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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
My mare is very spooky on trails. She doesn't bolt, but will jump sideways. I have worked with her lots on trail rides, but she just doesn't seem to improve. The reason I am stressed about it now is because our boarding stable is closing, and we are moving to a new house with no arena and only trails.

Is there any way to help her? I am a confident rider, but I too prefer the arena. I've done huge amounts of groundwork, sacking out, walking her along trails (from the ground), etc. Do any of you have suggestions? Or is it just her personality? She is a very high strung, excitable, 9 year old appy. I just cannot figure out what else to do.

She is respectful on the ground and under saddle, even on trails. She is just extremely spooky and scared.
 

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Well, if you're being forced to move then you two will become trail champs soon!

Read the thread at the top of the page about training a fearless trail horse. So much good reads in there.

You could do more groundwork at home to work on your team relationship, but sounds as though you've already done that, so my advice is just time and miles. That's what it took for my boy. If you can learn to redirect her attention before a spook great. But exposure will be your best training bet.

Happy trail riding!
 
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Get a bunch of miles hacking out with another fearless/bombproof trail horse. The confidence the other horse exudes will help build hers, and eventually all that scary stuff will seem less scary. Only exposure will help lessen it.
 

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The above mentioned "How to train a fearless tail horse" thread is excellent.
As is riding with a seasoned companion.
Other than that my advice would be to ride confidently and relaxed as if you expect no issues as your tension will be transmitted to your horse. This can be easier said than done sometimes.
 

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The fearless trail horse thread is pretty good, so I also recommend that.

If she works well with other horses, a quiet buddy might help. However, some horses are riled up by the presence of other horses and can just end up behaving worse, so be careful.
 

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Clinton Anderson has a good DVD problems on the trail...you can often find them used pretty reasonable but I find it very helpful. I agree with many tips on here. A solid trail horse helps them tremendously. Also keep them working/training on the trail. If they are focused on their job they use the thinking side of their brain rather than the reactive. That's why I like Clinton's DVD. Again, miles and experience will help, along with age lol!
 

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There's a lot that can be done as far as desensitization, but, just like anything else, only due diligence and the experience that comes as a result of it will help.

Expose your horse to as much as you can. I can watch my mare's ears and tell if her mind is wandering.....if it is, I talk to her, and do a few off trail tasks that makes her move her feet and think about something else.

I think the problem is more pronounced if the horse is leading.....so like others have said, get an experienced horse in the lead and follow along for awhile....but, take the front some, as that's where they really learn. It's easy to follow but harder to lead.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Wow! Thank you guys so much! I like the idea of watching her and moving her feet when she gets nervous. I'll look into buying the Clinton Anderson DVD too.

What do you guys think about ponying? Good idea or not?
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In general I think ponying is great! :) In this situation though I'd go with a bombproof trail buddy as a lead like one of the other posters mentioned.
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If it helps, the first time I moved my horse, he actually became more brave and started looking to me for guidance instead of becoming more spooky. I'm guessing it's because it was suddenly just him and me instead of him and all his buddies, but it really seemed to make him grow up a bit. I'd almost be happy with a horse who just jumps sideways instead of one who spins and bolts. Just try to keep your confidence up and don't expect her to be bad, or that's what you will get. Approach it from a standpoint of being the one she looks to in her new environment and she might surprise you.
 

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Two questions:
What do you do when she spooks at the leaf she just happened to realize is about to eat her?

Have you had your horses eyes checked? If you have or once you have and know her eyes are ok.

What I have done with spooky horses on trails is LOTS and LOTS and LOTS and LOTS and.... (I think you get the idea)of trail rides. Try and see what is going to spook your horse and distract her before you get to the big boogeyman that is about to scare her.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
When she spooks I usually just make her walk on. If I know what it is that spooked her, I will take her back up to it and make sure she knows it's not going to eat her.

I have not had her eyes checked, why is that important? (I'm curious haha.)
 

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I have ridden mostly Arabs that always spooked at things or on guard. I am now on a Morgan who is not so spooky. The Arabs always jumped sideways. My DH is still riding one and she always spooks sideways. I had a horse that lived til 30 and she always spooked. I really think alot of her spooks were from boredom in her case. She was an endurance horse and when we were at rides, NO spook even if she was leading.
On training rides, she was hell to ride. It does help to have a horse that doesn't spook to go along with.
I used to go with a friend of mine and we had the same kind of horses. We got to laughing so hard one ride because the horses were feeding off each so bad, we were not getting anywhere. One horse would spook and stop and the other one wouldn't budge either.
 

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When she spooks I usually just make her walk on. If I know what it is that spooked her, I will take her back up to it and make sure she knows it's not going to eat her.

I have not had her eyes checked, why is that important? (I'm curious haha.)
It could be a cause for spooking if the horse has bad eyesight or some type of partial blindness causing spooky looking shadows to appear in her vision. From the sounds of it she's only like that on the trails though, yes? Usually a horse with eye problems will spook in many situations, but I guess there still is that possibility.
 

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When she spooks I usually just make her walk on. If I know what it is that spooked her, I will take her back up to it and make sure she knows it's not going to eat her.

I have not had her eyes checked, why is that important? (I'm curious haha.)
You have gotten a lot of great advice. I will just add, and some may disagree, but with these spooky, everything is a horse eating monster types I don't like to take them up to look at stuff unless is something really unusual that we normally don't see. Stopping and looking means their feet stop moving, feet stopping means brain has time to start reacting. The best thing to do is keep the feet moving and do lots of transitions, lateral movements, circles, hop over logs, trot around trees keep her guessing what your going to ask for next so she does not have time to look for things that may eat her. And even when you find something unusual don't just head at it and stand there do serpentines to it, do rollbacks near it you will know if she is really committed to being scared if she stays excited or relaxes as soon as you ask her to work, if that makes sense.
 

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I have ridden mostly Arabs that always spooked at things or on guard. I am now on a Morgan who is not so spooky. The Arabs always jumped sideways. My DH is still riding one and she always spooks sideways. I had a horse that lived til 30 and she always spooked. I really think alot of her spooks were from boredom in her case. She was an endurance horse and when we were at rides, NO spook even if she was leading.
On training rides, she was hell to ride. It does help to have a horse that doesn't spook to go along with.
I used to go with a friend of mine and we had the same kind of horses. We got to laughing so hard one ride because the horses were feeding off each so bad, we were not getting anywhere. One horse would spook and stop and the other one wouldn't budge either.
We have an arab at my barn who has been there for many years, and he always, ALWAYS spooks at one particular corner in the indoor arena, despite the trainer trying to get him over it. Go figure.
 

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My Arab was a big spooky, scaredy cat on trails for a while. An obstacle course really helped us. It got him thinking about new things instead of reacting. I walked him through it the first time, and then we would ride through it every time we were about to go on a trail. It just got him in the right mind set.

I would switch things around so it always seemed new. A path of tires can be rearranged easily. A tarp can be made smaller and larger and move it around. Cones on their sides. All kinds of things laying around the barn can be turned into obstacles.

I don't know what your new place will be like, but maybe you could set up a few to go through before a trail ride and then (like others have said) find obstacles on the trails to make her go through. A jumble of limbs, around trees, back and forth through puddles - anything to get her thinking instead of reacting.

That worked for me and my big coward. ;)
 
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