How to calm her down? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 05-23-2012, 04:44 PM Thread Starter
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How to calm her down?

This year, my mare has become spooky. The other day she bolted because the guy on the other side of the road was taking his trash can to the other side of the road.

About a week ago, I was putting her back in the pasture and on the other side of the fence there was rustling in the woods/weeds (whatever it is lol) and she thought she was in some serious danger. She had her head perked and of course wasn't paying attention to me. It was just a dog, but she didn't know that. And then she took off running.

So I guess I'm looking for suggestions on how to calm her down. I don't really want to give her a calming supplement or anything like that.
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post #2 of 16 Old 05-23-2012, 04:49 PM
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My boy spooks up pretty bad sometimes too, so I try and sound like "shhhhh" and that tends to work... but mine never really takes off running.. He usually rears so that he's looking at me full time. When he does take off a bit, I always use the same method.. On top of him riding or with a lead rope... I don't know. Otherwise I just try and sound like I'm calming a baby down... Call me Crazy. but somehow it takes his mind off of what scared him and gets it back on me.... again... Call me Crazy but it works for my boy.

To ride or not to ride? What a stupid question!
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post #3 of 16 Old 05-23-2012, 05:04 PM
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You mention that she has just become spooky this year, does this mean this is new for her to be spooky, if so, what can you think of that has changed since she has become spooky?

New home, routines, riders/handlers, not enough turnout time and /or exercise and too much feed, sometimes these types of things can make a horse seem more spooky than usual. See if you can think of anything that has changed since she has started to become spooky, it could be something as simple as not enough turnout time and exercise and too much feed!

I find it works best to ignore spooky behaviour and not to make a big deal about it, I just continue on with what my plans were and work on keeping my horse focused on what we are doing.
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post #4 of 16 Old 05-23-2012, 06:16 PM
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I agree with HorsesAreMyPassion... My "shhh" only works temporary to calm him down and then we go on with our buisness as planned.

To ride or not to ride? What a stupid question!
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post #5 of 16 Old 05-23-2012, 07:16 PM
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I agree with horsesaremypassion. Look for anything that has changed since the new behavior.
Another thing is getting a good routine set in to calm her.
The other thing is the playful game (many videos of this on internet), to learn how to get her attention before. I was actually thinking of doing a video on how to use a plastic bag and making her back up to it.. If you have a buddy to help you its even better.
So have the buddy with the plastic bag on a stick, standing 10/15m behind her. Start on the ground.. The bubby starts wooshing the bag, and backing off when shes "really" scared (so on the first one he will back up right away, then get more sensitive to how "jumpy" she is), the horse has to follow while backing up.. What you are looking for is the head to come down. then stop, say a loud "good", and your buddy will stop at the same time.. do this until you can back her up all the way to the bag touching her (be careful for kicks buddy).
Then do that also while riding.

If you don't have a buddy, use a windy day, and tie the plastic bag to the fence of the arena or safe enclosing.

Be careful to getting "run over".. To control her direction control her nose like the rudder of a boat..

After this you can also train her to let herself be run up to..

Hope this helps,
Happy Training
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post #6 of 16 Old 05-24-2012, 01:13 PM
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Has her feed changed? Despite anyone at my barn's assurances that my horses feed doesn't mae her hyper sensitive and stupid, when my mare is given barley (even in small amounts) she is completely distracted and overly sensitive, like she's jsut had 4 cups of coffee. I noticed it and from trial and error discovered that she will go from a trail horse with no spooks to a horse who becomes absolutely unglued at the slightest thing under saddle or on a line.

If her feed hasnt changed, then i would ask yourself when she gave you her first spook how did you react to her? Did you back her up or turn her around and go right back to what scared her? It is very easy for a horse to turn spooky if they are not shown not to do it. But first go through and think about anything that changed in her routine/diet etc
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post #7 of 16 Old 05-24-2012, 01:51 PM
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I think that it is important when your mare gets spooked or does not like something, that you take her over to the object ie. when he was taking the cans out i would have rode her over to the cans so that she can see it is nothing, and if you dont feel ok with riding her over to them then at lest get off and show her that it is nothing. You are the boss and she has to trust you, now with that all said i would never make it a traumatic experience for her

Good Luck
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post #8 of 16 Old 05-24-2012, 05:19 PM
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I think Horseboy has it right on. When my gelding back in the day would get spooked at some thing i would turn him right to it and ride him right up to it. I would then stop him and let him get a good look or smell at what ever was spooking him then we would ride off.
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post #9 of 16 Old 05-24-2012, 06:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Debbiesgypsy View Post
I think Horseboy has it right on. When my gelding back in the day would get spooked at some thing i would turn him right to it and ride him right up to it. I would then stop him and let him get a good look or smell at what ever was spooking him then we would ride off.
I used to do that, but eventually, my horse would want to stop and get a good look at EVERYTHING that was remotely scary. Instead, we did trust building activities - if something was scary, we rode right up to and over it (or if that wasn't an option we would circle it or go past it) and I wouldn't let her stop to look. Usually I would sing a song or talk to her casually.

Eventually, she learned to trust my judgement rather than her instincts, and became much calmer. If I wasn't scared of it, it must not be scary (as opposed to her instincts to be afraid of everything). If I wasn't balking at that plastic tarp and big brush pile or rolling suitcase then it must be okay. She trusts me to decide if something is worth running away from.

OP, has her routine changed? Her feed? What is it she's afraid of? If it's a specific thing, you can work with her on it. Otherwise, just be calm and don'e react to her. If she runs off, just go get her, bring her back and continue what you were doing as though nothing happened at all. Work on the trust exercises, on her being as calm as you. It's a lot of work, but it worked really well for me.
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post #10 of 16 Old 05-25-2012, 10:28 AM Thread Starter
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Nothing has changed. I got her last year in April and she was never this spooky. We're feeding her the same and she's actually calmed down a lot more than earlier spring/late winter. She would spook at nothing in her pasture and start bucking and running around.

But she's spooking at things she never spooked at before.

I've been riding her a lot more now that I'm out of school and she's a lot calmer too.
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