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horsestar8100 03-31-2008 09:10 PM

Spooking to get out of work?
I am riding a gray arab gelding (former show horse and is the biggest baby), and everytime I turn up the heat, he seems to think spooking at the cows will get him out of work. He has done this so many times and he usually does it at the canter :roll: . I'm getting to the point I can pretty much get him to do a circle and make him work harder before he spooks. Last Tuesday was probably one of the better days he had, until this rain mist stuff came down, soaking everyone and everything. Luckily I saw the cow running along the fence before he did, my thought, "Oh boy, here we go again....." :roll: I shortened my left rein, spun him around, made him go the other way, reversed and made him work past the rail. This is probably the one time I really didn't go after him, because if the cow had been any other color than black, I probably wouldn't have seen him either. And all this time when he was reacting to what I was doing and saying, I gave him verbal praises. Any other time I would have gone after him for spooking, but I think this was justified, I barely say the cow as it was, I couldn't imagine what he thought it was. But on clear sunny days he seems to go, "We'll she's making me work hard, better spook and maybe I'll be put in early." So wrong. And with him when he spooks, he does it in a almost controlled fashion. He just goes along the rail and does a very extended canter. He doesn't buck, doesn't try and jump the fence or anything he just goes very fast (thankful for that. The other horse that spooked, that I fell off of, did the whole jumping up and down thing, trust me he wasn't bucking, I've sat a buck before. He was simply jumping up and down. Don't ask me how, but this horse does....) And he sees the cows every single day, his stall faces the cows pasture. I walk him past the cows. The cows don't do anything, they just lay there, and the calves may come up and see what the horses and riders are doing. But other than that, nothing. I have no other issues. I just want thoughts. I think he's trying to pull my chain.....

horse I'm talkin' about

Spirithorse 03-31-2008 09:47 PM

Horses do not spook to get out of work. Period. Spooking is an instinctual act of preservation and when the horse spooks he thinks he's gonna die. That's how prey animals think, that's how they live, and it's how they are programed to survive.

Kadiel 04-01-2008 03:14 AM

I agree with the above post.

'Spooking is an instinctual act of preservation...'

But there are also some very intelligent horses about there. It is possible he has realized the connection between spooking and work.

I have to ask if he spooks at something other than a cow does he react in the same way?

If he reacts the same I would think he is just being a horse and is generally spooking. If h reacts some what differently I might guess he's just playing up and not spooking.

But all that said I think he might just be generally scared of them while you’re on him for some reason.

Hope that helps.

arastangrider 04-01-2008 04:23 AM

whenever my horse gets bored he starts spooking at stuff usally he does it at the walk though like it's an excuse to move fast without getting into trouble

daroczy 04-01-2008 04:32 AM

I agree with Kadiel, I think your horse is just playing. He just wants to run with the cows, it's the spirit of the horde.

Can you stop him after spooking? How much time does it takes? How long does he run? And what do you do exactly
1. when you see the cow running towards you and you try to prevent the spooking

2. when he has spooked and you are on his back?

Do you ride together with other horses? Does this gelding the same when another horse is gallopping towards him?

jazzyrider 04-01-2008 09:57 AM

to elaborate a little more on what spirithorse said: i wouldnt say its a case of trying to get out of work.

as said, horses are prey animals and spooking is a self preservation method. their eyesight and hearing is adapted so that they will both see and hear any possible predator threats. they will on many occasions spook at things they can see or hear but we cannot. there may well be something there that upsets him but is only a "threat" or visible to him from where you ride. thats why its a good idea to find what it is and work him through learning that the scary tree/bush/light pole or whatever, is not a monster and will not eat him :)

upnover 04-01-2008 10:50 AM


Originally Posted by Spirithorse
Horses do not spook to get out of work. Period. Spooking is an instinctual act of preservation and when the horse spooks he thinks he's gonna die. That's how prey animals think, that's how they live, and it's how they are programed to survive.

I would have to disagree with spirithorse on this one. Yes, that is why they spook, but I don't think that's always the case. Haven't you ever seen horses playing around in the pasture? they'll run around, buck, and shy at things for fun. And I've known a couple of horses that spook to get out of work. In 2 cases it was because their owner would be riding, the horse would spook, the rider would get off. Sometimes they'd lunge, sometimes they wouldn't. Horses learn very quickly how to get out of work! Another mare would spook when she was bored. She was a highly intelligant horse that needs a lot of variety and unless you keep her challenged she would spook. I don't know if that's what's happening with your horse. I don't know him and I've never seen him go, but don't rule it out! I'm glad that you're keeping him working. If he's spooking to get out of work, that's the best thing for it. Try to give him a lot of variety to so he has to be thinking about other things. Also make sure that you aren't being tense with your body in case he is legitimately afraid.

horsestar8100 04-01-2008 05:08 PM

To answer daroczy, I do stop him from spooking (my instructor has never had to step in and help me when he's been spooking), I try and nip it in the bud before he can completely spook, if I can't I usually try and stop him in a few strides, However if an area isn't safe (mud or puddles with the possiblility of slipping), I look for an area that I can stop him. I generally get him stopped (weather is now clearing up, and the arena isn't as gooy), in 10 -15 seconds. The only time the cows run, was that one time last tuesday. If it's a nice, bright, sunny day, their usually laying down and crewing their cude. And even if they do come to the fence, they walk up, and it's usually the calves that come up. After they get older, they really don't come to the fence. And yes he spooks when I'm riding him, he has yet to spook when I'm leading to him. And the way that this property is set up, other horses can't gallop towards him, and even if one did appear at the other fence line, it would just be one horse, and he's been stabled next to the horse for a long time, and I to happen to know this horse very well, and he to is old. I take private lessons, mainly to have the instructors undivided attention on me, to work with me and any issues that come up, rather than have three or four other horses share the same arena.

Kadiel he isn't scared of them. He sees them every single day, because his stall faces the cows pasture. If he was scared of them, he wouldn't be weaving (remember formal show horse, and he really was valuable, so they couldn't let him out of his stall could they :roll: ), or have his head out the door alseep. I've even walked with him passed the cows when he's been all tacked up, and he just seems to give me a 'Okay why are we over here looking at the cows?' He's relaxed as can be and enjoys being ridden, he'll have drool in the corners of his mouth, not nearly as much as the mare that I ride, but shows he's willing. If he was scared of the cows, he'd resist me, or get all tense, or try and take off, but he follows me, looks, and stays relaxed.

Spirithorse I agree with you on the whole self preservation thing, but I have seen horses that will do things to get out of being handled or worked with. The place I used to volunteer my time at, had a horse, he was a Qtr horse, and had thrown his owner (a 15 yr old girl), and after that she was terrified of him. He soon became agressive, because he knew he could push her around. The dad of the girl had put him into training, hoping this would curve his bad behavior. Thing was, if you let this horse now, than and there, you weren't going to tolerate any S**t from him, he was perfectly fine. He just acted that way when he knew people weren't going to stand their ground. He was smart, and he figured out that if he bullied his owner, she wouldn't touch him. Needless to say, he got sold to an intermidiate person for, if I remember correctly, something like $2,400, he was fine other wise. You just had to let him know, you were the boss, than he was perfectly fine.

jazzyrider, nothing bugs him, not the wind, the rain mist stuff that came down last tuesday, even if something did bug him, and he spooked, we'd turn that negative into a positive (such as stopping for him to take a breather in that spot, or at the end of the lesson, to dismount, and walk to get his lead rope). And if he did show overly concern at something, depending on what it was (I can tell from the way his ears are, and the position they take if he thinks its going to eat him or if it's a concern and he'll watch it.) If, by his ears and the way he feels that it will eat him or if he's looking into the other pastures, I'll stop him and just let him look. Than after he realizes that it isn't going to lunge at him, he'll go back to work. If he shows any conern, it's usually in the first 5-10 minutes before the lesson starts, after that I raise an eyebrow, unless it's a cow or his girl friend he can see (yes he's a gelding, but he's convinced he's in love with a white arab mare that I also ride).

I would also like to point out that I have his undivided attention throughout the lesson, unless he decides to spook. I also do different things, like transitions, weaving through the cones, going over ground polls etc. I'm going to see if he's better today, he was doing so well last tuesday, showing no concern for anything or being fussy, but when the rainy mist stuff came, well that went down the tubes...... I really enjoy riding him, his gaits are smooth and rolling and the only thing you have to do is give encouragement to keep him going, or else he dies. I'd also like to point out he is smart, a couple of times when I want him to canter, I give the correct aids, a kiss, and a slight tap on the flanks with the excess of the split reins (their knotted together), and he'll only trot faster. One time he did this, I'm passive aggressive, constantly turning up the heat and giving the horse plenty of chances to do what I ask, one time he just made me mad, and I nailed him with the ends of the reins, he knew I was serious after that. It's easier to get him to canter from the walk, not the trot (he may just trot faster and do a very extended trot, he can book it if you make him). He'll also pull stunts like being heavy on one side (last tuesday we were doing CHA levels, and he was being a butt, and was leaning heavily to the left, I was trying for him to get off my left leg, he wouldn't, it wasn't until my instructor came over, and jabbed him a few good ones in his side, did he give and strighten himself). I just think that him spooking is just him testing the waters, to see how far I'll let him go and for how long..... Again, I'll have to see how he is today..... I hope it was like last tuesday, until the rainy misty stuff came..... I wish I had a pic of that, you couldn't see the cow barn and it ony had to be what? 50ft away +/-. It was horrible, and than after that I got sick for a day...... Have any questions and I'll try and answer them the best I can.

Bitless 04-01-2008 06:29 PM

I must agree with Spirit Horse onthis, Horses dont spook to get out of work.

In 2 cases it was because their owner would be riding, the horse would spook, the rider would get off.
The reason they would spook when being ridden is because they have been taught to not that they purely didnt want to work. The owners in those senarios taught the horse to spook when being ridden by getting off. Horses learn these things purely because of our owners constant mistakes, the horse therfor isnt the problem its the rider/owner. As in alomt all 'problem' horses.

Purhaps the reason your horse doesnt spook when your leading him is because you are there right beside him, therefor he is more comforted. The same as why he doesnt spook when in his stall, he feels safer there, same as if you are by his side. When you are riding he possible will be feeling more like he has to rely on his own instincts.

Now i have a spooky horse he used to be really bad, and snort and shy at every thing, spin around and try and take off in the opposite direction as fast as he could( sometimes poping in a buck or 2 ). I found the best thing that worked in getting him over this was to actualy ignor the shy that he did. If we rode past somthing and he shyed i didnt look at whatever it was scaring him and i just kept asing him forward, keeping things as normal as possible, and trying not to react at all to his fear or to what was scaring him. Once past whatever it was, even it it took a little while, he would get praised, but only once he wasnt nurvos any more. As you have to becarefull not to praise the nurvous behaviour.
It worked extremely well for him to the point my 8yr old cousin could ride him down the beach, troting and a little canter no lead ( me watching tho of course. ) I even took him out yesteday after 5months of no riding at all and he was great!

So basicly dont acknowlege what they are afraid of and dont react to them shying. Let them feed off your reaction. If the horse spooks when your walking and runs forward, just calmly bring him back to a walk and carry on like nothing happened. If you dont react they will see no reason to either. You are the leader so they should be following your example. By reacting to there fear you are only going to further upset or confuse them.

Its like when you take an experienced horse out with a young or green one. Its because the experienced one wont react and is comfortable with its surroundings there for is the example for the youger one, thats what you need to be.

Hope that helps. Just speaking from my experience.

funnygal 04-01-2008 08:01 PM

From reading your initial post, I am still having a hard time figuring out if he is really spooking, or if that is perhaps the wrong word? It sounds to me more that he is a really, really smart horse and tries this as a tactic to get out of work.

My gelding is super quiet, calm, bombproof...but to get out of work will test me with tactics like cantering me too close to the fence, cantering me to the gate and then stopping, speeding up. It's not spooking, it's pretty intelligent tactics in the hopes I'll slow down or stop (which I did as a beginner, but don't anymore! :twisted: )

The cows don't seem to bother him otherwise.?? Maybe you can elaborate on exactly why you think it's "spooking"...does he just "lose it?" or act frightened or spooked?

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