Your horse and your safety: When spooking - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 50 Old 10-27-2015, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by gypsygirl View Post
I disagree fox hunter, I think if you get after the spook too harshly you will cause the horse to think there is something to spook over. I would rather just move on like nothing happened.
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I kind of agree with this, but I think it depends on the situation also.

So in lies the madness, the pursuit of the impossible in the face of the complete assurance that you will fail, and yet still you chase.
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post #12 of 50 Old 10-27-2015, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by gypsygirl View Post
I disagree fox hunter, I think if you get after the spook too harshly you will cause the horse to think there is something to spook over. I would rather just move on like nothing happened.
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Not at all. You are correcting the spook with as much pressure,as necessary, never said anything about being harsh.

In the UK we have to do a fair amount of riding on the roads. Traffic frequently doesn't slow down for horses so spooking cannot be allowed. Far to dangerous.

I would rather rode a traffic shy horse,as it will go away from the traffic than a horse that spooks just because.
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post #13 of 50 Old 10-27-2015, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Foxhunter View Post
...Horse spooks, spins around, rider manages to stay on and stop it from tanking off. Turns to try again patting the horse and talking to it nicely thus rewarding the spook leading to further reaction.

The horse that spooks, spins and is pulled up hard, booted in the ribs and made to go forward unceremoniously is going to learn that spook and spin is not a pleasant experience and the rider is going to be in charge.
Gotta disagree with this. I see no sign a horse enjoys spooking - and I'm talking about a genuine fear reaction, not just balking and saying he doesn't feel like going forward. Mia used to squirt diarrhea out the back at times in a spook, and I don't think a reaction like that is enjoyed by the horse. I think horses hate being genuinely, deeply scared!

Had one stayed on Mia (as I did) and then "booted in the ribs and made to go forward", the rider would learn what I learned when I did it - that Mia had 4 feet on the ground and I had 0, and that no one could MAKE her go forward. I tried whipping her butt with a 4' leather strap. All that happened is we flew backwards. The harder I hit her, the faster we went back.

If the horse is smart enough to know that she has 4 feet on the ground and the rider does not, then you can never force her to go anywhere. Instead, you have to TEACH her it is safe to go forward if I tell you to go forward. You need to CALM them past the scary spot. Trying to force a sensitive horse past a scary spot only reinforces their fear.

Ever hear of the "Fillis stirrup"? James Fillis, writing in the late 1800s, said:
"The impressionability of a horse can be greatly diminished and modified by breaking. Custom establishes mutual confidence between horse and rider. If the animal has not been beaten, or violently forced up to the object of his alarm, and if the presence of his rider reassures him, instead of frightening him, he will soon become steady. It is a sound principle never to flog a horse which is frightened by some external object. We should, on the contrary, try to anticipate or remove the impression by "making much" of the animal.

I have already said that a horse has but little intelligence. He cannot reason, and has only memory. If he is beaten when an object suddenly comes before him and startles him, he will connect in his mind the object and the punishment. If he again sees the same object, he will expect the same punishment, his fear will become increased, and he will naturally try to escape all the more violently....

...My only advice about the management of nervous horses is to give them confidence by "making much of them." If we see in front of us an object which we know our horse will be afraid of, we should not force him to go up to it. Better let him at first go away from it, and then gently induce him to approach it, without bullying him too much. Work him in this way for several days, as long as may be necessary. Never bring him so close up to the object in question that he will escape or spin round ; because in this case we will be obliged to punish him ; not for his fear, but on account of his spinning round, which we should not tolerate at any time. In punishing him, we will confuse in his mind the fear of punishment and the fear caused by the object. In a word, with nervous horses we should use much gentleness, great patience, and no violence." (186)
A cavalry officer writing in the mid-1800s had the same belief. I hate to contradict Foxhunter because I i know she has a lot more experience than I do, but the two riders I'm referring to wrote books that have been in print continuously for over 100 years - so someone has obviously found them useful sources of information. And their idea agrees with what I have experienced - if you have a phlegmatic horse, "making it go forward" might work. But if you have a smarter horse, then the rider needs to be smarter still.

One of the best bits of advice I've seen, based on how it has worked with Mia and now with Bandit, came from Tom Roberts in Australia. He was former British Cavalry in WW1, then moved to Australia after the war and helped start a dressage club. He told this story:

If you have a sensitive horse, or with any horse IMHO, then try riding past the scary thing on loose reins. It won't go fast, but a horse working its way past a scary object at its own pace and own distance is a THINKING horse - a horse who is learning. Like Tom Roberts, I've found the distance decreases and soon the horse will go by without a worry.

If there is not enough room to let the horse work its way past in loose reins, then what works for me is backing the horse up (or turning around and WALKING away). When the buffer zone is big enough to allow the horse to relax a little and get mentally with the rider - very important since I was hurt badly dismounting a scared horse who was NOT mentally with me - I dismount. Move the reins to the halter and I lead the horse at whatever pace it takes - often slowly - with me between them and the scary thing.

That does not 'reward the horse' - not unless your riding is atrocious! It does show the horse you care about it, and that you are not afraid because you are smart enough to know there is no reason to be afraid. Over some time, the rider builds up a track record with the horse: "My rider has been right 23 times out of I CAN work my way around the scary thing". Then you can stop dismounting, and work past on slack reins. Eventually - at least this is where I am now with Bandit after 4 months - he just doesn't get truly scared. He may get uncomfortable, but I can urge him forward when he is just "uncomfortable". And now I'm working on building a track record of always being right when mounted.

We are not there yet. Not 100%. But I haven't had to dismount for some time, and he hasn't tried to spin away for about a month. We're getting there.

If your horse will follow another horse, but not go at your urging, then your horse doesn't trust your judgment well enough to feel safe. One option is to try beating him past. The other option is to try teaching him you deserve trust. I prefer option number two.

BTW - Bandit's previous owner told me to just force him to go past, so I gather Bandit CAN be "forced to go" - unlike Mia. But after 4 months, we're getting to the point he is "willing to go" because the human on his back knows best. And that method will work, eventually, even with a very nervous horse. Mia was not perfect when I swapped her for Bandit, but she had made a lot of progress in the last year of our riding - by following the advice of Roberts and Fillis.

If anyone wants to know more about my opinion, it is discussed at length on this thread (along with a lot of other things):
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post #14 of 50 Old 10-27-2015, 11:44 AM
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Ime, it greatly depends on the individual horse. Many if the horses I have ridden DO benefit from having a spook corrected by being put to work.

However, I have also ridden horses that got worse every ride if you tried to do more than just stop and hold them still until they calmed down.
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post #15 of 50 Old 10-27-2015, 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by myponyisChance View Post
Spooking is quite natural, and don't feel dumb when it happens.
Welcome to the forum, Chance! You will learn that this is one of the many topics that can get quite heated, with a variety of opinions from a lot of very experienced horsemen.

I am in the majority that disagree with the notion of simply needing to bond with your horse and for them to recognize your good intentions as a means to deal with spooking. I do 100% agree with the quote I pulled from your opening post. It is natural for a horse. And some horses are more spooky than others, training aside.

My big paint is trained up the wazoo, but he is very spooky. Sure, it has decreased a bit in the 4 years I have had him. Is that simply age (he's coming on 14 now) or him trusting me? Maybe a bit of both? No way to tell and it's neither here nor there in how I handle it when he does decide to spin and buck at the sight of a coors light can 50 feet off the trail under a sage brush.

My method is to not get emotional about it but to make it clear that spinning and bucking is not on the agenda. As soon as he stops his antics, I stop booting him and pulling his head to the side and we ride on as if he is the mellowest baby sitter of a horse. THAT is how he has gradually learned that spooking doesn't get him anywhere, stopping and thinking things through is a much better option.

That works for ole Cruiser. Some fizzier horses need a different tactic, sure. But I don't think it comes down to them not trusting their rider. Horses do spook on their own and in herds, too!
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post #16 of 50 Old 10-27-2015, 01:08 PM
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The worse horse I had for spooking was a jump racehorse, William. That horse didn't miss a thing, he even noticed a cement lion, about 2' in height on top of a brick pillar out of the yard - the wall and pillar were about 9 feet high.

He was bad with traffic and could dive to either side and try to disappear up his own backside.

I rode him forward all the time, when he spooked he soon learned that he wasn't going to get all the way around and charge off from whence we came so, he gave that one up and took to leaping sideways. I would always give him a boot the sole he had leapt towards, slap him across his neck and laugh at his antics.

I never beat him up, I used my legs and voice. I could even make him leap forward by leaning forward and saying "Boo" in his ear.

That horse took me to places he should never have thought about going, up steep banks alongside the road, over a ditch and barb wire fence into a field!

The first time he was with me to get fit before going into race training, he was pretty bad. The next he wasn't as bad and by the third and fourth years he was fine. He would look but rarely tried anything more than a half halt.
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post #17 of 50 Old 10-27-2015, 01:19 PM
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"Can do, maybe, but it is hard" is a level of intensity that teaches the horse confidence. And you NEED a certain level of obedience to stay alive while riding. A professional trainer may need to do what it takes to get the horse ready for the owner in a given time, but an owner can take as long as needed to build the horse's confidence.

This is a sticky thread:

This is how Sharpie finishes her first post on the thread:
"That is how my spooky green gelding became a horsie good citizen and will face all sorts of monsters (real and imaginary) and challenges just because he's asked to. Maybe it's sappy, but his "try" is my favorite thing about this horse, even though he didn't have any to begin with."
If I worked on a ranch, my goals might differ. Both horse and rider need to go get the job done on a ranch regardless of weather or anything else. How much the horse enjoys it is ultimately optional - a good rancher knows a horse who loves his work works better, but the work needs to get done regardless. But as a recreational rider, my goal is riding a horse who enjoys the ride with me. If the horse isn't having fun, I'm not either.

This from another thread contrasting Mia and Bandit, from my perspective:
"Mia wanted to be involved in the decision making. Bandit just wants to know what I expect of him. Mia wanted to know "Why?". Bandit is content with "What?" After seven years with Mia, it feels strange to have a horse who neither needs nor wants an explanation. But because of that, I think I'll get the best results with Bandit using a more directive, dominant approach. I view that as adjusting my style of riding to match my horse's needs rather than a change in my philosophy of riding."
Some horses LIKE a very directive approach. Some do not. And if the horse wants to be told exactly what to do, then not telling him is the wrong answer - for that horse.

Also, I found the quote from the cavalry officer:
The French say, when speaking of a horse that shows restiveness, "il se defend" - he defends himself...There is much truth in this expression, and it is one that riders should constantly bear in mind, for insubordination is most commonly the result of something having been demanded from the horse that it either did not know how to do or was unable to perform...

...There is another thing to be considered with regard to the horse's character - it loves to exercise its powers, and it possesses a great spirit of emulation; it likes variety of scene and amusement ; and under a rider that understands how to indulge it in all this without overtaxing its powers, will work willingly to the last gasp,which is what entitles it to the name of a noble and generous animal...

..Horses don't like to be ennuye, and will rather stick at home than go out to be bored ; they like amusement, variety, and society : give them their share of these, but never in a pedantic way, and avoid getting into a groove of any kind, either as to time or place, especially with young animals. It is evident that all these things must be taken into account and receive due attention, whether it be our object to prevent or to get rid of some bad habit a horse may have acquired ; and a little reflection will generally suffice to point out the means of remedying something that, if left to itself, would grow into a confirmed habit, or if attacked with the energy of folly and violence, would suddenly culminate in the grand catastrophe of restiveness...

...Here, too, we find a practical hint for the treatment of full-grown horses that shy at particular objects and sounds, or object to passing certain spots. Treat them as the English trainer does his young ones, lead them about as described above, and reward them for their docility with a bit of bread, sugar, or something of the sort ; you will thus avoid all conflicts, the danger and evil consequences of which are enhanced a thousandfold if you attempt to mount your horse under such circumstances. Of course, when shyness arises from defective vision, which is often the case, this method will be of no avail.


Bolting. The first step to be taken is to ascertain why the horse bolts. A nervous and excitable temperament is sometimes the cause, and the only remedy will be quiet and judicious treatment...

...The first impulse of the great majority of riders whose horses bolt is, to put a sharper bit into their mouths, or at least to shorten the curb, and perhaps rig the horse out with some sort of martingal or running-reins that gives them a good hold of the head, to secure which more effectually they plant their feet firmly in the stirrups, probably at the same time throwing their own weight as far back as possible towards the horse's loins. Energy is an admirable thing, but the energy of stupidity seldom avails much ; and the above plan of proceeding is nearly sure to make matters worse, and convert a terrified animal into a vicious one. For whether the anguish the poor horse endeavours to escape from has its seat in the hind quarters or in the head and neck, severe bitting is sure to aggravate it, and a rude hard hand will do the same. The best, in fact the only, remedy for a bolter is, a very carefully fitted and well adjusted bit, a perfectly painless curb, a light hand, and last, but not least, a very firm steady seat, somewhat forward with horses that have weak hind quarters...

...Let us take the case of a horse running away in a field or open space, in the first instance, as being more easy to deal with. Here the principal object must be to take your horse off the straight line and on to a circle at first, of course, a wide one, but by degrees gradually narrowing. On a circle one has room enough even for the tiring process, seeing that it never ends, but the thing is to know how to get and keep the horse on to it. In the first place, then, it requires simply coolness and self-possession sufficient to enable the rider to sit well down in his saddle, bringing his legs well back and keeping his body upright the legs being required there to regulate the action of the horse's hind legs in the manner already described, whilst the upright position of the body affords a basis from which the arms can work. Next, instead of pulling a dead pull on both reins alike, the rider must take intermittent pulls on the one at the side he wishes to turn towards, gradually increasing the strength of the pull, and then as gradually relaxing to begin again...

...The circle affords, however, not merely an opportunity for avoiding dangerous obstacles ; its great value is, that it also enables the rider, by gradually obtaining command over his horse, to demonstrate to the latter the utter futility of its attempt to get rid of him by running away, and that, too, without violence or severity. One single attempt at bolting away, if taken advantage of in this manner by a judicious rider, may prove the means of effectually subduing a troublesome animal...

...Rearing would occur much less frequently if it were well understood that it is almost always the last stage of disobedience, and very seldom if ever the first. In fact, its occurrence is evidence of injudicious management of some kind, either from untrained horses being brought into positions for which they are as yet unfitted, or from something being demanded of them that was beyond their power ; or from the rider not knowing how to recognise and subdue the very first symptoms of disobedience; or, finally, from his using violent and intemperate methods of doing so.

On Seats and Saddles, by Francis Dwyer, Major of Hussars in the Imperial Austrian Service (1868)

"The next he wasn't as bad and by the third and fourth years he was fine. He would look but rarely tried anything more than a half halt."

I like that. Too often we expect a horse to change his way in weeks, or days. Patience, firmness, fairness and consistency will teach the horse the rider IS the one who must be obeyed because the rider is the one who SHOULD be obeyed.
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post #18 of 50 Old 10-27-2015, 06:00 PM
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I'm afraid I disagree as well, OP.

The question question I would pose to you is this: what defines "good intentions" versus "bad intentions" for a horse? Horses do not have a notion of good and evil or anything in-between, so that immediately makes the question implausible.
No matter what my intentions are, you better believe the horse I'm riding will be doing what I ask.

The sensitivity of the internet baffles me.
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post #19 of 50 Old 10-27-2015, 06:18 PM
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Looby was very spooky when we first got her but now she faces pretty much anything asked of her and even when she sees something she thinks is a monster she thinks about it and listens to me instead of having a meltdown
I actually haven't done anything at all to change her attitude other than own her.
Horses spook for so many different reasons you need to have a different approach for each one
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post #20 of 50 Old 10-27-2015, 06:48 PM
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I actually completely agree... maybe not with the "see your good motives" bit but with the general concept- a horse that trusts and respects it's leader (you) is less likely to be spooky (genuinely spooky-aka fearful) than a horse that does not.

Agree with Foxhunter. There is training involved and there is also just the horses personality. Or a lot of horses (cough..Arabians..cough) spook just because it's fun. My boy will snort and prance all day but when I ask him to stop he will plod along, that's because of training trust and respect and because he is a safe and sane horse behind the showing off.

So good motives, no, a good relationship, yes... and no relationship doesn't auto mean "farts and butterflies".

"Too much anthropomorphizing and tween horse movie reasoning there."
Disagree with this completely. I guess I agree if I were to take the OP literally but I'm not getting the "literal" meaning from what the OP wrote lol. I hate it when people act like that too lol.

Ignoring a spook doesn't solve anything and ultimately it becomes the horse playing games with the rider.
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Last edited by Yogiwick; 10-27-2015 at 06:55 PM.
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