Good luck.
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post #3 of 3 Old 08-17-2011, 07:50 PM
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Western MA
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I agree with doe. I just wanted to add that a horse that stops when something goes by is much better than one that bolts! I think you did the right thing (other than the tensing up at least) ;)
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