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What to do when they spook....
Lately my 16 year old QH mare has spooked at large vehicles on the road. First it was a school bus, the next time it was a pickup with a yard trailer behind it.
I've always been taught to let the horse see the object, but don't over react if they spook, to keep on riding forward like it was no big deal. However, someone else said I should have turned the horse away from the vehicle and either stopped the horse or ridden in the same direction as the distraction.
What would you do? TIA.
I ride on the road (and a very busy one at that) on an almost daily basis. When my mare spooks I always start off by moving with the spook (to keep from hopefully falling off) and try to keep her facing it at all times. Once they spin and are looking the other direction they're very likely to bolt, and that's no fun to get back under control. By keeping her under me and facing the scary thing we do just fine. If at all possible I always try and keep her moving forward. If she starts to get sticky (ie she doesn't like sidewalk lines some days) I move her back and forth until we move forward. The only time I turn her is if she starts going backwards and I can't quickly get her going forwards so I'll do a one rein stop just to break the backwards motion and then go back to looking at the object. I never let her freeze and stare for more than a second, thats just asking for her to blow. Looking at the object while moving is a totally different thing. Good luck! I absolutely used to hate road riding (people suck. ) but now that I do it so much I've learned to not anticipate every bad thing that could happen.
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Thank you for your response. Thankfully, she's a lazy thing and besides some side stepping and sometimes a couple of half rears, she doesn't do anything else. I only have the option of riding on the roads near where she is boarded. The roads are not very busy (again, thankfully) and this is a new thing. I have ridden her on the shoulder of a busy road in the past and she never thought anything of it, just plodding on ahead.
I was confused that I might be making it worse by keeping her facing the thing. Then I wasn't sure if I should stop her and let it approach us that way or just ignore it and keep on riding.
I only have one data point - my mare. With her, it is best to let her face the scary thing. If need be, back up until she feels a safe distance, and then slowly approach. A few steps, stop & rub her neck and talk to her. I cannot PUSH her past it. I need to CALM her past it.
If I try to push her past it, it becomes even scarier. If I turn her, she assumes I want to run away...not good! It is best if I notice her fear soon enough that I can just stop her, let her observe, give a head down cue, maybe rub her neck, and approach a few steps closer. It takes time, but it is the only thing I've found that works with her.
There is a thinking eye and a flight eye. Usually the thinking eye in the left one. Try to turn her so she see's the object with her left eye and ask her to keep moving, even if you direct her away. She'll be concerned about this firebreathing dragon attacking her hindquarters so use your leg to move them away, even if you have to sidepass her away from the object. Don't pet on her afterwards as she may see that is a reward.
Bend the horses head towards it, so they can see it clearly. And keep riding don't let them stop and look at it, or make a big deal about it. If you can make sure you can go past the same object a few times just to get your horse used to it.
I keep riding but have an exit strategy in case they spook or have a rock fly and smack them. Be aware of holes in the ditch, rocks, fence, mail box, culverts, etc.
I agree with Buttermilk; don't let them turn their back to the scary thing. They can keep moving, but cannot turn away from it. I dont' force them to go up to it.
When my horses spook ill take as long as they need to go and touch it if it is possible. If its a rock ill get my horse to sniff it then we will move on. If it happens again and i can ill get the horse to sniff it and trot around it.
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