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lovemyponies 12-04-2008 09:23 AM

Strange Horse behavior
Well I was on here a few months back with a difficult mare. She was supposed to be with me only a short time but with the horse market what it is and her acting up she is still with me. She has gotten much better. But now the biggest issue is that she acts up on one end of our arena. She acts terrified of the woods on that end. Literally fleeing from that area. It doesn't matter if I am on her back on leading her. I even tried feeding her hay on that end and unless I held her with the lead rope she flees to the other end.

I need to use the arena because that is the best footing and where the jumps are. Of course I want to get her over this irrational fear. I don't remember anything bad happening to her there. Its very strange. Otherwise she is not a spooky horse for the most part. I don't think its just an act, why would she run from her hay then?

I plan on spending a lot of time in there until she gets over it but was wondering if anyone had any suggestions.


LauraB 12-04-2008 10:39 AM

I am not sure how to help you if you have been feeding her at that end, that would have been my idea. Even the most well trained horses and afraid of woods and especially tall corn fields around here. I think it is a fear of the unknown and the fear of what might be lurking in the darkness.
Maybe get her at that end of the arena and more her think about something else (like circles) instead of the woods.

SonnyWimps 12-04-2008 10:48 AM

approach and retreat.
Work on the ground first because it's safer.

Walk her slowly up to the woods. The second she becomes uneasy, turn her around and walk away. Horses, by nature, are prey animals. If they are frightened by something their natural reaction is to run away or else get eaten. You've got to prove to her that the evil dark looming woods is not going to harm her in anyway and infact it's a good thing. Forcing her to go over there will only make matters worse, it will make her react and her trust on you will diminish because you, in her eyes, are taking her to her death.
So as before...walk her up until she starts getting uneasy. The second she does, turn her around and walk away (but don't let her run...if she feels the need to run, you took her too far...past her breaking point). Once you walk her away, give her a pet, and then head back. And repeat.
Remember to ALWAYS turn her around when she feels uncomfident or else you or her can get injured.
Soon she'll go farther and farther until she can walk passed the woods with ease. Some horses are naturally afraid of things where other horses were born's all about approach and retreat.

You would also do the same thing in the saddle if she has difficulties with that.
I know this does work because I've used it with my horse and at least 6 other horses before. My horse hated tarps...he'd bolt if I brought him towards one and he wouldn't walk on it. With a few (really only 3) approach and retreat excereizes he'll walk on the tarp, trot over the tarp, and even canter over it. I did not force him to walk over it, I took it at his own space and because of that he realized that it wasn't going to hurt him and that he can trust me because I'm not going to force him to do something that he feels is dangerous.

lovemyponies 12-04-2008 10:57 AM

thank you so much! the strange this is she is really usually very brave. She had never been on a trail in her life and has (once she got past her crazed alfalfa induced nuttiness) been great on the trail. She rarely shies. She has gone over bridges other horses are afraid of without even a thought. She walks right through the tents at our local boyscout camping ground, etc.

She has walked through the woods near the arena. Its very possible though there is something living near the arena in that area of the woods, so realistically she may have heard/smelled something there. (we have an alligator, bobcat, wild pigs, etc) She has accepted all the animals but who knows, its a real fear.

I will try to get her to accept the area gradually on the ground and then move on to under saddle.

thanks again and I will let you know how it goes.

SonnyWimps 12-04-2008 11:25 AM

Horses can have different "horsenalities". My horse is a mix between LBI/LBE/RBE (meaning he's dominant, likes to argue, mouthy, more dominant, and is bracey). If I do something too fast he turns into his prey animal self and starts getting really frightened. So it's quite possible that she does have the tendency to shy away from things, even if it's really slight.
Also, you said you had boughten her, so who knows too much about her past life. Something could have happened to her when she was right next to the woods in an arena

DarkChylde 12-04-2008 11:31 AM

I think feeding her over there is a good idea. When I am getting my horses used to going off property and walking them, I always encourage them to graze besides stuff they are nervous about. When they will graze close to it, they have accepted it.

She prolly smells an animal, and she mite know something you don't.:wink:

SonnyWimps 12-04-2008 11:34 AM


Originally Posted by DarkChylde (Post 204185)
I think feeding her over there is a good idea. When I am getting my horses used to going off property and walking them, I always encourage them to graze besides stuff they are nervous about. When they will graze close to it, they have accepted it.

She prolly smells an animal, and she mite know something you don't.:wink:

Personally, I wouldn't make her feed there, there's something about that spot that she does not like, and putting her food there is just like forcing her to be over there.
I know if my horse was scared of something like that, he just would not eat. And yes, my horse would not eat...I tried that method a LONG time ago and he wouldn't touch the food or come near to it.

lovemyponies 12-04-2008 12:55 PM

she ate the hay as long as I kept the lead rope on and stood by her. as soon as I moved away or undid the lead she took off. But she ate just fine as long as I stood by her and kept the lead on.

I know her background, she came from my sister's trainer who bred her and raised her. She was trained almost exclusively in an indoor arena so where she is now is much more distracting.

I think I will try the retreat method and then once she feels more comfortable give her some feed or hay there but stay with her the whole time.

She really is amazingly brave. Usually when she acts up on the trail its because she wants to make the decision. for intance she wants to pick which was to go at an intersection and quite often she does not choose to go towards home, she just wants to be the boss.

We are working on it. My friend, who is an endurance rider takes her to make sure she gets enough exercise. I rode with him yesterday with him on her and me on another horse. I was amazed, he is a super strong confident rider, but she acted up for him much more than me.

I feel like she trusts me more for whatever reason than him. Probably since I groom her, feed her, etc.

going to the barn this afternoon to try the ground work.
thanks! I appreciate everyone

CallieMae 12-04-2008 01:21 PM

hopefully she comes around. there could be some sort of scent coming from the woods that she is not comfortable with. my horse is usually fine with the woods, but on some patches of it she simply freaks out...i think it might be because some sort of animal--probably a predator--crossed that (or in your case, crosses there often), and they don't like the smell. the other horses could be used to it, and not care...
I don't know...just an idea!

appylover31803 12-04-2008 01:36 PM

My mare used to be afraid of this huge pine tree and the end of the arena by the donkeys

What I did one day was lunge her over by the donkeys, lunge her by the tree, and when she calmed down, we'd just relax there.

When I rode her, i'd work her more in her comfort zone and less in the spooky place. That may or may not have been the right thing to do, but it has worked.

We can now ride around the arena and its no problem.

Another thing you might want to do is do things she enjoys by the scary part. Give her a good grooming there, relax with her.

She'll soon realize that the scary place is actually a good place to be:-)

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