Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Central Western NSW, Australia
Spooking at Cars
First, a little background - my horse is a 19y/o QH gelding, and he's fairly close to bombproof. He's just a plodder, and his spooks are usually no worse than a skitter to the side, or planting all four feet.
Now, the problem. I've had him for a few months, and never had much problem with him when riding on roads. He had a major spook at a semi-trailer at one stage, which led to my first fall from him. After that, things were still good.
Recently, cars have started spooking him, but not every car. Like, every second car. Last week he had a big spook at a ute with a bullbar and ploughed into long grass, which hid a hill and he ended up down on his knees on top of the hill. Thankfully, no damage was done, and I stayed on. After that another ute went past, and he didn't care.
Today, I fell off twice in one ride, which is a record even for me. I can understand both of them - the first he was overwhelmed, what with excited horses in a paddock ahead, a ute coming towards us, and a stock truck coming from behind. He was caught unawares, did a 360, and I hit the dust. After that, whilst I was talking to the kind people who'd caught him after he'd gone running for the nearest paddock with horses, a car went past and he freaked. Minutes later another went past... and he was perfectly fine.
The only thing that has changed is the presence of the horrifying alpaca. It set him off at the start of our ride today, and was the cause of my second fall (I knew the metaphorical sh*t was gonna hit the fan, and my emergency dismount was quick enough). Since then, he's been on edge whenever we're out of the paddock. I took some time after that fall to make him stand in the presence of the alpaca until it lost interest, and I rewarded him once he stopped huffing and fussing.
I guess what I want to know is, is there anything I can do to work on the spooking to every second car? I've tried turning him towards them, keeping him working, circling him, stopping... and I can't work out if there's a connection between his position and the direction of the car. He seems worse when the car has actually gone past, with the 'whoosh' of air. But it doesn't always happen. I dread the day that he spooks into the traffic.
Should I have a friend drive back and forth past him at different speeds to see if that helps? I can handle his little spooks, it's the big ones at inconvenient places that I want to stop.