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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My horse spooks. A lot. He is 6 years old and has been under saddle for almost 1.5 years. I need some advice on how to calm him down. I sack him out a lot with scary things. Tarps are fine, plastic bags are fine, and anything else I can throw at him when I'm on the ground is fine. It's while I'm riding him that the things that suddenly happen scare the bajeesus out of him. A horse could walk through the door of the arena while we are riding and he could spook. Is there anything I can do to build his confidence, or do I just have to wait it out? I know he's still young and green.

Thanks!
 

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You could try setting up a scenario where something is going to happen suddenly. Make sure you don't react, and don't give him any form of praise until he hardly reacts. You don't necessarily need to be in the saddle either - try walking him around somewhere with a friend hiding. Have them step out in front of him, or roll a ball across his path. Don't make it too full on though - you don't want him to flip out and risk hurting anyone. When he handles it on the ground, get in the saddle.

It could be that he is so focused on doing his job and listening to you that he doesn't pay attention to his surroundings. There have been times when I've been riding my near-bombproof horse and he has spooked at people walking around the side of a building, because I was making him think hard at the time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
That makes sense. He only spooks bad when I'm riding him. If I'm leading him and something happens he startles a bit but nothing major. I was riding him last night and there was a girl grazing her horse just outside of the arena. We rode past them a couple times with no reaction and all of a sudden, while I was riding toward them, the girl moved a little closer to the fence and it was like Joe saw them for the first time. He spooked all the way to the other side of the arena. Maybe he really isn't paying attention to his surroundings.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I've read it and tried some of it, but it doesn't seem to make a difference with my horse. I was looking for more suggestions.
 

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Don’t know if you aren’t being calm with him but it might be worth a look. What I mean is that horses will feed off your state of mind a lot, and if you are getting a bit uptight about the idea that he might spook it could be causing it to a degree. The worst horse I ever dealt with that spooked was terrible, if he saw a stick, shadow, grass that looked un-grass like (whatever that was in his head) even cattle, basically anything that we'd come across, he would just about turn himself inside out trying to jump away from it. It was particularly a problem because I was riding him as a cow horse on a big place where we mustered cattle with helicopters. If the chopper went over him it was like a roller-coaster for the first couple of weeks.
But, a few weeks of work, a combination of me being calm on him, even when I knew he was going to spook, and giving him a job to keep his mind on, working cattle, and he came really good and quit the spooking. Even if you are just a little nervous on your horse, and you may not even realise it, it could get him a touch wound up.
 

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First, seriously and honestly evaluate your self. a big portion of spooking issues are caused by the rider. are you nervous or tense? gripping with the reins or your legs? anticipating a spook? when he spooks do you tense up, potentially validating(in his mind) his fear("I was scared and my rider is too, RUN!!!!").

Next, get him out to do things. no amount of standing there waving a plastic bag will teach him to cope with the real world. I went through a phase at one point where I believed sacking out was a great idea, and I still think sacking a horse out with objects it will regularly come in contact with is a good idea, such as ropes, saddle blankets, various pieces of tack, people, etc. but I realized that sacking out with bags, weird objects, and such things in an effort to make a horse less spooky when being ridden is silly. I sacked out an arab filly one time, she would walk around the barn wrapped in plastic bags without even batting an eye, but go to ride her on the trail and she turned into a spooking mess. the blowing leaves on the trail were out to eat her, sticks would magically transform into snakes and any footing other than the road was quick sand in her eyes. she needed miles.

That's what your guy needs. long miles, in different places, and lots of wet saddle blankets. That's your magic solution, get him out and ride him.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
When I first started riding him I was nervous. He is the first horse I've trained from the ground up. Eventually I have learned to breathe and relax my body in sticky situations. His spooks don't make me nervous anymore because they have made me develop a really good seat and balance. I can ride anything he does (within reason), and this realization has calmed me. He does feed off my emotions, which I think is why he recovers from his spooks quickly. He realizes "Hey, she's calm up there, so I guess I can calm down now." I figured what he needed was miles, but I wanted to see if there was anything else I could do :)

Thanks everyone :)
 

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First, take a whole bunch of objects and such, and make sure that he is used to them on the ground first.
Then either lay them on the ground in separate places, or have someone hold them and wave them around - not looking at your horse at all.
Then slowly just walk by them - start out 40 feet away if you wanted. But slowly get closer and closer to the object, without asking him to go straight towards it. So walk by it, turn around and get a little closer to it, then walk over a few things, come back and get closer to it, etc. Do that until you can get up right next to it and touch it (whether its from the person or on the ground.) If someone is holding it, you can grab the object and rub it all aorund on top of your horse holding still. When he gets used to that, walk with it and rub it everywhere and make noises with it.

We have a new horse and he is 7 years old. On a St. Judes ride we went on with him, my mom found out he was scared of crinkly plastic water bottles. She was taking a drink and it crinkled and he was gone. Haha! But no one got hurt!
 
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