Trail riding the easily startled horse... - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 22 Old 01-04-2014, 07:45 PM
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It is near impossible to stay on when your 17 hand horse suddenly becomes 15 hands and then rockets out from under you.


The only thing I can suggest to is put on some Velcro pants/jeans/jods and then take yourself out into a planned spook. Maybe go so far as to ask a friend to hide in the bushes, or plant some plastic bags or pink elephants on the way.

Sit to the spook, then firmly take your horse back to the spooky object. However long it takes, get your horse to understand that YOU know that it is not scary and your horse must learn to trust you.
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post #12 of 22 Old 01-04-2014, 08:11 PM Thread Starter
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Haha! Velcro! I've heard that one before! I wonder if anyone's ever tried it... :-p
Maybe there's a reason my mom refuses to buy saddles that aren't "sticky".

But seriously, I am considering calling my neighbor who does cowboy mounted shooting to help me out. I'm sure if anyone can get a horse to calmly manage unexpected sights and sounds, it would be her! I'm not sure if this would completely fix the problem, as there will always be a "pheasant in the brush" to catch horse or rider off guard, but if I can get her to stop ducking down and leaving whenever she's startled, then maybe our rides in and out of the arena will be a bit safer...
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post #13 of 22 Old 01-10-2014, 02:41 PM
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What she needs to learn is to not freak out. What she needs to learn is to stop and think when she is scared. So you should manufacture some scary scenarios on the ground, with tarps and rattling chains and barking dogs or whatever. Then you need to progressively desensitize her to these things. The aim here is not to get her uncared of the scary. The aim is to get her to slow down and listen to you. Your whole problem is that when your horse panics it switches off its brain. You don't want your horse to switch off its brain. You want your horse to wait and listen to you.
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post #14 of 22 Old 01-13-2014, 02:39 AM
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As others mentioned I would start out on the ground desesatizing. Tia a grocery or garbage sack to the end of a lounge whip and make it like it is blowing across the ground. Brush your horse with a crinkly crunshed up plastic sack specially over the neck and back, get a blow up beach ball blow it up and start bouncing it off your horses leg and under belly, sides, neck. lay a smallish tarp on ground and lead over it, once you get that accomplished pick up an end of it hold it in your hand pull it in close to your horse and rub your horses legs neck with it in the same hand eventually you should beable to throw the tarp right over your horse, on your horse ect. Light off small fire crackers around your horse, work your horse with a radio playing. Lay a piece of plywood on ground and walk your horse over it.
All of this simulates things that can happen on trail, in camp, at a show, a leisure ride. Kids love to play ball and if you are passing someone in camp and a ball rolls out your horse won't be bothered by it. Covering your horse with a tarp if a storm comes in and the person you are parked next to has an awning, if that awning rips off and lands on or near your horse, your horses reaction could be "Oh it's no big deal and just stands there." Fire crackers can simulate gun shots. I always do this with mine. I have a mule that is 12 I haven't been on his back yet because he is new to me we are in the getting to know one another and bonding stage. I sure have had fun working him with all this.
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post #15 of 22 Old 01-13-2014, 06:55 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks, gdolapp, the firecrackers are a good idea! I have done a lot of arena desensitizing already. She's not afraid of plastic bags, tarps, empty water bottles, blankets, etc. The boarding stable I used to board at had a radio playing in the barn 24/7, so she's fine with that. She walks through water, over bridges and stuff too. We compete obstacle trail in an arena and she's great with it. Like I said before, she has never refused to go anywhere I directed her. She'll walk into/through anything I ask her to, and she's not afraid of anything I present her with. If I walk her into an arena with a bunch of stuff in it, she may look at it, but she won't spook. She's good with kids, barking dogs, cats etc. I even rode her in a pasture with a bunch of turkeys. I've ridden her on the road and she doesn't mind traffic. She doesn't care about it if she can see it. It's only the unexpected stuff, like sudden, loud noises, animals jumping out of the brush at her, and that one time she was stung by a bee. I expect her to be startled by this stuff (heck, I'm startled by it). I just want her to learn not to teleport out from under me when it happens, so I'm looking for tips on how to stimulate these unexpected situations, and how to handle an explosive spooker so she doesn't just get away from you when you're stimulating these situations.

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post #16 of 22 Old 01-17-2014, 09:34 PM
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Like you said- it's impossible to stay on- so defiantly would be easier to attack the root of the problem-
How we desensitise our mare-
We have myself or my partner lead her around (so preferably the main rider but we switch it over for variation) then we have the one that not leading her gently roll a gym ball in her path - rinse and repeat until she dosnt avoid , or chuck her head or jump side wides .. Basically until he calmly listens to the person leading ...
Then once we are done with that we continue the leading expect now the gym ball is bounced out in front of her or behind her until she begins to accept its presence and be calm and just progress like that.
That way she is dealing with an unexpected sound (bouncing noise) as well as a sudden movement ... Just an example of one of the exercises we have used on her ...
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post #17 of 22 Old 01-20-2014, 07:09 PM
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What I have found..... I can desensitize all I can in an area but the trail - everything changes. Smells, sounds, everything. So I agree it's good to do stuff with them beforehand but it's not a cure all. We have chickens and pigeons at home and they are always flying around the horse or getting under the feet out of no where. What happens? NOTHING! On the trail, if a bird flies out, SPOOK!!!!! So I think you just need to somehow prepare your horse for some sort of calming exercises when it does happen.
I"m working with a trainer now and that is what she is going to work on with me. I sort of have the same issue. Mine will go into a crow hopping fit or rush forward when spooked. One time a HUGE rattler rattled in the bushes and OMG, my horse instinctivly knew what it was and bolted forward. My horse went forward and my husband's horse went straight up a hill!!! We finally got our horses controlled but mine was shaking so bad, I just got off and walked for a while.
I'm looking forward to my trainer working on this with me because the circling doesn't work half the time. My horse knows how to give (like the video showed) just great in the arena or when nothing is happening but when something blows his mind and he goes into pure flight mode... doesn't work so great.
I know I"m NEVER going to get him to not spook, he's a horse and it's going to happen and if I expect him not to, I should just stop riding. So, I need to be able to either calm him fast or know what to do when he blows. So far the things I have tried are not working so great.
The best thing that has worked if he starts crow hopping is just bringing his head around and not really circling him but just letting him calm himself down til his feet stop. The rushing forward - not sure yet. I"m really cautious to one rein stop him because I'm afraid he's going to just fall over. i let him move his feet and slowly bring him down slower and then bring one rein over, bringing his nose in.
I had a non horse friend ask me one time, "why on earth do you ride a BIG prey animal?" LOL!!!! I had to laugh and say, "doesn't make alot of sense does it to a non horse person. ha, ha......
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post #18 of 22 Old 01-30-2014, 06:33 PM
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I had a mare just like yours Kiltsrhott, so I totally understand what you mean by "no warning". She was a 16h Appy/TB cross and had the fastest reaction time I have ever seen! She didn't sit-n-bolt though, she would buck-n-bolt, a manuver that almost always left me sitting in the dirt watching her tail disappear...

She didn't care one bit if another horse was there or not, she'd run right through anthing in her way and return to the trailer. Once there, she would dart back and forth in a panic until I returned, at which point she would whinny hysterically and race up to me. She would not let anyone else come near her if I wasn't there.

I thought that mare was going to kill me, and no-one wanted to ride with me because of her insane behavior.

But, she did get better and better, and her reaction time got slower too.

Several key things I used to help her:

1) I rode at least an hour a day (arena work mostly, as she was my Dressage horse) 5 days a week. If I couldn't ride, I gave her a good workout on the lunge line.

2) I always rode her hard at home the day/night before a trail ride or show

3) I would give her some hay before riding, because I discovered she was much calmer with a little something in her belly.

4) I carried treats with me all the time. Every time she stopped at a scarey object, I gave her a treat. She soon learned to stop and look to me for a treat, and I would focus on being calm and then just ask her to walk on.

5) I never made her face a scarey object, as this just made her worse. Instead we would just walk calmly past and I would tip her head very slightly away from the object.

Over time, she became calmer and calmer, and reacted much slower. I also got better at noticing when she was going to panic, and I discovered she would twitch one ear right before she exploded. The trick was spotting that ear and telling her to forget acting the fool before the dreaded spook-n-buck.
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post #19 of 22 Old 01-30-2014, 06:49 PM
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One other thing I would suggest you try, is to retrain her brain into a reaction that you can control.

By that I mean since she does the sit-n-bolt, that is very much like a western rollback manuver. Maybe you could practice doing a rollback, cantering off fast, then slowing into a spin or something you can control.

Since horses are creatures of habit, she would soon learn that every rollback is followed by a spin, so then you could stop her.

It is impossible to recreate every situation that a horse may encounter, but you can train the horse into reacting the way you want them too.

I had a gelding that would rear up everytime I asked him for lateral work. I used to spin him when I felt him starting to go up, and after a while he would start to rear then spin himself! hahaha

I thought it was funny, most people watching thought he was a dangerous animal and tried to convince me to send him to a professional. That horse even scared some professional trainers, but I understood him and knew he wouldn't flip over with me.
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post #20 of 22 Old 02-02-2014, 12:45 AM
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Like a couple others have commented, I'm not a true believer in arena desensitizing. Things are different out on a trail. Desensitization in the arena has value in teaching a horse that it needs to do whatever you ask it to do without hesitation and without trouble, but as for cancelling its fears of the unknown, I'm just not so sure. I'm sure it doesn't hurt, and just may help for some issues, like dragging a log or walking over a tarp.

Cheri once posted some great information about trail training a horse, which I think is that link that was posted for the sticky thread on the first page. When I first read it, I thought it was a bunch of hooey, but after thinking about it and then giving it a try, I found it works and is gospel to me now. It's pretty simple: If the horse spooks at something, you make him walk right past it (not toward it) and just ride it out. Then you turn him around and go past it again, and keep doing it until the horse settles down. The horse learns to trust you and will learn to keep on going no matter what (horses hate going back and forth). The part that surprised me was the she taught that you should NOT make the horse walk up to the object and inspect it. That teaches a horse to stop, snort, and look before proceeding. With that technique, the horse learns that that one particular object wasn't so scary after all, but does nothing about the next scary thing. Every time it will be spook, stop, snort, look, inspect, then proceed. You want to teach the horse to just ignore every scary thing and just keep on going. That way he reacts the same every time, no matter what it is. It works, just like Cheri said.
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Last edited by thenrie; 02-02-2014 at 12:50 AM.
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