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Laura855
Sep. 2, 2009, 03:54 PM
Curious as to how many here have or have ridden a spooky horse in the hunters successfully? What did you do as a rider to help with the issue? My new horse is very very looky, not naughty (no spinning, bolting, bucking, etc) at all and not nervous, just likes to really look at stuff backs off a bit. He is quite green so I hope this will improve with regular work ( he is getting regular pro rides too). In the meantime, I would love to hear some positive stories of how others have dealt with a spooky horse.

Oh, and he has been looked at by a vet and no vision or soundness issues. I think he's just a looky horse.

wyldhorseb
Sep. 2, 2009, 04:14 PM
Sometimes it is impossible to prevent a spook, but try to make sure your horse is always paying attention and listening.

snaffle635
Sep. 2, 2009, 04:28 PM
Probably not what you want to hear, but I dealt with my spooky hunter by selling him as a dressage horse. They are much more forgiving of spooks.

Honestly, I really wanted to keep the horse. We tried everything to make him more relaxed, but it's just who he was.

He's much happier now, and so am I.

Just a question...is your horse chestnut with lots of chrome? There's an old wives tale about spooky redheads. Mine fit the stereotype. Just wondering if yours does too.

gg4918
Sep. 2, 2009, 04:44 PM
I have a chestnut with lots of chrome that I did in the eq but also toyed around with and won in the junior hunters in. He's spooky but I just rode through it and it actually made him jump that much better.
There ARE supplements to make them relax. Not shots, supplements.

SkipChange
Sep. 2, 2009, 04:46 PM
I dealt with riding a spooky horse in hunters by learning to ride without stirrups http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=30125069&l=3ea6ef1f32&id=1293060230 :lol:

This picture was taken at an A show doing children's hunters. The photographer's flash sent him wild, threw a buck and galloped around the course. But we got around and I finished the course (without stirrups). It was embarrassing but he was a cute horse and fun to ride. Next round, spooked at the photographer again. After that we asked for no flash on him, which sadly meant no pictures, but he was great after that and picked up ribbons. He was also prone to peeking at jumps and look around the arena, sometimes spooking at walls. I just rode him forward with lots of reassuring leg and tried my best to simply ignore his spooks. Not sure if I would like that behavior long term, but he was a green project and his new owner seems quite happy with him.

So I don't have much useful advice, except watch out for photographers! and that's what schooling rounds are for.

Extreme Chaos
Sep. 2, 2009, 04:57 PM
Age and show experience should help your horse.
Bought my horse at age 3 and spooked at everything.
Now at 5, he's sailing around the show ring like a pro.
Give him some time to grow up.:)

beesknees
Sep. 2, 2009, 06:08 PM
I dealt with riding a spooky horse in hunters by learning to ride without stirrups http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=30125069&l=3ea6ef1f32&id=1293060230 :lol:

This picture was taken at an A show doing children's hunters. The photographer's flash sent him wild, threw a buck and galloped around the course. But we got around and I finished the course (without stirrups). It was embarrassing but he was a cute horse and fun to ride. Next round, spooked at the photographer again. After that we asked for no flash on him, which sadly meant no pictures, but he was great after that and picked up ribbons. He was also prone to peeking at jumps and look around the arena, sometimes spooking at walls. I just rode him forward with lots of reassuring leg and tried my best to simply ignore his spooks. Not sure if I would like that behavior long term, but he was a green project and his new owner seems quite happy with him.

So I don't have much useful advice, except watch out for photographers! and that's what schooling rounds are for.

OMG your leg is amazing! :eek:
You're my "no-stirrup" hero ahha!

Cavesson
Sep. 2, 2009, 06:55 PM
With more experiance he should get better. If you are a nervous rider then it will be a lot harder, if not impossible. Spooky horses need a brave rider and pick up on nerves very easily. They also tend to be a lot more sensitive. Schooling over different "things" helps a lot, not just your regular schooling poles. I went to my local dollar store and got many "different" things like bright colours, funny shapes, buckets and hay bales are great too. Be creative! Get some plants or small trees that are growing where they should not be and pull them out, put them under or beside the fence. The trick is since you know he is probably going to spook or back off try to make him get over it the first time so he knows if its funny looking he still has to jump it. Start small and school over it till it gets boring. School over many "different" looking kinds of jumps. Don't get anything that could make noise in the wind or when hit.

toomanyponies
Sep. 2, 2009, 07:20 PM
Hi, is he spooky at everything or just at/mostly at the jumps? In general, desensitization is a wonderful tool. . . I had a very fancy, very spooky young one (but only at the jumps). He would jumps so high and hard over a tiny crossrail he wouldnt want to jump it the next time, because he'd scare himself. This is what I did to build his confidence - I got a very long lead shank, put all the jumps low enough so I could step over them, and I led him around and over EVERYthing - for about 3 weeks. We worked up to trotting in hand over any jump, including the liverpool. We'd turn him loose in the ring while we built a new course every week too. Everyone thought I was crazy, but you know what? He jumps anything, anytime, any distance now!

dancingequestrian85
Sep. 2, 2009, 07:40 PM
I dealt with riding a spooky horse in hunters by learning to ride without stirrups http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=30125069&l=3ea6ef1f32&id=1293060230 :lol:

This picture was taken at an A show doing children's hunters. The photographer's flash sent him wild, threw a buck and galloped around the course. But we got around and I finished the course (without stirrups). It was embarrassing but he was a cute horse and fun to ride. Next round, spooked at the photographer again. After that we asked for no flash on him, which sadly meant no pictures, but he was great after that and picked up ribbons. He was also prone to peeking at jumps and look around the arena, sometimes spooking at walls. I just rode him forward with lots of reassuring leg and tried my best to simply ignore his spooks. Not sure if I would like that behavior long term, but he was a green project and his new owner seems quite happy with him.

So I don't have much useful advice, except watch out for photographers! and that's what schooling rounds are for.



that's awesome! and makes me want to do a lot more no stirrup work!! :D

FirstLadyJrJpr
Sep. 2, 2009, 08:09 PM
JMO A looky hunter is a good hunter, they will jump everything there best everytime.. and with leg to back it up and show mileage you'll have something nice. My junior hunter always looked at the jumps like he had never seen them before.. but, he wouldn't ever stop, on top of it all he had a great expression. So, personally i have no problems with a spooky horse.

MintHillFarm
Sep. 2, 2009, 08:10 PM
My successful Adult Hunter from years ago was very spooky. Much more so at home though, definitly to the point of ridiculous...at times he would spook all the way to the arena at the farm. All the spooking was non-jump related though...

When he got to the shows he was much better. And again it was never jump related and he never stopped (well once due to slick conditions on the grass but he more slid to the jump and managed to stop than an actual refusal) and he marched around Eastern States (champion there 2 yrs in a row) and major shows such as WEF, Ox Ridge etc... His only not so great show indoors was at Washington in the very first Marshall and Sterling Hunter Finals. He was eyeing all the banners and the blinking lights at the restaurant at the far end. He did jump around there but we were a low score. He won a couple of those Classics though at other shows and also did the First Year Greens in FL as well.

It was a challenge certainly but he was fun and had great qualities such as a super long step and lopey easy canter...

Laura855
Sep. 2, 2009, 09:09 PM
Thanks for all the encouragement, it's great to hear some success stories. It's funny because he's actually more spooky hacking around the jumps in the ring..........looks at them like they are going to eat him or something and much less spooky when ridden down to the jump and actually jumping it. You can really tell that he wants to jump the jump, doesn't feel like he wants to stop at all. The good thing is that it is a really slow spook, more like a slow bulge away from what he is looking at. My last horse was scared to death of all the flowers at the shows so I got very good at making flower boxes and other scarey things. Time to go to Wal-Mart!

He does have a beautiful expression and is a very good mover so I hope that I can learn to give him the ride he needs. He's definitely a project so I am in no hurry. I am sticking to flatwork and letting my trainer do most of the jumping for now, so he gets a consistant good pro ride and builds confidence to the jumps.

I don't have any experience with supplements that would help this. What would you recommend? I'm not opposed to trying something if it's safe and not crazy expensive (and I am not talking about drugs, that I won't do).

mroades
Sep. 2, 2009, 09:15 PM
My successful Adult Hunter from years ago was very spooky. Much more so at home though, definitly to the point of ridiculous...at times he would spook all the way to the arena at the farm. All the spooking was non-jump related though...

When he got to the shows he was much better. And again it was never jump related and he never stopped (well once due to slick conditions on the grass but he more slid to the jump and managed to stop than an actual refusal) and he marched around Eastern States (champion there 2 yrs in a row) and major shows such as WEF, Ox Ridge etc... His only not so great show indoors was at Washington in the very first Marshall and Sterling Hunter Finals. He was eyeing all the banners and the blinking lights at the restaurant at the far end. He did jump around there but we were a low score. He won a couple of those Classics though at other shows and also did the First Year Greens in FL as well.

It was a challenge certainly but he was fun and had great qualities such as a super long step and lopey easy canter...


Oh my, I think I have your horse's twin...lol. I think he is going to make a heck of a hunter derby horse, because he doesnt spook at the jumps, but is spooky enought to be brilliant.

LH
Sep. 2, 2009, 10:00 PM
My mare was really spooky at home, but is getting better. At the shows I've found a few things really help:

A few minutes on the lunge line - mostly to get rid of nervous energy. Do more trotting, and let the horse play if they want - keep lunging until they will stretch down and relax - switch directions every 5 minutes or so.

Lots of hand walking around the horse show - put the chain over the nose, carry a crop -- this is all to make sure they are paying attention to you and respecting your personal space.

When riding -- either at home but especially at the show -- think forward forward forward -- try to ride in a ring where you can do circles, change direction (without running into people), transitions, anything to get their attention on to you.

Here's one secret -- my horse is less spooky at the show than at home, I think because there is so much to look at at the horse show, they can't fixate on one thing as much.

Keep your eyes up, heels down, and you'll work it out!!!

JumpWithPanache
Sep. 3, 2009, 08:41 AM
Thanks for all the encouragement, it's great to hear some success stories. It's funny because he's actually more spooky hacking around the jumps in the ring..........looks at them like they are going to eat him or something and much less spooky when ridden down to the jump and actually jumping it. You can really tell that he wants to jump the jump, doesn't feel like he wants to stop at all. The good thing is that it is a really slow spook, more like a slow bulge away from what he is looking at.

Sounds just like my horse! She loves to look at things, especially when the jumps have moved or are freshly decorated. Canter to it to jump and she's happy as a clam. My solution is to give her more things to do (leg yield, shoulder in, change in gait, etc.) in order to get her mind off of thinking scary thoughts. At shows she REALLY looks but is almost climbing into your lap begging for guidance. Using ear puffs have really helped her tremendously! I think she has a slight ADD tendency and I've been told the ear puff sit on an accupressure point that relaxes the horse.

Good luck! My horse jumps great when she goes into the show ring without schooling fences. Just needs a very supportive leg and accurate ride.

onthebit
Sep. 3, 2009, 09:09 AM
So it sounds like you have a new horse? Congrats - and give us the details!

findeight
Sep. 3, 2009, 10:20 AM
Save your money on the supplements. He is just a looky youngster and you will just need to get the miles on him...no supplement "cures" greeness unless it's full of valerian or something. There is no deficiency of anything except miles.

Just make sure you NEVER, EVER let him stop and sniff stuff. He has to keep going. Even if you have to go to another part of the ring and do something else, he has to keep going, he may not stop and you are not getting off. Do that and you reward the spook and that is impossible to train out of them.

And the best ones are Looky...just go look at Rumba's rounds. I bet that one has a real spook in there too...turned into expression and brilliance by great riding and training.
I'll take the spook over the deadhead any day.

Seven-up
Sep. 3, 2009, 12:09 PM
I like a leg yield for a horse like the OP's who looooooooooks at stuff but doesn't explode. It's great because you can feel it coming when they puff up and bulge to one side. So I just give them a little touch with the opposite leg and ask them for a couple of steps toward the scary object. It usually distracts them just enough.

Now, the exploders, I have no love for.:winkgrin:

Laura855
Sep. 3, 2009, 12:27 PM
Findeight: this is exaclty what my trainer says........."more forward and don't let him get behind your leg, just keep going". I also have to remind myself to quit trying to have everything be perfect right now and not worry if his head is up a bit or if the bend isn't perfect. The eq horse I have been riding has spoiled me and I need to get back into baby green mode!

LH: my last mare sounds a lot like yours. She could be super spooky at home, especially if something got moved (that trash can wasn't there yesterday....EEEK!) and handled the show envirenment very well. I remember one day at home a garbage bag had gotten stuck agains the arena fence in the wind and she absolutely refused to go to that end of the ring. I finally got her to work a bit so I could get off and turned her out in the ring. She immediately ran to the "scarey" end, grabbed the bag in her mouth and ran around like a lunatic with it! I swear she was laughing at me the whole time.

Thankfully my new horse is a sweet gelding and doesn't have the alpha mare attitude!

tBHj
Sep. 3, 2009, 02:01 PM
And the best ones are Looky...just go look at Rumba's rounds. I bet that one has a real spook in there too...turned into expression and brilliance by great riding and training.
I'll take the spook over the deadhead any day.

Well said.

Treasmare2
Sep. 3, 2009, 02:06 PM
There is a fine line between the best hunters and spooky hunters.....I agree with FLJJ....looky is good....its great. As the greeness wears off let's hope the lookiness stays.

Mayaty02
Sep. 3, 2009, 02:10 PM
Rode a looky, spooky horse for years in the hunters and equitation and yes it's a pain, but it makes life interesting doesn't it? Seriously though, with lots and lots of experience, it will get better. Exposure, giving the horse lots of opportunity to go places, see cool things, until it gets to a point where it's just not exciting anymore.

And YOU have to be very confident and just go with the flow. If it makes you nervous, they will pick up on it and it will not be a match made in heaven.

luvs2ridewbs
Sep. 3, 2009, 02:54 PM
True a peeky horse can be the better horse. But there are ones that take it too far. And I don't think those pin well in the hunters.

RugBug
Sep. 3, 2009, 03:28 PM
My mare was really spooky at home, but is getting better. At the shows I've found a few things really help:

A few minutes on the lunge line - mostly to get rid of nervous energy. Do more trotting, and let the horse play if they want - keep lunging until they will stretch down and relax - switch directions every 5 minutes or so.

Lots of hand walking around the horse show - put the chain over the nose, carry a crop -- this is all to make sure they are paying attention to you and respecting your personal space.

When riding -- either at home but especially at the show -- think forward forward forward -- try to ride in a ring where you can do circles, change direction (without running into people), transitions, anything to get their attention on to you.

Here's one secret -- my horse is less spooky at the show than at home, I think because there is so much to look at at the horse show, they can't fixate on one thing as much.

Keep your eyes up, heels down, and you'll work it out!!!

I could've written this post about my spooky boy. After 6 years and some heartbreak due to the spooking, I decided to sell him. As someone else mentioned, this type of horse needs a very confident, relaxed rider and I can't be that for my spooky boy. I love him dearly, but like snaffle, selling him will be the best option (although I'm really enjoying him right now :sigh:)

Flash44
Sep. 4, 2009, 07:14 AM
My horse is a little tense and spooky sometime, but mostly while hacking. Jumping gives her something to think about, and she is much quieter and relaxed when we jump. She is a very careful jumper, but goes to the jumps (does not back off) and the judges love her. Occasionally she'll have an issue with a jump, but it's usually a "plain" odd looking jump; the more flowers and boxes and stuff on a jump the better she likes it. Again, she had a little lookiness to her and would fart around while hacking, but this transferred into a great, attentive jumper with a very cute expression. I never lunged her or drugged her, I think it was just part of her nature.

LH
Sep. 4, 2009, 10:41 AM
[QUOTE=findeight;4350011]
Just make sure you NEVER, EVER let him stop and sniff stuff. He has to keep going. Even if you have to go to another part of the ring and do something else, he has to keep going, he may not stop and you are not getting off. Do that and you reward the spook and that is impossible to train out of them.
QUOTE]

This is another excellent point - allowing the horse to fixate on something can encourage their focus on the "thing" rather than "I better pay attention to my rider." My suggestions in an earlier post are all ways to get the horse to respect the rider, even if they do stare at stuff, and KEEP GOING FORWARD!!

If you stay relaxed and are consistent, this should improve over time - patience will be rewarded. My mare is waaayyy better this year than she was last year, even at home, and at the shows she looks at everything but doesn't spook.

LH
Sep. 4, 2009, 10:44 AM
I could've written this post about my spooky boy. After 6 years and some heartbreak due to the spooking, I decided to sell him. As someone else mentioned, this type of horse needs a very confident, relaxed rider and I can't be that for my spooky boy. I love him dearly, but like snaffle, selling him will be the best option (although I'm really enjoying him right now :sigh:)

I have to admit, my trainer has really taught me over the last two years how to deal with the spooky baby warmblood - my previous greenies were all OTTBs who had seen everything and rarely spooked at anything. I have learned how to deal with this in a positive way, and there have been times that I would have thrown in the towel if it wasn't for him pushing me to deal with the situation in a way that helped to work through the issue of the day. I'm fortunate that my horse is truly smart and brave, so the spook is going away as she grows up, matures, gets more mileage and confidence (I imported her directly from the breeder when she was 2 weeks under tack - oy).

RugBug
Sep. 4, 2009, 11:09 AM
I have to admit, my trainer has really taught me over the last two years how to deal with the spooky baby warmblood - my previous greenies were all OTTBs who had seen everything and rarely spooked at anything. I have learned how to deal with this in a positive way, and there have been times that I would have thrown in the towel if it wasn't for him pushing me to deal with the situation in a way that helped to work through the issue of the day. I'm fortunate that my horse is truly smart and brave, so the spook is going away as she grows up, matures, gets more mileage and confidence (I imported her directly from the breeder when she was 2 weeks under tack - oy).

Yeah...I learned how to ride my horse...I just got tired of dealing with the spooking. Of having to ride every.single.stride. Sometimes I just wanted to relax and enjoy myself and I can't do that on him.

Although I will say that now's he is in pasture, he's much less sensitive and spooky. I should've put him out there years ago. :lol:

MintHillFarm
Sep. 5, 2009, 12:45 PM
My horse that I mentioned earlier Bill, telegraphed early on when he was going to spook at something. A good trait, as he would not spin quickly or run, but he would bulge and eye ball what he was looking at and move away from it.

The big thing is for you the rider, not to get caught up in the spook. Look away and past it. Do not stare as you hack by at whatever object real or imaginary that he will decide is scary. Do not show or let him stop and stare at it either. Hacking along side the jumps is good too, though with me Bill would sometimes kick some sand against the jump and that sound was something he didn't like either.

Czar
Sep. 5, 2009, 01:33 PM
There are many different kinds of spookers.

Some, like your greenie, just need more mileage as everyone has mentioned.

With a horse like this, I do not even react - I have a young horse right now who is also very interested in the jumps which lends to a great expression...sometimes if I am cantering past a jump or a pole or whatnot, he will drop an ear or even bulge slightly - I just pretend it's not even happening. Now if he continues, I will put my leg on and ask him to stay on our track but most often, he doesn't look the second time if I don't react.

I think sometimes riders overreact with a green horse...they feel the bulge and immediately want to counterbend to get the horse to "listen" which alerts the horse to a change in the rhythm and can actually make the problem worse. They feel the rider change in "that spot" every time and start to anticipate it.

The trick is to not be afraid to stay relaxed - our instinct as a rider is to tighten our leg or even rein when we feel a look coming on...my horse jumped through a two stride for the first time today and there was a gate laying against the fence on the landing side - I was forward from the jump and he landed with his eye on that gate and shied sideways a bit...I continued cantering away like nothing had happened and the next time, he didn't even give it a glance. Had I sat up and grabbed at my reins, I can almost guarantee that he would have at least quickened his step there if not looked again.

The next kind of spooker has also already been mentioned...these ones don't usually respond too well to the ignore method as they just get worse. We have a horse at the barn that fits this bill....he is green as well but the bugger takes advantage and spooks harder if his rider doesn't counterbend him, drive him forward and make him work. He also needs to be reprimanded sometimes b/c even the extra work doesn't always get through to him - he has a much stronger personality than the first type of spooker.

Then there are horses like RugBug's that most likely had the spook bred into them - not impossible to ride but not exactly pleasant either. Lots of these types don't ever give up the spook - their riders just learn to manage them. The ones that aren't managed properly turn into your stoppers and bolters.

In any case, findeight hit the nail on the head...NEVER stop and try to force the horse up to the scary object - it's completely counterproductive and is actually one of my biggest pet peeves - I saw a rider once get in a huge fight with her horse over a judge's stand at the ringside - she kept trying to get him closer and he was wheeling and spinning.

Had she just ridden by it a couple of times and slowly made her circle wider, it would have been MUCH less of a big deal.

Anyway, even with the ignore method, a horse regardless of age needs to understand moving off your leg whether forward or leg yielding. That way, if they are spooky at the jump they will still understand that they MUST go over it. You can ignore an overjump but you can't ignore a drive-by ;)

iridehorses
Sep. 5, 2009, 01:50 PM
a young girl at my barn has a cute but spooky pony. she always has to school over the fences, but this summer he has beeen quite well behaved. however, in the winter he is a nutcase at times...
Good luck and have fun! know that you cannot prevent every spook and that most of the time (not all the time) the people winning do not have spooky horses like you do...so do not get discouraged and ndissapointed...who knows, you may be the next hunter derby winner!! :D

Laura855
Sep. 5, 2009, 01:59 PM
My horse sounds like the first type for sure. I had a lesson yesterday and it was great........already improved from a few days ago. What clicked for me was when my trainer told me to not worry about him looking at stuff but rather focus on keeping his body straight and forward. When he would look and bulge I kept my hand soft and just really used tons of leg to correct his body. It worked great and he seems to like it when I have a lot of leg on him. He is definitely more worried about poles on the ground than actually jumping so we spent a lot of time quietly going over rails until it was no big deal. At the end we were cantering the rails and a few crossrails and he was perfect. I was very pleased to say the least.

One nice suprise was that others horses in the ring were galloping and jumping, one got fresh and took off bucking a bit and my guy never flinched. He is happy to just hang out on a loose rein and didn't seemed worried at all or feel the need to join in the excitement. He really seems to want to be a good boy!