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MuleWrangler 12-15-2009 09:38 AM

Gelding skittish when riding alone
I have an 11-year-old Ky. Mountain gelding on a week trial period and am very interested in completing the sale--he's in excellent shape, very good conformation and handled extremely well on the ground and in trail groups (plus has a nice gait, which is great for my back!). The vet check was yesterday and was very positive--the vet was slightly surprised at how good this horse is.

The only issue is he is very skittish when riding by himself. The previous owners said he was the wife's horse, and only really ridden as a follower on trail rides. He startles very easily, and is constantly hyper-alert to anything around him. He doesn't normally bolt, only stops dead or jumps straight up.

Yesterday we had a wild ride as some ducks exploded off a pond near our path. He did bolt that time--about 5 to 6 strides forward, very fast, but was easy to get back under control. I took him back by that area several times after that, and while he was antsy the first time, he calmed down and was much better the second through fourth times.

In your experience, is this behavior something that can be worked out over time, with desensitization techniques? The PO said he gets better as he becomes familiar with an area, and felt he could be worked through the issue. I love to just go out and poke around the neighborhood as well as go on trail rides, so I need him to be better for those alone rides. I trust the PO's information, so don't think the horse is really screwed up, just has not had that experience. What do you think?

letsgetserious 12-15-2009 10:31 AM

My horse used to do the exaaact same thing. All I did was keep riding him out alone and just went on interesting trails so eventually he learned that going out by himself is still fun. Now he loves going out alone, my other horse that is left in the pasture will whinny for him constantly when we are leaving and Bird won't even look back! He's just too excited for the ride.
I've even ridden him downtown and he doesn't spook at all. I think it will just take some time and he will get used to it, keep going at it!

iridehorses 12-15-2009 10:47 AM

Welcome to the forum!

You didn't say how old he is which can make a difference but overall, it is something that can be worked out. I've had many horses that come through that started out like that but end up as good solid trail horses.

The fact that he is not overreacting is a very good sign. If all else is good with him then I would be tempted to keep him and train that out of him. He needs to see you as someone he can trust. Desensitizing him is the way to go.

One of the best horses I've owned in quite a while, Hollywood, is a little spooky but in the 3 months that I've had him he has come a long way. Now we have no problem whatsoever going out alone. He gets a little rattled by flying bags or oddities but he's perfect on the trail.

5cuetrain 12-15-2009 10:50 AM

Some horses are leaders and some are followers. He sounds like a follower and from what you say he is very comfortable following other horses. He will be comfortable with you as the leader if you prove to him that you are worthy of his trust.

Keep him thinking about you--control his feet at all times and he will come around. Practice one rein stops in the arena and out think him. Ask for a one rein stop BEFORE he chooses to bolt--there is alway a short instant from the time the event happens and the choice--you can get him out of the wrong choice if you present another choice that he is comfortable with before he chooses.

Become a good leader and it sounds like you have found a good horse.

SmoothTrails 12-15-2009 11:45 AM

I think if you keep him and add more miles together you could work through it. You're riding him with no real solid relationship and he's not really overreacting. To me, I would be very happy with that. He will settle in with you the more you ride him, so I would take that he only does that as a good sign.

Good luck.

Smarby 12-15-2009 11:53 AM

My pony can be very skittish when in a new and unfamiliar area. It's all a matter of time of getting them used to it. When i first got him he was very, very spooky being hacked out. Over time he has got used to his surroundings and is much better. He'll start to build up trust in you and that will help. Take him out and about, to lots of new places, Take it slowly and over time his confidence will build and he'll become more confident and less spooky in his surroundings.

Luv 2 Trail 12-15-2009 12:10 PM

:-)You have gotten some great advice - I also believe he will settle in time. Sounds like he is smart and doesn't overreact - I think he is listening to you - I would give him a chance. Best of luck!

GoldRush 12-15-2009 12:11 PM

Sounds like my qh, Sunny. He had been an 'only horse', but when I rescued him, I had him at my sister's place while I was getting my place fenced (Yep, buy the horse, THEN fence the pasture! You should see how I bought my house! LOL) He got attached to the mares ("What? You mean they make GIRL horses?") and had a best friend in the other gelding. When we took him out, he would stick really close to the alpha mare on the trail, crowding out all the other riders.
I brought him home, and rode trail solo, which was fine, but certain areas would cause the same reaction...dead stop, refusal to go forward, etc. He wouldn't bolt, but he would plain refuse to go any farther. At first, I would urge him a few times, but think maybe he senses something I can't see, and turn back. Of course, he would take that as permission to always refuse! I had to really urge him, and be firm, until one day a month ago, he did his usual refusal, and really dug in. I gave him a hard leg (whoomp!) and he actually threw me off, and took off! Later, I found out that a bear had taken up residence in the area, so Sunny had a good reason to balk, but he sure did get in trouble when I caught up with him! LOL
Anyway, long story long, with persistance, he learned (sort of) to be a good only trail horse, as long as we listen to each other!

MuleWrangler 12-15-2009 12:56 PM

Thank you all so much for the great info and thoughts! He is 11 years old, and the PO bred and raised him, so he was with them all his life except for the last three weeks or so he was with the trader. (They are still nearby in case I need to consult with them on stuff.) I am sure he'll come around with time, so I think I will go ahead and keep him permanently (I will wait out the rest of the week, just in case, but don't think anything else will be an issue).

I'll post a picture here in a little bit. The bonus on top of his good self is he is gorgeous!

SmoothTrails 12-15-2009 12:57 PM

yay pictures :) Good luck with him.

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