Making a Horse Traffic Safe - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 03-29-2011, 06:55 PM Thread Starter
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Making a Horse Traffic Safe

I posted a thread a long while back about how my own fear of riding with traffic had now made my mare extremely fearful of it. I have since revised my own approach, but she's still the same.

She's still quite reactive to trucks. Getting better, but she still gets high-headed, tense, nervous, and sometimes just blows her top completely. The odd thing is, cars don't bother her. Anything bigger than a car is terrifying.

I am looking for more advice on how to handle this. One afternoon I plugged my headphones in and sat at the end of the lane with her; every time a vehicle passed, I gave her a treat. That did seem to help quite a bit. Once the grass comes up, I'll try hand grazing her in the ditch by the road as well.

The traffic around our parts is usually few and far between.

What else can I do to get her over this fear?

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post #2 of 14 Old 03-29-2011, 09:24 PM
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The only way to get her conditioned to something is by exposure. If trucks only rarely come down your road, then trailer her (preferably with a seasoned traffic safe horse) to where there are trucks. You don't have to ride her while there yet, you can just have her on a lead line.
It does not usually take very long, they will soon see there is nothing to fear.
My horse went from spinning if a car went by, to calmly walking on overpasses/underpasses of highways, and with semis hurdling by.
The best thing I ever did in making my horse road safe was moving him on a short term basis to a place where other boarders often rode down busy roads. The other horses were calm in traffic, and it was maybe three rides before I could have my horse ride out without fear alone in traffic.
I am no horse whisperer, but my horse is sane, which helps, lol.
Best of luck!
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post #3 of 14 Old 04-01-2011, 02:32 AM
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Okay this is not from my experience. I may be wrong to pass it on. But when I saw it done it made sense. Do you have a portable round pen? Okay. Said horse person placed the pen in pasture near road but not too close. Then placed horse in pen during the day under supervision. As time went on they moved pen closer and closer to road until it shared the fenceline. By the end the horse was desensitized. Like I said I saw it done. It worked. Other than moving the pen it seemed nice and easy. Just tossing it out there.
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post #4 of 14 Old 04-01-2011, 02:50 AM
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I paddocked mine by the fence next to the truck stop at our old property - they just got used to the milk tankers going up and down the road - flipped out the first few times and went puttering off across the paddock , but got used to them and the massive stock and logging trucks coming and going that it really wasnt an issue anymore... now push bikes - those ARE terrifying monsters.
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post #5 of 14 Old 04-01-2011, 05:21 AM
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My horse lived in two different places. In the first one there were many trucks passing by his pasture, and he quickly got used to them. A treat when he was calm coming across a truck, another truck we could come nearer to and I put treats on it and my horse took them on the trucks, he wasn't afraid anymore. But when he moved to the country, no more trucks, but many tractors! And we had to do the same work with them, going to graze next to the tractor while it was not moving and so on. No more problems with them. And then back to the town, back to trucks, he seemed to have forgotten them and we just did the whole thing again.

I think the point is really to get the horse to see the terrifying monster as many times as possible, first in easier circumstances: in a group that is used to the monster, in a meadow. I also think we must not prevent the horse from moving because you only add a stress to his fear, he feels like he can't escape and this is still more frightening to him. When I am on foot and have the room to do so, I let my horse walk or trot on a small circle around me, and congratulate him whenever he seems to calm down a bit (that's when I could not avoid the monster), he has the impression he can run away, and understands, gradually, that the monster didn't kill him, didn't even hurt him, that I was there, that he got strokes, massages and treats... In a pasture he can also see that the other horses don't even look at the monster, and he gets used to them. Then you can show him one monster (if you have a friend who owns a truck or a tractor lol) with the engine off, and do pleasant things there, and then you switch it on and so on...

I think the point is:
*to do things really gradually, the ideal thing is when the horse never feels attacked enough to run away or try to run away, because then he keeps thinking about what is happening and learns more easily
*to help him with all you can: other horses, treats, being very calm and understanding with him: show him you're a friend, an ally, a bodyguard too. (in the case it's a mare I think so show HER all that, sorry my horse is a "he" so I tend to say he always...)
*and be patient, let time pass, it will step by step be easier and one day you will say "wow he didn't even look at the terrifying truck that was coming to us!".
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post #6 of 14 Old 04-01-2011, 08:00 AM
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What great suggestions from everyone for helping your horse become calm and not fearful of moving vechicles/trucks. Another possible place to give your horse exposure to Semi-Tractor Trailer Trucks is if you have a Stockyard near you that you trailer your horse to where cattle haulers are coming and going. Just a thought.
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post #7 of 14 Old 04-02-2011, 09:03 AM Thread Starter
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My horse is so weird! Just yesterday, for example, I was standing at the end of the lane and my dad was driving up the road towards us. He has one of those big, rumbling diesel trucks that has the vibrations that you can feel right down to your bones. Normally that is enough to set horses off, but my mare stood quietly as he drove up towards us then sniffed around at the truck and cab when he stalled beside us. He backed up and drove right by us in the lane, and she barely batted an eye.

And then, about a minute later, we were turning to walk up the lane, a car drove by on the road a good 30 ft behind us, and she lost it. Well, not really lost it-just got high headed and extremely tense.

It's hard to desensitize her to stuff when she's not afraid of the stuff you want to get her used to. She gets scared at the most random times.

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post #8 of 14 Old 04-02-2011, 01:21 PM
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The horse should get better with familiarity and time.

But be aware that any tension or anxiety in you will transmit to the horse - it will pick up your tensions.

A good way to help ' treat' you and the horse is to ride in a threesome - a confident friend on their horse up front, a confident friend on their horse following up behind - you in the middle.

Then eventually take your turn going in front.
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post #9 of 14 Old 04-02-2011, 01:40 PM
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Exposure usually works and is good advice but I've worked with horses where this alone didn't work - how frustrating it was. I used to ride my cousin's horse for a while because she was too afraid of him because he would spook and literally jump into the road. This happened because she hit him every time he spooked thinking it was a respect issue - that just made it worse.

It took about a year but what I did is every time he spooked I would lean down and pop a cookie in his mouth. The other thing I did was follow cars i.e. the car is moving away from us and we follow. For the most part I didn't have anyone to ride with and did this alone. If I think back I rode with someone else maybe four times over the year. But having said that it is easier if you have some other people that you trust who own really reliable horses to ride with.

As far as following the cars, when I heard a car coming I would move him over to the shoulder as much as possible and then follow behind at a walk or trot.
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post #10 of 14 Old 04-02-2011, 01:46 PM
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practice makes perfect!! thats all i gotta say.
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