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Extremely nervous horse
Jasper was my paint/Arabian gelding who I had to sell for a few reasons (mostly me not being able to pay for him). In the later months of my owning him, he got really, really nervous to the point where it made me nervous to ride him. He was fine on the ground, but as soon as I got in the saddle, he became really unsure of himself. In the indoor arena, he would spook at anything (literally), and when I tried to ride him outside, he would stop dead and not budge. I would try to get him to move forward, but I never pushed him too hard because I was afraid he would rear or something.
I know I'm a nervous rider and I wasn't helping him, but is there anything I could've done to help him get more confident?
Give him a job :wink: - he'll be too busy to spook (at least constantly).
Nervous horses are somewhat like ADHD childeren. They need order and rythm in thier lives. This horse was nervous because he didn't know what was going to happen next. Were his parents this way or was there something in his past that could have caused this? Like I said this horse needs rhythm and order in his life. If you couldn't give him that then it was a smart thing to sell. Don't be ashamed of selling him if you couldn't handle him. It's extremely normal and it happens to quite a few of your fellow horsepeople :)
Always keep his feet moving, changing direction/gait etc. If you keep him mind active, he won't have so much time to think about spooking. When he does spook, make sure you're not hanging onto his mouth. Invest in a monkey strap to hang onto if you need to. Ride him forward, don't look at what he is spooking at nor in the direction he is spooking towards. Continue to ride your line and ignore the spook. If you become tense, starting gripping with your upper legs and holding onto his mouth you will just make him worse.
While the horse may well have been genuinely nervous, and your own nervousness likely rubbed off on him too, if you had him for a while & he 'suddenly, for no reason...' started becoming more 'nervous' there may have been something that happened at some time and it can easily snowball from there. Generally agree with above advice, but *depending* why he's nervous, I disagree with 'keep him moving' etc, as that can often just make matters worse.
But I would also want to rule out saddle fit or other physical pain/discomfort first & foremost, before treating it as a purely behavioural problem - it's a very common problem, that there is a physical reason behind most 'behavioural problems'. There's also the possibility that he was magnesium deficient or such, which effects horses mentally & can make them really 'nervy'. But you said he was good on the ground, so I don't think that's likely.
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