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Gallop On
Jun. 28, 2010, 02:16 PM
I was talking to a non-horseperson about event horse psychology and trying to explain how different horses are: how I took one horse to its first cross-country school and he was a nervous wreck at first, versus taking one out who was completely fearless and attacked every fence. Is there a good article or web link out there about bravery in event horses? Or a good link to a story about horse psychology in general? Thanks!

retreadeventer
Jun. 29, 2010, 09:58 PM
Gallop On, I apologize. This is a wonderful question, and deserved an answer before now -- and look at the drivel everyone is replying to, instead (myself included.)
As far as understanding bravery, I think you have to understand how we train horses and how they trust what they know. I know, having ridden mustangs, how they are very, very herd oriented, and feel safe in following others even in treacherous mountain terrain. It's about being safe with what you know. I think people can call it bravery, but it may well be training -- either way, it's good.
I know there are some great stories from the old days -- the old USCTA Book of Eventing has a few in there, look and see if you can find some from the Mexico Olympic three day -- a rainstorm flooded the cross country and it was incredible, among other terrible problems with Mexican officials. There was some bravery then I understand!
Blythe Tait talks about bravery in his book about cross country riding, I believe, as well -- I think he was the one who said he could train a horse to jump off a 10 foot drop but the horse would only do it once, since he would not trust him after that, or something like that. Very good thought, that.
That's all I can think of at the moment, but hopefully we can attract a couple more posts that can offer more than I have.

slbose61
Jun. 30, 2010, 09:38 PM
Interesting question, I would like to hear what others have to say. I'm curious to know if a horse is predisposed at birth to be nervous (spooky) or brave. With proper training, can a nervous horse be taught to be trully brave, or are they always going to be nervous but have learned to handle situations? Can an older, spooky horse, say in their late teens for example, be taught to be brave?

Timex
Jul. 1, 2010, 01:51 PM
Very interesting question. To the question of whether or not a horse is born brave or spooky (or anything else along those lines) I think that yes, they are. Sure, handling and training can have an effect, but you can see it all the time in babies, something comes along (a tractor, for example) that they've never seen before, some will run away, others, due to curiousity, bravery, something, will go TO the spooky scary thing. So yes, I believe that a horse can and is born with those characteristics. Its up to us to nurture that in the ones that have it, and help the ones that don't to find it in themselves, as much as possible.

netg
Jul. 1, 2010, 02:02 PM
Interesting question, I would like to hear what others have to say. I'm curious to know if a horse is predisposed at birth to be nervous (spooky) or brave. With proper training, can a nervous horse be taught to be trully brave, or are they always going to be nervous but have learned to handle situations? Can an older, spooky horse, say in their late teens for example, be taught to be brave?

In my very limited experience, many of the spooky horses learn to trust the rider and just focus on going - and become amazing.

Again from my very limited experience, it seems as if what horses can't learn is to "take initiative" in cross country. My guy evented through training and was clear with no problems in his jumping, but never showed a desire to adjust and control things himself cross-country. I refer to him as a mama's boy, we're only doing dressage, and he's happier than he's ever been. I think the independent personality that has a horse wanting to take care of things is the part you really can't teach.

riderboy
Jul. 2, 2010, 09:36 AM
Denny told us that boldness comes from confidence, and confidence comes from ensuring success. Makes sense.

Tucked_Away
Jul. 2, 2010, 10:31 AM
To the question of whether or not a horse is born brave or spooky (or anything else along those lines) I think that yes, they are.

Well, and there's also the question of whether it's as simple as "brave horse" or "spooky horse."

My guy is what I call a "recovering spook." He's gotten much bolder/more curious about the world in general with maturity and training (both his and mine!), and now when we see, for example, a wild turkey while out hacking, he follows it instead of spook-spin-bolting with optional rodeo quality bucks. But his native temperament is spooky, there's no question about it, and however grown-up and well-educated he becomes, the spook is always going to be in there.

But he has always been, since day one, very brave to his fences, be they hunter-style, gaudy stadium jumps, or cross-country. Water took a little getting used to, but ditches that freak out other horses have neverever made him bat an eye. My challenge was convincing him that it was okay for the rest of the world to exist, but as long as I put his eye on the fence, even the scariest jump is No Big Thing.

This ain't uncommon (happily for me; I *like* this kind of horse).

jackalini
Jul. 2, 2010, 11:13 AM
But he has always been, since day one, very brave to his fences, be they hunter-style, gaudy stadium jumps, or cross-country. Water took a little getting used to, but ditches that freak out other horses have neverever made him bat an eye. My challenge was convincing him that it was okay for the rest of the world to exist, but as long as I put his eye on the fence, even the scariest jump is No Big Thing.

Egad, I own your horse's brain twin. 8 year old mare who is NOT fun to hack out alone at the walk. Trot and canter with variable shoulder in, changing of flexion, etc, etc - not as horrendous. Put some jumps out there, and hey, now we can all have fun. :D

If she's left to her own devices to *think* about what may be going on around her, she's a mess. :no: When I give her something to do that takes some thought, then she's awesome. And like others mentioned, she is a problem-solver, thinking kind of girl - she will listen to me, but thankgosh ignores my glaring mistakes and does it the right way anyway.

She has become this way as I've taken her out on confidence-building sessions a LOT as a youngster.

I think my old guy was born that way. From day one, he was a "you steer and pat me, and I'll do the rest" kind of guy.