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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Background of my horse:
He spooks a lot. Mostly at a bush in the corner of the outdoor rings, actually, that's virtually the only thing that spooks him. I've gone by it nearly 200 times, rain shine, wind and no wind. And he is absolutely terrified of it, on random occasions. And oddly enough, only to the left! On some days, he will walk, trot, and canter by it like it's nothing at all. On random days however, for no reason unbeknown to me, he will just turn into a bomb about it. He will approach it with his head up in the air, back rigid, ears pricked. I will sit quiet in the saddle, half halt, talk to him, nothing will bring him down to earth. I'm not tense or nervous as he does this, I keep a perfectly calm disposition as he works himself up over nothing. I will walk him by it over and over, circle him by it, trot him and canter him by it, and he'll grow less rigid.

But then, out of nowhere about half-way to 3/4 of the way to the ride, he'll shy away from it, and then take a sharp turn and BOLT. I can usually collect him and bring him back before he reaches the center of the ring, and I keep my seat fairly well throughout this. I will then proceed to circle him and work him till he's exhausted by the bush as a punishment for bolting.

Here was the scenario yesterday:
I took him down to the ring, where two other horses were already being ridden. He does not mind other horses and actually feels more relaxed with their company. Seeing the other horses were riding to the right I decided to start him off to the right with them. There is a three day horse trial going on tomorrow so giant tents, taped fencing, signs and such are up all over the place, stuff he is familiar too. To add to that the wind was gusting so the tents were flapping. I rode him cautiously by the new equipment as it gusted in the breeze and he kept his head down by all the tents and such like they were no big deal. I walked him perfectly find to the right by all the commotion and the bush and then changed directions and tracked left, where he immediately through his head up and hollowed his back. At first he popped his shoulder from the bush and as a punishment for it I spun him in a circle and kept him on a small circle by the bush for a good 5 minutes. When he gave in to what I was asking I made the circle bigger and picked up the trot. As I trotted him by the tree he fell really hard on his front end, and thinking he was tripping I sat back in the saddle to avoid going over his head. As he picked himself back up he launched himself into the air in one of the worst bucks I've ever experienced, and I came off. He proceeded to run down the hill and graze on the grass.

Someone nice caught him for me and offered to assist me on re-mounting and take him into the indoor ring and just walk, and I proceeded to do so. When I got off my trainer greeted me at the gate and offered to take him down there and kick his tush for me. She cranked on his mouth and smacked him repeatedly with the whip till he put his head down and went on the bit and walked quietly by the bush.

Now. I've got mixed feelings. My horse is notorious for bombing at random times, for unknown reasons. Always to the left. He explodes on me atleast once every two weeks, and has thrown me three times, seriously injuring me all three times. [Yesterday he jacked my old tailbone injury and gave me a concussion, the first time he gave me a concussion so bad I don't even remember what happened, and the other time he broke my hand.] I've gotten advice from a few people, The first one was my instructor, she is a very wise woman and has a knack for handling problem horses, never have I seen a horse submit so easily than with her, she is a very old woman as been riding forever.

She told me this:
Due to all the commotion [tents and such] he probably caught the tents coming from the bush and then spooked. I tried to explain that he didnt really mind the tents from other angles, but she was convinced otherwise. I also tried to explain to her that his violent spooking happens on other occasions no matter what the circumstances.

My mom says: He's a horse that spooks, and she has forbidden me to push him towards the bush if he feels tense towards it.

We're going to get him a soundness check from the vet, but it simply isn't going to be possible immediately. But my mom has told me I'm not allowed to make him go by the bush if he doesn't go willingly. Is this sane advice? She said because if I get another head injury I'm not going to be ok, but I don't think it's right to let him go where he wants.

I do take lessons on him, and so does my mom so he's in lessons a few times a week, sometimes my trainer will ride him. He gets 2 packets of smartpak calming supplements with his PM grain. He gets turned out daily in a paddock that does not have grass to graze. He gets ridden once a day atleast every day of the week besides Wednesday.

I'm at a lost, I'm riding a bomb every time I get on, but when he's good he'd an angel, I seriously want to event him but this unpredictability is so extreme. What can I do?
 

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One piece of advice I will offer is make sure your helmet is a good one and get a body protector if you haven't got one already. It's really not worth the risk of a rib or spine injury.
 

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But then, out of nowhere about half-way to 3/4 of the way to the ride, he'll shy away from it, and then take a sharp turn and BOLT. I can usually collect him and bring him back before he reaches the center of the ring, and I keep my seat fairly well throughout this. I will then proceed to circle him and work him till he's exhausted by the bush as a punishment for bolting.
Do not work your horse to exhaustion by the bush. The only thing this will do is make him view as work and do all he can to stay away from it. Work him hard away from the bush and then allow him to rest by the bush, if he spooks work him more, until he decides its easier to stand by the bush. Continue to do this until he comfortable with the bush both sides and directions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Do not work your horse to exhaustion by the bush. The only thing this will do is make him view as work and do all he can to stay away from it. Work him hard away from the bush and then allow him to rest by the bush, if he spooks work him more, until he decides its easier to stand by the bush. Continue to do this until he comfortable with the bush both sides and directions.
I'll be sure to try that. I've tried to use positive association with the bush before (grazing him under it, making hi stand by it) but idk, he just acts like he's never seen it before sometimes even thought he's been by it hundreds of times.

thanks :]
 

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Have you ever thought that it might not be the bush, but what's in the bush? Are their any birds nest or insect nests in the bush or that area of the arena that he may be spooking at?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Birds yes but..
The bush is at the corner approaching the A end of the arena, once you pass that corner around the next long side from F all the way all the way to the corner near the C end there is a whole line of bushes, flowers, etc filled with birds flying in an out, so why would the birds in the long tree by A scare him?
 

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Hmm, that is weird. I had a pony that was once afraid of a certain gate at the fair because he got swarmed by wasps there that's why I wondered if there was something in the bush??
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Hmm well if something traumatic did happen to him at the bush like to your pony I would have known because I bought him from a different stable so he had never been ridden near that bush before I bought him.
 

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While I don't really have much advice as to how to solve your problem, I do think that horses have the mentality, "just because it didn't eat me yesterday, doesn't mean it won't eat me today." At least, that's what I've come to believe over the years.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Little shy's away I can deal with, a few canter strides I can deal with, but full out spinning on a dime and bolted, or launching himself into the sky like a rocket (and he's already a tall horse) and giving me head injuries needs to stop. I need to either learn how to stop these violent reactions or tone them down, or, follow my moms advice and don't make him face what he's afraid of, but I still don't know if this is good advice.
 

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Since it's only one side, I'd worry about vision loss on that side - but if that were the problem, I'd think he would be spooking at more things. At least with the well check, your vet can check his eyes and hopefully rule out any problems there.

I think your Mom's admonition to not push him towards the bush is not coming from the standpoint of the best way to train a horse. It is coming from the standpoint of the best way to keep her daughter from smashing her head in :wink:.

Too bad you can't just cut down the bush.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I would be out there was a chainsaw if I could! What worries me is that most of the time when he bombs, because I'm a more experienced rider, I can bring him back fairly quick and keep my seat, so I'm willing to put in the risk to try and push him through this bush issue. My mom however, is less experienced and doesn't have the best seat and therefore I worry that if he explodes on her instead (Which doesn't really happen because she rides much less than me, usually only in her lesson with her trainer who can help her bring him back if he does blow up, and when I'm there to do the same) because she doesn't have a great seat that she won't be able to pull him back and she'll end up hurting herself, so in a sense I'm worried about my mom as well. My mom will push him by the bush in her lesson even if I don't, and she is a very tense riders at times, especially if my horse is already weary so I do worry about her getting bombed on.
 

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I completely agree with freedom rider. Lunge the crap out of him for a week on the opposite side of the ring... Don't stop until he is sweating and huffing and puffing and then walk him to the bush on the left where he spooks. Let him stand there and rest or walk him in a small circle around the tree. Do this for a week and then transfer this situation under saddle. WORK his tail off and then let him rest by the bush.

This may be a temporary band-aid though... there is obviously a hole in his training somewhere... most likely ground work. Send him to a good reputable cowboy to scare some sense into him. (FYI My dressage buddies now send all their young guns and problem horses to the "cowboy" for starting and/or tune ups!
 

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I would get rid of the horse and get one that doesn't hurt you. How badly do you have to get hurt before it becomes obvious that he is too much for you. As far as solving the problem, I would put a beatin on him whenever he spooked at that bush until he was standing as close as it was possible to get to that bush. I would make sure that the horse believed the monster on his back was way scarier than the monster in the bush.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I would get rid of the horse and get one that doesn't hurt you. How badly do you have to get hurt before it becomes obvious that he is too much for you. As far as solving the problem, I would put a beatin on him whenever he spooked at that bush until he was standing as close as it was possible to get to that bush. I would make sure that the horse believed the monster on his back was way scarier than the monster in the bush.
Oh he's gotten a good beating before for bombing, doesn't seem to phase him.
@Starline Stables: The problem is that when I'm on the ground with him, he'll virtually walk into to the bush no problem, stick him face in it etc, when I'm on his back however it's a completely different bush to him.
 

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Oh he's gotten a good beating before for bombing, doesn't seem to phase him.
I don't advocate beating a horse but it seems to me that this horse has your number. If you insist on keeping him (if you were my daughter that would not be an option) he needs to have some severe consequences EVERY time he blows up at the bush or anything else. If you just beat on him when you're mad or frustrated with him then you're abusing him and he won't learn anything.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I don't advocate beating a horse but it seems to me that this horse has your number. If you insist on keeping him (if you were my daughter that would not be an option) he needs to have some severe consequences EVERY time he blows up at the bush or anything else. If you just beat on him when you're mad or frustrated with him then you're abusing him and he won't learn anything.
I would never wail him one for reasons unless he's done something dangerous, meaning he's exploded and nearly killed me.
 

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I'm glad you mentioned getting him checked by the vet! Like AlmostThere, the first thing that came to mind was checking him for a vision problem since he is only doing it to the left.

My trainer always tells me to make sure you're distracting the horse by asking him to supple and bend to the inside especially when you're coming up on a possible distraction. If he's 100% paying attention to you he shouldn't get distracted by it.

I also like the idea above about making his experiences by the bush positive ones so he stops getting worked up about it.

It might also be that you're expecting him to do it so he does...you may not even realize you're doing it but your body could be giving him subtle clues telling him the scary bush is coming up! ;) Does he do it even when your mom or trainer ride him?
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I would never wail him one for reasons unless he's done something dangerous, meaning he's exploded and nearly killed me.
I don't think you're quite getting what I'm saying. I don't think you should beat on your horse at any time but he needs to have consequences that are harsh enough that he would rather behave and walk by the bush than face them. The consequences need to happen every time he spooks or blows up even a little. You don't have to wait until he almost kills you.

One more time, I will implore you to send him on to someone else and buy a horse more appropriate for your riding level BEFORE you get hurt again. Have no doubt unless something changes if you continue to ride him you will get hurt again. The only question is when and how badly.
 

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maybe try leading him from the ground. He may gain confidence then. I use this with my TBs when I first start training them. It seems to get the spook out of them
 
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