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SmartAlex
May. 3, 2010, 11:13 AM
How do you translate trust from the ground and familiar situations to out and about riding situations?

I have a horse who is a big sissy. But, he trusts me and will try anything I ask him to do. He gets most of his bravery from his rider. From the ground, I can expose him to any scary object I can come up with and he has almost zero fear because he knows I wouldn't hurt him with the tarp/bridge/rattleythingy/whathaveyou. But, riding we still have aways to go.

His big bugaboos are motorcycles and farm equipment. Bicycles are suspicious items as well. I am lucky to be able to ride quite a ways while still staying safely in a field or with immediate access to a field so when confronted with this sort of traffic I am in a safe place, or can get to one in time. But... it's getting old.

With motorcycles, I am usually able to get by with simply circling him to get his mind off it, but farm machinery (anything that tows and rattles) causes enough panic I have to let him escape or risk getting his legs hopelessly tangled. Which basically means I have to execute a "controlled" bolt. Fun. I can ride it, but I live next to one of the largest dairy farms in my county.... And one of these days, I'm going to run out of luck.

No, I don't know anyone with a motorcycle, but he is exposed to farm machinery at home while in his stall and paddock, and it doesn't cause him anxiety. He can flat out ignore almost any of commotion when home or working next to it in the arena. The tri-axle farm truck can roar past the outdoor arena 50 feet away, or a log loader can work 30 feet away with no problem. But a mile from home either one would give him a near heart attack.

As the monster approaches, his knees get wobbly, and he starts looking for the way out. Yes, he could be reading some apprehension from me, because at this point (wisely) I'm getting my heals down and grabbing some mane. After it's past, he will settle, and even stand on a loose rein, so he doesn't lose his mind completely. When he is fresh, normal car and truck traffic is an excuse to shift up a gear, so to prevent this, I have been halting and standing to let it pass, and he stands fine, so that issue I can handle. No, he's not doing it for kicks. He's scared. When he does it for kicks, I can tell because his ears twist kind of funny (I call them his devil horns), and then he does get a smackin'.

Now the facts you will want to know: He is 7 yrs old, I've owned him and have been riding him since he was 2 and have been riding him around the farm and in traffic for almost 2 years. He has never been hurt in traffic. I am an advanced amateur, and my horse is well trained and obedient. I ride 3-4 times a week. The horse has daily turnout (4-6 hours) and get's only a handful of Carb Gard twice a day (to keep him happy at chore time), and otherwise his diet is beet pulp, a vitamin supp, half a scoop of Thyrol-L (possibly a contributing factor) and 20# soaked grass hay per day. His energy level is no higher this year than it has been, nor is the frequency of his little melt downs. On the other hand, we have not eliminated any of his "trigger items" at.all. and I don't feel like we're making any progress. Yes, he is a high energy horse, and probably always will be, but besides the farmachinaphobia, he is well behaved and not spooky.

Any ideas for desensitising him without scaring him inside out so I can have a calm ride from start to finish one of these days?

chicamuxen1
May. 3, 2010, 11:48 AM
Horse not fearful of anything at home, scared of stuff away from home and you let him do controlled bolts rather than shy in place. He's got your number. He doesn't want to go away from home. almost all horses that are spookers, fearful, etc. do their number when going away from home or in an attempt to go home. Suggest you work with a good NH trainer and learn to deal with him in a way other than controlled bolting and grabbing the mane. He should have his fanny worked hard every time he starts something, one to distract him and to get thru to him that it's easier to behave than misbehave. I doubt from your description that he's really afraid although you might be.

I have a weird horse that leaves home happily, rides great away from home then gradually gets sillier and sillier as we ride home, just looks for stuff to twist and turn at, oggle and gawk at. Not true fear, just goofy behavior. He's an odd one.
the best thing I've come up with is ignore the little stuff and tolerate a small amount of "play" and growl in a loud pissed off voice if it gets to be too much and I want to continue "straight" down the trail to home or trailer. The other things I've tried seem to just bum him out and squelch his enjoyment of going out on trails. So although I tend to be non-tolerant of bad behavior I take a laugh it off approach as long as his silliness is minor. He really is hilarious.

Bonnie S.

SharonA
May. 3, 2010, 12:03 PM
This is the only thing that really settles Madame when she fears attack by a suspicious rock or a cow. A few versus of O Clementine, resolutely stuck to despite rotational airs above ground on the part of the equine, can defeat most antics. I launch into something with a clear marching rhythm as soon as I see her head come up, or if I know we're approaching cows. The Ants go Marching One by One has gotten us past a few work zones where they were swinging telephone poles through the air.

SmartAlex
May. 3, 2010, 12:08 PM
Well I don't agree that he doesn't want to go away from home. This horse practically tacks himself up, and heads out happily at a spanking trot. He bolts away from home with just as much frequency as towards home. He doesn't react in the outdoor arena because he knows he's on safe ground, and he's 50 feet from the road, not 8 feet. He doesn't have my number yet. He does not get sillier the closer to home we get. It could be said he is silly from start to finish. Heck, on the temperment scale this horse is a consistent 8 on his quiet days, and a good 9 or 10 with a cold front blowing in.

He does the last half mile on the buckle, or we do not head home. He doesn't get rewarded for spooking. I have NEVER dismounted, or headed home because I lost my nerve. In fact, after Saturday's big spook, we turned back and did half an hour more serpentines and figure eights even though we were about 5 minutes from home. He was not allowed to head home until he could walk quietly on a loose rein. Each and every bolt results in more work, not less. But this horse has no bottom. If I worked him until he was docile, I'd be out there until next Tuesday. And he isn't even fit. If he were fit, I'd be totally screwed.

He does spook in place, but the spook in place is for squawking chickens, loose plastic bags, and backfiring lawnmowers. I've been hacking these roads on all kinds of high strung horses for the last 30 years. We do not stop and look at the offending object, and baby talk our way up to it just in case "horsey-poopsey is skawrd of the big awld mailboxey". We aim past and ignore it. What I need help with is sharing the road with tri-axle farm trucks and corn choppers. Maybe I've just lived too long, and the farm machinery has gotten too big to cope with.

P.S. We did get over last year's bovinephobia, but that entailed sharing a fence line with them all winter. So, it can be done.

SmartAlex
May. 3, 2010, 12:11 PM
Not true fear, just goofy behavior. He's an odd one.
the best thing I've come up with is ignore the little stuff and tolerate a small amount of "play" and growl in a loud pissed off voice if it gets to be too much and I want to continue "straight" down the trail to home or trailer. The other things I've tried seem to just bum him out and squelch his enjoyment of going out on trails. So although I tend to be non-tolerant of bad behavior I take a laugh it off approach as long as his silliness is minor. He really is hilarious.


:yes::yes: This is what I do deal with everyday. It's the stuff that's going to get me killed that has me a bit worried.

Guilherme
May. 3, 2010, 12:18 PM
You don't have your horse under control. So work on "control" techniques that will have your horse paying attention to you, not the big, scary world around him. Just what you'll do will depend on what general type of training system you follow.

I can usually get my mare's attention with a bit jiggle. But sometimes she's quicker than I am (or more observant than I am) and I may have to use some leg or spur (along with a restraining hand) to get her attention back. Those occations are my responsibility and I try to limit them, but nobody's perfect.

So work on control. IMO working on "relaxation" is a false trail, 'cause a relaxed horse can take you as far afield as a tense one. But a controlled horse will go where you tell them to.

And before we get into the "we can't really control a 1200 pound horse" remember that in days of yore men rode into lines of cannon on 1200 pound horses. So control is clearly possible. But it's based upon sound training, not the latest "fluffy" fad.

Good luck with your horse.

G.

SmartAlex
May. 3, 2010, 12:26 PM
So work on control. IMO working on "relaxation" is a false trail, 'cause a relaxed horse can take you as far afield as a tense one. But a controlled horse will go where you tell them to.


This is the kind of pep talk I need. I did order a slightly stronger bit. He currently goes in a loose ring french link happy mouth. I'm going to try the same mouth in a one ring elevator, with a second rein, and/or a pelham. I'm good with four reins, so that won't be an issue.

We have had successful outcomes when I was able to get a distance off the road and work figure eights while the trucks roared by. I've always ridden show Saddlebreds, so we're brought up with the mind set of digging in and trotting past the monsters, and work on that all the time rather than going for loose rein relaxation.

Thanks! I have the beginnings of a plan... keep it coming.

Guilherme
May. 3, 2010, 12:51 PM
Remeber that the most powerful piece of equipment on the horse is the rider's brain. That controls the hand, seat, leg, and balance.

Put another way, a stronger bit might be necessary as a "bridge" between where you are and where you want to be, but the hand (and the knowledge and experience that guides it) is much more important than the piece of metal in the horse's mouth. :)

So work in a controlled, quiet environment developing the techniques that you need to control the horse. This will help the horse but far more importantly will teach you what you need to know to effectively bring Old Clomper's attention back to you from whatever scarry "booger" might be around.

Again, we train the rider first so they can train the horse.

Good luck in your project.

G.

mp
May. 3, 2010, 01:12 PM
His energy level is no higher this year than it has been, nor is the frequency of his little melt downs. On the other hand, we have not eliminated any of his "trigger items" at.all. and I don't feel like we're making any progress. Yes, he is a high energy horse, and probably always will be, but besides the farmachinaphobia, he is well behaved and not spooky.

Any ideas for desensitising him without scaring him inside out so I can have a calm ride from start to finish one of these days?

You need to desensitize yourself. You know it's coming, and I'll bet you anything, you're tensing up.

Your horse may never be completely calm around certain things, but there's no reason to LET his knees get wobbly or go into a controlled bolt. Stop him before he starts.

I have a high-energy, sensitive horse, too. And when he gets buzzed about something, I make sure I relax, sit up straight and think "seat, legs, hands" and I put him right between all three. So he knows I'm in control and there's nothing to worry about. I don't prevent every spook, but when they do happen, they're minimal.

Just try some things and see what works best for you. Good luck.

chicamuxen1
May. 3, 2010, 01:17 PM
He's a Saddlebred? Ahah! I've owned a couple. I had one that spooked at the same two corners of the indoor arena for three years! Darn brat! I had to drive him forward and talk in a threatening voice while laying the dressage whip against his should to "GET HIS FREAKING ATTENTION" back on me. He was another character who was just to clever with a very active mind. He showed Park Horse for a while and did jumpers too. Also could do a pretty spiffy stock horse routine but it was really hard to keep his attention and his mind ran a 1000 mph. When jumping at shows I would rotate thru 3 different bits as after the first two classes he'd get bored and start goofing off, and a bit change would get his attention back for another class, then another bit change.

I had a huge powerhouse of a TB for a few years that also couldn't be worked into submission. He just got fitter and fitter. Lot's of galloping helped but then I risked getting dumped from a fast gallop and walking back. I'd still advise the help of a really good NH trainer, not just a wanna be dime store cowboy. They may have a differnt approach that will help. I've lost my beliefs in "traditional" training for a large part. Think outside of the box.

Bonnie

Lieselotte
May. 3, 2010, 01:18 PM
I recommend the following experiment: Trailer to another farm, at least an hour away, and tack up and ride there.
Here's my prediction: The machinery that "scares" him at home will not scare him there. Why? I think barn/buddy sourness is not just expressed by hesitation and/or fits walking away from home but also by fake spooks, or working up to real spooks, etc., along the way.
A new place will present a new challenge, the horse will look to you for comfort and guidance as it has not idea where home is. If the antics continue no matter where you are, then clearly I'm wrong in this case ;) But it can't hurt to test my theory. Good luck!

PS: There is nothing wrong with getting off your horse when it becomes light, ready to bolt, etc. You can still make him work from the ground (backwards!), walk him briskly by the offending object, and live to see another day. I don't believe it teaches the horse it'll get out of work, because you will continue riding, maybe even harder.

katarine
May. 3, 2010, 01:28 PM
I'll just say you need to ride the horse with better leadership. Be in charge. Decide where you are going, look there, ride there. Sometimes focusing too much on the vulcan mind meld of relaxation and doing things in the spirit of cooperation makes horses unhappy. So many riders fail to look within and really ask, what am I doing to contribute to the problem. I want you to really study that. If you want him to be relaxed around the tractor, you may have to trot squares near the tractor, spiral in and out and have him firmly in hand and by God we're trotting. Now. Get to work. Not in a punitive way or in an angry way- just in an IN CHARGE way.

example- my boss is a really nice guy but a terrible leader. He's all about consensus and we should all be happy and automatically know what direction he wants us to go in. he knows, I guess he knows, but we don't. . He fails to lead and I and others often fail to follow. There's like 23 feet of slack between us and I guess at direction but I'm often wrong. I'm a good worker, a great employee if I know what you want, but if there's so much mental wiggle room that it's not clear to me where we're headed as a dept and a company, I'm sullen and shy and irritable. Spooky, you might say.

Step up.

ASBnTX
May. 3, 2010, 02:11 PM
Horse not fearful of anything at home, scared of stuff away from home and you let him do controlled bolts rather than shy in place. He's got your number. He doesn't want to go away from home. almost all horses that are spookers, fearful, etc. do their number when going away from home or in an attempt to go home. Suggest you work with a good NH trainer and learn to deal with him in a way other than controlled bolting and grabbing the mane. He should have his fanny worked hard every time he starts something, one to distract him and to get thru to him that it's easier to behave than misbehave. I doubt from your description that he's really afraid although you might be.

I respectfully disagree with this strategy for this horse. I've had an NH guy try this with my horse over a period of time and it resulted in him becoming a total basketcase. There was no abuse, just REALLY getting his feet moving when he spooked at something - just like you said "his fanny worked hard everytime he starts something". He wound up shaking like a leaf all of the time, but frozen because he was terrified of his environment, but even moreso of the person punishing him for being afraid. It was a bad situation for him. I doubt that he "has her number" as well. Saddlebreds will generally turn themselves inside-out trying to please their person, and punishing them when they're genuinely afraid, well, they just don't understand that because they do try SO HARD. I think the wobbly-knees are evidence that he's doing his best to hang in there. I would suggest a lot of hand-walking away from home and praise galore when he faces the scary monsters bravely. Also, when you're riding, consciously BREATHE and relax! That's made a huge difference with my horse. When I focus on my breathing, he'll let out a big sigh and you can literally feel all that tension going out of him. It's pretty cool.

katarine
May. 3, 2010, 02:24 PM
Agreeing with ASBnTx. I have a little SSH here, Toppy who is a looky little guy, but build his confidence by being a good & fair leader, he'll do anything for you. If I tried the 'get those feet moving' drill - one I like and use where it's appropriate- he'd fall apart. In fact I took my ballcap off the other day and swatted at a hornet that buzzed me while I was feeding. Now I'm deathly fearful of those and swatted pretty madly- and Toppy just about jumped out of his skin. Any other horse here would've just moved off and looked at me funny- Toppy was looking for the trapdoor to get him outta dodge.

It just depends.

ASBnTX
May. 3, 2010, 02:39 PM
Agreeing with ASBnTx. I have a little SSH here, Toppy who is a looky little guy, but build his confidence by being a good & fair leader, he'll do anything for you. If I tried the 'get those feet moving' drill - one I like and use where it's appropriate- he'd fall apart. In fact I took my ballcap off the other day and swatted at a hornet that buzzed me while I was feeding. Now I'm deathly fearful of those and swatted pretty madly- and Toppy just about jumped out of his skin. Any other horse here would've just moved off and looked at me funny- Toppy was looking for the trapdoor to get him outta dodge.

It just depends.

It really does depend. To me getting after a horse that is truly afraid is the equivalent of punishing your child for crying because they're scared of the dark. All that you accomplish is shattering your child's trust in YOU, now they're scared, alienated, and probably pretty confused. Now a child that's being willfully disobedient - whole 'nother ballgame. The key with your horse is figuring out which one he is and when ;)

mp
May. 3, 2010, 03:04 PM
Agreeing with ASBnTx. I have a little SSH here, Toppy who is a looky little guy, but build his confidence by being a good & fair leader, he'll do anything for you. If I tried the 'get those feet moving' drill - one I like and use where it's appropriate- he'd fall apart. In fact I took my ballcap off the other day and swatted at a hornet that buzzed me while I was feeding. Now I'm deathly fearful of those and swatted pretty madly- and Toppy just about jumped out of his skin. Any other horse here would've just moved off and looked at me funny- Toppy was looking for the trapdoor to get him outta dodge.

It just depends.

I was a firm believer in the "move the feet" strategy because that's what always works with my mare. She's an introvert and a little bit of a space case. She can be OK one minute and teleporting the next. And the cause can be something she's seen everyday for five years. So when she's looky, I have to focus her on me and direct her energy. And that usually means work -- trotting circles around the scary object, shoulder-in, whatever.

The gelding is an extrovert and a thinker (or schemer, depending on your POV ;)). He'll lower his head and give anything weird a sssssnooooooooorrrrrt, so I've got lots of warning he's bothered. If I started drilling him, he'd get all wound up, so I let him process. Just relax and let him stand and look and snort. Then encourage him to walk toward the thing of death, whatever it is. If he's really buzzed, we might walk or trot around it, then come back and process some more.

But it's not the same exercise as it is with the mare. With her, it's more like "this thing so scary, I can't even THINK" so I have to help her focus on something else. The gelding is all about thinking and being focused. He just needs to know I'm OK with the thing of death and if I give him time, he'll be OK, too.

As you said, it just depends. Which is why, OP, you should try a few things and see what works best.

ETA -- Either way, I don't think of it as "getting after" them for being scared. They're just polar opposites in the personality department and require different handling.

They're both Arabians, BTW, a breed that doesn't take a backseat to any in the WAZZAT?!!!??!? department.

twofatponies
May. 3, 2010, 03:20 PM
The only comparable situation I have is with my old warmblood cross mare. She doesn't care about any kind of motor vehicle. But COWS! OMG! When we moved to the new barn, where passing the field of cows was a necessity to do any trail riding, I had my trainer ride along and coach me. I rode the way I'd do it - trying to keep her straight and forward. We did "Tasmanian Devil" spins past the cows as she tried desperately to look at them all at once. So my trainer suggested a technique which worked fabulously: horse is not permitted to look at the cows. Cows were on the right. Horse is looking to left. The first time that required that I reach up that left rein until it was barely a foot long and give a couple of really strong pulls until she turned her head. As soon as she turned her head, I released. I had to repeat this with split second timing on the first pass. We rode by again (this is a 30 foot stretch of road we are talking about) and I didn't need half the effort. By the third time miss mare was thinking "Hey, my rider seems to be saying something, let me pay attention to that" and since she can't think of two things at once she doesn't think about the cows. After that first session it hasn't usually required more than a minor half-halt every couple strides to remind her to look away from the scary thing and (more importantly) keep her mind on the rider. We aren't talking bending her head around in any crazy way - just enough that I can see her eye and nostril. It's less about the bend itself than keeping her communicating with me and not letting her mind start wandering off.

SmartAlex
May. 3, 2010, 04:00 PM
Oh we did cows last year (http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/showthread.php?t=207431).... :D

If he sees that herd of cows in a distance, he will still whistle and snort, but no bolting, spooking or anything. Mostly because we aren't stuck with having to go right past them with a ditch on each side (not putting myself through that again yet). We have half a dozen cows at home, (different color though) which he had to share a fenceline with all winter. A couple of weeks ago, we came across them while riding beside the pasture. Of course they ran to the fence and then followed us up the fenceline. He first stopped and stared, and when I asked him to trot along the fence (with them in pursuit) he kept his $#!t together, so I guess we're doing OK in the cow department. I was quite happy with him and told him so.

pnalley
May. 3, 2010, 08:35 PM
SharonA's advice is pretty good. If you get to singing a simple song with a beat it will MAKE you breath. When you breath, you relax. Hopefully he relaxes.

We do have one horse that is an absolute Drama Queen. He acts like he is scared of stuff on day & the next he is fine. In our horses case I think it is tied to not wanting to works.

Good luck with it!

StefffiC
May. 3, 2010, 08:50 PM
I have an ASB, too. He's 20 and still spooks somedays at silly stuff like sewer drains...

Sometimes there is a disconnect between their brain and their feet.

trailpal
May. 4, 2010, 01:00 AM
I have found that the singing helps, it makes me breathe, it gets me in rhythm and the horse responds by going in rhythm, so that can help with the calmness issue, if that's what it really is.

I didn't see it suggested, but if you can follow those scary things, instead of facing them head on, that seems to help (at least in my experience.) Hikers coming toward us - meltdown. Hikers going away, my horse wanted to chase a little bit. Same with cows - different horse - scary facing them, but loved to chase them. Worked with baby strollers and bikes too. Oh yeah and dogs/coyotes. Once the horse is actively chasing the thing, if you circle or flank the object and fall back (use advance and retreat) they seem to "get" that this object is the one they chase and they see a lot less worried about going past it head on.

I start my babies by dragging a feed bag or blanket and ignoring them. Eventually they want to follow it and even stomp on it. After awhile I'll drag it toward them and they go past it so they can chase it again. Being ridden of course, I don't let them turn around and chase (after the first time or two).

I hope this helps some.

SmartAlex
Jun. 8, 2010, 04:19 PM
So it's been five weeks since my Ride of Many Big Spooks. It has taken this long for me to get my thoughts in order and venture back out. Well, a few weeks ago I went out, and he pulled the duck and run over a simple car...with punishment applied because I know he isn't afraid of cars... But other than that, we've stuck to the arena and have been reinstating some discipline. The funny thing is I came back from that bad ride feeling just fine, but after a day the confidence began to waver, and I was very hesitant to put myself back out there.

Today was just too nice a day to stay around home, so we headed for the hay fields. Naturally, the local dairy farmer had all is equipment on the road. My horse had his foolish face on, and gave at least one needless buck on the way out. Fresh fresh fresh. But my confidence was fine, and I was determined to get back on track with overcoming this issue.

After about 15 minutes, the big tri-axle trucks started coming through. We've been passed by these anywhere from 10 feet away (stuck on the road) to 30 feet away, and every time has resulted in a spinning bolt. So standing 125 feet away calm and controlled was a good first step. About 10 minutes later, and we watched one from about 50 feet away with continued success.

When I was almost home, I saw the grass chopper (the one with the blow chute) in the distance. I considered going back to watch that from a safe distance, but since I was already running late, left that for another day. I think I'm over my own spookiness, and am ready to do something constructive about this.

wateryglen
Jun. 9, 2010, 09:51 AM
The first thing I thought of when I read your original note was....not enough turnout time. 4-6 hours is inadequate for burning off nervous energy especially for a hotter breed of horse. I suggest doubling his time out. Leave them out all the time for a truly mellower horse. They were designed to be moving all day. Good for their physical and mental health. I don't doubt that he's keyed up when he finally gets out & about!!

AND look at his diet for foods that may be making him more "energetic" also. Try a cooler diet.

SmartAlex
Jun. 9, 2010, 10:40 AM
We rehomed a horse, so our turn out schedule has loosened up a bit and he is getting more turnout... which he's using to increase his fitness level :sadsmile:. He's not one to stand around in the shade. He's busy.

I think the big thing that's working against me is that the vet upped his Thyrol L at the beginning of May. His diet consists of 20# grass Hay, 5# beet pulp, BOSS, Flax Seed and D-Carb Balancer. He gets a cup of Carb Guard am and pm. I don't know if his diet is too hot, but he is for certain a lot more horse now that his IR is under control. We have made him too darn healthy, and he feels grrrrrrrrreat.

Add to that he's a little timid and reactive, with a good dose of "damned fool" in him. Ye Haw. Don't get me wrong, I like a hot horse under me. I've just learned that hot horse shouldn't have to share the road with farm machinery :D At least not for the first half hour of my ride. Unless I'd like to walk home. Which I would prefer not to.

jazzrider
Jun. 9, 2010, 12:57 PM
I'm not sure if this will be helpful, but a wise old sage (ok, it was Kat, about two years ago) gave me some great advice when I first got my (then) timid, somewhat spooky, forward TWH that gave me the "A ha!" moment that completely changed our riding relationship, and him, out on the trail.

Be sure you're riding your horse actively, the whole time. She said as much in her first post on this thread. Timid horses need to know you're up there, leading the way. I had been riding a QH that had let me chill on trail, yack away, drink Gatorade. I had gotten used to not really mentally riding a horse out on trail the whole time. Just checking in when needed. I hadn't realized it, would probably have denied it, but it was the truth. My new boy needed me to be there mentally, directing every turn, giving him good boys, working together with him, the whole entire ride. Not just when we faced specific obstacles.

Now, two years later, he's still a bit timid in demeanor, but there's not a spook in him. He's rock solid and dependable. As long as I don't check out. If I do, a gray rock can be scary. :rolleyes: And you know what? He's made me a better rider by expecting it. And he's the love of my life because of it.

We recently made the mistake of riding at a suburban park the first nice Saturday of the year. BBQs, prams, cars, frisbees, kites and boom boxes, city folk running up to take pictures and ask if they can ride my horse, cars parking our trailer in. Nothing he was used to at all. And he was a dream. Even posing for the adoring crowds. And he knows how to pose (check out my profile pic)! :winkgrin:

SmartAlex
Jun. 9, 2010, 01:06 PM
Be sure you're riding your horse actively, the whole time.

When I rode out of the driveway yesterday, I was chanting in my head... a leg on each side, your brain in the middle...

Yes I think I was getting to the point where I was mentally checking out, or at least wanting to. His fitness level of late has made that impossible. I have to stay a step ahead of him and be in charge. I did a lot of growling yesterday. Which is why, I think, when the first truck rolled through, and he flicked an ear back at me, he stayed put. If I waver or don't pay attention he thinks "well darn, I'm out here on my own. Run for You Lives!"

I'll bet he will be in his teens before I can start bird watching and looking for shapes in clouds. ... a really, ironic cartoon image just popped to mind as I typed that.

AnotherRound
Jun. 9, 2010, 01:14 PM
To the original post, the reason why your horse is brave when you are on the ground with him is because he is confident that you are the leader, and, like a lead mare in the herd, you will tell him if he needs to flee. Otherwise, what you are doing together is safe.

When you are on his back, he believes that HE has to be in charge of judging whether or not something is dangerous, threatening, or scary, and he doesn't have the experience to BE that leader, so he is exceedingly anxious about it, and probably hypervigilant.

Any young horse would not step up and be the leader in a natural setting (ie, a herd of horses and he only has to follow their lead), nor would he probably be out on his own (ie, he would be with others, and could reley on them to tell him what to do). As he ages and gains confidence and experience, he can either become the leader, or at least know what to do if he has to lead someone else.

Many horses we buy, regardless of age, haven't had the experience out int he wild (ie trail) of watching a seasoned leader 'tell' them what to be afraid of and what not to be afraid of. Whether you think you have taught him or not, he clearly is not confident about his judgement and is ready to flee.

No one should punish a horse for this. This is their safety behaviour, it is what keeps them alive.

Our only 'cure' is to give the horse experience and confidence, and how you do that is the question.

The best thing you can do is take him out in company with seasoned trail horses, and over time, a year at least, he will begin to understand what to spook at and what not to spook at. Watching a horse infront of him walk confidently past an idling bulldozer, well, at least he will try it, saying "well, if HE says its alright, then...a-a-a-allright...."

Why anyone would force a horse into a situation his behaviour tells you he isn't ready to tackle with confidence is beyond me. Some of this advice is about how to make a neurotic horse. I think if you force him, you will reinforce the idea that he isn't supposed to investigate or learn about it, just continue to be afraid.

You can't give a time frame for a horse to learn something. Either he learns and moves ahead, or not, but you HAVE to watch him and use several methods to teach him to be confident, such as riding in company, doing it in hand.

You might want to do a ground exercise then repeat it right away on his back. Hand walk over the tarp. Mount, walk mounted (the same direction) over the tarp. He evades, worries, skittles sideways, go slow, stand, let him think, ask again, and get over it in some manner, even badly. Then, get off, hand walk over the tarp nicely again. Stand on it, groom him on it (produces feel good endorphins) then mount and ride over it (same direction) again. Quit when he does it nicely once, then leave the exercise for a time, days, and let things gel.

Good luck. Hope that helps.

SmartAlex
Jun. 9, 2010, 01:55 PM
You might want to do a ground exercise then repeat it right away on his back. Hand walk over the tarp. Mount, walk mounted (the same direction) over the tarp. He evades, worries, skittles sideways, go slow, stand, let him think, ask again, and get over it in some manner, even badly. Then, get off, hand walk over the tarp nicely again.


Good Idea. I remember last year when we first did ground poles, he was bold when I was on the ground but hesitant when ridden. I think this would be a good tool for establishing leadership from the saddle. Thanks for the suggestion.

Beverley
Jun. 9, 2010, 02:04 PM
Agree with what Guilherm and Katarine said in earlier posts. As you have discovered- growling and other 'leadership' are essential to telling the horse that 'you' are in charge. He has to learn that a) you, the rider, are in control, are the leader, will keep him safe; b) it's okay to be concerned or scared, it's just not okay to do anything stupid about it like bolt or buck or spin; c) the rider as horse's leader should be horse's greater concern that the horse-eating-whatever horse is looking at.

I can't tell you how many horses I've ridden that had some sort of faux bogeyman issue. One example, a warmblood who 'always' looked or spooked in one area of the arena we rode in Every Day. I finally had enough and got after him Big Time in that corner followed by an entire workout Just In That Corner. His concerns magically disappeared. Permanently. Even when there were little bugaboos in that corner like blowing trash bags.

Conversely, yeah, it's perfectly reasonable and appropriate for 'any' horse to be startled or concerned by, say, a mufflerless truck, or a deer jumping out of the woods, or a mountain lion that can be smelled. But, as noted above- I am okay with their expressing concern, even alarm- but they learn that their reaction to the concern or alarm cannot be spinning, bolting, bucking, leaping sideways, etc.

ASBnTX
Jun. 9, 2010, 02:10 PM
Good Idea. I remember last year when we first did ground poles, he was bold when I was on the ground but hesitant when ridden. I think this would be a good tool for establishing leadership from the saddle. Thanks for the suggestion.

I've been employing this strategy with my similarly hot horse recently. I'll do a ground exercise around, over, or through whatever scary object until he's comfortable with it, then repeat mounted. It seems to be working pretty well with building his confidence. He's also very relaxed with me on the ground, but a lot more spooky when riding. I know I'm also a more effective leader on the ground, so I'm working on relaxing and choosing my focus. I've found that if I start fresh in the saddle, he'll oogle the object and become fixated on it, then he's waaaay more likely to spook himself.
Last week riding in the arena he started to eyeball a cone (it was an old ragged looking cone, so it was a bit different looking in his defense :)) and I was guilty of letting him eye-ball it and not getting him busy, meanwhile from the road the crazy neighbors came jogging down the road with their pack of dogs :eek: The combo of being so focused on the cone, then having them pop out of the peripheral was enough to send him to the moon! He does the butt-drop-and-bolt maneuver, but thankfully I've worked on flexion A TON, and I was able to one-rein stop him within a few strides. I had thought at the time that it happened so fast that there wasn't much I could've done to prevent it, but I really should've gotten him busy as soon as he starting questioning the presence of the cone. These guys keep you on your toes!

jazzrider
Jun. 9, 2010, 02:21 PM
I'll bet he will be in his teens before I can start bird watching and looking for shapes in clouds. ... a really, ironic cartoon image just popped to mind as I typed that.

Careful, if you say that too loud the COTH stick figure artists will swoop in and start illustrating this thread. And there's lots of material here...:D

ASBnTX
Jun. 9, 2010, 02:22 PM
I also recommend teaching him to flex to very light one-rein pressure (when he's calm), so that it becomes an automatic reflex. I was able to stop two bolts within a stride or two last week, riding in just a halter, because he knows that mom hauling on one-rein means stop your effin feet, no matter how freaked out you are! Then we can both take a deep breath and regroup. He'll relax and let out a huge sigh, like "thanks I needed that!" :)

tpup
Jun. 9, 2010, 02:22 PM
Do you always ride out alone? I would go out with a seasoned trail steady-eddy and see what happens when the other horse does NOT (hopefully!) react to the machinery. I would also recommend going out with an experienced TRAIL trainer type person. Someone who can watch YOU to see your body language, etc. I say this because even though you sound very capable and experienced, you may be inadvertently doing something SO subtle that could be setting him off. Example: My horse used to cut left - in the ring, on the trail. Whenever he didn't want to do something he would bail to the left. I never ever realized that I LOOK to the left when things get scary. I ended up out of the ring under trees one day because my horse decided "he was done"...and my trainer was yelling "Why are you LOOKING left?" I didn't even realize it. I looked left, horsey went left under some shaded trees and just stopped there. I would have NEVER known I was the one causing the problem! When I am nervous, I tend to LOOK at the object before it even bothers my horse.

In your posts, you are very focused on the machinery. Obviously so since that is the problem. But I bet you are doing something - whether it be tensing, looking with one eye, slightly turning head or applying VERY slight leg or butt muscle pressure or tensing. One thing that has helped me is when things get "scary"...I sit, sit DEEP in the saddle and think weight in the saddle (not standing on my stirrups which is what I tend to do when tense). Trainer has told me to ride like a 400 pound drunk cowboy. Sit back and DOWN heavy....and RELAX. Has made a world of difference in my riding and my enjoyment on the trail and in fields.

Good luck! You are brave ;)

SmartAlex
Jun. 9, 2010, 03:46 PM
Do you always ride out alone?

Yes. There is one other person in the neighborhoord who rides. She has a OTTB, and those same trucks have put her in the ditch too. So, I'm not sure joining forces would cure either one of us.




In your posts, you are very focused on the machinery. Obviously so since that is the problem. But I bet you are doing something - whether it be tensing, looking with one eye, slightly turning head or applying VERY slight leg or butt muscle pressure or tensing.

I think this is the root of why this problem has escalated instead of diminished. Our first encounter with these trucks last fall, was two of them at once, and we were on a stretch of road with no outlets and a ditch and old barbed wire fence on our immediate right. I pulled into the road so they would have to slow down for me, and he hopped up and down a whole bunch as they passed but stayed out of their way. I have nightmares about that fence. As I've said, he's a looky, timid horse. If the truck is standing still, and we have 10 minutes and a helper, we can desensitise to it. He's still not keen on it, but he copes. When it comes over the horizon and I know in 3 minutes it's going to be barrelling past us at 50 mph, yeah, I get tense and start looking for a safe place to let them pass us. I have to say that of recent, the drivers had toned it down a bit. Perhaps they have noticed the lady on the white horse flying over the hayfields like Pegasus?

He's spooky about rocks and bicyclists too, but with those I tell him he's a big sissy, and we manage.

sirensong4
Jun. 13, 2010, 05:26 PM
I'm glad you posted this!
Roxie is pretty much the same way. If i haul her to a trail, she is 100 percent fine, but riding down the road away from the barn?! "OMG EVERYTHING IS NEW AND SCARRRREEEEEYYYYYYYY" even though all the culverts, real estate signs, etc have been there and been ridden past, by us, for the last 3 years. There is SOMETHING about the driveway that really bothers her too, although I have never figured out what it is. She gets Big Eyeballs when we head out onto the road.
And she staggers down the road like a drunken sailor away from home and walks calmly (but forward-ly) back. It probably takes us 15 minutes to head to the cul-de-sac and 5 minutes to walk back. Dork.
So there are definitely some helpful suggestions in here for me/us as well! Thanks all! :)

EqTrainer
Jun. 16, 2010, 12:28 AM
This might sound really odd but when you lead him, do you let him walk behind you? If you do, don't. Make him walk at your shoulder with his head In front of you... So he goes first, just like when you ride him. Might be eye opening. Be careful!

SmartAlex
Jun. 16, 2010, 10:02 AM
He leads like crap. It wouldn't hurt to try to teach him to stay ahead, or beside, or somewhere consistent instead of doing Trigger tricks and trying to stomp my toes. He's a BIG weenie. Saturday we were hand grazing near a giant rubber feed tub. He decided to touch it just as my mother turned on the water faucet in the barn. I actually saw both of his hind hooves come up side by side on either side of his front hooves. But he stuck. Almost sat down, but he stuck. :lol:

Should be fun. Will report back.....

On a good note, yesterday when we were out riding a big town road truck full of boulders pulled up in front of us (good driver, no gear mashing) and he never blinked. Of course I was in the middle of lecturing him about this thread so I know I was breathing ;)

CatOnLap
Jun. 16, 2010, 11:26 AM
keep him busy. The best advice I got about spooking was to put the horse into some difficult manouvre like shoulder-in, as we passed a spooky object- with the horse facing the object but walking in shoulder-in away from it. It doesn't have to be shoulder-in, just something that will keep him thinking of you and what you are asking. That's the leadership thing again- you have to remain the boss- ask him for some trick instead of going along for the controlled unfun bolt. Even a small circle with haunches out, yielding the hindquarters to your leg and yielding his head to your hand, will be enough of a trick to make him think of you.

EqTrainer
Jun. 16, 2010, 01:01 PM
He leads like crap. It wouldn't hurt to try to teach him to stay ahead, or beside, or somewhere consistent instead of doing Trigger tricks and trying to stomp my toes. He's a BIG weenie. Saturday we were hand grazing near a giant rubber feed tub. He decided to touch it just as my mother turned on the water faucet in the barn. I actually saw both of his hind hooves come up side by side on either side of his front hooves. But he stuck. Almost sat down, but he stuck. :lol:

Should be fun. Will report back.....

On a good note, yesterday when we were out riding a big town road truck full of boulders pulled up in front of us (good driver, no gear mashing) and he never blinked. Of course I was in the middle of lecturing him about this thread so I know I was breathing ;)

This is certainly not isolated to ASBs but incidentally I have recently had a young one here who was pretty spooky. Too young to ride yet. But even if I could have ridden Him, I would not until he had learned the correct response to fear when he is in front of me.

It sounds like you have a gap in training. Whip and chain over the nose, begin to teach him first to stop when he is afraid and then to go, one step at a time. Good in hand work is very educational for everyone, and if you are not quick And confident about it pay someone to teach you how. I will not ride a horse who does not lead correctly.

wendy
Jun. 16, 2010, 01:21 PM
He doesn't want to go away from home. almost all horses that are spookers, fearful, etc. do their number when going away from home or in an attempt to go home.
Huh? since when? some horses are just plain spooky. I'm sure there are SOME horses that use "spooks" as an evasion, but not all horses spook for that reason.

SmartAlex
Jun. 16, 2010, 01:53 PM
Good in hand work is very educational for everyone, and if you are not quick And confident about it pay someone to teach you how. I will not ride a horse who does not lead correctly.


He knows how to lead correctly. It is rarely enforced.

I used to think all ASBs led like crap, but I think I've narrowed it down to "all ASBs that my mother (huge pushover) raised" lead like crap. Her own horse gets a CtJ meeting every time I have to move him.

EqTrainer
Jun. 16, 2010, 03:09 PM
Good, then go meet some farm machinery and retrain him as to what the proper response is when he is scared. Does he put his head down on command?

SmartAlex
Jun. 16, 2010, 04:04 PM
No he won't put his head down to pressure. We've worked on it, but I've yet to get any response. Which has been frustrating since I can move any other part of his body at will and turn him into a pretzel if I want. He bows, puts all four feet on a pallet, picks up a glove.... he is excellent to bridle and puts his head down to my knees, but poll pressure he resists. Of course he drops his head to a treat, but he has yet to associate that with poll pressure. Fail. He's generally hyper alert (even in the barn) so that's the root of it.

I had to go do mid-day chores today, so I got a shank and driving whip and we headed for the hay fields and farm equipment lot. He walked like a model citizen with me at his elbow anywhere I pointed him. He did startle two or three times (30 mph winds today). His reaction was to jump forward, then whoa and look. We were passed by traffic while grazing on the roadside, and when it passed, he would tense, throw his head up and do a perimeter check, but the feet never budged. I guess we need a lot more of this to teach him to stick.

SmartAlex
Aug. 9, 2010, 12:00 PM
Little update for those of you who gave me thoughtful advice:

He's still a big sissy, but he is learning that bolting is unacceptable. I tried a two ring gag bit in the same mouthpiece I had, but that still didn't give me enough stopping power. He used to go happily in a waterford, but had outgrown that bit size, so I ordered a new one in his "adult" size, and a quick flossing with that puts the brakes on even the most determined bolt.

I've been hand grazing him along the road more often, and he's dealt with school busses and semi trucks better with his fly mask on. I don't particularly want to ride every day with a mask or blinkers so I don't really have much more ideas for the visual spooks other than experience, but I'm going to try ear plugs and see if they help with the rattling roaring farm machinery.