Horse Affraid of Heights/Steep Drop Offs

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Horse Affraid of Heights/Steep Drop Offs

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  • Are horses scared of heights
  • Horse training drop off

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    06-10-2012, 06:17 PM
Unhappy Horse Affraid of Heights/Steep Drop Offs

So my husband bought a 12 yr. Old QH gelding 3 months ago that was supposed to be a "been there, done that" type of horse.

He has spent time working with him and training him. He shows signs of confidence issues and getting scared easily. Not so much fear of items, but fear of heights and drop offs.

He has taken him up on 2 trail rides and he does fine until you get any altitude and a drop off. He tries to side step the whole trail while keeping his eyes on the steep drop off.

We thought over time he would build the confidence with some rides, but it is not getting any better and just plain dangerous. It doesn't matter if he is with other horses or alone.

Any thoughts or ideas on how to overcome this? Has anyone had this problem before?

We are in Utah so our rides consist of the Rocky Mountains.

P.S. He does fine walking down the road, pasture, and arena. Does ground work and all of Pat's games just fine. Great horse overall.
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    06-11-2012, 06:50 AM
2 trail rides is not going to build the confidence of a horse. This horse needs lots of miles and wet saddle blankets. You cannot expect change after 2 rides away from hone.
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    06-11-2012, 07:01 AM
Every time a horse changes hands, they lose some confidence temporarily as they are testing their new "leader" out to see if they are good or if they need to step up and take charge (the horse...)

He needs more trail rides, you should work with him on ground work, and you should give him some time to settle. Then if he still isn't going well after a week or two or so of working with him, then he probably needs a trainer or if you don't want to deal with him, send him back.
    06-11-2012, 07:47 AM
Like the other two posted it takes time to gain confidence.
But did it ever occur to you that he ay of been also fearing that its not safe for him or you to go down such a steep grade. Or that mayb e a little tension might be flowing threw the rider. No offence.
I would ride him up to the spot he's having issues with and just let him stand and look talk to him softly pat him then move closer to the area. But always have him looking at it. Just give him time. And be patient.

    06-11-2012, 09:55 AM
I have a fear of heights. I didn't have it as a kid, but it grew worse with age. I eventually realized that as my eyesight grew worse (the lens of the eye grows stiffer with age, and the muscles can no longer adjust it enough to compensate), my fear of heights grew worse. Turns out I have zero depth perception without glasses, and my mind then can't really differentiate between the trail and the valley hundreds of feet below, so it feels as if every step is off a cliff. My conscious mind knows that isn't true, but my subconscious mind doesn't. It gives me vertigo. On a hike in Zion National Park, it got bad enough that it felt like the world was spinning around me, which is a rather dangerous feeling when you're hiking to Angels Landing...this is an Internet photo, since I had to turn back before where this photo was taken:

Horses have very different vision than humans, and I don't know if vision problems could cause a similar problem in a horse. But I certainly can sympathize with a horse that doesn't like heights. When I was young, I could hike in the Grand Canyon. Now, even with glasses, I'm pretty much stuck to the tourist rim.

I can think of other physical problems that would make a human unsuited for hiking on steep & narrow trails. I don't know if they apply to horses or not.
    06-11-2012, 10:05 AM
He can't see the bottom so he turns so that maybe with two eyes he can, only it's not working. His mother told him to be real careful with stuff like this or he could die.
Golden Horse and Legend like this.
    06-11-2012, 02:59 PM
Before riding him on a trail with a cliff or drop off, I would lead him. Once he is comfortable with being led near the cliff or drop off, then I would ride. That being said, if your still going to ride him, then two rides is certainly not enough time to overcome a fear. Give him some miles.
    06-11-2012, 03:32 PM
We have been working and riding him everyday for 3 months now. Both at home and away from home. It is by far not lack of confidence or experience of the rider.

He does great everywhere. Road, arena, pasture, flat terrain trail rides, and ect.

I understand two trail rides are not going to gain confidence, but these were 8 hour trail rides and on every switch back he threw a fit to the point of being just plain dangerous.

You can lead him just fine. My guess is somebody in the past has rolled him thus creating a fear of any sort drop off. These are not steep or hard trails. Just easy going switch backs.

If anyone has some suggestions form personally experiencing this issue I would love to hear how you handled it.
    06-11-2012, 03:46 PM

This is an example of the trails. He would be side stepping and going nuts with a view like this. Again he is fine until you gain some altitude. Justin would be more than willing to continue to put miles on him, but it just scares me because this last time the horse almost took them both right of the edge several times. He just gets to side stepping and become oblivious to everything else including the trail and rider. Starts breathing hard and sweating heavily.
    06-11-2012, 04:22 PM
I have the exact same fear so I can sympathise. It sounds like he's so scared he isn't safe. Maybe he's just destined to be a flat land horse?... Any way you can change his locale?

fear, heights, training

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