Scared of Traffic - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 02-14-2011, 07:44 AM Thread Starter
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Scared of Traffic

I have ruined my horse. I know for a fact that the trainer we bought my horse from rode her out on the trails with four-wheelers and dirtbikes ripping past, and with me her training has gone backwards in every aspect.

Now, she's afraid of traffic. Snowmobiles, cars, trucks, everything, because I accidentally told her that these were something to fear. I am a nervous personality, but always before we would be able to walk up the road (me leading) and she would be totally fine. Now we can't even do that.

I need help. It's not like my goal is to ride on the road, but I want her to at least not be high-headed and nervous around cars. I live in the middle of nowhere and have no one with horses who I can go with to get her used to it, I'm alone in this. What can I do?

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post #2 of 11 Old 02-14-2011, 08:11 AM
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do some halter sensitization, using pressure that comes on slowly and releases the moment the right response is given, ask your horse to lower it's head by pulling down on the halter and backup by pulling the fiador knot or lead clip towards it's chest/straight back, ideally you want it to be so that in a nice grassy area you can ask your horse to lower it's head and it immediately drops it's head and starts eating.

after doing so, lead her up to a road, or have someone in a car driving around in tight circles going as fast as safely possible (doughnuts maybe? if the car is suited for it, but that's a different matter) and get her just close enough for her to be high headed and seemingly worried, but not too close that you lose all communication & she starts running, then the moment she gets high headed ask her to drop her head and stand still using the backup if she continues going forward. the moment she relaxes or even considers eating grass (this means her comfort/hunger becomes more important than her fear of the road) walk her away from the road/car. repetition is key.

the equine logic here i assume is "oh right, if i just chill out then we'll inevitably end up leaving" or more simply, "going towards cars/roads + relax = going away from cars/roads"

if you dont have the patience to sensitize her to those leading aids, lead her to the road, wait for her to get high headed, then stay put and wait for her to become low headed/relaxed, then walk away. both methods use the same effective psychology, one's just a bit faster to undergo and the other produces faster results.

for such a common thing i'm unfamiliar with any methods other than the 2 similar ones i've used as stated above. which are very successful in a short period of time if done properly. so i'm pretty keen to know any other methods.

Last edited by christopher; 02-14-2011 at 08:18 AM.
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post #3 of 11 Old 02-14-2011, 08:12 AM
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My mare is afraid of traffic as well, I could never get her over it. She doesn't think twice about anything else, but she'll back out into the road full speed ahead if there's a car coming at her(yes, into the road). She had gotten better, and then a bit worse. She's ridable on the road now, but she has the occasional meltdown if a car speeds by.

I would recommend playing a game of "chase" with your horse, find a moderately empty road, and someone who can and will drive for you. Have your horse follow the car, from a distance at first, and get closer. You can choose your speed, I like to do it at a trot, and then have the car stop, and ride right up on it. I usually circle around to the front, and have the driver go in reverse while doing the same thing(at a slow pace). Most horses feel that there is nothing to fear when they are feared, and that's what this "game" teaches. It will take a while.

And if you want to play another fun game, ride circles in a field by a busy road, just work and don't pay any attention. Keep the horse focused on you, and when a car goes by, stop the work, turn the horse so the vehicle is visible, talk soothingly and pet the horse. Then return to work. Get closer and closer as time goes by, and if the horse gets scared, go back a bit.

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post #4 of 11 Old 02-14-2011, 08:51 AM
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Do you have a car? Plonk her feed bucket next to said car. Turn car on, add feed, let your mare see the feed going in. Stomach usually trumps spookiness that is caused by 'naughtiness'.

Mods, grant me the serenity to see the opinions I cannot change, courage to change the ones that should change, and the wisdom to spot the trolls.
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post #5 of 11 Old 02-14-2011, 10:06 AM
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Eventer -- You have the same method we use. Only thing is it take other people to help you out.

When we get ready to 'log' a horse, we 'chase' another horse that is dragging a tire or RR tie.

When we start getting a colt ready for traffic and trails, we 'chase' a bicycle, 4 wheeler, people with plastic sack, etc.

It works best when you do it BEFORE a horse hasgotten frightened by these things facing them or coming up behind him.

We also live on a very busy US Hwy and have a big pipe arena and cutting pen right next to the hwy. We frequently tie young horses out to the arena fence and let them stand there for several hours. That really helps. They learn to tolerate traffic and learn patience.
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post #6 of 11 Old 02-14-2011, 06:49 PM Thread Starter
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Ok, so basically just expose her to traffic until she's not afraid anymore.

Her chasing the car probably won't work. Not that it wouldn't work, but my dad wouldn't do it (he's more of a "get out there and do it, quit p*ssing around and worrying she'll be afraid all the time" type), and my mom only gets home from work after dark. Usually when she gets scared, I just sit calmly and wait for her to work it out, but traffic is one thing that I cannot handle with a spooky horse. I am always worried that the horse will jump sideways into traffic and get hit by a car...isn't that a pretty valid reason? Spooking in traffic is dangerous.

Thanks for your help, anyways =)

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post #7 of 11 Old 02-14-2011, 07:40 PM
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It sounds like you are more afraid than the mare is. When you stop her, you are reinforcing that it is a scary. You need to try to keep her busy.

Is there a place you can ride across a fence from traffic? In a way, your Dad is right. The more you stop and try to make her stand still, the worse she will get. You need to keep her busy and need to keep her focused on you. Horses cannot concentrate on two things at once, so her concentration needs to be on you.
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post #8 of 11 Old 02-14-2011, 11:58 PM
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First of all, stop blaming yourself. The trainer probably had more horse experience and lived in an area with more traffic than you do. You are not used to traffic and you have a new horse. You are not supposed to be perfect, and you cannot hate on yourself for not doing things as well as the trainer did. If I did that, I would never get on a horse again, and I have been riding for 30 years, seriously for 20 years. I expect a trainer to be better than me and that is why I take lessons from them, and buy from them.

It would be ideal if a car driver that you trust could park outside your horses barn and rev the engine, and do that often. Or if your horse is in a field, do the same thing, or drive past your horse at varying speeds and engine noise.

Your horse will get used to it again, and you need to learn to relax. Imagine the worst scene you can think of. A car passing you at whatever speed, and your horse freaking out and moving towards the car? So have your dad practise this with you, I would imagine that your horse cannot move at 60mph and move in time to hit it. Once YOU not your horse gets confidence with this, it will build from there.
But as a leader you need to have confidence and not go to pieces.

Your horse is not ruined, it is a stepping stone.
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post #9 of 11 Old 02-15-2011, 07:06 AM Thread Starter
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It's so hard not to get a little nervous though-I'm just always imagining her bolting headlong into an oncoming car....ugh. It's so hard to just relax and place that absolute trust in her.

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post #10 of 11 Old 02-16-2011, 12:29 AM
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Hi I have found out that if a horse is scared of something take them up to it several times to show them the the "big bad monster" won't hurt them just do it in short times and make it longer and longer I think a horse learns best when you make them confront and face their fear and they see there is nothing to fear (almost like a kid) and try to be confident in all you do your horse can feel you get nervous horses and sense your feelings especially when your on top of them when you get scared the horse gets scared and also 99% of the things that you see out there will not hurt you I'v ridden in traffic before and I know in Texas horses has the right of way but don't get in the middle and be a road hog thats a good way to get some people mad at ya hahah just check the laws in your state because the nature of horses alot of places horses has right of way so keep that in mind and be very confident in what you are doing and you should be ok!!!! oo and if you have to just ride your horse to the side of the road and sit there and watch traffic go by it's fun watching people stare at you just sitting there and you may even get a couple of waves oo one time I was on the side of a busy road on a horse and i tried to cross a bridge and the horse didn't want to cross the bridge so she turned around real quick and somebody got really close to us and it scared the horse but the horse didn't bolt (people here doesn't know how to get over) so just keep calm and all should be ok

Last edited by nate1; 02-16-2011 at 12:33 AM.
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