Spooking at Barrels - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 10-01-2010, 10:34 PM Thread Starter
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Spooking at Barrels

Okay so my horse mouse, a 6 yr old OTTB is truly a spectacular horse. However he like to spook at certain things in our arena to get out of work. I dont believe it is actually "spooking" since it is not constant.

For example, I was warming up by them and he didnt care. I decided for that day-thinking he wouldnt like them if i moved them- that i would work on getting him used to them since i had the time/energy to work with him without getting mad or frustrated. I got off, moved the barrel to the center of our circle and worked him around it both directions and to my surprise he could care less.

About a good 30 minutes into riding on the flat, he came to it and totally had a "mousey meltdown" and everytime i got near it he would tense up, move away from my leg, and speed up. It VERY frustrating and i admit, i dont have a ton of patience so please help and give advice!!!

I have asked my trainers to help and i have my trainers wife to ride him and she says he is generally fine with it so they dont think it is serious/annoying as it really is. And of course in their presence if only occasionally looks at it.




Oh and a different subject but related to spooking, Mouse is deathly afraid of the cows at our barn. I use the road the cows are on to get to the trails and the only way is to have another horse and mouse has to be right next to them if i want any chance of "survival". Any suggestions on how to work with mouse to get him to at least not stop dead in his tracks, rear take off, etc other than my dad idea of "tying him to a fence and bring a cow behind him" ( i love how my dad thinks he is horse trainer when he knows nothing of them lol )

Eat.Sleep.Ride.

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post #2 of 12 Old 10-01-2010, 10:37 PM
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Someone may have more practical advice than me, but it sounds like maybe you're setting him up for failure.
You admit that you dont really have much patience with his spooking so it may be possible that you are tensing up near the barrel or giving him cues without noticing it since you may be thinking he'sgoing to spook at it before he even does.
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post #3 of 12 Old 10-01-2010, 10:42 PM Thread Starter
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he gets better when i talk to him and once i talk to him going around like 5 or so times, he is usually good, its just frustrating when i have to get him used to them each and every time i ride.

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post #4 of 12 Old 10-02-2010, 01:47 AM
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I would approach things from the ground up. Hand walk him to the barrels, make him check them out. If he starts to tense, stop and let him look. Praise any calm behavior regarding the barrels. Put treats on them and let him find them, make the barrels a calm influence. When he's nosing around them and actually touching him, praise him as well. And then end on a good note. Patience is really a key factor because each time he gets a frustrated reaction from you he's reinforcing that the barrels caused you to be tense, which is a reason to be scared of them.

The same with the cows. Hand walk him toward them and make him stand and look at them. Don't allow the rear/run reaction. Once he starts to get tense, stop and just let him look and if the wind is in the right direction, let him smell the cows. When he starts to relax, approach closer and when he tenses, repeat. Continue until he's as near to the cows as you need him to be. If he's relaxed enough to graze, perfect. Patience, again, will win out. He takes his cues from you so if you get angry, all he reads is tense which makes him think that his " herd " should be scared of whatever is causing the reaction. This will also go a long way towards teaching him how to spook without his out of line reactions like rearing or running off. Make him face the object and be still until he calms down.

That's what I would do anyway.
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post #5 of 12 Old 10-02-2010, 01:52 AM Thread Starter
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he isnt afraid of barrels on the ground, it really is only when im working him, and i have walked him to the cows but i am a 16 yr old girl and he is a 16.3hh TB and extremely strong soo last time i did that he stopped and looked and i was talking to him and such and then the baby cow got up from laying down and he bolted down the road and i had to let go and i got rope burn from trying to stop him so now i only walk on horse back so i at least will be on him if he bolts

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post #6 of 12 Old 10-02-2010, 02:16 AM
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I understand that it can be frustrating when you have to go through the same routine with the barrels, and perhaps he is using them as a way to evade "work." Wheather it's cows, barrels, a shadow, a noise or whatever, your horse is choosing the distraction over you. The "rear and bolt" behavior is not OK unless there really is a big monster trying to eat him. I'd start with ground work without the scary cows or sometimes scary barrels. Free lunge him if you can, free lead him in random patterns, get him more into a role of following your lead. Then introduce small distractions to work on helping him choose you over whatever else maybe going on. I've had some rewarding moments by practicing on something small to help fix something bigger. Hope this helps.
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post #7 of 12 Old 10-02-2010, 12:42 PM Thread Starter
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thanks :)

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post #8 of 12 Old 10-02-2010, 01:08 PM
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Also, I realize the size difference and there are things that you can do to manage that. For instance, use a lead rope with a chain that you can run over his nose. You don't have to use it but if he decides to try and bolt, it gives you the leverage to try and stop him. I've also learned that with horses that are that reactive, I always wear leather work gloves to prevent rope burn. It'll give you access to hold on a little better if he does try to run off.

I do realize that it's frustrating, but he's got to learn to follow you. Do some leadership reinforcement ground work, look into Parelli ground games or Join up, things that will show him that you are a wise leader that he can trust. Round pen him and maintain control. The more he learns to follow you without question, the easier it will be. Time is the only thing that's gonna fix this, and effort on your part. He has to realize that spooking from the barrels isn't going to get him out of work but you have to examine the reason behind the spook.
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post #9 of 12 Old 10-02-2010, 01:12 PM Thread Starter
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I have been meaning to do some round pen work with him, just havent gotten to it :)

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post #10 of 12 Old 10-02-2010, 01:15 PM
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I didn't read any of the other posts (I'm too lazy lol) but...

Is it possible for you to throw a couple barrels out in the field with him? If he sees them every day and gets used to grazing around them (putting treats on or near the barrels will help too), he'll begin to think that they're no big deal (because they aren't). If you can't put them in his paddock, then put treats on top of the barrels and walk him around them. Soon he'll see that barrels=treats. Or, just ride. Get on him and continue riding like nothing is wrong. You could be sending him mixed messages by accident when you ride near barrels 'cause you're expecting him to freak out.

As for cows...I don't know what to say. Our horses are kept in paddocks literally right next to a massive cow pasture, so they get used to them pretty quick. I'd say the more exposure, the better. Your dad's not far off the mark by saying just show the horse a cow. You probably don't want to tie the horse up, but get him near cows as much as possible.


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