Overly spooky horse, am I doing it right? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 05-18-2011, 08:25 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Western Mass
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Overly spooky horse, am I doing it right?

Hey guys, I want to event my 13 year old appendix horse Mickey someday in the future, but as some of you know he is VERY spooky especially outside. Some of you may know about how he bucked me off and I landed on my head hard once when he spooked at something in a field.

Well I want him to get over this stuff! I've been working hard with him to get him comfortable with all three of our arena's and it's paying off, he pays attention much easier (He is still an airhead sometimes, but I can get his focus on me much easier than in the past.) And now when he does spook at something, his reaction is less severe. He'll jump to the side instead of bolting off or bucking.

So this is what I've been doing to get him more comfortable in the forest, a place where it's hard to get his attention and he's a little tense. I've been riding him on our trails as if they were an arena almost every ride, walking and trotting loops through it, cantering up and down the straights, cantering up hills. It seems like the excessive exposure is paying off.

Am I doing it right? Any other advice on things I can do to make him more comfortable in the woods by himself?

Also, he has a bad habit of when going down hill no matter how long his reins are he JERKS his head down violently, basically turning himself into a catapult! There's a hill at our barn that is severely steep, seems like it's almost 90 degrees at one part, that is always a part of the cross country courses whether you go up it or down it, (comfortable going up it) but I'm terrified to go down it because he jerks his head so bad! Even if I sit back at a 150 degree angle I'll still be jerked. How can I stop this habit? I have been working him on smaller hills, but he still jerks.

He also gets incredibly frisky if he's in a group or in a competition setting ( I know from past experiences doing hunter paces) If he's in a group he always ends up in the back no matter how briskly he's walking and then he gets hollow and nervous that he's behind everyone and starts pacing and pulling on me! Anything I can do about this?

Thanks guys!
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post #2 of 6 Old 05-18-2011, 04:41 PM
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Mannford, Ok
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On the spooking in the woods.... halter & lead him somewhere with lots of leaves & sticks on the ground....make lots of noise while holding him, talk to him while you do it, encourge him to get closer to the area your making noise till he is in a complete state of relax I dont care what your doing place..... that is how I have taught my horses to have no fear. Dont ever stop to pet him until he is totally calm or he will think that is the response he should have..... ground work on the other stuff & making him give you his attention no matter what.
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post #3 of 6 Old 05-19-2011, 07:47 PM
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Sounds like you're doing good. Just keep riding him in the woods, but also make sure he can rest there as well. Maybe work him outside the woods and rest him in the woods. Try to make the woods a place he wants to be.

Also, maybe don't let him just run straight down the hill. My gelding has done the head-jerking bit, but I can't remember what I did to get him to stop. So my current suggestion is do serpentines down (and up). That way he's less likely to get frisky. Do gait changes, stop and go, keep things interesting so he has to listen to you.
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post #4 of 6 Old 05-19-2011, 08:54 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Western Mass
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Hey guys went on a long group trail ride today (groups are much more challenging for us, he gets frisky.) We went single file on a narrow path by some train tracks with lots of bushes, trees, branches, etc. He was great. Started jerking and prancing on the way back but I responded by taking complete collection and making him trot on forward, this made him not want to prance as much. He was a crap going down the steep hill though as two other horses went down previous he jerked his head and tried to rush down (not good it's rained for 5 days now here..) He stumbled on himself once.
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post #5 of 6 Old 05-19-2011, 09:01 PM
Join Date: Apr 2011
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Just a thought- have you mentioned any of this to your vet? Maybe there is a problem with his eyesight, and it makes him very nervous in unfamiliar areas.
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post #6 of 6 Old 05-19-2011, 09:52 PM
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Texas
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I think you're progressing well.

As for the hills, for now, don't just go straight down. Make a switchback down the hill, like go across the hill, turn and go slightly more down back the other way, making a huge zig zag all the way down. It will be a more gradual descent and you'll be able to concentrate a little more on making him behave. When he jerks, kick him. Hard. It's not acceptable that he do that. Or if you have a dressage whip or a crop, give him a pop. Rooting the reins is not a good behavior and it needs to be nipped in the bud asap.

"Always be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn. Then, always be a unicorn."
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