Would you buy a very spooky horse because they are good at showing? - Page 3 - The Horse Forum
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post #21 of 44 Old 08-24-2019, 01:36 AM
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Originally Posted by mmshiro View Post
That's interesting how everyone is focused on "being spooky." That actually wasn't what caught my eye. What caught my eye was "being mean-spirited and aggressive."

I currently ride two spooky horses, one is mine and one is a "lesson horse" I could dump anytime. However, I have a picture of my horse snoozing with his head resting on mine, and my "lesson horse" nickers when I come to pick him up and he rolls while I have him on a lead rope while grazing (which I interpret as a sign of trust). They are both good eggs, and I enjoy riding both of them despite not being exactly what you'd call "police horse material."

Well, I guess I must admit I never had a "mean-spirited and aggressive" horse. So.....I don't know if that is something that could be changed or not.

My spooky horse that I didn't keep had a lovely personality and was basically a "good egg." He wasn't mean at all, but that wasn't enough to make me comfortable riding him. I always had a fear of hitting the ground. I would have loved to said it was enough just to keep him as a pet and not ride him, but I was constantly trying to "fix" him and I just couldn't seem to be happy with him as a pet only. It's like we were so close if only I tried a little harder. But it got to the point I couldn't get past the neighbor's dogs without having a mental breakdown......so I finally said I couldn't do it anymore. I would love it if he came back to me someday, when he was an older horse and I wasn't worried about "fixing" him anymore.


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post #22 of 44 Old 08-24-2019, 02:59 AM
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Originally Posted by trailhorserider View Post
Well, I guess I must admit I never had a "mean-spirited and aggressive" horse. So.....I don't know if that is something that could be changed or not.
Majority of horses that are mean spirited and aggressive are so unhappy they are reacting that way because they have no other way of expressing themselves - all other, subtle signs that something is wrong, have been ignored.

They are not difficult to turn 180 and get them like a pet dog. It takes an understanding and coming to an agreement rather than 'being boss'.

There was a horse in race training, he wasn't a good racehorse and was out to get you every time. The lads hated him all round, riding him or doing him in the stable. When ridden he would be cantering rather than walking and would break out in a cold sweat after work.

I took over this horse, I wasmalways exceedingly nice to him. I did have to watch out for when he was going to kick or bite and would correct with a word or a finger poke. Most of it I ignored. I started riding him when the snow was on the ground, I was able to calm him to walking, on the gallops I could stop him running off with me by pulling on his neck strap, he remained relaxed and was holding his own on he gallops with the good horses.

There was nothing nasty about him that had not been man made.

My last horse, Rufus was much the same. Sour, always had his ears pinned in the stable, kicked and bit given the chance. When it came time to tack him he always moved away when I went to saddle him. That told me his saddle didn't fit. As soon as I found one that did, my dressage saddle, he stopped moving away. We came to an understanding and, that little horse became such a character of fun. He had a wicked sense of humour but knew where the line was drawn. I let him have his fun because that was who he truly was.

He went from fighting you to run away every time he was ridden to being totally relaxed and trusting on a loose rein.

They can be turned around if you understand what they are trying to say.
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post #23 of 44 Old 08-24-2019, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by mmshiro View Post
That's interesting how everyone is focused on "being spooky." That actually wasn't what caught my eye. What caught my eye was "being mean-spirited and aggressive."

I currently ride two spooky horses, one is mine and one is a "lesson horse" I could dump anytime. However, I have a picture of my horse snoozing with his head resting on mine, and my "lesson horse" nickers when I come to pick him up and he rolls while I have him on a lead rope while grazing (which I interpret as a sign of trust). They are both good eggs, and I enjoy riding both of them despite not being exactly what you'd call "police horse material."
Well, I've learned, thanks to my mare, that there's spooky and then there's SPOOKY. There's a lot of interpretation in there and it's very subjective. I've seen people terrified on a pretty quiet horse, and others who don't think a little jumpiness is a big deal. So when someone says a horse is spooky, it's difficult to assess online. The only thing you can do is base it on the rider's level. The OP is competing successfully, so that tells me we're not dealing with a beginner rider here.

A few people said the same about my mare Kodak. Overcoming her anxiety about being around humans was the easy part. She never had any dirt in her, so that wasn't a problem, but initially, you couldn't go near her. She wouldn't take a treat from you, her jaw was clenched the whole time you were around her. We got beyond that with a lot of time and patience. But a horse that explodes out of the blue, that cannot be tied solid, that is utterly unpredictable and once triggered, goes into full panic mode OR, alternatively, will not stop until you are off their backs, is a horse that very few people have any desire to take on. Those are better left to the pros. OP is looking for a first horse. It should be a good experience, not one full of frustration, hurt, and fear. Because it's very hard to come back from that. No one wants to take on Kodak, not even the most experienced riders whom I've offered her to (free, off-property lease) because once they ride her, they realize she's just a mess of problems, some of which may be insurmountable.
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post #24 of 44 Old 08-24-2019, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Foxhunter View Post
Majority of horses that are mean spirited and aggressive are so unhappy they are reacting that way because they have no other way of expressing themselves - all other, subtle signs that something is wrong, have been ignored.

They are not difficult to turn 180 and get them like a pet dog. It takes an understanding and coming to an agreement rather than 'being boss'.

...
OP has kind of disappeared on this thread, but if I had to guess, I'd say they are situated at a highly competitive show barn with many amenities for the clients. I did like to read about turn-out -- I don't know how much. I also don't know whether that horse, like many retirees, got a got chunk of time off after the track to decompress before getting started with the after-track training. If that wasn't done carefully, I can see how it is hard to switch for an OTTB from "don't let anyone pass" to "there's someone passing us during warm-up in the arena".

OTTBs, owing to their former environment, tend to be not "spooky." They've seen crowds, noise, vehicles, ambulances, flags - I'm sure you know more about it than I having actually worked in that environment. So for this horse, I'd actually lean more towards something like "defensive aggressiveness." He just seems miserable with everything that's being done to him.

There is no doubt in my mind that someone with a primary interest in horsemanship could do something with this horse so he becomes a good citizen. That means, however, sacrificing the ribbons for an amount of time to, as you said, "listen to what the horse has to say." "Being excessively kind to the horse," as you have also written, seems to be an excellent attempt to get to the heart and mind of this horse.

Unfortunately, he does not live in such an environment, and OP has no interest in that kind of challenge. :(
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post #25 of 44 Old 08-24-2019, 09:51 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by SteadyOn View Post
You couldn't even pay me to ride a *moderately* spooky horse. Heck, even a "sort of" of spooky horse would get a total pass from me. But then, that's me. My first horse would explode out of nowhere. Spooks, bolts, shies. I fell a LOT in the year that I owned him -- I was 11/12 at the time -- and now in my late 30s I'm STILL traumatized from it and have flashbacks to that feeling when I ride.

Spookiness is the main risk that, no matter how good a rider you are, you're still taking your life in your hands with. A violent spook can unseat -- and seriously hurt -- ANYONE.

Ribbons don't mean much if you have a wreck and do irreparable damage to your body/brain.

This rings home for me. I've honestly been lucky that I haven't fallen more. I keep deep in the seat with this horse because I never know when something could happen. I'm glad to see there are a lot of people who aren't into spooky horses, it's a very nice reality check for me. A lot of people in my barn either are the type who would put their life on the line for a competition or are professionals.

And believe me...I used to sweat with terror walking into his stall when he first came. This horse eats like a wolf on a carcass and eyeballs every man, woman, and child that comes into his space with threat in his eyes. Now, he is happy with me coming into his stall, because I'm the fun treat woman. BUT. If the horses on either side of him look at me after I've given him a treat, he tries to maul them through the bars. He is...something else for sure and I may be lax on him because I know being 'boss' won't work on him...but who knows how he will be treated next. Very sad, I think.





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Originally Posted by beau159 View Post
Pass. He's an expensive horse that CAN be good in the show ring but is NOT solid in the show ring.


There are better ones out there, but yes, expect to pay a fair price.

To be honest, I think this horse would be a great horse for a professional. But I have also seen professionals miss lead changes on this horse because he doesn't take the queue...so who knows. I'm no professional and not a trainer by any means, so I think I'll agree with the consensus here that this horse is a pass. It makes me sad in a way, because where ever he goes next will probably not be as kind to him as I have been. This horse tolerates me, likes seeing me come to the pasture because I'm his treat lady...but his unpredictability just...doesn't work for me.


Oh, I would expect to pay for a nicer horse. I'm willing. But...was a little shocked that the price on this horse didn't come down after my trainer admitted I'd been a saint through the leasing period in winter and that he turned out to be a much more difficult horse than she thought he would be on first look (we got him in the end of last summer, so for a week he was an angel with bad ground manners...then the temperature dropped the day I signed the lease and the flip switched for the next 6 months after). His sale price is in the lower five figures, but not in the teens. I was essentially paying $1000 every month just in lease fees. I personally don't find that cheap considering his drama, but some people might I suppose.






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Originally Posted by 4horses View Post
What changes between his summer routine and his winter routine? Does he have unlimited hay or pasture access?

I would guess this horse has ulcers. I would also guess that he is very unhappy being stabled. Is he ridden in an indoor arena during the winter? I suspect he is burned out. Perhaps even has an underlying lameness or other health issue.

He just sounds like a very unhappy horse. Unhappy with his life.

I'm guessing if you turned him out to pasture for about a year, you might have a happier horse.

Anytime I have a horse that gets really spooky, i immediately suspect gastric ulcers. My mare had severe ulcers and was a spooky mess. My rescue horse also was a wreck due to ulcers.

I would be looking at everything - from tack fit, to the bit used, to pain responses. What is he fed? How often is he fed?

It is not normal for a horse to change from one extreme in the summer to a different one in the winter.

If I bought him, i would probably find a different stable and get him turned out year round. I would probably treat for ulcers and figure out what in his routine is upsetting him while leasing, before buying. See if ulcer treatment improves his behavior. That purchase price would need to be low.

That said, my first horse could spin bolt right out from under you and she threw me every year. But those spooks were predictable because she only spooked when ridden by herself and something popped out at her on the trail. She was perfect with another horse, provided that horse didn't spook. She was a great city horse- traffic, car sirens, lawnmowers, and fireworks never bothered her. Just not confident by herself. Good in an arena.

Honestly, I would pass unless you are certain you can turn him around with a change in management. He just sounds like he is mentally a mess and unhappy about something. Like he is screaming for help and no one is listening. Is his temperament something that would improve with a life change? I don't know.

That is more than just being spooky. I had one horse that would make up ghosts and do all sorts of nasty pranks-rears, bucks, the airs above the ground. He was a mental case. You could see the look on his face, right before he pulled something. A personality defect. His mom was not like that so it must have come from the sire. I definitely wouldn't want a horse like him. He went to a lady who rides racehorses. Tossed her the first ride but she took him home anyways.

Oh, yes. We realized that he loves his pasture time and that it helps calm him immensely. Unfortunately, we don't live in the south, so pasture time only comes in spring/summer for this horse. He's in his stall all winter and ridden in the indoor arena...but so are the other horses. Turnout is almost impossible outdoor in the winter due to our ice problems and our indoor arena doesn't seem to satisfy him like the outdoor turnout does.



He came to our barn with ulcer meds...my trainer figured it was because they figured he had ulcers due to his personality. Well, clearly the ulcers either never went away or he never had them. I had him taken to the vet before the spring show season to get his hocks done, the chiropractor came etc. I agree with you in that he is unhappy about something in his life. Honestly, I think he just wants to be left alone.



But...with what you said last...a horse making up ghosts? Yeah. Last bad spook we had a few days ago, we were trotting indoors due to the outdoors being a little soggy. Without warning he leapt and bucked and darted sideways. The pro giving a tuneup ride to an older horse was a little ways behind me walking on her horse and was like 'WOW. Way to stay in the tack! What did he spook at?' needless to say, she's new to our barn. I had to tell her, 'Absolutely nothing. This is how he was all winter. This is normal for him.' I ended up having to get off him after he degraded even further during that ride.


le sigh!
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post #26 of 44 Old 08-24-2019, 10:08 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mmshiro View Post
OP has kind of disappeared on this thread, but if I had to guess, I'd say they are situated at a highly competitive show barn with many amenities for the clients. I did like to read about turn-out -- I don't know how much. I also don't know whether that horse, like many retirees, got a got chunk of time off after the track to decompress before getting started with the after-track training. If that wasn't done carefully, I can see how it is hard to switch for an OTTB from "don't let anyone pass" to "there's someone passing us during warm-up in the arena".

OTTBs, owing to their former environment, tend to be not "spooky." They've seen crowds, noise, vehicles, ambulances, flags - I'm sure you know more about it than I having actually worked in that environment. So for this horse, I'd actually lean more towards something like "defensive aggressiveness." He just seems miserable with everything that's being done to him.

There is no doubt in my mind that someone with a primary interest in horsemanship could do something with this horse so he becomes a good citizen. That means, however, sacrificing the ribbons for an amount of time to, as you said, "listen to what the horse has to say." "Being excessively kind to the horse," as you have also written, seems to be an excellent attempt to get to the heart and mind of this horse.

Unfortunately, he does not live in such an environment, and OP has no interest in that kind of challenge. :(

I can't say how this horse was treated before he came to us. Based on everything I've seen from him and his strange attitude...he was not treated well. I used to get upset when this horse spooked or got violent towards other horses, because I thought I could fix it. I quickly learned to let him have his episodes within reason, because it kept both of us from becoming crazy emotional and unhinged during a ride. I'm not strong enough to fight a 16hh horse. I do reprimand quickly him if he tries to bite or kick anyone, but if he spooks, I am kind afterwards and pat him on the shoulder and tell him it is okay.


I am not unattached to this gelding. I am fond of him, even though he has nearly sent me through the rafters many times. He has come to tolerate me and even allow me to kiss him on his nose even if he's giving me an ugly look about it. I don't carry a crop with this horse and I never wear spurs for shows (heck, not ever actually). I ride him kindly, with contact and respect that something has made him this way. I just try to stay on the best I can without making things worse for him.



But, as I said, I am not a professional. I don't have endless money to spend to hope he can be rehabbed into something I can ride with more enjoyment and safety. Board alone in my area is roughly $1000 a month (not including $1000 lease fees on top). I can't justify buying this horse and paying that sort of money every month in hopes that he will come back a happy guy. I think he's had a rough life and I'm sorry for that. That being said...my trainer owns him. I believe she will sell him before winter comes, as I know people have asked after him during shows while I'm on him.
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post #27 of 44 Old 08-24-2019, 11:08 AM
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For me the price is the biggest factor here. May be different for you.

I think it depends on if you want to manage and work with this animals or if you want one that's already learned that lesson in life.

There seems to be a personality thing going on here too. Some animals, people too, are just mean and that doesn't really change as their life goes on.

I would be ok with getting a spooky horse, because I enjoy that extra work involved. When it's not there, I feel bored. I like the sense of accomplishment of getting my more difficult animal to the level of one who is more complacent. I've noticed that's when you get the personality involved and the horse has the athletic competitive spirit to want to win.

It was just this horses first year showing, and it doesn't sound like it's a super expensive animal. What were your expectations in starting this? Your trainers?
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post #28 of 44 Old 08-24-2019, 12:39 PM
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So, he's fine during the summer and at shows, and virtually a different horse in the winter? What changes? Turnout? Exercise? Different feed? Is the horse medicated when you show and not medicated in the winter? Are you POSITIVE the trainer/barn is not drugging him in the show ring?

This sounds like a very unhappy horse moreso than a spooky horse. He's acting out because he's unhappy, stressed, or in pain. So you need to decide if you're willing to dive into this and figure out what the problem is and how to fix it, or if you want a horse you can just get on and ride.

If you're inexperienced and uncomfortable riding and handling a reactive horse, this is not the animal for you. However, horses like this are also a way of getting a stellar show animal for a fraction of the price of an easy-to-handle horse. Yes, there are top-level animals out there with lovely personalities, but they are not cheap. Most top show horses have their quirks, but the horse you're riding has more than most. It sounds like a professional rider may be better suited to him rather than someone who wants to show once or twice a month.
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post #29 of 44 Old 08-24-2019, 01:47 PM
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I don't buy the whole idea that a horse has to be stalled all winter because there's ice outside. I live in Eastern Canada. We get deep snow, frigid cold, then warm winds from the water which thaw everything out, and freeze it all up again. My horses are turned out 24/7 year round, with full access to stalls. I only shut them in if there is a raging blizzard. I can't even imagine what they would be like if they were shut in all the time.

You sure you don't want to look around for a facility that turns horses out in the winter? It may look dangerous and scary, but if you let the horses out all the time, they adjust. They make paths. They go slow - and you can help them by providing the best possible footing (a good layer of snow is actually great for a nice canter, and even sheer ice can be remediated with sand). Horses are quit capable of dealing with various footing. Maybe he'd be a much happier and healthier horse? My spooky mare (who actually spooks at things that used to be there, but are not anymore...) is actually much better in the winter than in the summer.
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post #30 of 44 Old 08-24-2019, 05:05 PM
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Last winter our turnouts/pastures were a sheet of ice from January to April. The horses did fine.
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