How to fix a VERY spooky horse?? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 05-30-2012, 05:40 PM Thread Starter
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Question How to fix a VERY spooky horse??

So my horse just turned 6. He is a gelding and super spooking. My mom thinks we need to sell him but he was my first horse and I could not live without him. I need help, and fast, because she as already listed him for sale. I want to show he he can get better. He is perfectly normal on the ground, sometimes he is hard to catch then sometimes he will run to you, it depends on his mood. He never tries to kick us or anything bad when no one is on him. So a month or so ago I got on him and he got so scared he went running and I fell off. When we bought him we were told he was trained but then our farrier said no one has touched him in a year. Then the other day I got him in his saddle just to get him used to it. I got it on after a half hour then lounged him. He did okay, not great, everything scared him. So I got a rope and shook it on the ground around him to get him used to it. He did okay for a little while then freaked, he reared up at me and ran right for me bucking and rearing up. He ended up brakeing his saddle and it flug under him still on him. He freaked out even more and almost ran though the fence. He was running for about 10mins till we could get him to stop and get the saddle off. He had some cuts on his leggs from the saddle. Once it was off he was back to normal, breathing hard though, being sweet and acting fine. But any sudden movements he freaks. I have been working with him because I really want him to get better. But everytime he sees the saddle now, he runs and gets scared. So now im worried that he is going to see the saddle as someing bad instead of a fun thing. I'm not a professional so now im worried that im makeing him worse even though everything im doing is right. Can you help?? Any advice? Any books that might help? I dont have a lot of money to get him a trainer, plus I like working with him. And I think my mom would rather sell him then pay for a trainer.....Any Ideas how to stop him from getting so spooked???

Some girls never out grow the "I love horses" phase.....
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post #2 of 8 Old 05-30-2012, 05:48 PM
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1 - You can live without him.

2 - There are no fast solutions. I've taken 7 months now working almost daily with a mare who is far less spooky than your horse, and we're making good progress - but it HAS been 7 months, I spent around $1500 in fees to a professional trainer, and she WAS better at the beginning than your horse.

"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."
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post #3 of 8 Old 05-30-2012, 05:59 PM
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I agree with the above poster. You can live without him you just don't want to. That said, I also have a spooky horse and honestly its time, time, time and then some more time. Its been a year and my horse was not as worried about life as your horse sounds. What sort of work did he have before you got him? It almost sounds like he is not fully broke to the saddle and needs more training. I would suggest a professional trainer. You sound worried and stressed which when combined with a worried horse is a loosing situation.
The fact that he reared, bucked and charged you while breaking his saddle suggests some gaps in his training and ground manners. If you are determined to keep him, I would start to treat him like he is less than a baby that did not know anything. Reintroduce him to everything. Which means you are not going to be riding him for a few months at best. This is what I would do but I am not a professional, so my advice should be taken with a grain of salt.
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post #4 of 8 Old 05-30-2012, 06:23 PM
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I understand that you want to keep him and unfortunately I have to agree that there is no FAST solutions for that but there certainly are some! The best thing would be to bring a non spooky, done that, seen that horse with your horse into the ring, round pen or trails! First you have to fix of course the saddle issue and that takes time as he associates something really bad with a saddle now, but just keep going and get him used to it again and show him that it is nothing bad, once he lets you put it on make sure that you do not let it on for too long, little steps might be better here! I have a very spooky Morgan Cross and she just freaked about everything - once I took her with my partners super calm QH on the trails and in the ring she was another horse within a few weeks! Get him used to all kind of things and reward him in the right moments and directly after he has done something well, make him go around barrels, over tarps and swing the stick all over his body and be friendly but firm and show him that you are in charge, do not be scared and always stop at a good point, never stop just after he spooked of something and after each new approach give him time to lick his lips (then he is saving it for the long term). It worked for my horse and I wish you all the best and hope for you and the gelding that you can keep him!!!
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post #5 of 8 Old 05-30-2012, 06:29 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you all. I agree with almost everything said. I really like what you said Horselover! I will try that. Thanks again!

Some girls never out grow the "I love horses" phase.....
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post #6 of 8 Old 05-30-2012, 09:08 PM
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Sounds to me that it's not so much genuine fear spooking, but spooking as an excuse. OP, you don't sound terribly experienced and as he is your first horse, may I STONGLY suggest you follow your parents suggestion and find a horse that is more suitable for you, or find yourself a very good trainer to help. Rearing at you is 100% agressive, intimidation behaviour. The horse has not a scrap of respect for you, and that puts him in a precarious situation. He HAS to be the leader now, and the leader does tend to be spookier - he has to notice everything around him and react to it. The other horses in a herd to this horse to see whether they will run, or stay.

You need to turn this mentality around. The horse needs to see YOU as the leader, and in turn he will begin to follow your lead. You are the decision maker of the partnership and if you don't react to something, he will follow suit.

My horse is a very reactive type as well. Things that he's seen a million times still worry him. A few weeks after I first got him, he spooked violently and bolted on me when he saw a couple of miniature ponies standing beside the arena. On the ground, he would throw his head up, tap dance, neigh and swing his body around, his brain totally gone. His reactions were genuine fear responses, his whole body would shake, his jaw would clamp and his eyes would roll.
Since then, I have instilled a few coping techniques into him. On the ground, I have developed a very good 'head down' cue, which creates a safe place for him when he gets worried. This is even beginning to be effective when he is at his worst on the ground - seperation anxiety when his 'friends' are out of sight. I put my hand on his poll, if I can reach, and he drops his head immediately. If I can't reach, I put downward pressure on his halter and he gives to that. Once his head is down, and I keep my hand lightly on his poll, it takes all of 10 seconds for him to completely recover. He stops shaking, his body relaxes, he releases his jaw, and he willingly keeps his head lowered. Then I can do what I like with him.

Under saddle, I have taught him a one rein stop. It's not something that can be used effectively if the horse has already bolted, but if he gives you warning and you feel him ready to go, a one rein stop is great for clicking his brain back into place.
When he is feeling tense and wanting to spook, I will ride either leg yield, or shoulder in with a little too much bend to the inside. Keeping him around my inside leg gives me that bit more control if he decides to do anything, and it keeps him thinking. I'll keep him in this position until I feel him relax, then give out the reins and ride on.
Be mindful that you don't make a huge deal out of the spook itself. When they're spooking, their mind is on nothing else but the object/noise that is scaring them. If you react agressively, by kicking/hitting/pulling/yelling, the horse will associate that with the object, and react more violently - you have effectively given him a reason to be scared.
On the other side of the coin, if you pat and soothe him, you are reqarding the spooking behaviour.
Your best bet is to centre yourself in the saddle, keep both legs on, and ride forward confidently. Don't look at what he's spooking at, but each time you go past try to ride a little closer until he deals with it.
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post #7 of 8 Old 05-31-2012, 02:21 AM
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Green horse - green rider - no trainer = accident waiting to happen!

if you love this horse as you profess then you will either send him to a trainer or more sensibly, sell him. he will continue to be spooky and, because you did not have the girth/cinch tight enough, he is going to be even more frightened of the saddle.

For your and the horse's, safety get help or get rid of him.
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post #8 of 8 Old 05-31-2012, 11:56 AM
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This horse is not "spooky" he is untrained and green. BIG difference. He needs way more than to be despooked. He needs to be started straight as a colt would be, from the ground up, and that should not be done by someone who is green around horses. I'm sorry, I know the attachment is there, but I have to agree with your mother. I would say the same thing. He is not safe for you.

Trust me, and I know this is not what you want to hear, but there are other horses out there that you will enjoy much more. It will be much more beneficial to you as a beginner to have a horse you can work with on the ground, safely I may add, and that you can hop on and ride at all the different paces. A horse that you can catch, saddle, and ride off on without worrying about being thrown. They are out there, and if you look hard enough, you will find one you will love and bond with I am sure of it. Doesn't that sound a lot more fun than fighting with this one?
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