Tripping and spooking - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 05-04-2012, 10:59 PM Thread Starter
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Unhappy Tripping and spooking

My 7 YO MFT (just turned) is a veritable disaster to ride. He doesn't seem to realize that the ground isn't all level and even dirt can rise up and drop in the arena, trail, etc. He has gone to his knees walking towards some yummy grass in hand and the road sloped steeply up to about knee height and he walked into it just like when a person steps off stairs thinking there is another step and there isn't. It is unnerving to deal with stumbling and bumbling! He trips over everything and nothing at times on the trail and in the arena. Usually at a walk but in the arena at times while gaiting or cantering. His saddle has been fitted by a master saddle fitter, his teeth floated and bit sits well, I am a balanced rider with quiet hands, I keep him trimmed (he is barefoot) and while he falls on his face if his toes are too long and heel too short (which I keep him trimmed regularly with a good farrier since I discovered this) this seems to be him not looking at where he is stepping. He went to his knees stepping on a pole in the arena I asked him to walk over and he tripped on it. Then there is spooking. Someone walking towards or by him quickly? Scary 50% of the time - good luck guessing which 50% it will be. Small children running around? Approach with caution. A bike or jogger on the highline canal? Scary scary!!! I try to keep his mind on what I am asking but if he sees something the head comes up high and he STOPS. I try to yield his head or move him forward and give him busy work but he is FOCUSED. We might spin. He usually stops if he does to look again. I try not to watch for potential problems because I don't want him to do that. At times he has spotted a couple walking their dogs a quarter mile away that I had no idea were there and all the sudden we go from calm walk to hurrying the other way before I know whats going on. I turn him and tell him OH NO but as we turn back that darn head is up and tense and nearly unturnable. I have gotten him to ignore a jogger with busy work and think I'm scott free until the jogger is next to us and he notices the jogger and then the jogger has a horse pushing him off the path as he tries to turn and shy. Anyone else? What helps you? My hubby is ready to jog and ride a bike up and down the trail while I work him in hand and then in the saddle. I have worked with him for 10 months trying to establish control and leadership with him (and trust me he is WAY better than when I got him) but I can't seem to cross that final frontier of total trust in me as a leader or he wouldn't be doing this nonsense. Right??
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post #2 of 12 Old 05-05-2012, 07:20 PM
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I too own a clutz so I will wait to see your advice!
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post #3 of 12 Old 05-05-2012, 07:35 PM
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Spooking- talk to him. That causes you to relax too. My horse is the same way and he only calms down when I "talk" to whatever is scaring him. I once had a conversation with a herd of deer and a squirrel once, and he was completely fine. Try not to anticipate it, because you aren't even giving him a chance then. When you walk towards something going the same direction as you, the horse thinks he is pushing/driving that thing away (herd 101, pressure) and when something is coming towards him they're putting pressure on him, so ask him to plow right back. Get into a power walk, and he'll be less likely to back down.

Have you sacked him out/desensitized him? Keep doing it, or if you haven't.. Start doing it! The more you prepare your horse, the less he will spook. If he spooks ignore him. Don't be angry, don't be concerned, you could laugh about it if you want. He'll learn that it's nothing to be afraid of.

Children? Give them some treats and ask them to feed your horse. Have him in a leadrope with halter and let kids be kids.. run around screaming, laughing, jumping, leaping, falling over, crying, etc. and just let him soak it in. Let him watch and then do some basic ground work with him. Then plan to ride him another day with the same kind of distractions. This is a form of desensitizing.

As for being clumsy, make him trot over those ground poles and don't accept no for an answer. If they are wooden then there is a better chance he'll pick up his feet. raise some poles on wooden blocks or something safe and make him trot over them. Not walk.. trot. Not canter.. trot!

When he does it without tripping, give him a break. He just needs to learn to be sure footed. Take him out in hand on some rocky trails and let him figure out what he needs to do. My boy was the same.. and a good trim also helps so make sure his feet are in order. He could be sore, who knows. Explore all possibilities.

"Strength is the ability to use a muscle without tension"

Last edited by Skyseternalangel; 05-05-2012 at 07:39 PM.
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post #4 of 12 Old 05-05-2012, 08:13 PM Thread Starter
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Binky has been around kids as much as I can expose him to them (mine are grown so the exposure is random I can't borrow any LOL), there sometimes are a few running around the stables. If they are on the swing we always go up and hang out right next to them while they swing and shriek - I wait until he relaxes and chews before we go - I have even have them touch him with their feet on the upswing! He eyeballs them when they run around, but I ignore them as an example to them and ask him to not pay attnetion. When in saddle sometimes he spooks at them sometimes not, I can never tell. I don't usually anticipate it either - like the 10 year old walking by us on the outside of the arena texting on her phone - all the sudden he did a huge sideways jump and totally surprised me - I wasn't even noticing her. I have sacked him out as much as possible, tarps, umbrellas, balls, ropes, plastic bags, etc, and he couldn't care less in the arena. I started sacking him out on the trail with them too because he was a spooky mess on the trail and it has helped some but I suppose he just needs a LOT more. We've done all this for about 10 months off and on. It's hard to do all the sacking I want as I board at a big facility and I risk spooking other peoples horses in working with mine - so cap guns and other noisy things I can't use there. I do try to chase things and having my hubby help will let me do that more. I'd love to move cattle with him but none are available. Thanks for the pointers though. I'll start working poles when he's in hand. It's comforting that others have or had the same problems.
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post #5 of 12 Old 05-05-2012, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Rockabillyjen33 View Post
It's comforting that others have or had the same problems.
Haha tell me about it, my boy is the same way. And he's a big man at 17hh so when he spooks it's like a bomb went off.

Just keep working on it :) It takes a long time but eventually it becomes less and less of an issue.

"Strength is the ability to use a muscle without tension"
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post #6 of 12 Old 05-05-2012, 08:47 PM
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From what you've described, it honestly sounds like maybe there's something wrong with his eyesight. :(
Also, horses see differently out of different parts of their eye, so if he throws his head up to look at something, and you pull it down, he may not be able to see it anymore, and thus the problem becomes worse.
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post #7 of 12 Old 05-06-2012, 03:18 AM
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I was thinking along the same lines as calicokatt. Also, have you checked his ears? My old mare got a really bad ear fungus, it inflamed the deep tissue and caused all kinds of issues. We cleared it up and she was the same sweetheart she had always been.
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post #8 of 12 Old 05-06-2012, 04:35 AM
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You need to get eyes checked. And also vet needs to really look this horse over, and that means more intensive testing. He could be having the beginnings of neuro problems, nerve damage that shows up under saddle, or all sorts of things.

Even though you have ruled things out, i.e. saddle fitting? Without X-rays, and more diagnostic tests, you don't know that horse doesn't have arthritis in spinous process, broken withers, broken ribs. Or broken vertebrae too.

So many things could be going on, and it is not normal for horses to be klutzy like this, or spook so easily at things. Blindness coming on might account for the spooking, as it could for the tripping.

But a vet visit of depth is best.
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post #9 of 12 Old 05-06-2012, 06:04 AM
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I will add another voice to the vet check band wagon. It sounds like eye sight or neuro problems to me
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post #10 of 12 Old 05-06-2012, 06:30 AM
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Here are some videos if you want to take a look, they are free yoga videos, and some info on cranial sacro which may address in whole or in part the spooking behavior, you never know - and the other stretches and exercises may help diagnose or otherwise address the stumbling issues:

These behaviors could also be psychological, and related to a need to have a bit more self confidence. ?
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