So I've read about de-spooking horses and sacking out and all that jazz, but all the methods I read of seem to be for really young horses.
I own a 12 year old chicken.
He has a ton of potential, can ride like a dream, smooth gates, can jump.
But he's SO spooky.
He spooks at any sort of suddenness, unlike a lot of horses I see being ridden at my barn, when someone walks by the open door of the arena they are completely unphased, my horse jumps twenty feet off the rail in a panic!
The door creaks a little and he flys off the rail, there's a side door in the arena with a glass window that offers a glimpse of the outside world, he'll spook at anything he see's through that.
And it is somewhat frustrating because I watch everyone else ride there horse on a breezy day with a creaky door, and they're perfectly calm, even the new schooling horse at the barn was calm the other day when it was very windy, and my horse is the only horse in the ring that's darting off the rail 'cause of a tiny noise he hears.
And when he's outside he's worse to, there's bushes all along one side of the small outdoor ring, heaven forbid a car pulls in near the bushes, a bird fly's out of the tree, or a spectator walks by, he freaks! There's another, random pine tree at the opposite corner of the outdoor ring, heaven forbid he see's something in his peripherals as he passes it!
I won't even ride him in the lower outdoor ring near the woods, he's a spooky jolting mess. Because it's near the woods, If someones practicing cross country in the woods and he hears/see's a glimpse of them through the leaves he'll spook, if the tree's rustle from the wind, he'll bolt, and the shrubs planted along side the ring are terrifying to him.
On the trails he spooks at the rustling of leaves, crunching of twings, other horses on the trails, woodland critters, farm machinery ect. And in the woods it is dangerous, because he'll bolt and buck when something spooks him.
I keep him at an eventing stables where I've evented through beginner novice on much quieter horses, and my trainers give me a lot of pressure to compete him, even in just dressage (because due to his tenseness, I don't feel he is ready for the jumpers ring, and he's definitely not ready from the cross country fields as his nerves have caused him to buck me off and bolt due to a spook) but even jut dressage, it would either be outside, in the ring by the woods were horses participating in cross country would drive him nuts, or inside, where the big open ring door would expose him to all the calamity of the rest of the show and cause him to spook. The warm up ring would be a disaster because all the trailers driving by the shrubs to park in the field would freak him out.
I try making him look to the inside and grab his attention, and it works, I can make him look completely to the inside and give me his full attention but he'll STILL spook.
He is also on calming supplements, and he still gets tense on them but he's only been on them for a week so I wasn't expecting much progress this quick.
I ride him completely calm, as to not contribute to his nerves, but he still gets tense and spooky.
What can I do? He's got a lot of potential he's just a such a chicken!
Check his eyesight!! And I would also get a vet out to do a soundness exam on him.
Often horses who are so spooky have some issues beyond confidence. Even a horse who isn't confident, shouldn't spook that much.
Where is he in the pecking order? Does he come in covered in bites and marks and wrecked blankets?
If he is very low in the pecking order, then he needs you to be in charge, but softly in a confident way. You need to show him with your body language and aids that he should not be so worried all the time.
If he is high in the pecking order, then he is just playing with you and you need to be firmer in your training to re-enforce that you are the boss.
Either way, I would get a vet out. Whenever anything goes wrong, our first inclination should be that the horse is not trying to be bad, horses want to please us, so there has to be something that is making them hurt which is causing the misbehavior.
The same things that work for young horses will work for older horses. It may take longer, but done correctly, they will work.
He got vet checked recently, it was just a check up but she said everything was in check, didn't see anything wrong with him. I'm assuming they would check his eyes in a check up or no? I didn't think it could be his eyes, so wouldn't have though to ask the vet to thoroughly check.
He goes out with one other horse and they don't look like they get in each others way at all they kind of mind there own business and he never has bite marks, he used to go out in the pasture with them but he'd come in sore and limpy and we thought he was playing to hard in the pasture so that's why we put him in a paddock with one other horse.
I do try to establish my firmness in making him pay attention to me but it doesn't work.
And again about his eye sight, another reason I wouldn't suspect it to be his eyesight is because some of the things he see's that scare him, baffle me.
Honestly, give the sacking out a try. Foals and greenies have the exact same capacity to learn the same way as schoolmasters and seasoned saddle horses.
My first horse was almost exactly like what you have described: a complete sweetheart, a dream to ride, with a good head on his shoulders, but very nervous. Riding on windy days was always fun. One day he spooked big because literally a couple of hundred yards away my dad popped the top on a can of soda. I used a lot of Clinton Anderson's Desensitizing exercises, and a lot of the traditional sacking out exercises, and it really helped my horse a lot. I've heard good things about this book as well: http://www.amazon.com/Bombproof-Your-Horse-Confident-Encounter/dp/1570762600/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262287577&sr=8-1
You might try adjusting his feed. Sometimes if they're hopped up on grain it can bubble over as spookiness. Also, if it's that serious, it might be a good idea to get his eyes/ears checked. If he's having trouble seeing or hearing, that can obviously make him more nervous.
Other than that, the best advice I can give is to just expose him to lots of situations. Take him out on the XC course for a relaxing (or, as relaxing as he'll let it be) hack. Or, walk him around the bushes and trees he's not sure about. If you can, let him have his turnout in one of the spookier arenas. When he starts feeling tense, like the hammer is coming back, put him to work, move his feet. I'll even talk to the horse sort of like "If you have enough energy to spook and look around, you can pay attention to me and work a little." I'll put them into a forward trot on a fairly small circle, and do lots of loops and changes of direction. More times than not that gets their attention and they forget whatever was scary.
EDIT: Wow! Lots of faster posters than me!! Ha ha.
What did the vet do in the vet check? Did you get flexion tests? Did she actually examine the eyes? Or just looked at the horse and said "Yeah he looks good".
To me, it sounds like from his previous history that he has soundness issues that I would get thoroughly checked out by a vet via flexion tests. I would also get a full eye exam because poor eyesight is what may have caused his lameness in the first place (bumping into things).
It sounds like he is not low or high in the pack, which still leads me to suspect eye or lameness issues or both.
Of course if the horse is going blind the things he spooks at are going to baffle you. The horse is not seeing normally, he is not viewing things like you or another horse.
I used to ride a mare with eyesight issues. There was a fence perpendicular to the arena outside and she did not like to go past it, I think because in her limited vision it looked like the arena ended there, though it still went another 50 feet. She also spooked at things blowing, shadows and things that moved sharply or quickly.
I'll have it checked out (I have no idea what they did during the standard check up I was not there, she came during the day while I was at work)
As stated above in the other posts ^^, sacking out is for any horse, whether it seems it's more meant for foals or not. It's always best to start out really small on any horse than work up bigger. Seeing as how your horse seems to be extremely spooky, you should start off with something that seems like it's meant for foals, you will get farther that way. I love desensitizing horses, if you were close to me, I'd be more than delighted to help. In case you didn't know, when you are desensitizing them and they start jumping around, don't take the "scary object" away from them until they completely stop moving, than take it away right away and praise sooooo much! Good luck with everything.
I rode him today, a fairly windy day and he was riding perfectly until out of the blew a gust hit the arena door particularly hard, and he jolted off the rail, I slid, scaring him more, and inducing him to run. I landed on my wrist, a great improvement from landing on my head but it killls..
I know he wasn't trying to be bad the wind really picked up at that moment and scared him, but it's not fun to fall.
My mom wonders if we should increase his dosing of his vitamin B calming supplements.
Would this be beneficial? So far he is getting one smartpak of vitamin b in his evening grain, and my mom is thinking it should be two. Would this help our situation at all? He doesn't usually spook to the point where I fall, and he was riding perfectly till the wind hit the door. And me falling scared him more (he really does trust me, and me falling probably told him that there really was a reason to be afraid.
So as I type with one hand, would increasing his supplement help?
Make sure his feed is very low in complex carbs and sugars and high in fat. Excess carbs can make certain horses hot. Take him off any alfalfa, and feed only grass hay.
Those calming supplements don't really work. I've had an extremely hot, spooky mare and they did nothing but add to my monthly expense list.
Try to find the problem instead of just finding the solution. Once you know whats wrong, finding the correct solution is much easier. It's either a pain issue a management and training issue or an attitude/personality issue. I'd rule them out in that order.
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