Nervous Horse: How to fix?
I was riding yesterday with a friend. It was a pretty day outside; to wind, early morning. Me and my horse were warming up in the horse pen, trotting around, when Lola suddenly jumped sideways away from a lead rope on the ground around five feet from the fence. Than, my friend's like "Does she usually do that?" And I reply:
"Yes," Than my friend asks if she can ride her, and I let her. After a minute she saids:
"I think she has a chronic case of nervous horse symdome. I would be care; horses like this can be pretty dangerous to ride." I was kinda angry, but I guess she was right. Anyone have any idea how to help my horse? I can't punish her or anything cause she isn't doing anything 'wrong.' She's just like that.
I've never heard of a disease called "nervous horse syndrome". I think it's just her character, that she is a nervous horse which needs a rider she knows and can trust who practices with her that those things are not that bad and spooky.
I would do lots of ground work with her and get her used to those "bad things". I don't know if there are specific things from which she spooks, if so - get her used to them. If not, just get her used to really many things that she'll likely come across in her everyday live (like lead ropes on the ground :) , but also things like plastic bags, cars, dogs and other animals, trailers, tractors and other farm machines, etc...)
Hope I could help you a little bit!
Ha ha, I'm pretty sure my friend made the "nervous horse symdrome" thing up. She's very strange like that. :)
I'll have to make sure to get her use to the 'killer lead rope of doom' and all the other stuff. Do you think that just walking her by it again and again and giving a treat when she doesn't spook will work?
yes, I would also start walking her by the lead rope lying on the ground or hanging on a fence. When she accepts it, have her stand next to. If she does fine with that aswell you can take it and start touching her with it in every possible spot of her body until she accepts that without moving. ... As a reward you can use treats or simply pat or stroke her favorite spot. Whatever would work best for you.
I find that the best thing for them is to continue on as usual. Ingage their mind so they are more foccussed on you. On the bit, moving forward, lots of transitions, figure eights, serpentines, shoulder in's etc. My guy can be spooky. I simply ignore his antics and continue on what we were doing and get his mind back on me.
For situations like this, I agree with Cougar. She knows what a leadrope is, she's not scared of it, she's just being spooky. If you ignore it, then she should ignore it. If she's BLATANTLY scared of something (sidestepping, blowing hard, shaking), then you should help her understand that it's not scary and work her through it. But spooking at silly things like leadropes, or blowing grass, or a jump standard, I just don't find acceptable and I ignore them. They already know what it is on the ground, they're not scared of it in a pasture, so they're being silly and trying to convince you it's going to kill them. If you show you're not scared, then they'll work through it.
She just needs alot of desensitization with anything and anything that may be laying around, or 'jump' out at her. Help her gain confidence around little things, even a lead rope that may be laying in the arena :) If she spooks at something keep riding her around in that area until she doesn't worry about it anymore. If you are afraid of her tossing you somedays, You can also desensitize on the ground, which can be safer, and you can use many different things. You can longe her over things, lead her past things, etc, without having to worry about being thrown off.
Some horses are nervous. Some are bold. Some are quiet. Some are outgoing. Just like people, they are all different.
They can also learn to deal with "scary" things in an acceptable way. Some horses may never get used to fireworks or chainsaws or construction equipment, but that doesn't mean they must run away with you on their back.
For the small stuff, such as lead ropes on the ground, I think overly involved training and de-sensitizing is over the top (a waste of time). What it sounds like your horse needs is "lot's of miles and some wet saddle blankets." :) Ride lots, work your horse and expose her to different things.
People always ask me how you get a horse like our 5 yr old mare to the point of our 15 yr go anywhere, do anything lead mare and I always tell them "10 more years of experience and a thousand more miles of riding."
As for handling specific situations, it really depends on the horse in my experience. Some horses will just want to stop, look for a minute, and easily move on, some handle monsters better by just ignoring them, some better by dismounting and spending a few minutes examining the monster up close, some will follow the lead horse anywhere, and some have lower comfort limits. The important thing, IMHO, is to 'read' the body language of your horse and recognize the difference between discomfort, just being difficult/unwilling, and being truly scared. You do not want to get into a 'fight' with a scared horse, you'll both lose.
Some horses are more sensitive than others, and their prey animal instincts are closer to the surface than other horses. Just remember that when a horse spooks at anything, HE thinks in his mind that it is worth something to spook at b/c HE preceives it as dangerous. That's how prey animals think. WE know a lead rope isn't going to hurt them, but he doesn't know that IN THAT SITUATION. You work with the horse that shows up that day. Some days your horse may be a little more jumpy than others. It really doesn't matter why, you just have to adjust your strategy to work with that horse on that particular day.
Desensitizing is a great place to start. It's not just meant to get a horse "more broke" it's meant to also help him build confidence in YOU. That way when you say "It's alright, nothin to freak out about" he will calm down and pay attention to your energy and focus.
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