Staying positive when riding a spooky horse - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 03-26-2017, 04:14 AM Thread Starter
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Staying positive when riding a spooky horse

I feel like most of the time I go to see my pony at the barn I always find a way to complain without realising. My pony is quite spooky, so I always complain when she spooks and nearly runs me over in the process. When I am riding, I feel like I complain a lot about my pony not going on the bit or refusing a jump or spooking at a silly tree. I don't realise that I complain so much because it happens all the time! Am I a bad rider or person for complaining a lot, or is it not my fault because my horse is so spooky and hot most of the time?

I attend pony club so I feel a pressure to be perfect and ride perfectly, which never happens because my horse is so spooky and crazy and always seems to refuse jumps. Is it me being a bit nervous while riding, is it my horse, or do I need to have a better outlook on riding so I'm not so negative all the time? What are some ways to stay positive when you ride, especially if your horse is naughty quite alot?

It is affecting my life, I feel like I am more negative especially after riding as most of the time I don't feel satisfied, like there is too much spooking going on, or I am not jumping high enough. It makes me sad that I am unhappy doing something I love and I am so priviliged yet I am unhappy. Other days, riding is so nice, my pony and I are amazing, but mostly the bad days outweigh the good. I just feel stuck in my riding and need some advice. Thank you.
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post #2 of 10 Old 03-26-2017, 04:19 AM
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Sorry about the issues you are having with your riding and your pony's behavior. Sounds like an experienced trainer/instructor is needed. Do you have one? If not I would get one to help you with your pony. Riding should ultimately be fun. When it isn't, you have to get some help.
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post #3 of 10 Old 03-26-2017, 04:59 AM Thread Starter
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Hey thanks for replying, I do have an instructor but I can only afford lessons every fortnight or so, and it seems like I don't get that much out of my lessons as she wants to work on doing stuff I can already do, she doesn't push me that much in my riding. I will think about talking to her or maybe getting another instructor, thank you. :)
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post #4 of 10 Old 03-26-2017, 07:29 AM
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You get what you expect!

It can be very frustrating when a horse continuously spooks at nothing, some will say they have seen something but that is not always the case. One racehorse I had was the worse ever, a butterfly flitting in front of him could cause him to spin 180 and want to gallop away. I neve got frustrated with him because that would make him worse so, I made a game of it. I would give him 10 points as we left the stables, believe me he never missed a thing including a flower basket hanging 50 feet from where we were walking to the mounting block. He would come back after a rode with minus points. He could gain points by passing something with not spooking or being extra good. After a couple of months he would return with plus points.

Treat it as a game with yourself it helps to stop the frustration. Of she does spook, correct firmly and fairly. If she spooks to the left make certain you turn her back to the right, ditto of she runs out at a jump.

Be determined. Think positive. If she spooks into you when leading her get very annoyed, whack her win the rope amd make her spin around you several times or back up for several yards. Let her know that you can be way more frightening that what ever she thinks she saw.

You could have her eyes tested but it is probably a bad habit.
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post #5 of 10 Old 03-26-2017, 08:01 AM
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A sense of humor is your best friend.

Laugh it off. This will take time to become a habit, you literally have to re-program your brain. It's a lot of work but trust me, so worth it. At first you will have to 'fake it', force yourself to joke or smile even if you still feel upset. Eventually you will actually feel less upset and eventually being positive will just be your natural response.

You can do this in every part of your life too. As soon as you wake up every morning, smile, do it. Soon it will be a habit and you will just wake up happy. :)
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You either make progress or you make excuses. Your choice.
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post #6 of 10 Old 03-26-2017, 08:02 AM
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[all that being said, the spooking and silliness should be improving but you have to change your attitude first and then work on your horse]

You either make progress or you make excuses. Your choice.
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post #7 of 10 Old 03-26-2017, 01:53 PM
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It might be a good idea to have a discussion with your coach about whether your pony is the right match for you. Ultimately, riding SHOULD be fun. And it's very possible that your pony is fine and your riding and handling are what needs to be addressed... but it's also possible that you and your pony aren't the right fit, in which case, you might want to seriously considering selling and finding a pony you can enjoy and who is less frustrating for you.

If there are any opportunities to put some rides in on a different, calmer horse, you might want to give that a go and see if you do any better before you make any decisions on that front.

I'm not saying this to be discouraging at all: rather, I say this as someone whose first horse was very talented and well trained... but spooky, testy, and just not suited to me at all for that stage in my life. Selling him and getting a different horse was the best decision I ever made, and I wish I'd done it even sooner than I did. I had an absolutely amazing amount of fun with my second horse, and really trusted her and learned so much when I wasn't afraid to try things any more. It's something to consider, at least.
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post #8 of 10 Old 03-26-2017, 02:17 PM
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Getting into a vicious circle is easy done - a hot and spooky pony causes worrying and nervousness which gets transmitted back to the pony, enforcing his believe that there’s something scary to be avoided with spooking and speed.
For a while I used to ride an extremely spooky horse and when I went back to my own I started having problems. The girl I used to ride with pointed out that I now went quiet and held myself and the reins differently at the first hint of something, thereby enforcing the fear.
As prey animals, they’re acting on natural instincts and I was the one who had to break my habit and become the confident leader again; I had to learn to relax (helps the horse but also helps you to stay on), ignore the spook, not grab for the reins, grip on with legs or shout out in surprise or as a correction etc.
My gelding reacted far better to being asked to ‘walk on’ with no other reaction from me but my mares both needed coaxing past with their noses turned towards the object. After the spook they were immediately made to work in circles and/or transitions to get them listening but it did depend on the location, available space and how safe it was.
Plenty of schooling on the ground and in the saddle helped a great deal as it meant I’d a better chance of controlling any reactions and I also found that repetition worked as eventually they got bored with the scary object. If possible, have a friend or trainer around for advice, support and safety.
It’s hard at first to stay confident but remember; no one’s perfect. The other riders will go through the same things at some point. As others have said, you need to laugh it off, spend time with your pony in a relaxed way such as grooming and have fun.
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post #9 of 10 Old 03-26-2017, 02:47 PM
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@SteadyOn said what I would have said, and did so very tactfully.
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post #10 of 10 Old 03-26-2017, 04:29 PM
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It is a lot easier to ride a spooky horse when they aster round and on the bit. You can feel them better and they can feel you better. You can feel the spool coming and redirect it.

Though you said you can't get her round because of how spooky she is. Vicious circle. I dealt with this the other day working my spooky wb. Was trying to work on my position, but he was being distracted and spooky(wind...). I'm not able to use stronger aids in the new position due to muscle memory, but he is easier to get round normally in the new position. Do I keep the new position and hope he doesn't fly off into the nether? Or use my comfortable position where I can be louder and get his attention on me.

Are there any time your point is not spooky? How do they ride then? Had anyone more advanced than you ridden them? Is your pony trained enough to know this? If you go to the arena and march on a loose rein, what happens?

I think you need to find a trainer who will take you back to basics and show you, and your pony, how to relax. Back off of jumping, take a break from the pressure of point club if you can.
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advice , jumping , negative , spookyhorse

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