Insecure Horse - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 06-11-2012, 06:52 AM Thread Starter
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Insecure Horse

Hi. I have a 10 year old QH gelding. He's a very mild mannered guy, has had lots of training in the past, he did sit around in a pasture before I got him for a year, but he's coming along great. But, he is a little spooky at things.
I walk him through the same area to and from the barn, and almost every time he tenses up at either a picnic table that was moved, a chair in a different spot, or by the outdoor ring is the worse, lots of chairs and tables set up, and its always hard walking him through there. I have had more advanced horse people walk him through obstacles and by the end he will be accepting of it, but come the next day it's like he's never seen it before. And he doesn't do anything horrible, which is why we believe he's just an insecure guy. His head will come up he'll start breathing heavy, snorting through his nose, and he will either put his brakes on, or will flee but only 10-20 feet. We are new to eachother 3 months, and I am a new horse person, so perhaps it's a building the trust issue. And it is hard to recognize if I should discipline or reassure him its okay when he spooks on me. But I would love nothing more than for him to not feel insecure around certain things when I'm leading or riding. Any advice is appreciated :)
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post #2 of 17 Old 06-11-2012, 07:01 AM
Join Date: Jul 2011
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My horse was the same way with his new lessee. Get him focused on you. Every time he worries about it, circle him, make him trot in hand, back him up, tip his nose inward and leg yield. You can do this in hand or under saddle. Any exercise or "work" on the spot when his mind wanders from YOU.

As soon as he relaxes, you release and stop all work.

He just needs to know that you've got his back and when herd leader says it's nothing to fuss over.. then he has nothing to worry about.

Keep working on your trust through groundwork and solidify your communication. These episodes will lessen. Any off lead work (join up is common, but off lead obstacle courses, etc.) will strengthen your working relationship.

Also check his diet to make sure he isn't getting tooooo much energy.

Best of luck :) Just be consistent and direct. If you hesitate, so will he.
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post #3 of 17 Old 06-11-2012, 07:19 AM
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Insecure Horse

Hello. In my opinion, you might want to study what these other horsemen are doing when they lead your horse. You don't want to punished him. I would suggest you walk this horse in a confident manner, as horses will feel you don't make a big deal about it, so it must be ok. The more you stop and hesitate, the more unsure he feels. Maybe you could get some experience walking other horses through the same enviroment- So you would have a chance to work on your confidence, instead of worrying what your horse is doing- Good luck!
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post #4 of 17 Old 06-11-2012, 09:36 AM
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Candie, use a knotted rope halter which he'll pay more attention to. When you lead him place your hand at least an arms length away from the clip. This is safer for you. When you start walking with him focus on a spot well ahead of you, not 20' but 50 yards or so. When you do this your squared shoulders will tell him 'that is where we are going". Try not to turn your head to look at him. A confident horse doesn't look at a spooky one because he doesn't care that it's spooky, he's heading to something over there. Do not speak to your horse, nor touch him. The reason I tell you this is because he can see it as rewards for his behaviour and it will escalate. If he pulls back, brace against your lead and let the knotted halter do it's work. When he quits, just turn and head for your focus. Walk him back and forth 5, 10, 20 times, as many as it takes before he realizes he's wasting his energy. Horses don't like to waste energy like this. Do not offer a food reward at this time, just be matter of fact about putting him in his stall, or turnout.
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post #5 of 17 Old 06-11-2012, 10:28 AM
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I had a horse that did the same thing, there are about three or four reasons that this could be causing it:
A) Check your horses feed, is it making the horse have so much energy that it makes it feel threatned by different things
B) Horses like routin, my old horse Autumn was so used to haveing her grooming bucket on the right side that the day i put it on the left side she looked completly stunned and tried to move away from me as if the bucket was evil, try to put a routin in your horses day so that it calms down
C) you need to bombproof your horse, i like the parelii games wich helps nervous horses a lot, private message me and i can explain the whole game system for you
D) you need to use a stronger lead rope, my nervous horse, Mnyat, we have to use a rope lead rope on him with knots,
E) a training tip, if you feel him start to spooke or start to balk than just stop, don't do anything, just stop, than after he relaxes move forward if he spookes, stop him, start with this on the ground and than when hes ready for the arena have someone lead him around with you in his back and when you feel him tense up or start to shy tell that person and have them stop keep doing this untill your ready to do it on your own than do the same thing start than stop, start doing that at the walk than you can do it from the trot and you should have your horse secure about the arena by the time your troting
Hope it helps!!

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post #6 of 17 Old 06-11-2012, 10:43 AM
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Yes I agree use a rope halter get one if your not already using one. Rope halters have knots which put pressure on the horse when they pull. Make sure u look up or ask someone how to tie it properly. When he looks away or trys to be skiddish and side step away INSTANTLY get his attention with a tug or two downward, nose knots give pressure. Get the horse to look at you and where u a going he doesn't need to be looking around just needs to watch where u are going. Continue to walk on DO NOT STOP, DON'T PET him don't let him sniff the objects you just walk forward confidently. Stopping makes it ok for him to act that way and rewards the bad behavior. Stopping also give him more time to get it in head all this stuff ahead is scary im freaking out. If he won't move pulling the rope tight will apply pressure behind the ears and stay firm the horse will move off the pressure. And you want to walk forward confidently square shouldered stop anticipating him to spook. Horses feel that and he won't put his trust in you. Rope haters are an excellent training tool they teach your horse to move off the uncomfortable pressure this is why they are safer than nylon buckle haters which don't apply much pressure and often break when a horse pulls back.
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Last edited by Peppy Barrel Racing; 06-11-2012 at 10:52 AM.
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post #7 of 17 Old 06-11-2012, 10:55 AM
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Maybe he reacts that way because you expect him to do so. Do you have a chance to bring along a very calm and relaxed horse from the barn and just follow this horse around the chairs and tables and whatever spooks him. Usually if they see that the horse in front is totally fine with the things the horse will calm down. Do that for a few days and relax while leading or riding him, do not expect him to spook and if you are unsecure or not sure let someone more experienced ride the horse. I think it is kind of a trust issue and he feels that you are thinking about him spooking at those things and it makes him uncomfortable... It might be worth a try! I have really good results with the method of bringing along a calm and really quiet horse with spooky horses.
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post #8 of 17 Old 06-11-2012, 11:09 AM
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Private message me if you have anymore questions. I am constantly brought people's "nervous or skiddish" horses to train or tune up. Ground work and confidence can go along way. I know you are new to horses but confidence will come with time. You will learn to pick up the subtle cues in horses when they need a confidence boost from you. But trust me on the not stopping thing when leading or in the saddle it makes the horse rely on you and to look to you when they are scared. Make scary no big deal that is the key to a safe "bombproof" horse. Your nervous horse can become like that too with time keep at it! Good luck!

Noey's Herd
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post #9 of 17 Old 06-18-2012, 07:48 AM
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Hi countryjewel. You're right to suspect this is a trust and confidence issue. You can get him to obey with a variety of tactics (some mentioned above), but that doesn't resolve the core issue, which is likely either concern energy he's picking up from you or a lack of confidence on his part from prior experiences (probably a bit of both). Are you looking at the objects you expect him to spook at and tensing up as you get closer? He'll feel this and react accordingly. The more can stay calm (breathe) and ignore what's supposed to scare him, the more likely he will do the same. I like to let a horse stop and look, give him reassuring pets or rubs and let him take his time to pick through an area that's of concern. Once he learns this stuff isn't going to eat him and you will keep him out of harm's way, he'll be a lot more confident when it comes time to face the next challenge. As others have mentioned, food can be an issue (too high energy feed) as can exercise. Is he getting out every day to kick up his heels in a pasture? It can make a huge difference when trying to work with a horse if he doesn't have an adequate outlet for play time. Have fun with your new guy! It's exciting, isn't it? has a free blog focused on young horse training, alpha issues, horse care, equine careers and more. Google "Horse Sense and Cents" or "Nanette Levin" to find fun surprises. Enjoy the Ride!
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post #10 of 17 Old 06-18-2012, 08:10 AM
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Let me give you an example. A boarder took a new arrival for a walk up the driveway. Everything is new. Within 20' he had his first spook. Boarder turned and rubbed his neck. Within another 20', another and she did the same thing. 5 spooks in a short distance. He wasn't too bad on the return. I asked her to take him again only this time square her shoulders and aim for a distant fence post and to just keep going no matter what he does. He repeated the first spook at the same spot which was now ignored except for the bump on the halter which he created. He walked the remaining distance and back like a mannerly gent. When he needed her guidance on the first walk it wasn't there, rather she was inadvertently rewarding his behaviour.
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