I would like some opinions on our new horse's behavior. He's a 6 year old appaloosa, and as far as we know, here is the background. He was shown english by a young girl, then sat for a year when she got tired of horses. He was then purchased by the people we bought him from. They wanted a barrel racer for their young son, but they said he just wasn't fast enough. When we tried him out, he was calm and not spooky. When we got him home, he spooked a few times, but I didn't think much about it. However, after riding him several times and working him on the ground, I see a definite pattern. He is completely calm when being ridden, whether in the arena or on the trail. He is attentive, but absolutely no spook. When he is being worked on the ground, he doesn't spook at the normal things - dogs jumping out of bushes, plastic bags, tarps, tractors
Etc. The only thing he seems to spook at is if a person makes a sudden movement toward him. (Getting up from a chair, losing their balance, etc. Then he seems almost frantic for a few seconds. In the field he wants to come up to us and will follow us, but will back away if we try to approach him. We can catch him easily, but seems on the verge of flight until we have him secure. I HATE to suggest he was abused - I know that is seldom the case, but I can't figure out why it is only people he seems frightened of. He also does much better with me and my daughter than my husband, which is unfortunate, because it is his horse. (My husband is very gentle with him). The only other issue we had was a couple of "temper pops" - maybe 4" off the ground when he got frustrated. Both times I kicked him hard forward and made him work hard for a few minutes. He hasn't done it since (keeping my fingers crossed). I has almost forgotten that some horses aren't *gasp* perfect. Been working with Nibbles too long lol. Anyway any input would be welcome. I know I've left something out, but oh well. Thanks!
This doesn't sound so abnormal to me. I'd simply do standard desensitizing, but with fewer aids (flag, sack, stick and string, etc). Instead use your hands, jump, yell, make a fuss. Get him so that you can run right up to him and jump while yelling and clapping your hands.
As to being abused, glad you hesitate to go there. He could simply be this way, or maybe those kids spooked him and they never noticed or dealt with it.
Oddly, my personal horse is mistrustful of women. It happens... Lol
My horse who has been shown at fairgrounds with midway rides, next to an airport with helicopters landing, been in a pasture with a bulldozer skidding out trees, still spooks at a butterfly, then shivers. Suck it up horsie.
He probably wasn't abused. He may have associated a quick motion with a bad outcome (someone who was quick to correct?). I'm not so sure that the cause needs to be identified here though. More that you need to desensitize him.
I agree with everything Daniel said. In fact, if there is a small-ish pen you could put him in (not a stall, more like a round pen), I'd put him there and then be loud, run around, play music. Have some (older) children play in the area (as long as they understand not to get too close or go in the pen). Then after he is used to the quick sudden motions from a distance, start working on it in the round pen.
Just to point out, an especially quick motion can scare even the calmest of horses. Any horse will spook given the right set of circumstances. You can't breed the prey instinct out of them.
Maybe he needs time to get to know and trust you guys.
I had a BLM Mustang, wonderfully trained, that was shy and didn't want to be caught when I first bought him. Hated being hugged. Baths or sheath cleaning, forget it! By the time he died about 10 years later he was a big teddy bear that I could do anything with. Actually, I had a Paint gelding that was pretty much the same way.
It sounds like he doesn't trust people right off the bat, but if he is a well trained horse otherwise, I'm sure the trust will get there when he gets to know you.
Another thought I had is that Appaloosas sometimes have eye problems. But if that were the case he should be spooking at dogs and stuff too, not just people.
He is gorgeous by the way! I would love to own a pretty boy like that!
Thank you, everyone. I was just puzzled why it was only people he seemed to spook at. I have already started de-sensitizing. And Daniel, I'm glad someone else has the same sick sense of humor I do. It always gets me in trouble with the indignant types! Lol