The Overreactive Spooker?
I have a 5 year old Arab that I just started under saddle last summer. I bought him pretty unhandled and have spend countless months working on the basics indoors as well as repetitive groundwork. He is turning into a great little horse, however transfering him to the outdoors has become a challenge. He can be confident and willing, however when scared he not only spooks but bolts off, rears, spins around on his hind legs, etc. Not only does it honestly scare the **** outta me, but it makes me a more nervous rider which makes training even harder. I got dumped pretty bad this spring, which has shot my confidence, but I got back on and refuse to give up. There just something about his spooks that I can not "ride out" He is pretty small, 14.3, and when he acts he raises his head, hollows his back, and scurries his legs everywhere as fast as he can. I seriously am on the ground before I even know what has happend. So my question is: what can I do to help myself get through this? I know he is scared and not being bad, trust me I know when he is being bad, but I can not seem to correct him before its too late. People have suggested a running martingale so I have a little help getting his head back down, however I HATE training devices. Should I just let go of my pride and use the martingale? I ride in a snaffle and he has a very sensitive mouth, but when scared he just seems to forget all of his training and his "flight" mode kicks in. I hope I don't sound like a raging idiot, lol, I used to be a super confident rider that wouldn't have a problem dealing with a horse like this, however once in a great while we all get "THAT HORSE" that changes the way we feel about hitting the ground ;-) Thank you all!
I would say he hasn't forgotten his training as much as he isn't as trained as you thing he is.
And I would also suggest maybe looking into whether or not his feed may be adding to the problem.
Does he get turn out time?
You need to do all of the work with him in the outdoors that you have done indoors also.
A martingale will only keep his head down, but will probably add bucking to his repertoire too, and there will be no way to bring his head up with one.
Like it or not, this horse isn't trained well enough for you to be riding him, as you have left a major hole in his training I think.
Teeth, saddle, other internal problems causing pain? All might have something to do with this, but bottom line is? You need to stay off of this horse until you do more work outside.
I agree with doing more work outside, however I have also spend a lot of time working him just as much outdoors as I have indoors, both in hand and under saddle. He gets 24/7 turnout and I only feed him strickly raw cereal grains in moderation because any sugar in his diet makes him hot. His teeth were just checked this spring and he is ridden in a treeless saddle which fits him perfectly. So no pain in either of these areas. I also check his body (legs, back, neck, etc) for any soreness both before and after I ride. Trust me, I try to rule out everything to understand this problem. I think I will pass on the martingale, I don't need him freaking out even more and flipping over or something. Perhaps just some more outdoor work and desensitizing exercises? To be honest I truly beleive there is lack of trust going on...like he feels like when he is scared he isn't comfortable accepting that I am there and that he is okay. If anyone has any good suggestions for outdoor exercises or any other theories that would be great. Thanks!
I think groundwork would help. I think it's a combination of a lack of respect and a lack of confidence in you and perhaps even himself.
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Yes...Agree with groundwork completely. He is extremely respectable...but lacks confidence I beleive. I suppose the answer is just to ride him more and work on more basics indoors until I feel he has gained more experience and trust...then after groundwork outside and long walks we can start riding outside bit by bit. I try not to rush him, but I don't want to avoid riding outside completely either because we will never accomplish the trail. Wish I had another horse to pony him, wouldn't that be convenient =)
My Arab was first backed at around 4, I got him a little before he turned 7 and he sat around for almost an entire year between then with very little work. I had him ponied off a horse his first time out and he was a brat LOL. Zero concept of being nice and following around. I hacked him in a small group and he was okay. About his fourth time out I hacked him solo. He was also a dasher at first - would even tuck his butt under himself! After a couple times of dashing I started groundworking him a lot. When he'd dash I would change it from a crazy run to a hard run in a circle. He'd forget why he was dashing and learned to not like it.
Nowadays if he's spooking a lot he just has too much energy and I take him out into a field and let him run his fool head off then go back to schooling without incident. He will currently either spread his legs and spook in place or do this bizarre canter sidepass away from whatever it is the again back to the track I had him on. We will be going along and all of a sudden we are 20 feet to the left or right or where we had been and then we're back on track again LOL
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As some of you may know, I ride a very hot Arab mare. She is now 8 years old (I think, I'd have to check her papers). She is calming down a bit.
A really hot horse take a million times more work than a cold blooded horse. Working on his training at home will eventually pay off. You said that you have worked countless hours. It takes countless hours plus more countless hours to calm down a hot horse. On the good side of all this, you eventually will have all that energy focused so that you have a horse that will go and keep on going where you want to go.
I would train in an arena as close to every day as I could. I would only go out on trails occasionally until this things starts to get sorted out.
If the running martingale helps, I would use it for a while. There is no way I would use a standing martingale or a tie down. One of my friends put one her hot Arab and he got upset and flipped over on her. Broke her back. She had surgery and she is competing in endurance again, but it was a really bad time for her.
I agree with some of the above statments but if it gets really bad have you thought of just maybe hand leading him outside around the ring? Let him see everything and see that nothing is really scary! If you act calm, he should atleast be a little calmer himself. If you do decide to do this though, make sure that you have someone with you just in case he does spook and it turns bad fast! Good luck though!
Does he spook when you are working him in hand or only under saddle?
If he eyeballs things from the ground, start there. Make an obstacle course and work him in hand until things like walking on tarps or past flapping bags or whatever other scary things you can think of don't cause any sort of reaction. Once you get him confident in himself and you on the ground, then start to transition that to under saddle work in the arena. Then move on to a scary obstacle course in the pasture or some other 'outside' area (you would be amazed how a tarp that is ok in the ring can suddenly NOT be ok just because you moved it into the field!!). Baby steps.
Thank you all for such great suggestions. I will definately focus on more indoor work until he become more confident with himself and with me. To answer a couple questions: He is not really overly spooky, doesn't "eye" stuff alot, he may look at a big rock from time to time and snort at it but he doesnt get out of control. Its the unexpected, sudden things such as a car flying up over the hill or a rabbit jumping outta the bushes that makes him freak. So while I have taken the time to hand walk him along the trail and show him things and then he becomes more confident in that sense, I still feel like I fail because when unexpected things happen that make him bolt & react I feel like I have no control. I suspect I should work on making "unexpected" things pop out of the indoor while practicing riding and desensitizing. I could ask a friend to help me work on "surprise spooks" and get him use to controling himself when overwhelmed and scared.
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