Brave but spooky horse
My horse is...strange. She is quite young and somewhat green, and so when we're out riding, almost everything will attract her attention and get her worried. Some things more than others. The thing is, she is very brave about her fear. She will start getting worried and scared and worked up, but she almost never refuses to go near it and she does not lose her head with fright.
My trainer has been working with me on this. She told me to not look at what the horse is scared of, always keep my eyes up. She also told me to not let the horse look at what she's worried about. I can handle my horse's worries when I'm with the trainer, but when I'm by myself, she seems to do it differently than she did at the trainer's and as a result, I'm not really sure what to do.
She naturally bulges away from what really worries her, as I think most horses will, and the trainer told me to just keep riding and try to keep her straight. But it seems like at home, my horse will lock onto something and even when I pull her face away from it and try to stop her looking at it, her ears are still pointing at it and her neck is sort of bent; she's not truly bending away from it.
I'm just a little confused; I don't know what to do. I'm frustrated with myself.
Your answer is in your post. You say you turn her neck away from the obstacle. You need to turn her whole body. Do you know shoulder-in? That would probably work best in your situation.
Im a little confused. Does she spook or just fidget and does she get over being afraid of something or continually spook at the same things?
I was always taught that when a horse is nervous of something you make them confront it. How else are they supposed to gain confidence with something and overcome their fear if they can't investigate? That's how horse's learn. It's not just enough to distract her, she has to be comfortable.
Also, it doesn't hurt for you to look at things, just don't tense up or worry about it. If you see something she might be/is afraid of just picture it as a piece of grass in your mind - nothing to be afraid of - let her have a good look and approach it if she wants to.
If she is just messing around with you, which some horses will do, then push her on with your legs, voice and be firm. If you're unsure or not firm in your signals your horse could mistake it for nervousness or worry on your part which in turn could cause her to become more worried herself.
exposure. ride her too it, ride her over/through/under/around it, then ride her away from it.
Some trainers believe you keep your horse facing the scary object, others 100% disagree and say they shouldn't even look at the scary object. As far as mine are concerned, I want them moving forward, pretty much at the same pace (not slacking, not rushing) and I don't care if they turn their head to look but I don't let them turn their head away as if to flee. I also say, "it's okay" in a certain slow, low voice so they get used to that being exactly what it's intended for, to comfort them. If they get dancy prancy going past the scary thing, I do side passes, shoulder in or haunches in (and switch) so that they are moving past the object, with a slight curve in their body, and responsive to my aids. Then we do it again until they're calm and walk past straight.
A couple of tips that might help you - always ride with a little flex in the neck so that you can see one eye - that will make it easier for you to stay in control if the horse decides to bolt. In other words, don't ride a perfectly straight line, do some gently curved S's to keep the horse's attention on you.
Secondly, work on trust - imagine that your confidence is oozing through your breaths down into your seat and through the saddle into the horse. Believe that the horse can feel your confidence - because it can. Fake it until you make it! Pretty soon you'll realize that this isn't a problem anymore!
From what I can tell, your mare sounds a lot like my younger one. Willing and brave, but just doesn't have the experience.
The thing that I have found helps is to keep her busy. She likes to think and she likes to know that someone else is always in charge. She's a type of horse that doesn't do well when you play into her fear and let her stop and look (she just thinks that means there is something to be scared of), so whenever we get in a really "scary" situation, I ignore her and give her something to do. Randomly, just make her turn this way, turn that way, stop, turn this way again, leg yield over her, circle here, I don't care what you're thinking but you're going to do what I tell you, bend a little, circle again...etc.
I have also found that getting in her mouth and 'pulling' her around doesn't do a whole lot. It helps when we're passing directly by something that she wants to look at, but if we're approaching it on an angle or somewhat directly, it seems that if you pull on her mouth, it just gets her more worked up and more nervous. She responds so much better to gentle leg bumps and slight tugs on the reins as opposed to pulling her entire head.
And I somewhat agree with lilruffian-it's ok to look at the scary object, but don't you "lock onto it" or tense up. The horse always knows what you're looking at and how you're feeling about what you're looking at; don't give her a reason to think that you're worried about anything.
Good luck, I know how frustrating it can be. Just keep riding and perservere. You can do it.
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