Gelding's strange spooks - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 12-03-2012, 11:00 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Resaca, Georgia
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Gelding's strange spooks

We have a Spotted Saddle horse gelding that has a small... no a large spooking problem. He is a wonderful horse in so many ways, but hubby is getting tired of his occasional spooks.... Let me explain a little.

When we ride and he is in front on the trail he is hyper alert for things that are going to get him. Naturally when he is behind his head comes down and his alert level also drops to almost zero.. but when he is in front and going down the trail he is looking for anything that might get him.

He will see logs that look funny to him or a culvert sticking out, or a old tire thrown down in the woods. The other day there was some TV's that someone had dumped in the woods and you would have thought these were bears coming to get him.

When this horse spooks he sometimes will stop and whirl but usually he stops and starts backing up. Hubby has tried to turn him instead letting him back, that won't work. Hubby has tried to let him stop, relax and then go forward, he has tried turning him a different direction and then trying to go again in the direction we want to go, he has used spurs on him to force him forward. At first we thought he might not "see" too well because he spooks at crazy stuff the other horses hardly look twice at.. but I actually think he can see just fine.. he just has a loose screw sometimes..

Where we ride, it is not good to have a horse that starts backing and won't stop..

My question... does anyone have a good "fix" to this problem.. Hubby is planning to sell this horse if he can't stop the backing spook... he has other qualities that are great and he really doesn't want to sell. BUT... at the same time hubby doesn't want to get hurt on this horse. We are not young folks anymore and don't have YOUNG bones!! haha!



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post #2 of 13 Old 12-03-2012, 11:08 AM
Green Broke
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Biscuit would throw it into reverse in a flash. Such an annoying behavior! I did a Bombproof clinic with him and it has helped quiet a bit. I also have started using a crop when he starts backing up to pop him on the backside to urge him forward. Biscuit will startle and look more at a log on the ground than anything else.

Biscuit doesn't whirl around though. The Bombproof clinic took us over all kinds of stuff. I have pictures of all the stuff we went over on my blog. It was an interesting clinic and I would suggest it to anyone who was having issues with their horse.

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post #3 of 13 Old 12-03-2012, 11:20 AM
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What about doing lots of groundwork to establish yourselves as leader so be fusses less?
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post #4 of 13 Old 12-03-2012, 11:25 AM
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First of all, make sure your husband isn't staring down things that might spook his horse. Believe it or not, your horse can see where you are looking. If you start staring at something, your horse will notice and start staring at it too as there must be a reason you are staring at it. Once that idea enters their minds they are a short step from spooking. Keep eyes looking down the trail into the distance like you have no concern in the world.

That brings up another point, relax. If you tense up because your horse might spook at something you've spotted your horse will sense that. As above, if you tense up your horse will think there's a good reason and prepares to spook. So relax like you have no concern in the world. That doesn't mean don't prepare yourself for a spook, it means don't transmit the preparedness to your horse.

Now you have to get your horse to actually stop spooking and trust your lead. I know many people say to stop your horse and let them take in the situation when nervous. I've found that you'll just make a spookier horse doing that. What I do is sense when they start getting nervous. Before it gets to the refusal stage, I'll hop off my horse and lead them back and forth past the object they don't like without stopping. I do this until they obviously relax then take them back to the starting point, hop on their back and ride them by that spooky thing. If they balk, I do it again. It'll make for a slow couple of rides but they quickly start realizing they can trust you.

In conjunction with the above, learn to read and distract your horse. Just as soon as they start eyeballing an object, ask them to do something. I generally just cluck at mine and tap them with my heel. This is my normal signal to get going and so tells my horse there's nothing to see here, move on because it's time to work. Just find something similar that works for you and your horse.

EDIT: I don't know your husbands history but selling this gelding may not be the solution. Why? Because if he's the problem then changing horses wont help. All it will do is give him another horse to turn into a spook monster. I've seen people turn a completely bomb proof horse into a spook monster in as little as 6 months of riding and it's all their fault.
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Last edited by Darrin; 12-03-2012 at 11:32 AM.
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post #5 of 13 Old 12-03-2012, 11:47 AM
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My arab was like this when I first got him... and it got him into serious trouble when we started trail riding. 10 years ago, we were headed over a narrow bridge with no rails over a ditch. He got halfway over it then decided to back up. He backed off the side (I bailed) and then he tried to jump out. He tore himself up pretty badly. Luckily we were with a group and the fastest rider raced back to house to call vet while I handwalked him back the 2.5 miles, dripping blood down his legs.

Anyway, I went to a trainer about it. He replied cryptically, how is his trailer loading. Well, we worked on that until I could sit on my trailer fender and send him into the trailer, but still he would be predictably unpredictable on the trail. However, from the trailer loading sessions, I learned when to press him and when to back off and overall it got better.

On the trails, if I could let him back up until he'd stand still and relax, then that is what I'd do. If this was not an option, I started hopping off and handwalking him through trouble spots. And he got really good with this. Eventually (and I mean after a few years of riding trails like this) the problem dissolved. While he never became a poke-along bombproof horse, I knew that no matter what obstacles a new trail may present, we would get through it safely together. And somewhere along the line, I stopped having to randomly hop off of him on the trail.

Best of luck and ride safe!

I live in the northern mountains of Utah with my wonderful husband, 5 horses, 4 dogs, 2 cats, 32 geese and 9 ducks. Life is good.
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post #6 of 13 Old 12-03-2012, 11:55 AM
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Location: southern Arizona
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Everything Darrin said!

A relaxed look around by my horse doesn't bother me - or her. But if her head snaps that way, or stays that way...I pull it back. Usually with a lecture, and enough fussing on the reins to convey that I'm the one looking and her job is to mind the trail. Otherwise, she starts worrying. And those worries will lead to trouble. I'm happy with her pointing things out to me, since it could be a snake, a loose dog approaching, etc. But then I want her to get back to watching the trail while I figure out what to do.

Some form of a head down cue helps. Being able to turn the horse is also important. I'm not a horse trainer or anything, so take it FWIW, but if my mare is getting tense, then I need to be ready to snatch her face. Give her a chance to set her neck in stone, and turning is a problem. I will also be a rough as needed to turn her face. My job is to be a gentle as possible with the bit. She gets to set what is "as possible". I'll tear her head off, if need be, because being gentle with her may end up in a bolt that could break her leg or kill me. We currently are using a Waterford bit. I don't see where it gives me any more control than a plain snaffle, but she seems comfortable with it. I prefer slack in the reins, but she gets to decide if things are going to get ugly. If they do, they get ugly fast because a pre-spook turns into a full-bore spook pretty darn fast, and the latter could kill both of us.

Also - something that REALLY helped me was leading my horse on walks before we ever started riding in the desert. At first, she would melt down after 100 yards - before we even got to the desert. We eventually worked up to walking 2-3 miles. Only then did I start riding her, and then with another horse. It took me 11 months to get up to solo trips, and we're still working on that. Prior to my walking her in the desert, she had never been outside the arena or corral. She didn't know to pick her feet up over a stone, and would panic because a palo verde tree had shed its flowers. Those walks built some confidence in her, and gave me a chance to work with her fears without being as vulnerable to injury. I'm 54 and started riding at 50, and MY bones don't mend fast either!
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post #7 of 13 Old 12-03-2012, 12:17 PM
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I am pleased to see the suggestion from two previous posts suggesting getting off and handling the situation on foot (of course, you need to get off before the horse goes into the speed backup). I know many people feel one should ride through the problem but getting off has certainly worked for me. It is easy for a rider to get tense and nervous thus causing more problems than getting off and working on it from the ground.
It sounds like your guy is certainly not comfortable being the leader. Does he ever spook at anything when he is following? Maybe alternating walking and riding with this guy out on the trail might help. I'd also work with him at home. bicycles, tarps, people with umbrellas...whatever. Let him follow the scary thing so he knows it isn't after him.
Good luck. We all learn from these issues, both horse and rider. It's never ending...which is good. Just when we think we have it all together a horse comes along to humble us.
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post #8 of 13 Old 12-04-2012, 12:32 AM
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Sometimes getting off and working the horse through it's fear is better than something bad happening........there has only been once where my mare spooked where I didn't feel safe being on her, she wasn't listening and I got off to be safe.....I also have older bones LOL
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post #9 of 13 Old 12-04-2012, 12:47 AM
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Ground work on spooking. Think it'll spooke em? Do it! I did tarp work this weekend (i posted pics) keep things normal. No sterile environments. A group of guys rode where we do, but they ride quads, first time they seen us riding they stopped and shut down the quads! Theyre good people! But I told em, be load and fast. The horses need to be and are over that. Last time we run across em they rode up and my colts want to check out the quads. As if hmmmm I go where it goes back there. But how's it work? Lol.
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post #10 of 13 Old 12-04-2012, 05:07 PM
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Columbia, MO
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Today as we were cantering through a pasture, my mare spooked at a pile of poop... She whipped out some cool moves to avoid that poop pile, but somehow I stayed put. Needless to say, we made many circles around that poo pile. All day today I felt like her brain was saying "what's that!? well, what's that!? what's that over there!? And that!?" Each day is a learning experience.
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