New Gelding thinks everything is out to get him
I purchased a new gelding in June, he is approx. 7-8 yrs old 15h QH gelding... I am a bit unsure of his past other than he was lightly introduced to barrels, did some arena work and trails...
He seems to be scared of every darn thing...he rides with his head high and seems to be on the lookout for any and everything that's going to just up and jump out and get him.. usually he just quickly puts the breaks on and head up...alert like and snorts...but sometimes he will sort of jump off to the side snorting .... but has never bucked, bolted, or reared .... he is afraid of water, wind, wind blowing the trees LOL , leaves blowing around... any funky lookin trees in the woods...etc.... I was in a bad accident years ago riding a horse...in which I was almost killed, I had to have my bottom lip reattached and reconstructive surgery on my face... but was determined to get back in the saddle...so I'm just now getting back into riding..and trying to build my confidence back.....and I know that's not helping the situation any... Im wondering if he and I are just not a good match as he is so green / inexperienced...and I'm needing to regain confidence... I wonder if I don't need an older more seasoned trail mount .....but not ready to give up on us just yet..... any advice is much appreciated....I have been working to desensitize him to things...but not having much luck yet.
I feel that this horse is one you have to completely win the respect of, which will be challenging.
My boy was the same, except instead of spooking he'd bolt off at a dead gallop or insane discombobulated trot that I had fun keeping up with.
Keep his focus on you. He's only scared because he's not sure he can trust you yet.
If you aren't comfortable with that, maybe it's best to find a more seasoned horse, but even then if you don't keep their focus they can also escalate like this.
I knew a horse like that he was "afraid of life"as someone put it. Now he's fine! doesn't spook more than the average horse and has even had his rider fire a gun from his back without flinching! so there is hope you just gotta work at it! sadly he was sold to someone who had the time to help him get over his (irrational) fears so I'm not sure how he got to the point of not minding a loud bang from above his head from sniffing papers and spooking when his breath moved them but my guess it involved a ton of patience.
I think of it as the horse is having too much time to look at things. And I have a couple of horses who act like that as play, so I tend to treat it all as a game. I send them out quick, trot, trot, trot and more trot. Up hills over obstacles, through gates, across meadows, you name it. We go long and we go hard. They don't get to walk and look around until they've tired themselves out enough to be relaxed. With my Arabians that can take several hours. With the QH? Not nearly so much. Pretty soon, they get the picture that if they want to spook and act scared they get to work. If they want to be sensible, they get to walk and relax.
Do you any ground work with this horse? Get his respect on the ground, then start desensitizing to anything that you can think of. Then I would ride him in a controlled area until he understands that you are the boss. I like setting obstacles up in the arena to ride through. If you want to trail ride now, probably need a different horse
yes I do...he is great on the ground..has great ground manners...respects my space ...he often comes to me when something scares him almost like looking for reassurance...and when he does spook under saddle I give him a little reassurance let him take a good look at what is spooking him ..it doesn't take too long to get him to continue on ...occasionally he will stop and try to turn around on certain parts of my property but I make him trot circles a bit then try to head out again and usually that fixes that problem....
Is that him in your avatar???? Beautiful.
Gaining confidence on a challenging horse will be work, but I would not necessarily try to discourage you as long as you are not dealing with more dangerous activities (bucking, rearing, etc.). It sounds like he needs a lot of confidence too.
There is an excellent post (a sticky) on training the trail horse.
Do you have someone to ride with? Maybe an experienced buddy might help him, plus give you a sense of safety. And if you are tense and nervous he will pick up on that. If you have trails close I would not hesitate to go for walks with him.
Good luck to you both.
I have a "Confidence Course" I built (everything is either stuff I had, stuff found, or great things at Dollar Stores) to help a horse gain confidence and desensitizing.
I have 5-8 obstacles and I'm always changing things around to keep things fresh and to ask the horse new questions. I start with an easy obstacles gradually build up to tougher, then end with the last 2 being easy. I use a flat halter and normal lead, my OTTBs may get a chain over the nose (wrapped in vet wrap or latex), and a driving whip (only 15 at bigdweb.com) The whip is only to help with keeping the hindend from drifting and for gentle encouragement.
1) 4-5 poles on the ground to walk over - This is easy and it just start to bring their attentionon to you
2) 5 poles set up in a star pattern - This gets the horse learning to bend in a circle and to know where their feet is. Use the driving whip to help encourage the hindend from swinging out. Don't expect perfection first few times, they got to stretch those muscles.
3) The Dreaded Pool Noodles - I start with these laying on the ground for them to step over, then we stand them up (I use small stakes and slip the noodles over those) and the horse has to walk through/around/by them. Eventually they will weave a pattern and have the noodles touch them etc.
4) Flags - (I get these from car lots) and I set up an alley for them to walk through.
5) Plywood - The horse walks over the plywood, sound and feel is like a bridge so helps a lot with trail horses and driving horses.
6) Blue Tarp of Death - Again start them walking by it, then on it, then eventually let them pull/drag it and our goal is for the tarp to touch the horse.
7) I like to end with the same poles on the ground they start with so they know they can end on a good note.
I'm always finding unique things to make things interesting (or annoy the horses) to challenge them with. I've never spent much money on anything so you don't have to invest more than a driving whip (They are longer so you don't have to change your body position to reach the hindend).
yes, that is him in the picture...his name is Jet ...he is a gorgeous boy for sure!!!.. thank you all for your advice and suggestions.
He's likely picking up on your nerves when you're in the saddle so can't recognize you as a leader he can trust to keep him safe once he moves out of his comfort zone
Can you find someone with a really solid horse to ride out with you for a while?
Be careful when he spooks and you reassure him that you're not actually confirming to him that there was something very scary - I often find it best to ignore the spooking altogether, not make a big deal of it and just keep pushing on like it never happened.
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