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How do I re-teach my horse to spook in place?

2420 Views 11 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Foxhunter
My mare seems to know how to spook in place. She will do it when it's too hot to move much or when she's tired. Lately she started spooking by cantering away. Ok, it did get very cold suddenly and she's been stall-bound because the fields are completely flooded but still.

I'm most probably doing something wrong. Should I shut her down harshly and immediately? I've been trying to stay out of her face generally, so when she spooks I try to stop her gently, with my seat and a little bit of hand. It's now starting to get on my nerves and I don't think it's good for her training to be allowed to just do whatever she pleases, even if I do get harsh with her.
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It’s got cold and she’s stall bound, there’s your answer as to why....mine is out 24/7 but it was cold the other day when I rode her, and she felt like a bomb ready to go off.

I do not play nice or baby her at all when she is like that, when I can feel her building to one, I make sure to have a short connected rein on the dangerous side, while flexing her gently to the safe side, leg hard in to keep her going into the connected rein. When you get the sudden unexpected ones, shut her down hard and fast, one rein stop, or use both is unacceptable behaviour and it is fine for you to, in that second, be over hard.
Thank you. I was worried that I might set her training back with harsh stops but this clearly isn't working all that great either.
My approach to riding a spooky horse:

"I understand startle reactions. I understand caution. I do not understand spinning or bolting.

If you spin I will do my best to keep you spinning until you end up facing the threat anyways ("This will not profit you"). If you try to race away, I will do everything in my power to shut you down ("This will not profit you"). If you ask, we MIGHT turn 180 degrees and WALK away. But we will not spin and we will not run. Not until I tell you...and I've never yet told a horse.

I keep slack in the reins when I can. If a horse decides to spin or run, then no more slack. I'll jump in a horse's mouth with combat boots on to deal with spins and running away.
Thanks. As I said above, I was trying to stay out of her face but that seems to encourage her to do it :/ Combat boots it is from now on - unfortunately...
What you do to "correct" the horse is going to depend on the horse and the individual spooking situation.

For example, if a bird suddenly flies up in front of us while on the trail, heck, even I am bond to be startled by that! I am most certainly not going to get after a horse for something sudden like that which is reasonable to expect they may spook.

With that said, I also don't want them to BOLT off when something like that happens but I will calmly bring them back down to a walk, let them settle, and carry on the trail.

For horses that are LOOKING for things to get scared of, that's a bit different. With that type of horse, I am going to be as proactive as I can. I want to get them to change their focus from the scary world out there, to ME. If there focus is on me, they can't spook. We might do speed changes, direction turns, serpentines, sidepases, etc etc etc. Any and everything to keep their mind busy and them listening to me.

This can be useful when passing by a scary object. I pay no attention to the object at all, and "just so happens" to work my horse near it doing the same things as above. Again, if I can control my horse's attention and keep it on me, the spooking is a non-issue.

Over time with consistency, it teaches the horse to listen to the rider for what it should do, rather than deciding for itself to get out of Dodge.

If she still spooks on you, again, being super harsh or super upset about it doesn't pass on well to the horse. You want to calm them down and not rile them up. If you need to be firm with your cues, that's one thing, but no need to be jerking or anything like that.

And yes, cold temperatures often make horses more jumpy and/or energetic.
So does being locked up all day without turnout.
So that is going to influence their behavior and you'll just need to be even more proactive.
Thank you. My mare isn't spooky at all. I think she spooked less than 10 times since I got her two years ago. But in the last two weeks she cantered off three times, which she never did before. I suppose it's just excess energy that's making her do it. She doesn't bolt, I manage to steer and stop her relatively easily but I don't want her to get into a habit because I'm being too soft.
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