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How do you handle it? I have seen people at my barn smack their horse when they refuse to walk on because something is scaring them in the distance and it really bothers me. It got me thinking, what do you do when horses act that way? I guess I have never really had that problem. Since Willow was 3, I've only had to talk to her and give her a few little tugs on the rope before she walks on again. All the other green horses I have worked with also worked with that.
 

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I have found that the best way for me to deal with something like that is just to let them look for a minute. Most horses will begin to relax when the scary object doesn't come after them or make any scarier movements. If they begin to really panic, I just work on getting their feet moving; back them up, circle them, or lead them in a different direction. Anything to get their focus back on me. Hitting a horse that is scared is probably the worst thing that a person could do because they then begin to associate you with pain and fear and will never trust you.
 

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Agreed with smrobs. I would never strike a horse who is scared - I am not opposed to physical discipline, but I reserve it almost entirely for situations such as an obstinate colt biting or kicking. Horses are bigger then us, and unless you're really ripping into him with a licking for doing something dangerous, constantly slapping them is only going to annoy them and really not teach them a darn thing.

Whether I'm in the saddle or on the ground, I personally act like nothing is wrong. I don't tense up when I see things they "may" be scared of, and I don't bother looking at things they "may" be scared of. If my horse tenses up and bolts on the trail because a dog scared him, I quietly ask him to whoa and continue riding as if nothing happened.

The ground is much the same. If they're being blowy or snorty over something, I simply walk by the object without giving it a glance. I also prefer not to coo or talk to my horses in scary situations - by speaking softly and encouraging them, you're actually setting them up to believe this is a GOOD thing to be doing. They learn that spooking means a good reward.

If they're being absolutely ridiculous about something, I'll set up camp and start working them there. Ground manners, lunging, working their feet, anything to get their attention on me and off whatever they think is scary. It never takes long for them to figure out if they pay attention to me instead of the flapping tarp, they get to stop working so darn hard.

Good for you OP, in that you rarely experiences spooks. That tells me you are a confident leader, because really, the best way to deal with spooking is to prevent the spooking. It's amazing how easily this can be accomplished just by the owner/rider having confidence and not playing into the horses silly little fears. In my experience, a horse will very very rarely spook at little things like garbage bags or colorful pails if the rider/owner keeps themselves calm and unconcerned. Most people don't even realize that they're tensing up and looking at the object themselves and then want to smack their horse around for it.
 

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Ooh, tough one. I personally would never smack a horse for being scared. That being said, it takes a very tuned in rider to know the difference between a horse that is truly scared and one that just being bit stubborn. I currently have a TB who has a subtle but definitely different feel to him when he is genuinly scared versus just being stubborn. For my horse, really scared only comes up about 5% of the time. I can't imagine smacking him at those moments since I'm sitting on an 1100lb rigid snorting bomb. That would just make the situation 100 times worse. I do make him stand his ground, but then turn away from the scary object at my choice and make him walk away from it. He's a good boy and makes the effort to keep himself together and not try to charge off like a nut. He's rewarded big time once he calms down and relaxes. I feel like he knows and appreciates that I didn't put him in danger. And let's face it, they can smell and see things that we cannot. If he's that concerned about it, who am I to tell him he's wrong.

For the latter stubborn issue, I still would never smack simply because it's just not a fair response for what the horse is doing. What is that possibly supposed to accomplish? When my horse stops because he's just being a goof, I escalate my aids until I get him unstuck. First a squeeze, then a kick, a cluck and finally a tap of my crop. If he still wont move forward, we make tiny circles until he decides I'm nuts and that it's just easier for him to walk forward. This moment is usually proceeded by a big sigh by my horse as he realizes I'm more stubborn than him.

I see I'm babbling now. Point for me is, never smack, but do have response for whatever action your horse provides. Knowing how much you can push the horse you're riding is key.
 

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When I had Ty, he would spook at almost anything. What worked best for me was walking to the object letting him stop and look as he wanted to. When we got close enough, I would reach out and touch the object (the worst in his cast was a trike that was covered). I would act like I was petting it, turn around to him and say "see, it's ok". I would stand there doing it until he actually walked the rest of the way up to it and sniffed it himself. He didn't like something else getting "his" attention. But after doing this, he would walk by it without a problem.

Luckily, with Rosie, she hasn't spooked at anything yet. *knocking on wood*
 

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^^

I find that method works with most horses, but I also find it extremely annoying and time consuming. My horse should move past objects because I asked him to, not because HE'S decided it's ok. It would be the day I'd start getting off and reassuring him for every little spook. And to be honest, that could very well have been WHY he spooked so much. He was getting "good attention" for negative behavior. My Arab mare is a spooker, and if I let her, she'd walk up and sniff out every object. She's learned over the years that she can look all she likes, but she better keep moving forward, so she's stopped shying from objects.
 

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^ I do the same when I ride. I rode a horse several times that was terrified constantly. You couldn't have people stood at the end of the school because he spooked, he saw things that other horses ignored etc. I never smacked him because he was guininely scared, you could feel it.
However it depends on your definition of a smack because I've found some horses get rooted to the spot and ignore a squeeze or a kick then with a tap of the whip they come round and their mind gets back in the game. When I led one pony he would stop and stare at things that scared him, he always needed a light flick with the lead rope before he could move on because his mind was so focused on the scary object he couldn't think about me talking to him or pulling on the lead rope etc. Sometimes some horses and ponies need that sharper reminder that you are there and a predator won't attack two of you. I once watched something that said crops are basically a human version of claws and when a horse gets a tap or a smack they think that it's a predator. Some horses need that because in some places predators hunt in packs so standing still would get them and the rest of the herd into danger, sometimes a smack or tap is just a reminder of that.
 

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My horse scooter will occasionally spook, sometimes it the jump to the side spook, but mostly its the stand still with his head up ears perked spook. In that case, A simple " its ok" followed by a squeeze keeps him moving. But then again I've had my horse for a long time so when i give him the reassuring squeeze to move forward, he trusts my judgement and usually will settle down right away. Then again I've never told him to walk on to a "horse eating monster" lol.

I think it's ok to let a horse stop and look for a second, but i agree with the keeping the feet moving. If they stand still too long they could build up the scary thing in their mind as even scarier, and then it gets worse from there. Its also a tough call when you say someone smacks their horse when he spooks. I would never smack as a punishment for spooking and maybe thats what they are doing, but on the flip side, I have an Arabian cross who is very stubborn, and when he decides he doesnt want to walk past something thats scary, a simple squeeze or kick doesnt always do the trick, so i'm sure I have given him a smack or two behind my leg in my time. I think it is wise to make a horse walk past the scary thing if that was where you were going anyways. I think it teaches them that it was ok like you said. Changing direction to me would be lie saying " your right thats a very scary log (or whatever it is) lets get out of here" which to me doesnt really solve much. whoo. :p
 

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These are all great ideas, if only I could enlighten some people with them! Grr! It frustrates me to see people who don't think twice about how their horse thinks!
 

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I don't feel like it's right to smack a horse because of their natural instinct. When my horse is startled by something and is frozen, I will go up beside her (if it's safe), pet her neck, tell her it's ok and nothing is going to hurt her, then try to urge her forward. If she does not respond, I let her continue to look until A) She un-freezes or B) She does her little "Spook Dance" which in turn un-freezes her :D
 

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I take a deep breath and then try to find what she is afraid of. If it is legitimately scary, I will try to get to to walk up to it slowly, or get off and lead her as this gives her a boost of confidence. If I absolutely don't have time or know she is just being silly I will take a deep breath, make her look where i want her to go and very firmly using my seat, legs and reins make her walk past it.
 

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^^

I find that method works with most horses, but I also find it extremely annoying and time consuming. My horse should move past objects because I asked him to, not because HE'S decided it's ok. It would be the day I'd start getting off and reassuring him for every little spook. And to be honest, that could very well have been WHY he spooked so much. He was getting "good attention" for negative behavior. My Arab mare is a spooker, and if I let her, she'd walk up and sniff out every object. She's learned over the years that she can look all she likes, but she better keep moving forward, so she's stopped shying from objects.

I only did this when I was ground working. If he spooked at something on the trail, tight circles worked. In the riding ring, I kept taking him by it...trying to get closer each time. It took 5 times going by a scary blowing tarp that was on the outside of the ring before he finally stopped paying any attention to it.
 

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I agree with all that was said, though I have had horses who would come AT me in fear and it would become a very dangerous situation and the only way to keep them from harming a person was to give them a quick spank just to tell them to get out of my space..but as long as they aren't coming at me I do the same everyone else says, let them see the object, get them moving so they can get their mind off of it...

I have had one issue I never found the solution to, though. I had a GREAT pony who was what they call "bombproof" all the time except during storms. He had great respect for me and would do anything I pointed him to and nothing on earth phased him except for storms. The sound of the rain on the roof above his head, the sound of things crashing as the wind blew them, the wind in general, etc. etc...and he would get crazy and impossible to control, no amount of groundwork or anything else I tried could get him to calm down. At one point when he was panicking and "misbehaving" when I was trying to put his blanket on, another boarder smacked him right in the face without permission which only made him much more fearful in the long run (and man was I ****ed..)

But anyway..I don't own this horse anymore but I'd love to hear suggestions for what to do in this situation if I come across it again..with this particular horse I'd either fight my way through it with him or avoid the situation altogether..
 

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Depends on whether the horse is extroverted or introverted with his fear. If the horse is extroverted (high head, running around, snorting, prancing, basically lots of movement) I will match that energy then add just a tad more so I get noticed...once I have the horse's attention I will give him a task to do, or a pattern to stay on until he is calm and thinking again. I never ever punish a horse when he's scared. I will never push the horse past his threshold of where he is comfortable....if you do, you are asking for an explosion.

If the horse is introverted with his fear (frozen to the spot, not blinking, catatonic in extreme cases, hesitant, explodes suddenly "for no apparent reason" etc) I RETREAT RETREAT RETREAT. I back off and allow him the time he needs to come out of his shell and start trusting. These horses may not be running around with their heads in the sky, but they are very scared on the inside and when the pressure becomes too much for him to handle, that is when he explodes "for no reason at all." Potential to be a very dangerous situation.
 

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Our instructor just stands there with the horse allowing the horse look at whatever it was. Then she has them look at it from a different angle. If they spook going in or out of the barn, arena, fence, etc. she has them go in and out several times once they're calm.

I remember in one of my daughter's lessons a lady had a baby in an infant carrier. The paint had never seen or heard a baby and every time he went by the gate he'd get really alert and a little spooky. She'd have her look at the baby one way, then turn around, and do it over and over again until eventually he was able to walk by the baby without any issues.
 

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If my horse is genuinely scared of something, and not just being an idiot, I'll lounge him around that "scary spot" or object until he's fine with it. If it's something I can pick up, I'll wave it around him, touch him with it, etc. If he randomly spooks at something, he doesn't get in trouble, we just go on and act as if nothing happened. When you make a big deal out of things, you're reinforcing the horse's thought of "uh oh scary thing!" and only making the problem worse. Act like it's no big deal and soon they'll know it's not.
 

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First off I make sure to always try to remain calm and relaxed. You gotta remember that you are the herd leader and if you are afraid it is unfair to expect your horse to be calm.

When I deal with a scared frozen( or bolting or combination of both) horse:
If it moves back, go with it, don't jerk the lead or fight it, that just reinforces it in its head that whatever is truly scary and bad things happen when you go near it. Just go with it until it stops, then use your lead or carry a crop or small buggy whip and get its feet moving around you to disengage its mind.

When it relaxes move forward and reward it for doing so, but do not let it avoid what it is afraid of. Keep it working until it chills out. The worst thing you can do is let a scared horse stand still. Take baby steps and ask little things of it, do not expect too much, a few steps and a stop is progress, it means the horse is trying to use the thinking side of its brain, reward this with a rest, then keep going.
 

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When I'm riding my horse and he is absolutely frozen about to explode, I let him get a good look at whatever's bugging him, then urge him forward, and walk him by it 209830428 times till he's calmed down about it significantly. Then I will stop him in front of the area, and feed him a sugar cube [on his back, yes he has mastered the art of taking a sugar cube from my hand from his back, and seeing as how they dissolve there's no interference with the bit.] This is my way of telling him, see that's not so scary, here's a sugar cube for trusting me! Then, when I'm off his back and cooling him down I will stand with him in that area, let him touch the scary thing with his nose, and tell him he's a good boy.

I remember once I was riding and he was absolutely horrified, frozen, because of an orange traffic cone in the corner of the arena. I walked him by it over and over, then trotted and cantered by it till he was significantly calmed down. Afterwards I let him touch it with his nose, then proceeded to pick it up and pet his nose with it. He got the jist of what I was trying to say :]
 
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