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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
馃榿 Allow me to explain. I have a mare who has what I call "flash backs from a war that she was never in...".
She will do a sudden 180. Some times something was there, a pat flies up or a deer runs across the path, but often times nothing was there, she just spooks. Just once per trail ride. She doesn't remain nervous, she doesn't bolt off, "just" snorts and whips around. I've come off a horse twice in the past 4-5 years (not sure how long but its been a while...) but both times have been her spinning.

If we are riding in a group I tend to more often than not swat her, flex her and move right along because I am typically leading the group. If I am riding her alone I put her feet to work for any spinning nonsence. Circles, turns, roll backs using trees, weaving trees etc and then go on with our ride.

If she shows concern over any fixed object we work around it. She is brave, enjoys exploring and off roading, does hills, ditches, water, creeks, mudd, thick trees, wide open fields, windy days, hauls to new places etc.. She has is just fine with tarps (flapping, dragging, walking over), bags, ropes, whips, small spaces, tossing objects off from her, I can prune trees from on her, dogs running, I can even blow a leaf blower at her and shop vac her off for crying out loud but NOTHING happens on the trail and she whips around.

I would like to get her over this for myself but also so that some day other people can ride her and I can trust her to keep four on the floor through the whole ride. Any suggestions?
 

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馃榿 Allow me to explain. I have a mare who has what I call "flash backs from a war that she was never in...".
Nearly every trail ride she will do a sudden 180. Some times something was there, a pat flies up or a deer runs across the path, but often times nothing was there, she just spooks. Just once per trail ride. She doesn't remain nervous, she doesn't bolt off, "just" snorts and whips around.
She is a horse. They are 'programmed' to be vigilant to any possible danger & react first, consider later. Just because you don't see anything obvious doesn't make her fear less valid. Actually sounds like she's pretty good, at almost 'spooking in place* lol.

If we are riding in a group I tend to more often than not swat her, flex her and move right along because I am typically leading the group. If I am riding her alone I put her feet to WORK for any spinning nonsence.
I think that you thinking & treating her as if it's 'nonsense' is not helpful. If you were frightened & reacted to something & someone just told you to stop being an idiot & punished you for it, do you think that would help you?

Further to that, if you're going to punish something, remember horses learn from instant associations & can't well connect 'effects' that don't happen at the time of the 'cause'. Even by a few seconds is too late.

So, say she does something Wrong & you instantly 'swat' her for it & then, as she has stopped doing it, you just continue on, forget about it, that could be an eg of well applied punishment. But if she does Wrong & when she stops, you start punishing her, then you're just turning Work into .... Well, Work. Without there being a reason she can understand.

And then there's the subject of using Work as punishment. Won't go on there, except to say I don't want a horse to think of Work as something unpleasant. I strive to make Work as fun & pleasant for the horse as possible so they WANT to play my games.

But back to spooking, I think if instead of punishing her, you could catch her as she first sees the 'spook' & reassure her that you're considerate of her fear & you've 'got her back', then she might feel less inclined to need to react herself, in self preservation. She may start trusting you to look out for her.

If you're oblivious of the surroundings & her feelings, perhaps just because you are preoccupied with socialising, on a group ride, then she's going to be more vigilant herself.

I would like to get her over this for myself but also so that some day other people can ride her and I can trust her to keep four on the floor through the whole ride
As said, sounds like she's pretty good already, but understanding her better and therefore being able to be more considerate & respectful of her should also help her gain more trust in you, to look out for her, so she can be less on alert herself.

But she is, and always will be, a horse. The only truly 'bombproof' horse is a dead one. If you can't accept that level of risk yourself or for other riders, then perhaps horse riding isn't an appropriate hobby.
 

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My late Annie would spook at a rock on the ground, a lizard, or a butterfly. It always amazed me how she could change directions so strikingly quick. But I had a different reaction than you do. I think one of the aims of being a good horse person is recognizing when the horse is giving the best it can. Annie was who she was. And she was always going to spook at things. I would just reassure her that everything was alright and keep going. Sometime after Annie passed away, I was talking to her former owner, who at the time she sold me Annie, told me she just had too many horses. This time she told me she sold me Annie because she was tired of walking home every time Annie spooked at something on the trail and dumped her. LOL. I thought Annie was perfect.
 

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I have a lovely horse that almost never spooks. Then, one day, he started spooking at nothing. My riding buddy, @4horses, who has a degree in horse science, suggested I treat him for ulcers. She said that every once in a while, the way the horse happens to move, causes the ulcer to hurt and makes the horse spook. I treated my horse for ulcers and the spooking went away. You might try that.

On the other hand, I have another wonderful horse who is quite reactive. He has done big spooks since he was a baby. He spooks when grazing in the pasture. He's just a spooky guy. A reactive horse is fun because he responds to the slightest touch of rein, hand, or shift of weight. I take the bitter with the better with that guy.
 

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@loosie took the words right out of my mouth. Fighting fear with fear, never works. Or punishment. Working them harder after a spook isn't always good. Some reassurance & calming vibes can really help. Talk to her. Sing to her, hum to her...reassure her. :) How you handle the situation is important.
 

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I have my boy who can do a spook an 180 and lose his rider. I don't use punishment ever not effective. What works is paying attention to your horse. Knowing the signs when they are about to spook.

Before a whirl around omg moment, ice gets a bit tense head goes up its not a huge change. But if paying attention it's easley picked up on.

When I feel this change in my horse I ask him to pay attention to me. Ask for a leg yield ask him to collect up. Have him back up an turnaround or just backup if trail is to narrow.

I get him thinking get his feet moving backing going sideways both directions. Moving forward giving to bit lateral flexion both directions. Once his mind is working him spooking doesn't happen. Then I go on with the ride. Less then 5 minutes is spent redirecting his attention. No punishment required.

When I do the above I am not mad I simply say here let's do this instead of spooking. Yep I see that spooky looking rock it's ok though, let's work on something your good at. I talk to my horse I give a reassuring pet on his neck. He doesn't understand my words, but he knows that familiar tone of voice that all is ok.

I ride with people who understand this is how I deal with my horse, they are totally good with it. But I choose my trail riding friends. There are people I won't ride with.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Wow, thanks! Ok...

"Wear your sticky pants" may be the best advice @tinyliny LOL

@loosie & others with similar feedback - I do get giving the horse a break, kindness, grace and confidence and I don't feel that these things are left undone... I will take that into close account while I'm out with her and see if I've just gotten to the point of being frustrated with her. :)

You are correct she IS quite un-spooky. I am grateful for that, I didn't mean to sound as though I expect unreasonable things from her or do not appreciate what she does well. But she did not get that way by me reassuring her when she spooks or misbehaves. There was a time when she bolted off, bucked or spooked, she also used to be disrespectful of space, wouldn't stand for mounting, wouldn't load in the trailer, had quite a fun time rearing on the lead etc.. Certain things I have of course made fun and enjoyable for her, if I call her she comes right up ready to go out. We have a bit of a joke around here saying that if she sees me coming for her she says "Oooooh its exciting, its exciting!" Because anything that we're doing today is exciting for her lol. She loves it. If I take another horse out, she runs around screaming. "Oh that is because you took one of her buddys" you say. And perhaps in part, but, I know that it is me because she does the same thing when I take a walk myself or with the dog lol so I've been known to lead her along like a dog just to quiet her up. I do not think she is terribly at risk for not enjoying her work... but I get what you're saying and that is a valid point depending on to whom you're talking and what experience they have.

In refusal, bucking, spooking situations I train by pressure when they're incorrect, release when they're doing what is right. (Within reason. If a horse hasn't seen a trailer or a certain body of water then I of course allow time for looking and safety. I try to create a cautious horse so rushing them into unknown situations isn't anything that I do.) If she does a 180, I am on it instantly redirecting her attention and her feet (or like I said, if it happens in a group at the very least flexing and asking her to give and consider paying attention to her rider) @rambo99 Its quite similar to what you've written I think. I just might write it out harsher. With this mare, there isn't much if any at all warning so catching her before hand isn't an option. I catch and correct her as soon as I can mid or post spin. (Side pass, forwards, backwards, work, move the feet, recollect the brain, give her feet something to do). She USED to be as you've described with a bit more warning but we've been at work on this and the other training issues since she was 3 so she is pretty good now. I am by no means unappreciative of how wonderful she has actually become as a 6 year old. She is a good horse, smart, (which is always tricky, because shes a busy horse!)

More rides with age and consistency might be just the only cure, but I started the thread because it is always a good idea to run things past others. Like I said, I will watch myself to see if I've just gotten frustrated that we seem stuck here. I do not think that I've been angry with her as someone mentioned, but firm.

Back to what I've been doing - The wrong answer, though, is to do random quick rollbacks. I do not have any issue with a body being scared and a legit startle, but she can startle and NOT spin. For human safety reasons, she is going to need to continue to try to learn that. I get that horses are animals and perhaps we get 80% of the random 180's out and she still falters, thats fine, I will continue to remind her. I am not going to reassure her that it is OK because she isn't going to be reassuring anyone that breaks a hip that they're OK. My job as a trainer is to train the horse, since every ride is an opportunity to do so she is going to be met with a resounding "No thank-you" on my part in regards to spinning. Just as she would bolting, bucking, crowhopping, kicking another horse, biting or rearing.

Startling in place is fine by me as well, but the wheeling around is not. This is not a safe or necessary reaction, many horses are able to learn that, I've seen them do it. :)

@knightrider Interesting thought regarding ulcers. Pain is always worth looking into. What did you treat with?

I will say, that I am a bit surprised that (if I'm taking things correctly) the majority of what you all are saying is to lighten up, if I cannot accept risk horses aren't for me, reassure her, try to understand her better also it seems that you're supposing that she does not trust me and just has to fend for herself out on the trail... I guess, so many questions come to mind. First of all I am floored, does everyone on here just accept a spooking horse?

In regards to your first comment Loosie, with the react first and consider later. Yes absolutely! But isn't a large portion of training, training a horse to use the thinking side of their brain? A trainers horse should be getting better at thinking before it reacts.

So if the take home message here, if I am getting it, is to sing to her or reassure her and then just understand her point of view when she spins each ride... then what would be the reason that she wouldn't just thank me for the rewards and do the behaviour more so?
 

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then what would be the reason that she wouldn't just thank me for the rewards and do the behaviour more so?
I'll only answer to this, but this is a widely popular misconception/a thing most people misunderstand.
You're asking about the behaviour, but it makes sense that the behaviour is caused by a feeling first, right? Then in my eyes it follows that what you need to remedy/work on is their feeling, not the behaviour itself. So you can forget about rewarding or discouraging the behaviour itself, and instead deal with the cause of it.
Let me put it into different terms for you, because horse training isn't always about rewarding/not rewarding. Imagine a parent and a child; lets say the child is afraid of a big dog (as some children are, even if the dogs are gentle and in our eyes completely harmless) and refuses to keep walking past it because it's scared of getting close to the dog. Should the parent punish the child for not obeying them when they say "keep walking", or should the parent go down to the child's level, acknowledge their fear and reassure them, telling them "I see what you're scared of, but here let me show you that you don't need to fear it"; and then only keep walking when the child is comfortable with it, and at the pace that the child is comfortable with. To expand on that; which example of a parent will the hypothetical child trust more? The one who understands their fear and works to make them feel safe, even if the parent doesn't necessarily share or understand the feeling of fear (which we can call irrational); or the one who ignores their feelings and continues to push their own agenda on them.
Fear is not something that you either "reward" or "discourage" - it is a natural emotional response that must be understood and worked through calmly. It's important to be able to see the difference between a fear response, and a learned "this gets me out of work" response - but a tyrannical "you must do what you're told" response to fear never accomplishes anything more than to grow distrust and tell the horse to shut down their feelings and emotional responses.
 

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I will say, that I am a bit surprised that (if I'm taking things correctly) the majority of what you all are saying is to lighten up, if I cannot accept risk horses aren't for me, reassure her, try to understand her better also it seems that you're supposing that she does not trust me and just has to fend for herself out on the trail... I guess, so many questions come to mind. First of all I am floored, does everyone on here just accept a spooking horse?
I don't think that's what anyone is saying. But I think everyone is trying to present different perspectives for you. The cause for this is because in this instance, it's difficult to punish the horse for the behaviour. If it was one of those things where you can simply tell the horse "absolutely not, you're not allowed to do this" and the horse accepts and learns, it would be a lot easier. But I don't think it's working in this case; the horse just reacts, apparently with no cause, in an irrational way, and punishing it isn't bringing an end to the behaviour. This suggests that there is a deeper problem that needs addressing. And we're all trying to find which one of those problems it is, so you can work past this issue.
It's not a matter of "accepting" a spooking horse - I'm sure no one has that perspective. But not all things can be punished away.
 

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Agree with the others.
Your goal is to get rid of the behavior that is spinning clear around, because that is what makes you fall off.

The answer is not to punish the behavior, because what will achieve your goal is that the horse has less of a reaction to being startled.

When you punish a big reaction, you are actually asking the horse to have more of a reaction. Say the horse spun around and it took two seconds for their feet to stop moving. If you then make them spin more, or back, or move back to where they were, you are telling them you want them to stay upset and keep moving for longer when they are startled.

Instead what you want is for the horse to practice getting over a fright and becoming still and calm faster. The best way to do this is to allow them to startle without reacting yourself, and getting calm as quickly as you can. If the horse takes three seconds to stop moving, that is something they will improve on as soon as they learn a startle is no big deal.

I had a horse that taught herself to go from being frightened and staying freaked out for five minutes to simply giving a big twitch and calming in a second.

The fright is the part you cannot change, anymore than you can teach yourself to stop being startled by an air horn blasting off suddenly.

A horse simply will not understand punishment for feeling fear. How can you punish something that is a reflexive, defensive emotion? But their brains are quite good at dampening reactions to things that are no longer perceived as a threat. A calm rider can help this process along.
 

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There was a time when she bolted off, bucked or spooked, she also used to be disrespectful of space, wouldn't stand for mounting, wouldn't load in the trailer, had quite a fun time rearing on the lead etc..
So, firstly may I say that it sounds like you've done well with her so far, and that what you say in this reply sounds quite different in some ways to the impression you gave in the first post, IMO.

What you say above, that she was 'disrespectful', I don't believe is a helpful mindset. This implies that she was doing Wrong due to consciously wanting to go against you, whereas if you think of it as, she just had not been taught to stay out of people's space, stand at the mounting block etc, leaves the human 'baggage' out of the equation.

In refusal, bucking, spooking situations I train by pressure when they're incorrect, .... If a horse hasn't seen a trailer or a certain body of water then I of course allow time for looking and safety.
Yeah, what we're saying is, when it's a fear reaction, it's generally UNhelpful to put more pressure on. Punishing a horse who is fearful usually makes them more so/confirms there's something to be afraid of. Remember, horses can't think rationally, just respond to associations. So if her fear/reactivity is associated with punishment too... And just because a horse has seen something before doesn't mean to say they 'should' just be OK with whatever.

Here's a think... if she used to be a lot 'spookier', and you did correct her strongly for it, so that she stopped doing it, but you didn't address the motivation - reassure her that you'd keep her safe, negate the need for the emotion of fear - then you may have 'suppressed' the big reactions, but as the fear is still there, this sort of 'hangover' still remains.

With this mare, there isn't much if any at all warning so catching her before hand isn't an option. ... She USED to be as you've described with a bit more warning
I think this lack of 'warning' is likely a product of her training. Like a dog who gets worried about something, will growl & show other signs of warning before he resorts to defensively attacking, but if he's punished every time he shows those signs, he will soon start to skip those 'precursors' & go straight to the 'big' reactions when put in those situations.

I do not have any issue with a body being scared and a legit startle, but she can startle and NOT spin. For human safety reasons, she is going to need to continue to try to learn that.
It sounded like you didn't believe she was being 'legit' anyway. But yes, they can absolutely learn they don't need to be so reactive, but to do so requires them believing you have their back. And I do not believe punishing a horse who's reacting in fear is at all the way to do it.

I will say, that I am a bit surprised that (if I'm taking things correctly) the majority of what you all are saying is to lighten up, if I cannot accept risk horses aren't for me, reassure her, try to understand her better also it seems that you're supposing that she does not trust me and just has to fend for herself out on the trail... I guess, so many questions come to mind. First of all I am floored, does everyone on here just accept a spooking horse?
Saying the last bit above, I think this says you didn't take the rest in the way it was intended. Yes, to a degree, I think you need to accept that horses spook, that they're never going to be guarranteed reliable, as they're reactive prey animals, but 'just accepting' was not really the gist, on my part at least. It was more about, if you can show her you respect her & understand that she's NOT 'putting it on' or 'fighting a war she wasn't in' or otherwise, that whatever fear she has IS legitimate, even if to you it's 'nothing', rather than adding to her 'bad vibes' with punishment, then she should become more trusting so therefore less spooky.

But isn't a large portion of training, training a horse to use the thinking side of their brain?
Yes, but to do that, you have to be able to catch them before they go 'right brained' in fear, because then they CAN'T think clearly at that point. Your job as a trainer is to 'head it off at the pass' and avoid it happening. You can't wait for it to happen, then react yourself. You have to give them good reason to trust you so they don't feel the need.
 

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what you need to remedy/work on is their feeling, not the behaviour itself. So you can forget about rewarding or discouraging the behaviour itself, and instead deal with the cause of it.
A resounding YES YES YES! To your whole post, but especially that bit.
 

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But she did not get that way by me reassuring her when she spooks or misbehaves.
Bandit has. In his previous life of running relay races, if he spooked, he was whipped past the scary thing. Arguably, from the viewpoint of winning, his rider was right: You cannot win a race if you take 20 minutes to pass a rock. But what I did was teach, spook after spook after scary thing, that WE would figure out a way TOGETHER. That I didn't want him to be scared and we would find a compromise. And if I pushed him a little too far, and he got tense, that I'd give him a pet AND a cue to take us further away (if need be).

Reassuring a scared horse is NOT encouraging them to be scared! Horses HATE being afraid. Mia - who I'll mention again in a moment - used to squirt diarrhea as she'd spin and race away. No horse squirts out liquid poo while faking fear to get out of work! Horses hate fear. And they learn to trust someone who takes care of them and makes the fear go away. I think fear is almost physically painful for a horse. I've never seen a horse who enjoyed deep fear.

And by teaching Bandit that I'd take care of him, and that I had good ideas on how to handle scary situations, I ended up teaching him to listen to me HARDER when afraid! Because that is when he really relies on me - he WANTS to listen to me when afraid because I'll find a solution that makes the fear go away.

Mia: Arabian mare I learned to ride on. Had her for 7 years. Her startle reaction was a violent spin. No warning. Sorry folks, but I rode her for 7 years and she never gave warning. To startle was to spin, and her spins made reining spins look like child's play. Solutions?

1 - Australian saddle. I was a total newbie. The poleys (Mickey Mouse ears) would slam into my thighs when she spun. That would then spin MY hips around with her, and if my hips stayed in place on her back, I did. Through hundreds of spins. Mia and the saddle that kept me alive:




2 - Notice my legs were forward a somewhat braced. When a horse spins violently, they often drop the inside shoulder and the rider is thrust over the outside shoulder:


One cannot start a spin like that riding in a "proper" dressage seat. You WILL end up too forward and often come off. However, an Aussie saddle will help keep you further back and aligned with the horse. So does a forward leg. When a horse reacts without warning, there is no prep time. You MUST already be in "spin position"!

3 - Lose control to gain control. This passage from Tom Roberts was the first critical lesson I needed:



When I started riding with more slack, she started taking responsibility for her own actions. Didn't mean she would NEVER startle, but it reduced the frequency. When I gave her some freedom, she started gaining confidence.

Did any of this "cure" her? Nope. Not entirely. There came a time when I had a chance to trade her and get Bandit instead. She went to be a brood mare and pleasure horse on the Navajo Nation. And in that very open country, ridden by experienced riders in the wide open, sometimes free roaming with a herd and having babies, Mia finally learned peace. So much so that the wife considers her the most reliable horse she's ever ridden, and the guy often rides her bareback. But she is now in a place she can SEE for miles, and...maybe being a momma taking care of babies, and having that freedom has helped her mind:



I'm very happy for her. And over the last 5 years, Bandit - building on the lessons I learned from her - has become a near Steady Eddie. I trust him in a way I didn't imagine possible. He's not a dead head, but he never loses his mind. And he knows that WE work best when WE work together! This is where we ride:



To come off is to be hurt bad. But he has learned to take responsibility for his actions, and considers me a staff officer to get advice from. In return, he listens closely to my advice and he's never even let my leg hit a cactus spine. Oh - and if he gets tense and is seriously considering a spin? I'm in a western saddle now and I have no shame in holding the horn with one hand. If my shoulders stay over my horse's back, then I will stay on his back! We've done some world class sideways jumps and spins out in the desert. Screw my pride! But part of my riding training has been in how to stay on a horse who moves violently. And...I'll cheat - horn or poleys. Staying alive beats being proud.
 

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It took me lots of riding an learning to read my horse. I hit the ground more times than I like to admit. I tried punishment it only made my horse more reactive.

I don't get much warning I just know my horse really really well. Someone else would never pickup, on his ever so slightly getting nervous scared ready to whirl around.

There are times I'm not on it fast enough an he does his 180. I just act as though nothing happened an keep him moving forward. Talking to him it seems to help calm him. No I don't praise him but sure don't punish him either.

If he loses me depending on how he's acting. I'll get back on if he's obviously upset snorting jumpy, I'll lead him down the trail till he calms down.

This has worked does it stop all spooking heck no. But I have deverted big spooks from ever happening. Get him thinking get his attention on me. When I miss that opportunity well it's my bad, an I move on with the ride.

If he goes into a whirl around there's no stopping it ,he's already in flight mode. So I ride it out and in some cases come off. He's a nervous type horse so I have to stay quiet and calm no matter what he does.

I've had situation where what I thought he would be fine with he wasn't. Because I do talk to him, I was able to get his attention back on me. Believe me it's hard to keep a calm voice. That's reassuring when all heck breaks
loose.

Then add in a kid on her own horse freaking out because her horse is going OMG my buddy has lost his mind must be life threatening.

I'm not only teaching my horse to think rather than react. I'm trying to teach my daughter how to think things through rather then freak out.
 

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@MoriahKoda, when I treated my horse that almost never spooked and suddenly started spooking about 3 times every ride, I bought Nexium capsules at Cosco and opened them up into his food. I figured the dosage according to his weight and what they recommended for a man's weight. It worked fine. He almost never spooks now.

When my daughter's mare started colicking, among other things I tried was to treat again for ulcers. I couldn't get Nexium, but I could get Omiprazole and fed her the same thing, looking at human weight and figuring out by her weight. Nexium is pretty much omiprazole, but I believe a bit less expensive. Treating her for ulcers didn't help her colic. The vet said she is the epitome of a healthy horse, and he cannot understand why she colics from time to time. Next thing to try is building some slow feeders. Maybe she eats too fast. We've tried lots and lots of things.

@ChieTheRider recommended nux vomica as a homeopathic remedy for ulcers, which she has used successfully. I would love to try that, but I don't feel experienced or confident enough to go on my own. I'd like some guidance from somebody who uses it before I go that route. Maybe you are familiar and can try it. I'd like to.

Also, I'd like to clarify something that people are discussing. My spooky boy Chorro, the one in my avatar, gives NO warning. He just leaps and spins. My daughter's friend adores riding him (she considers him her horse, and I let her think that because it makes her feel good). She is somewhat of a timid rider, and we often have to ride alongside a road with big semi trucks and big equipment. I started this horse from a yearling, and he isn't afraid of big noisy trucks at all. But my daughter's friend is afraid. When a big truck would come barreling down the road, she would stop Chorro, start patting him and saying in a fearful voice, "It's OK. You're OK. Don't worry. You'll be OK." I noticed that he began spooking at big trucks with her. I told her many times not to do that, that she was teaching him to be afraid with her fear. But she couldn't help herself. THEN, he started spooking with ME when I was riding him and big trucks came at us. Well, I wasn't going to have that. He'd been doing fine on the highway for years.

I told my daughter's friend that she would HAVE to stop trying to reassure my horse, that it was causing him to be worse. He was clearly getting worse and worse. Because I knew she was trying and couldn't help herself, when a big truck would come at us, I would say to her, "Breathe. Keep riding. Don't pet him. Breathe. Pretend it's nothing." It took about a year, but he is back doing fine when the heavy equipment comes down the highway.

I think your point, MoriahKoda, is you don't want to reinforce your horse's fear by patting and saying worriedly, "It's OK. You're OK." That will, indeed, teach your horse to be more fearful. The trick is to ride quietly, calmly, with confidence.
 

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I think if you're afraid, and you try to reassure them, they'll pick up on your fear. That is quite different from when you feel confident and are reassuring them. One is saying, "I'm scared but I want you to take care of us!" The other is saying, "This isn't a big deal to me, but if it is to you, we can find an alternative that works for BOTH of us." They DO read our fear. But they can also be very genuinely afraid while we are bursting with confidence.

That was part of what frustrated me with Mia. People would tell me, "Just be confident and SHE will be confident!" Didn't work. At all. I could be totally secure, happy, confident and loving life...and have her explode under me. Without warning. Had to learn to ride it out.

Oddly enough, there HAVE been times when I was afraid and my horse kept his/her cool. I ended up with a mini-version of PTSD with Mia. But she could sometimes 'take care of me' out on the trail. Bandit also. Once a swarm of migrating bees - thousands of them - came right at us, just above my head height. I flattened as low as I could go in the saddle, waiting to be stung. Bandit lowered his head, kept an even stroll, and darn near said, "Don't lose it boy and I'll get us out of here. One step at a time. You bees understand, just a calm horse strolling along here. Nothing to be interested in." And he strolled right out from under them. Did I mention I'm afraid of bees?
 

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I鈥檓 going to throw this in because you say that the horse isn鈥檛 typically spooky and is in fact the complete opposite and deals with everything that a lot of horses might struggle with.

I鈥檝e had experience of this with four horses over many years and still own one of them.
They were/are the go too horse if you wanted to give another horse a confident companion in any situation. They鈥檇 all been everywhere, done a lot of different things and got the T shirts to prove it.
They are/were very strong minded horses, go where you point them and very well trained and I reached the conclusion very quickly that the spook had nothing at all to do with being scared of something.
They might use something as an excuse to spook but fear didn鈥檛 come into it at all.
I found it was associated with them having to do something they didn鈥檛 want to do.
In Willow鈥檚 case it鈥檚 flat work schooling in a manege, she can do it but she hates it, gets bored really quickly and then comes that sudden stop and spin. It鈥檚 probably worked for her enough times in her past that she still thinks it鈥檚 worth a try.
 

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There are a lot of good thoughts in the comments I've read. One thing that seems apparent is that one has to look at the spook from the point of the individual horse. In Annie's case, or any of my other Arabians, spooking has nothing to do with pouting. The only equine discipline I do is trail riding and all of my horses have put on the miles willingly. The other thing is not all spooks are of equal gravity. Annie's were a 90 degree jump away from the butterfly, rock, or lizard that had scared her. But it would go no further. As far as reward versus reassurance versus punishment, I believe my horses can tell the difference between a soft, calming voice that says, "It's okay, Annie. There's nothing wrong," and an excited voice that says, "Way to go, Annie! Good job! Look at you!" The lady I bought Annie from was a cowgirl from Nebraska and a Clinton Anderson disciple. I find it hard to believe I'm a better rider than she is, but Annie never dumped me and dumped her a bunch of times. So maybe her spooks with me weren't as violent as her spooks with her.
 

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The other day I was riding Chance in the wooded trails of the National Forest. At one point, Chance suddenly did one of those stop on a dime a spread the front legs freeze. There was an armadillo scurrying away, rustling in the leaves. "It's okay, Chance. It's just an armadillo." Five minutes later, the exact same thing with a different armadillo. Again, "It's okay, Chance. It's only an armadillo." And a little while later, we ran into a third armadillo. But this time, the armadillo was right next to the trail and Chance saw him with plenty of time. This time, Chance just looked at it and kept moving. All three times, Chance saw the armadillo before I did.
 
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