Afraid of Corners?
So my friend is riding this horse Flicka, and she appears to be afraid of corners.
What I see when I watch her ride, is that Flicka shies away from them (one in the indoor in particular) and so my friend has her stand in the corner for a few seconds.
Quoting my friend:
Well. I've tried asking politely and just walking through [the corners]. She will trot [through them] the OTHER direction, but VERY quickly.
And when I go the direction she WONT enter that ONE corner... she will do anything to keep her body out of it.
She is usually okay at the walk, sometimes gets quick.
It is mostly just when trotting. She will do the other 3 corners, and she will usually reverse direction.
I've tried showing her the corner, using the crop, and being patient.
I know the sound of the sand freaks her out, but that usually just makes her speed up and toss her head.
She is adament about NOT going in that corner, sometimes the two corners.
I don't like pulling on her mouth and using the crop to get her to listen. I prefer to be gentle. And I've tried that, too.
Start of the ground. Use approach and retreat to get her confident in that corner. Making her stand there while she is scared will not help things. She has to be able to retreat.
Stand at her shoulder and ask her to walk (yes, her neck will be in front of you). The reason for this is so your friend can feel when she starts getting nervous about the corner. When she hesitates or shows any sign of unconfidence STOP. Allow her time to think and relax. If she needs to, allow her to back away from the threshold. When she relaxes (licks and chews, blinks a lot, lowers her head, sneezes, shakes her head, sighs, cocks a back leg, etc.) ask her forward again. If she refuses then she wasn't relaxed enough so back her away a couple of steps and wait.
Once you get closer to the corner your friend can ask the horse to go between her and the corner, stop, turn and face her and wait. What this does is helps shortern the horse's flight line. You can gradually decrease the space between her and the corner ONLY when the horse is confident. If she is at all bracy, tense, rushy, etc. she is NOT relaxed and confident.
We were just discussing this type of problem. Ground work does not necessarily transfer to the saddle in situations where the horse is nervous. The horse needs to trust the rider from their back - not just on the ground.
Our cattle are housed outside one end/side of our indoor arena. Some of the horses are spooky in that corner because they can hear the cows. We ride and ride and ride. If you give in to 'despook' the horse every time it reacts to something, you never get anything accomplished.
If I were your friend, I would keep riding the mare through the corner. The rider also needs to relax and not expect the spook. Pick up a nice working trot on a 20m circle and stay in the area. TALK to the horse. Sing a song - anything. By talking or singing, the horse is hearing the rider and the rider is unable to hold their breath and tense in the spooky spot.
That's why I said START on the ground. And yes, ground work does transfer to the saddle even if the horse is nervous because the horse starts to trust the person. That way when the person gets on, the horse is more confident already. Doesn't mean you won't have to work through some things under saddle, but it's going to be less than if you didn't prepare the horse on the ground in the first place. You would use the same strategy while riding as you did on the ground.
I agree with mls, if the rider knows that the horse usually spooks in those corners, she should learn to relax and ride her through it. If she gets nervous and tenses up, the horse will feel that and think that there is something to fear. By relaxing and riding her through it, the horse will soon learn that there is nothing to fear in that corner.
I have a friend whose horse would spook at the same boulder every time we were out on the trail. Every time she would spook, my friend would remain calm and just keep her moving. After a few times, her horse did not even bat an eye when we came by that boulder. Your friend just needs to keep her moving when she gets to those corners. Talking and singing are also quite helpful, it helps to take some of the focus off of the corner.
Okay. I'm the friend Neon is asking this question for. I think I should explain it a little more clearly.
Flicka rides well almost everywhere except for the indoor arena. She is fine there, will walk and trot. I've gotten her to the point where she comfortable on the ground walking through all of the corners, and to where she is comfortable walking there with me riding. When I bring her intro a trot and we are on the wall, she gets a little quick because the sand hitting the arena wall makes her a little nervous. She will go through all four corners if we are going clockwise, but when we are going counter-clockwise she shies from the far left corner. I can't "ride her through it", because she shies before she gets there when trotting. I know she is balanced enough to do it. She will turn her head and body away from the corner, and try to completely avoid it. It isn't a "spook" necessarily. She doesn't run away from it - she refuses to go into it. The few times I have gotten her through it at the trot have I praised her and ended our ride.
Someone mentioned her relaxing on the ground. I've gotten her to do that.. the licking and chewing included. She is fine at the walk UNTIL we try to trot through. She is fine with the corners in the outdoor arena.
I've been patient and worked through it with her on the ground and at a walk. I have worked on not anticipating the spook and completely relaxing. That doesn't seem to be the issue, but I have worked on that and keep it in mind while riding =)
It may help by saying that when we got her she was very nervous. She would grind her teeth, paw, kick, and bite. She is also a scaredy cat. I don't know her history at all. She is OTTB and is around eleven. She may have been a riding horse for awhile and learned to bully her rider. I do think she has issues with trust, but we are working on that =) She very rarely does any kicking, biting, or pawing anymore. Never grinds her teeth. She has improved a lot and if we could fix this I'm sure we would both be a little happier.
I don't know what else to say. Any more suggestions?
You've all given very good answers so far, so thank you =D
When you worked her on the ground did you ask her to go between you and the corner at the trot? Since that is her problem gait that's what I would do. When she trots through and gets to the other side have her disengage her hind end and face you and wait. Then allow her time to think about it, and send her through again, etc. etc. until she goes through the opening at the trot nice and relaxed.
Thank you Spirithorse, that seems like a very good idea! I will try it soon :D
You're welcome :) Good luck and keep us updated on how things go!
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