Horse tense and freaks out on road now, help
My horse spooked and kind of freaked when he saw other horse and riders down this road we were going down. He acted up and got tense. He couldn't stay still so we moved around and he was so tense. This was the other day.
Today, I went out to the very same spot that that happened and he froze. He acted like they were still there. He got tense, didn't want to stay still, and freaked out. I got nervous after he settled a little and we went back, but then he jumped the ditch without me wanting him too and got into my friend's yard. I knew I should have gone back to that spot and worked on it where he freaked, but I was a little frazzled about doing it. How do you 1) work on that problem of the horse and 2) how do you keep up your confidence to work on stuff like that? Also, I was alone.
Thanks in advance!!!
Just to clarify: there is a certain spot on the road where he tenses up, freezes, then wants to prance and get nervous and such? What does he do when he 'freaks out'? Were you on him when he jumped the ditch and got into your friend's yard? Or was this a separate event?
Was he like this before? Do you have any other problems with him that might explain why it led up to this point?
Is he afraid of traffic, or is the problem just this one spot where he saw the other horses?
What do you do when he gets like this?
If horse is getting like this, he may need more work on basics, such as responding to you, and following your directions. He may also be getting by with things without you realizing it is happening and that is now leading to him testing you to see what he can get by with.
He sounds like he is getting barn sour to me. Doesn't want to work in other words. These little "Oh I am scared" fits are teaching YOU that he can't be ridden outside of one area.
If he is pushing you out of his space, with even his head, or getting too close to your body, that is a sign of disrespect, and also shows he thinks he is the leader. If you pet on him, and baby him, that is not good either. If he is aggressive at feeding, or can't be led well, that too leads to problems. If you groom him or mess with him without his halter on and a lead attached? That also lets him think he is in charge, since HE decides when to walk away.
Not knowing how strong a rider you are makes me hesitant to suggest to you what I would do. I would have a riding whip and pop him one, but he would go where I wanted. At this point he is telling you, "You can't make me" and it can escalate to where you can't do anything with him, much less ride him outside of where he wants to go, IF he wants to that is.
You might also be seeing the effects of spring, and grass, or if he is stalled and grained and hayed, it could be that is too hot for him, in terms of gives him way too much enthusiasm about finding reasons to act up.
Is he quiet the rest of the time on the ride or does he have a nervous tendancy?
If he has a nervouse tendancy and does not listen when one the road I would definately not be taking him down the road. If it is just a one time thing and he is now nervous of that spot, dismount and walk him through it and keep going until he is relaxed again then get back on and try to ride him back through it. If he is nervous again repeat although most times once you give the horse a walk through and they realize there is nothing to fear they will be fine to walk through next time around.
I think safety first when you are riding on the road, especially if you are alone. It is better to get off then to be thrown trying to force a horse through something they are afraid of. You can achieve the same results walking beside the horse to desensatize him to the scary place as you can if you are on his back. If you are nervous or afraid of being hurt in the least DONT even ride him on the road. It is way to dangerous if you have a nervous horse.
Best of Luck
If he had gone past this spot before, without problems, and the problems started after he saw the horses and riders, I would suggest that he is looking for the other horses. Either in a good way, or anxiously - as if to worry about them coming up and establishing the pecking order. So, he may be worried that he is about to get picked on by the 'boss' horse in that 'herd'. I have a similar experience with all my horses when they first see cows in the pasture along where I ride. Forever after, they are looking for those cows and a little antsy until (1) the cows come into sight; or (2) we get past the pasture.
The most important thing, if you think it's anxiety about the horses, instead of pure disrespect or barn sourness, is to be relaxed in your own body and mind. Ride "as if" everything is fine, expressing confidence in your voice, hands, seat and legs. It may take a few times past this area of the road, but eventually the horse will realize that you can handle things and he doesn't need to worry about the other horses, if and when they ever appear again.
PS - Annie posted at the same time and I agree with her about safety first.
I would not let him graze, in general. Here's why -
1) it's a reward. You should be cautious that you're rewarding the behavior you want. If you want to reward him with food, take pocket treats and reward him for calmly walking through/past the scary area.
2) when grazing head is down and it's easy for the horse to be startled when they can't see as well as if their head was up. More dangerous for you, if he's already anxious about that location.
3) grazing while tacked up is a terrible habit to get into. It's hard to break and it's easiest if the habit never gets started.
Keep in mind that part of the 'learning respect' is that you decide when he eats, when he stops, where he goes, where he doesn't go, etc. It may be a constant struggle at first to 'control' all these things, but for each one that you don't correct, you will have a piling up of problems that will have to be sorted out later. These little things all have the potential to make big safety issues later.
I ride our country roads alone a lot. I've had young horses and stubborn horses and barn sour horses and 'smarter than me' horses through the years. The one thing I do now that is probably the best thing to happen to me, is to go back and forth and not 'leave' the area until the horse was calmer. If the horse speeds up moving out of the area, we circle, go back, stand still, or walk/side pass facing the scary spot until we can go back and forth through the scary area at a speed of my choice. Bottom line, sometimes my rides take longer than necessary, but my horses all now know that I will take care of them. We do this all one step at a time - seriously, I may ask for one step at a time if that's all they can give me. One step in the right direction is a success. And then we do it again. The horse has no timetable and we go as 'slow' as it takes for the horse to be able to deal with things.
Ok thanks. I'll give it a try and work on things next week - it's supposed to rain this weekend.
You could work on ground manners and moving his feet over the weekend - even in a barn aisle there is a lot that can be done with strange buckets, tarps, blankets or sweatshirts covering eyes and walking forward anyway. etc. (From the ground, of course - not from the saddle). Be imaginative and work on things that will teach him to respect you and to trust you!
Years ago Crystalot Boilie was performing dressage when a photographer rushed up to the corner and snapped a pic with flash as her horse was approaching. The horse spooked and this cost her dearly in points. The next day, although the photographer wasn't there, the horse spooked again. When your horse becomes aware of other horses he instinctively wants to join the security of others, yet doesn't know how they will react of him. He doesn't know if he will be accepted or get charged at. Pretty tense situation for him. It may remain as a vivid memory for a while. If he does this or similar turn his nose and move his hips the opposite way, then the other way, again and again. It is easier to turn a horse that is braced than hold him back. Keep him busy so his mind is on you. He allowed to stop only when you feel him relax. The more you do this the sooner he will want to quit.
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