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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi!

I'm not sure where to start but ill start at the very beginning.

I am 21 years old and have been riding since I was 4. Ive gone back and fourth with disciplines (English-western-hunter-jumping-reining-back to jumping) but id mostly just like to do recreational riding since I don't find shows that exciting anymore. Anyways, I had a horse a few years ago who was fairly green and very spooky (and apparently still spooky to this day). I was doing very well with him for the longest time and we were working on hunter jumping with him which he excelled at. about 2 years into our training together (mind you he always spooked randomly but never bothered me much), he had a really bad spook and took off bucking and rearing and I ended up falling off and breaking my wrist, 4 ribs and my collar bone due to him stepping on me while having his freak out. I am thankful it wasn't worse than that due to him being a 16.2hh draft cross. After I recovered, I continued to ride him but gradually got more and more wary of his spooks to the point where I could no longer ride him without feeling terrified. I sold him eventually and have had a few horses since then, but due to university, personal issues, and a feeling of insecurity with my riding, all have ended up being duds. Not that there was anything wrong with them per say, just wasn't a good match because even if it was an accidental spook, it would terrify me.

Ive always taken lessons from experienced coaches and theres not too much I can do due to it being less of a horse problem and more of a me problem. I've recently been looking into getting another horse due to my mental health being better which has bettered my confidence a bit, even though I do suffer a bit from confidence issues still.

To the point of this post, I basically am asking for advice on 2 things.

1) How do I train a horse to be good on trails?
- when I say this, I know I have to look at horses with a good basis on trails first, and it all has to do with their demeanour. I'm more so asking how do I get a horse to its top potential on trails? do I just plunge in and deal with the issues when they come to hand? what do I do when they decide to spook at something?

2) How do I help regain my confidence back?
-again, I know this kind of stuff takes time, but its been about 4 years and I've ridden a fair amount of good horses but even 1 silly spook sets me right back to the start.

any advice is appreciated!
 

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I've never had the experience of a really bad spook that ended up getting me really hurt. Even so, I get scared when a horse spooks, and I HATE that feeling. I would not ride a horse , at all, that spooks regularly.

But, as we all know, you can't eliminate spooking altoghether from a horse. You can, however, get them so they mostly spook in place.


Since you say you did mostly riding with a focus on showing, I'm wondering if did you ever work much on how to disengage a horse? As a tool to stop a spooking horse? How much time have you spent riding outside, on trails?


Maybe you should start out taking yourself on a trail riding vacation, like out in Montana or something, riding out on some big trails, but on a horse that is very well trained and super confident. You build your comfort zone that way, first. You feel how good it feels to ride out on a horse that is 99% reliably not going spook on you. You start to let that fear fall behind you.


Then, yes, in looking for your next horse, you evaluate the temperment first. Then I'd suggest you learn ground work skills to get your horse really connected to you and focused and do some work building HIS confidence.
Of course, that opens up a whole kettle of fish in that different people will recommend different trainers to 'follow'. For that, I guess you'll have to do some research. There are ooodles of discussions on various trainers , on this forum.


anyway, have you worked with a trainer to learn how to do groundwork with horses, and if so, in what way?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
@tinyliny When I used to show and I had a horse spook I would just kinda keep them moving forward and not pay too much attention to it. Mind you this was only if it was a cow hop or slight burst forward and this was also before my accident. Ive been trail riding a bit but more so in groups on seasoned trail horses because I used to help out with riding camps.

I also went trail riding in Arizona this past winter and it was absolutely delightful and is the biggest reason I would like to get more into active trail riding eventually. (not just atv trails)

Ive been working with a trainer all my riding career and one of the main things we worked on with my old problem horse was ground work. like lunging in noisy areas, making him come up to whatever it is that he spooked at (if there was a source) note that usually there wasn't a culprit to his spooking and it was more so due to his previous owner because whenever he'd take off, she'd dismount and put him away. no disrespect to her, as were kind of in the same boat now except for putting them away.
 

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I have always subscribed to the philosophy, "if it has a heart and pumps blood -- it is unpredictable". There isn't a horse on this earth that doesn't have some level of spook to it:)

I have done hard trail riding my entire life. some of those horses I broke from the moment their hooves hit the ground, others I bought green.

My best advice for you is to find a horse that already has a lot of miles of solid trail riding OR ranch work under its girth. By trail riding I don't mean in the woods behind the boarding barn or down some neatly manicured bridle path at a Metro Park. I mean a horse that's been exposed to all sorts of elements:)

That kind of horse will be rather costly but, given that you still have some insecurities, you are much better off spending good money up front for a BTA trail horse:).

Depending on how much horse sense the horse was born with, a horse as young as five could be considered. My best "no-fear" trail horse was born that way. He only spooked hard two times in his 27 years. One was the day a fawn jumped out from the brambles beside us and ran underneath him; he was only a 3 yr old at the time.

The second time, Duke was in his early teens and we had just moved across country. Someone shot a rifle off, just around the bend, on a trail, where we couldn't see. It echoed off the rocks and caught him off guard. This was the same horse who, a few years later, only flicked an ear when an idiot semi driver let off his Jake brake right beside us to see what the horse would do.

Duke was as solid as they come but even he had his limits.

Look for a solid/ethical horse NOT a pretty horse. You can't ride it's head and you can't ride it's color:). The horse has to have good work ethic to begin with and demonstrate a willingness to share the safety of the ride with its rider. From that point, the onus will be on you to not let the horse down:)
 

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^^^^ This, it could cost a little (or lot) more to find a good sensible trail horse with lots of experience on all kinds of different terrain but in my opinion for you if you can afford it, it would be the way to go,
You are obviously a good rider and just need a good trustworthy horse to regain your confidence and buying something that is not the right one could lead to training expenses so best to go for the well trained horse to start with, I'm sure with a horse like this your confidence and skills will come right back to you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
@walkinthewalk its all so simple sounding buts its so true! but sometimes even on the most experienced horses I still go into mini panic mode even if its just a little cow hop and its gotten to the point where its annoying more than anything because no matter what I can't seem to kick it. thanks so much for the helpful reply!
@Woodhaven thank you so much! I appreciate the feedback.
 

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Buying an experiences, seasoned and dependable horse is the way to start. With insecurities you should not be concerned about training a trail horse. Every horse is going to eventually offer a challenge in one way or another. It has been my experience that those challenges show up as you cover the miles together. In becoming a team you depend on the horse and the horse depends on you.
I am a trail rider...not "just" a trail rider (many of us here object to the "just" part). I love getting out on a trail, it's beautiful, and you never know what challenge might pop up (sometimes literally). I'm not as brave an I used to be but I trust my horse enough to relax and enjoy a nice walk in the woods but always aware that there is the possibility of the unexpected.
There are trail competitions if you want that sort of activity, but start out just for the pleasure of it. And start with a horse that is not a project. Time for that later.
Wishing you success and miles of enjoyment.
 

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To the point of this post, I basically am asking for advice on 2 things.

1) How do I train a horse to be good on trails?
- when I say this, I know I have to look at horses with a good basis on trails first, and it all has to do with their demeanour. I'm more so asking how do I get a horse to its top potential on trails? do I just plunge in and deal with the issues when they come to hand? what do I do when they decide to spook at something?

2) How do I help regain my confidence back?
-again, I know this kind of stuff takes time, but its been about 4 years and I've ridden a fair amount of good horses but even 1 silly spook sets me right back to the start.
1. Training a Trail Horse


Time and patience

There are no classes you can take, no trainers for this. It's a school of hard knocks sort of thing. You need a horse with the right mind for it, and sometimes that mind can come in a surprising package. A horse that's a NUT in an arena may make a trustworthy trail horse. A horse that's bombproof around a crowd at an event may come unraveled like a cheap sock when confronted with a bunny skirting across the trail... or a pack of hogs.

Find one that's not an idiot 'in the wild' and that's where you start... but you may not know what you have until you try it. Find a group of sound, sane, and safe people to ride with, don't go alone. Find low drama people who just want to be out and about with their horses.

Then try it. And then keep trying it. Trail riding is amazing good fun, but also a lot of work. It can get your horse's mind right, and get them fit in a way arena work can't. But again, be sure you have the right horse to begin with and therein is the million dollar question.

Spend a lot of time around your horse. Know who they are, what makes them nervous, what boosts their confidence, what's their currency. Know your horse.

Traditional desensitizing is good stuff. Grocery bags, crackling water bottles, water crossings, dogs, hikers, bicycles, dirt bikes... atvs... be prepared to introduce your horse to these sorts of things and gauge how they handle them. Work on the things that cause freak outs at home or in some other controlled environment BEFORE you hack out. Learn to recognize the signs of a problem early and learn how to defuse the situation before it spirals out of control. You have to have excellent situational awareness for this type of thing... be looking a head for problems, pay attention to what your horse is telling you early and often and listen to him.

Are you planning on day rides or camping? For either, your horse needs to be able to stand tied, all day long in some cases. They need to be able to ground tie, possibly be hobbled.

2. How do you regain the confidence?

Time and patience. There are no shortcuts to it. Start small, work your way up as your confidence begins to rebuild. Go on short rides on trails with trusted friends who have trusted horses. Remind yourself to have fun and LAUGH. Trust me, if you're laughing and having fun, your horse knows it and will respond in kind. Work on riding a little more relaxed each time.... deliberately control your heart rate, the tension in your muscles, especially the seat and leg, soothe yourself and you'll soothe the horse. Remind yourself that your fear will be sensed by your horse and you could start a feedback loop - you're scared, he's picking it up, and getting nervous, you're scared of him because he's starting to act crazy because he's sensing your scare so he's getting scared, he doesn't know what you're scared of but it must be HORRIBLE if it's scaring you! and then you just end up with a hot mess.

Long answer short for both questions: Go and do. Know yourself, know your horse. Start small, work your way into bigger, longer rides.
 

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PS. If you get that Pepto horse in your other thread, he'd probably make a good trail horse. If you said it, I missed it, but I'm assuming he's been a ranch horse. Ranch horses have been there, done that. The type of agility he should have may translate into being sure footed.



(Has he done ranch work? What's his 'job' right now?)
 
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Hi!

1) How do I train a horse to be good on trails?
- when I say this, I know I have to look at horses with a good basis on trails first, and it all has to do with their demeanour. I'm more so asking how do I get a horse to its top potential on trails? do I just plunge in and deal with the issues when they come to hand? what do I do when they decide to spook at something?
I can offer suggestions on this part of your post. There are training programs out there that are specific to trail horses. You might google "trail horse trainers" to see if there are any near you. Any natural horsemanship method that uses relaxation to build a horse's confidence will also help (I personally like Warwick Schiller and Buck Brannaman). Taking your horse out on trails and working through his hesitation slowly and gently (desensitization) can also help. Taking in-hand walks on trails will help your horse gain experience and confidence.

Building your relationship with your horse and gaining his trust will be crucial. Then the horse can look to you as it's "lead mare" to see if he is safe. Your confidence will tell him if things are OK. :cowboy:
 

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Horses gain confidence in various ways,

A wide variety of experiences without bad consequences can certainly build confidence in a horse. This is why some people intentionally expose their horses to natural and even unnatural situations. This is usually referred to as desensitizing a horse.

Riding a horse with other, more experienced and confident, horses helps a horse understand that what it thinks is scary really isn’t.

Another important influence is the rider. I tell riders that it is their responsibility to reassure their horse. If a horse becomes nervous, you may need to do something to get the horse’s attention back on you. But you should do this in a way that does not make the horse more nervous. Sometimes, we must control our own emotions so we can control the horse’s emotions. This is similar to a parent controlling his or her emotions to help keep a child calm.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
PS. If you get that Pepto horse in your other thread, he'd probably make a good trail horse. If you said it, I missed it, but I'm assuming he's been a ranch horse. Ranch horses have been there, done that. The type of agility he should have may translate into being sure footed.



(Has he done ranch work? What's his 'job' right now?)
Currently, the owner uses him on trails and around the barn. He has approx. 50 "training rides" on him, but that statistic was from 2 weeks ago, so has since gone up due to him being ridden 4-5 times a week.
 

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Currently, the owner uses him on trails and around the barn. He has approx. 50 "training rides" on him, but that statistic was from 2 weeks ago, so has since gone up due to him being ridden 4-5 times a week.

Still, if I were looking for my next trail horse, he'd be one to look at. He's green yeah, but I've seen green horses be rock stars on trails and if anything, be a bit too adventurous and trusting of their rider (And not say no often enough - I own one like that. She's 3).


Not sure 4500.00 isn't still too high - I see finished ropers, ranchers, and barrel horses sell for that or a little bit more. The bloodlines are great, but you can't pass them on, so in my opinion, a grade QH would be just as good for what you want and cost substantially less. You can't ride papers, after all.

But I LIKE him... he looks great. I just don't know that he's 4500.00 great since he's green, but... if you can afford it, and you're happy, then by all means... enjoy him. And yes, they go up with training and rides on them. So that's not unusual.
 
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The place where I bought Moonshine and Pony did trail rides, and active trail rides at that. But they also had most of their horses for sale. So you could ride the horse as many times as you wanted and figure out if you were comfortable with them. Maybe you could find a place like that?

I didn't see the other thread about buying a horse, but I totally agree that you want an experienced, BTDT trail / ranch horse. I don't think you really want to train one, because if you buy an untrained or less trained horse you really don't know what they are capable of doing. Not every horse can be calm on the trails. Just save yourself the worry and go with a known quantity.

FWIW we paid $4k for Moonshine. The seller said she was 10, and I think that would have been a decent price for her if she had been, but she was actually 16. She was not registered and had no fancy bloodlines. Just a grade trail horse (although she's a fancy blue roan color). She clearly has a ton of ranch and trail experience, and I can tell you that NOTHING bothers her. The most she's ever done was sort of suddenly freeze in place. I thought we had paid too much for her, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe a good, bombproof (to the extent that's possible) horse is worth it.

When we got her, Moonshine was swaybacked, often lame, had a long history of old injuries, was unbalanced, super heavy on the forehand to the point of having an inverted sort of neck, and had permanent calcifications on her spine from being ridden in a poor-fitting Western saddle, most likely by novice riders. In fact, our body worker said it would be best if we never put a Western saddle on her again. We (mostly my daughter) worked with her a LOT -- she is no longer swaybacked, unbalanced, or heavy on the forehand; and she has only been lame once, early when we had her. And while we can't make her old injuries go away, we manage them. Why am I telling you all of this? Because it sounds like this would be the type of horse you want -- not one where you have to train the spook out of her, but one where you just need to get her back in shape and balanced. It took a lot of time and effort (and pole work), but everyone now thinks Moonshine is 10 because she's just so healthy and good looking. It's really rewarding to take a sort of worn-out horse like she was and rehab them. That's what I think you should be looking for.
 
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
The place where I bought Moonshine and Pony did trail rides, and active trail rides at that. But they also had most of their horses for sale. So you could ride the horse as many times as you wanted and figure out if you were comfortable with them. Maybe you could find a place like that?

I didn't see the other thread about buying a horse, but I totally agree that you want an experienced, BTDT trail / ranch horse. I don't think you really want to train one, because if you buy an untrained or less trained horse you really don't know what they are capable of doing. Not every horse can be calm on the trails. Just save yourself the worry and go with a known quantity.

FWIW we paid $4k for Moonshine. The seller said she was 10, and I think that would have been a decent price for her if she had been, but she was actually 16. She was not registered and had no fancy bloodlines. Just a grade trail horse (although she's a fancy blue roan color). She clearly has a ton of ranch and trail experience, and I can tell you that NOTHING bothers her. The most she's ever done was sort of suddenly freeze in place. I thought we had paid too much for her, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe a good, bombproof (to the extent that's possible) horse is worth it.

When we got her, Moonshine was swaybacked, often lame, had a long history of old injuries, was unbalanced, super heavy on the forehand to the point of having an inverted sort of neck, and had permanent calcifications on her spine from being ridden in a poor-fitting Western saddle, most likely by novice riders. In fact, our body worker said it would be best if we never put a Western saddle on her again. We (mostly my daughter) worked with her a LOT -- she is no longer swaybacked, unbalanced, or heavy on the forehand; and she has only been lame once, early when we had her. And while we can't make her old injuries go away, we manage them. Why am I telling you all of this? Because it sounds like this would be the type of horse you want -- not one where you have to train the spook out of her, but one where you just need to get her back in shape and balanced. It took a lot of time and effort (and pole work), but everyone now thinks Moonshine is 10 because she's just so healthy and good looking. It's really rewarding to take a sort of worn-out horse like she was and rehab them. That's what I think you should be looking for.
Im glad that you found your heart horse! and yes I definitely do not want to be stuck with a spooky horse. the owner agreed to let me go on an all day trail ride on Friday through the mountains, so ill for sure know after that! If I come back that is :biglaugh: jokes. We went on a quick stroll through the hay fields and a goose ended up flying right out of the grass in front of him and all he did was brace which I think is a good sign.
 

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Find a group of sound, sane, and safe people to ride with, don't go alone. Find low drama people who just want to be out and about with their horses.

This whole post by @AtokaGhosthorse is really good, but this ^^^ I think is the most important. Both you and your horse are more likely to relax and enjoy yourselves if there's a group of chill horses and riders (or even just one) to hang out with. I've had some bad spooks and falls and the last one really freaked me out. I'm still a bit nervous every time I mount up, but Wyatt has been a rockstar and that has helped a lot. My hardest thing is keeping my nerves under control, so that he doesn't feed off my energy and get all worked up himself. Easier said than done, I know! I hope you find a good trail buddy soon!
 

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Everything everyone else said. Since there is (in my opinion) exactly one way to train a trail horse, and that is to get out and ride trails with him, and only one way to find out if you have a good trail prospect, which is to get out and ride trails with him, you should not think about buying a horse to train as a trail horse at this point. You need to find a horse to give you confidence, not a big question mark.
 

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Hi!

To the point of this post, I basically am asking for advice on 2 things.

1) How do I train a horse to be good on trails?
- when I say this, I know I have to look at horses with a good basis on trails first, and it all has to do with their demeanour. I'm more so asking how do I get a horse to its top potential on trails? do I just plunge in and deal with the issues when they come to hand? what do I do when they decide to spook at something?

2) How do I help regain my confidence back?
-again, I know this kind of stuff takes time, but its been about 4 years and I've ridden a fair amount of good horses but even 1 silly spook sets me right back to the start.

any advice is appreciated!
Sorry if I repeat someone else here. Not botching to read the replies.

1. The only way to have a bomb proof, never spooking horse is to get one that's been dead for a few hours. The most broken of spirit plug, 30 year old gelding will still have the potential to spook under the right (or wrong) circumstance so long as it's still breathing.
Now that being said, I've trained "one or two" LOL horses and all of them so that they could be ridden down the highway. The best way of having the greatest chance of avoiding every single potential spook is to take the horse out to expose it to everything you can find or think of. Even then it's not full proof. i.e. my older mare will hop over logs, but when we went for a "short" 6 hour ride today she was shying at every fallen tree we past on the road (they've been cutting timber).
When you find something that they are spooky about (especially since you are spooky) it might be best to lead them to the item and let them get familiar with it. Lead the past it and around it until it shows no reaction (then your almost half way there LOL). Then try riding to whatever you've just worked on. Yes, it's time consuming, but with you being spooky about it (and the horse will realize this) it's probably the safest way with the greatest odds of success. Of course it would be a great deal easier if you had a good trainer handy if you're able to have them do the training. Or find a horse that is already a well trained trail horse.

2. You are the only one who can overcome that. The rule we lived by was when you come off you get right back on. If you don't it only gets more difficult. I have a cousin who was severely injured when a horse went through a fence, flipped, and sent her through the limbs of a trees (broken bones, shoulder, facial lacerations, and several weeks of traction in the hospital). She did not get back on when she got home and has never ridden again in the last 40+ years. I understand your fear, (March 2017 I came off across a log and broke 4 rips in 7 places....just one of the more injuries that I can remember...train enough horses for long enough and you'll suffer a great many injuries, and I started training horses in 1971). But after every injury I was back on top as soon as possible. I've ridden back with a broken forearm, bulled groin, sprained ankles, and more broken ribs than I can remember (although I walked back after this last one 2 years ago, but I was only about 400 yards from the house LOL).
Sorry that there's no "magic bullet" for fixing your fear. You are the only one who make it happen. Easier to train the horse than to overcome a fear once it become rooted....but it's not impossible to do.
 

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Hi!

I'm not sure where to start but ill start at the very beginning.

I am 21 years old and have been riding since I was 4. Ive gone back and fourth with disciplines (English-western-hunter-jumping-reining-back to jumping) but id mostly just like to do recreational riding since I don't find shows that exciting anymore. Anyways, I had a horse a few years ago who was fairly green and very spooky (and apparently still spooky to this day). I was doing very well with him for the longest time and we were working on hunter jumping with him which he excelled at. about 2 years into our training together (mind you he always spooked randomly but never bothered me much), he had a really bad spook and took off bucking and rearing and I ended up falling off and breaking my wrist, 4 ribs and my collar bone due to him stepping on me while having his freak out. I am thankful it wasn't worse than that due to him being a 16.2hh draft cross. After I recovered, I continued to ride him but gradually got more and more wary of his spooks to the point where I could no longer ride him without feeling terrified. I sold him eventually and have had a few horses since then, but due to university, personal issues, and a feeling of insecurity with my riding, all have ended up being duds. Not that there was anything wrong with them per say, just wasn't a good match because even if it was an accidental spook, it would terrify me.

Ive always taken lessons from experienced coaches and theres not too much I can do due to it being less of a horse problem and more of a me problem. I've recently been looking into getting another horse due to my mental health being better which has bettered my confidence a bit, even though I do suffer a bit from confidence issues still.

To the point of this post, I basically am asking for advice on 2 things.

1) How do I train a horse to be good on trails?
- when I say this, I know I have to look at horses with a good basis on trails first, and it all has to do with their demeanour. I'm more so asking how do I get a horse to its top potential on trails? do I just plunge in and deal with the issues when they come to hand? what do I do when they decide to spook at something?

2) How do I help regain my confidence back?
-again, I know this kind of stuff takes time, but its been about 4 years and I've ridden a fair amount of good horses but even 1 silly spook sets me right back to the start.

any advice is appreciated!
One additional item I had meant to include, but apparently got side tracked and didn't put in.

If you're nervous the horse is going to sense it. Horses are flight first animals with a herd mentality so they "feel the air" (i.e. they take in how the rest of the group and even other animals are acting, behaving, etc... if they sense anxiousness, nervousness, fear, etc...than in their mind there must be a reason for it and they'll adopt those same feelings). They will NEVER them being spooky is the cause of your nervousness. Them being spooky is a survival trait and they'll only see it as that, so to them you should be nervous if they are and want to get away too. YOU have be calm, collected, sure of yourself and the situation. The goal being to have them feed off your confidence and knowledge that there is no danger or need for concern so they can feel safe and not ready to bolt (that's why my horse was shy and nervous with the fallen logs yesterday...watching them closely and walking past at a slight angle...., but not spooky....I was comfortable and confident and she felt safe enough to just be cautious rather than spooky, because she knew I had no concerns about the logs). The trick for the rider is to show confidence while at the same time always being aware in the back of their head that this is a horse and at any given time, on any given day, it might decide for whatever reason that it's time to be "off to the races". It might never do it, it might only do it once or twice in it's life, or it might be buddle of nerves that no one as bothered to get relaxed. Whatever the case is there is only so much you can do, but if you can't be calm and relaxed enough and transfer that feeling to the horse then you are like the horse that is just a bundle of nerves.

Look at it like this. If you got on a horse that was nervous about riding outside of it's pasture or an arena how would you feel? You would be very unlikely to feel safe or good about riding that horse. Now transfer that to a horse who has a rider who is nervous, scared, tense, etc.... How do you think the horse is going to feel about the safety of anything it encounters that it might perceive as a danger when the horse senses that it's rider is in constant fear of some risk the horse doesn't know about? It is more likely to feel that anything it is unsure about it something you're afraid of and thus it should be afraid too.
 

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Since I previously posted I'll just add a couple of things...

Make sure your saddle and tack fit! Discomfort can cause some surprising reactions.

Some people sing while riding. My husband used to do that. He said the horses liked it. But by singing you keep breathing. Often if we get tense we don't breath as deeply as we should. As for my husband...I think the singing helped to keep him relaxed. He doesn't ride any more so now he sings with the pint size dog who sets up quite a howl to their version of HiDiddleDiddle.
 
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