Lunging and the scary barn door - suggestions?
 
 

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Lunging and the scary barn door - suggestions?

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  • Horse keeps spooking when lungeing
  • Horse scared of lunging

 
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    02-10-2011, 02:32 PM
  #1
Foal
Lunging and the scary barn door - suggestions?

Hi all,

I'm about to start half leasing a lovely 8 year-old OTTB. King's been at our barn since he left the track, so about three or four years. We call him Special K because he's...well, he's like most OTTBs and is a little unique. :)

After reading a bit on the forum, I get the feeling that he's not the only OTTB who regresses in winter. K is terrified of the barn door in our arena. Every time we ride towards the back end, he's getting ready to spook - most times, you know it's coming, but he has thrown a couple of people badly who weren't prepared when he skipped sideways.

Before I start riding him alone on weekends, I thought I'd spend a couple of sessions doing groundwork. I'm particularly keen on getting him over the barn door; I don't expect him to ever be completely at ease around it, but he either needs to learn to spook in place or to be wary but not crazy stupid as he approaches it. I'd like to lunge him and slowly work our way closer to the barn door, but I'd love your thoughts on the plan.

I haven't lunged in a long time, so I'm thinking we'll start out slow, at a walk and trot, in big circles (half the arena if I'm the only one there--it's a small arena) and slowly reposition closer to the door. I feel like I've heard two lines of thought about what to do at the scary spots: keep moving his feet, or make him rest there until he learns that this is a "good" spot (versus everywhere else, where he's working). What do you guys think?

Any other suggestions about lunging around freaky stuff? If he looks like he's going to spook and bolt in, I thought I could step towards the hindquarters and send him back out - unless you have a better idea. Your tips and thoughts are much appreciated. Hopefully I'll have an instructor there the first time to walk me through anything unexpected, but we'll see!

Thanks, all.
     
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    02-10-2011, 02:34 PM
  #2
Foal
PS

I should mention that when we ride, bumping him with the inside leg and rein keeps him pretty well occupied around the turns by the door - but still, I'm bumping him harder than I'd like and I'm not happy with what that probably means when other riders use him for lessons (I'm sure he'll get a hard mouth from the little ones if we can't calm him down a bit).
     
    02-10-2011, 03:01 PM
  #3
Weanling
Smile

Quote:
Originally Posted by dutchess    
Hi all,

I'm about to start half leasing a lovely 8 year-old OTTB. King's been at our barn since he left the track, so about three or four years. We call him Special K because he's...well, he's like most OTTBs and is a little unique. :)

After reading a bit on the forum, I get the feeling that he's not the only OTTB who regresses in winter. K is terrified of the barn door in our arena. Every time we ride towards the back end, he's getting ready to spook - most times, you know it's coming, but he has thrown a couple of people badly who weren't prepared when he skipped sideways.

Before I start riding him alone on weekends, I thought I'd spend a couple of sessions doing groundwork. I'm particularly keen on getting him over the barn door; I don't expect him to ever be completely at ease around it, but he either needs to learn to spook in place or to be wary but not crazy stupid as he approaches it. I'd like to lunge him and slowly work our way closer to the barn door, but I'd love your thoughts on the plan.

I haven't lunged in a long time, so I'm thinking we'll start out slow, at a walk and trot, in big circles (half the arena if I'm the only one there--it's a small arena) and slowly reposition closer to the door. I feel like I've heard two lines of thought about what to do at the scary spots: keep moving his feet, or make him rest there until he learns that this is a "good" spot (versus everywhere else, where he's working). What do you guys think?

Any other suggestions about lunging around freaky stuff? If he looks like he's going to spook and bolt in, I thought I could step towards the hindquarters and send him back out - unless you have a better idea. Your tips and thoughts are much appreciated. Hopefully I'll have an instructor there the first time to walk me through anything unexpected, but we'll see!

Thanks, all.

My advice (I work with a lot of young and spooky horses. Not OTTBs but, a horse is a horse when they're scared.) : I would lunge him at a trot. A good quick trot, that way his feet are moving, and he is actually putting effort into it. Then take him close to the door (almost to where he gets nervous) and let him rest. I would do this over and over and over...ect. I run the barrels and I have a lot of people who bring me 6 and 7 year olds that are "alley sour" meaning they don't want to go to the first barrel because they know that when they do the are going to get drilled on, and to fix it I lop lots and lots and lots of circles by the alley way and let him rest at the first barrel and walk the patter. Same concept. You are on the right track. I agree with your lunging plan. However I wouldn't lunge him in quite so big of a circle just so he doesn't get a wild hair when he sees the barn door and thinks "oh I can freak out and she can't stop me"

Hope this helps :)
     
    02-10-2011, 03:17 PM
  #4
Foal
That helps a lot! Thank you.
     
    02-10-2011, 03:30 PM
  #5
mls
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by dutchess    
After reading a bit on the forum, I get the feeling that he's not the only OTTB who regresses in winter.
Any horse not worked consistently may regress in attitude and work ethic. It doesn't matter the breed or the time of year. Winter just seems to be the most common as many folks do not have access to an indoor.
     
    02-10-2011, 03:31 PM
  #6
Weanling
Quote:
Originally Posted by dutchess    
That helps a lot! Thank you.

No problem :)
     
    02-10-2011, 03:32 PM
  #7
Foal
Quote:
I agree with your lunging plan. However I wouldn't lunge him in quite so big of a circle just so he doesn't get a wild hair when he sees the barn door and thinks "oh I can freak out and she can't stop me"
VERY good tip. Especially with OTTBs...

Quote:
I feel like I've heard two lines of thought about what to do at the scary spots: keep moving his feet ...
No! This just ignores the problem. I recently had a serious issue where a lesson horse at my barn had been spooky of the gate to the aisle and my "trainer" (I put it in quotes because I've seriously been questioning her ability lately) had everyone who lessoned on him just not have him look at it and told us to "keep him moving forward and he'll be fine." He didn't notice it so much when he was working, but as soon as he wasn't being 100% occupied, he became dangerously spooky. This only exacerbated the problem and some unexpecting lesson students ended up getting tossed because of it.

Quote:
...or make him rest there until he learns that this is a "good" spot (versus everywhere else, where he's working). What do you guys think?
There you go .... Pretty much, you have to truly convince him that the door is nothin to be afraid of. Sissy's method is exactly how I'd proceed.
     
    02-10-2011, 03:46 PM
  #8
Weanling
Oh! I forgot to add one thing. When you let your horse rest at the door and he starts staring at it wide eyed and snorting at it, relax! The worst thing you can do is tense up. No matter how far from him you are, he knows your tense, which makes him think there really is a reason to freak. If he starts getting to nervous I.e. Dancing, turning away, tugging on you, that kind of thing go back and trot....a bunch.

I used to tense when my horses did and wow it got sooo much better when I relxed. Just remember to breathe when he snorts lol
     
    02-10-2011, 10:25 PM
  #9
Yearling
You got some really great advice, but I'd like to add my two cents

If the arena is secure, have you tried setting up a nice little feed dish near it? Not so close that he'll go into a blind panic, but close enough so that you know your going to be invading his 'comfort zone'. I would let him loose, or get another person let him loose. Go over to the door and shake the grain bucket, really get his attention. Then poor it with delicious slowness into what he'll be eating out of.
Let him work himself up enough to go over and eat out of the dish (don't use a bucket, you want him to be able to see).
Stand near the door and just talk to him, don't stand close to him at this point as he will spook. Knock on it, move it around a bit, touch it, etc. Keep talking to him, let him spook and run and settle down and come back again.

Keep doing this until he's relatively settled near it, then move the feed dish closer...and closer....and closer.


I have a similar issue with my two Foxtrotter geldings. They have a big trough where they get their hay put in and right next to that on the other side of the fence, they have their hay covered with a tarp. Every day they get hayed, that tarp gets moved, and they spook like crazy. The first few times they bolted straight out into the pasture before warily coming back. Now, they only spook a few feet away. I haven't been personally working at it, but it should only be a while longer (they get fed once a day) and they won't move at all when that tarp rustles!

I DEFINITELY agree with lunging at a trot close to the door as well. Allowing him to push his own limits by tempting with food, and touching, talking, etc. the door should help as well :)
     
    02-10-2011, 11:49 PM
  #10
Foal
I just wanted to add one thing.
My horse has spooky moments, and he'll decide something is really scary, like the far end of the arena. For him personally, if he keeps spooking crazily at the same thing, working him past it multiple times really works. He'll keep spooking the first few times, but if I keep riding past it making him focus on work, or bending him away and enlarging the circle TOWARDS what he's scared of, he gets over it. To the point where I can walk him on a loose rein ten minutes later and he'll walk calmly by it. Letting him look at things doesn't work for him nearly as well as this does. NOT saying that letting them look at scary things is wrong, just for my horse personally :) I also like making him work past his nervousness cause when we're trail riding, I don't want to have to stop him every time something is a little scary. I want him to know he has to keep going, and put his focus on me. I think he learns this way that he can trust me not to make him walk past something that'll hurt him. Over time, his spookiness has definitely been decreasing (as far as how bad he spooks and how often when walking by "scary" things)
     

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