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Need help with leading, horse scares me!

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  • Need help with leading, horse scares me!

    I recently bought a 6yo OTTB about 3 months ago, straight off of the Charlestown track. She is a very sweet and lovable horse, but has absolutely no retraining. I let her sit and do nothing for a month, just taking her out to groom and love on, got her teeth done, feet done, vet check, etc. I started slowly working with her on the ground to learn "walk" and "whoa". Everything was going fine, until one day, she "spooked". I put that in quotations because I'm not exactly sure what happened, but she spun and took off while I had her on the lead.

    So since that day, I have started leading her with a lunge line to prevent her from getting away if/when she does this, and wearing gloves so that I can hold on. And while this is definitely a major issue, it's not the one that scares me (which says a lot, as she literally dragged me on my knees!)

    The thing that REALLY freaks me out, is that she will jump TOWARDS me when she spooks! I am absolutley terrified of her jumping on top of me and seriously injuring me. I've been working on her moving off of pressure, so I can get her to move her front end away from me, but when shes all nervous and spooky it doesnt matter, she will still jump towards me.

    It truely scares me, and I have no idea how to discourage this behavior. I currently have no trainer, but if any of you have a recommended trainer in the Richmond/Fredricksburg, VA area I am open suggestions!

  • #2
    Typical baby horse behavior.

    You need some basic ground work help.

    Also use a rope halter. Leather halters are useless.

    I was working on similar issues with a much less reactive OTTB this winter. She would get looky and bulge into me with her left shoulder, and once she jumped around a puddle and knocked me into the ditch.

    I worked on getting her attention all the time, so that her head was flexed towards me and her body away, like a crude shoulder in. I elbowed her in the neck if she started to fall on top of me.

    I was also careful to keep enough slack in the leadrope that I wasn't inadvertently pulling her on top of me when things happened. When handlers clench up on the rope with hot horses they often end up doing that. Also I wanted her head at my shoulder so she could go sideways and not take me out with her body.

    By the time she went back to her permanent home she was fine.

    I would not personally use a longe line in this situation. Too much to get tangled up. I would use a rope halter and longer rope lead rope, and if course gloves and a helmet every time you handle her.

    A good groundwork trainer can get you doing obstacles and things that will give you a protocol for working through scary objects.

    But also make sure she is getting enough run time to work off excess energy. A bottled up horse like one on stall rest is a handful.


    • #3
      I'm not in your area so I cannot suggest a trainer for you, but that is the BEST route to go. Find someone who is experienced with ground training. Clearly, this horse has no respect for you and yes, it is a dangerous thing.

      She will need to learn that she needs to pay attention to you at all times. Realistically, this is what ground work is. No matter what is going on around you, that horse needs to keep its focus on you and listen to what you are asking them to do. This type of training does well for "spooky" horses because the whole reason they spook in the first place is because they are looking for/at the spooky thing and letting their flight reaction take over. If you instead engage the thinking part of their brain and direct their attention away from the spooky object, then the horse "magically" doesn't spook anymore, or very little.

      So if I gather from your post that you've been working with her for 2 months (after pretty much letting her be for a month) and you haven't really gotten anywhere. My guess is you need to be firmer with her. For example, I'd carry a dressage whip and USE IT. If a horse is about to jump on top of me, they're going to get SMACKED with that whip until they get out of my bubble. My safety if my #1 priority. Yes, it is also my job to prepare my horse and set them up for success, but when things go south, they need to NOT jump on top of me. Not acceptable.

      In the meantime while you are finding a trainer to help you, I suggest you look up Clinton Anderson. He has a whole free series on a rescue horse on YouTube. Here is the first episode. Yes, CA can be quite aggressive. I will agree with that. However, I feel he explains things very well on what he is doing, why, where, when, etc. Timing is very important with both ground work (and riding). You can still listen to what he has to say, and apply it in your own way. If you are going to be handling your horse while you find a trainer, at least you can start educating yourself to keep yourself safe.
      It is not enough to know how to ride; one must know how to fall.


      • Original Poster

        Scribbler: I bought a hybrid halter after the first incident, which has a knotted rope noseband and a rope bottom, which has helped tremendously! It is definitely difficult to keep track of the lunge line, but I'm afraid of her getting away from me and running off if I don't use it. What length lead rope would you recommend?

        She gets distracted and wants to look around a lot, how were you able to get that mares attention on you? I feel like when shes not paying attention to me, shes much more likely to jump onto me.

        Luckily she's in turn out 24/7, so she gets at least a little of that energy released!

        beau159: She's gotten better with the turning/taking off, but not any better with the jumping towards/on top of me. I feel like I've just lost confidence with her, because the fear of getting hurt is very strong lol. Thank you for linking the video! I'll be sure to watch it and hopefully it can give me some pointers to use with her!


        • #5
          I call aluminum sweat scrapers smacking sticks. They work extremely well for defining your personal space. If you cannot even begin to imagine how that might work, you need a trainer immediately, like right now, before you even put a halter on her again.

          This behaviour is absolutely normal baby horse nonsense, but it needs to be nipped in the bud right now before she puts you in hospital with broken bones.

          It's not about equipment (although you want safe equipment!) it's about teaching the horse appropriate manners. A rope halter or a longe line hold no more special magic than a long rope lead with a chain. And all I'm saying with that is that no piece of equipment is going to train your horse. Knowledge and experience will train your horse

          Please get help asap! I cringe thinking about an acquaintance's multiple foot surgeries handed to her by a mannerisms 2 year old.
          Ahhhh, spring is here. The birds are singing, the trees are budding and the paddocks are making their annual transformation from cake mix to cookie dough.


          • #6
            You need to be proactive. Don't wait until she gets actively spooky. Hand walk her in a safe area and gently keep putting her head where you want it, at your elbow, slightky bent in your direction, on a loose lead with your hand as far from your body as possible.

            You should also teach her to move her haunches, shoulder in etc on the ground. Then you can carry a dressage whip in your left hand and tap behind you if needed.

            The reason shoulder in works so well in saddle or on the ground with spooky stuff is that their body is moving away from the direction of bend. Under saddle horse might be starting at that patch of ditch grass but their body is carrying them away from it and they can't dive. If that makes sense.

            You should be doing a ton of handwalking and ground work in the arena so that you and horse learn to stay out of each others way. Walk halt turn both directions, back up, etc so horse starts to realize they need to pay attention to what you are asking or might ask. Work on getting the horse so responsive you just use a feel of the rope, no actual pressure .

            When the horse starts to get looky you halt, back, do some quiet simple but clear inhand work so she has to refocus on you. Don't continue until you have her focus.

            At first minimize your time in actual outdoors and dangerous areas near traffic, etc. Then introduce the scary paths slowly, and demand her attention at all times.

            As far as the longe line, they are clumsy to carry and no guarantee horse won't get loose. I've certainly seen enough horses get loose or drag people longeing them! Once a horse gets up to warp speed moving away from you nothing will stop them. You are better off learning to take their head away from them before that happens.

            I would also make sure she actually gets a chance to run at liberty every day, in a round pen or elsewhere. Not all horses get the wiggles out in the paddock or field.


            • #7
              A 10 or 12 foot leadrope is probably plenty long enough.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Highflyer View Post
                A 10 or 12 foot leadrope is probably plenty long enough.
                Yes, that would be my suggestion. One of the thick soft cotton ropes they sell to use with rope halters.

                And leather gloves and a helmet. And an enventing vest if you are genuinely worried. And boots with reinforced toes.

                I spent 6 weeks over Christmas 2017 with my foot on a cushion and my mare in full training board and have become much more cautious about leading two horses at once on chilly winter afternoons!


                • #9
                  Definitely find a trainer. In the mean time, do something to keep both of your minds on the same task. Set out some cones to weave around, or some poles to walk over. Keep her in a confined area. Decide how close she can be to you, and enforce it. If she comes into your space, elbow her or whack her until she steps over. If she starts looking at something outside of the ring, ask her a question (walk faster, walk slower, turn, bend head towards the inside of the ring, etc).

                  Make sure you treat her fairly. The rules have to be in effect 24/7/365.


                  • Original Poster

                    I think I've found a reputable trainer who specializes in starting young horses from the ground up. I really appreciate all the advice, and it is a relief to know that it is normal and can be worked on!


                    • #11
                      I have always relied on TTouch especially for OTTBs. Works well if you can do it right. Very effective but not confrontational or harsh.



                      • #12
                        Google Tristan Tucker. he works with horses like that and he explains well what he is doing. but I would also recommend a trainer.


                        • #13
                          FYI I have taken an Aerborn longe line, and cut it in half, had someone sew a clip on one end and a loop on the other, It makes two 12 foot leads, generally soft to the hand,

                          However with your mare, I would always use gloves, and very important, when leading, never straighten you arm entirely, always keep a bend in your elbow. Keep your right hand on the line,pinky down, and hold the free end in your L hand.
                          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                          • #14
                            Most horses at the track are led with a chain on their nose, I’m guessing she would probably be more-respective if one was used; however, I recommend you have an experienced handler see how she responds if a chain is used. If she respects it you have a starting point from where to work from.
                            Last edited by js; May. 21, 2019, 12:41 PM.


                            • #15
                              I put a surcingle with side reins and a tie down on some of my young or spooky horses when I know they're going to be up. I attach them to the halter to start, but sometimes put a bridle on over the halter so I can snap them to the bit if I need to. I find that the added restrictions really help damp down their over-reactions.


                              • #16
                                About reinforced boots -- do not get steel-toed boots! Should a horse step on one, it could bend the steel right into your toes/instep!

                                Good advice here -- sounds like you're on your way!


                                • #17
                                  Why don't you start a thread on off course with your location and request for ground manners in the title? That may get you pointed in the right direction.
                                  Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


                                  • #18
                                    Sent you a PM


                                    • #19
                                      I will add that, because I obviously am suggesting you get a trainer involved asap too, your horse needs to work way more than whatever you are doing.

                                      Most, if not all, 6yrs old OTTBs need to be in a serious everyday program to get that « spooking » energy out.

                                      Have your vet check for any dietary imbalances and ulcers as those can trigger excessive spookiness.
                                      Too much sugar + not enough exercice = steaming crazy horse!

                                      But find a trainer first because, like you said, you are clearly not experienced enough to handle this situation.

                                      As a side note : People, inexpensive horses often come with greater expenses. Please, buy horses that suits your needs.
                                      ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                                      Originally posted by LauraKY
                                      I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
                                      HORSING mobile training app


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by StrikeEven View Post
                                        It is definitely difficult to keep track of the lunge line, but I'm afraid of her getting away from me and running off if I don't use it. What length lead rope would you recommend?
                                        So if she takes off running, how exactly are you going to stop a 1,000 pound animal at the end of a 24-foot lunge rope? If you continue to hang on, you'll be dragged across the ground.

                                        I agree that a normal lead rope should be sufficient. If she's going to run off, having a lunge line really isn't going to stop her any better because it's going to require more force from you the farther away you are from her.

                                        Originally posted by StrikeEven View Post

                                        I feel like I've just lost confidence with her, because the fear of getting hurt is very strong
                                        The lack of confidence is contributing to the issues. I don't blame you for losing confidence because it does hurt to get hurt and our human bodies/brains do what they can to protect itself (fear). But horses sense things and if you are not confident, then she will not be.

                                        So do what you can to FAKE it. Find a mental way to push that fear aside and do what you have to do. Be and act confident even though you aren't.

                                        Originally posted by StrikeEven View Post
                                        She gets distracted and wants to look around a lot, how were you able to get that mares attention on you?
                                        Don't let her look around. Period. It sounds so simple ... because it is that simple. Keep her busy. Move her shoulders. Move her hindquarters. Back up. Etc etc etc. If she is so busy keeping track of her next cue from you, then she doesn't have any free time to look around, and therefore can't spook.

                                        Of course, try to set her up for success in the beginning. Work with her in an environment where she feels the most safe. Start teaching her to move her body where you ask, little by little, and build on it. Honestly, that's the whole basis of CA's method. Be able to move any part of their body, at any time, anywhere. Make them BROKE on the ground. Get them broke on the ground and then that translates to in the saddle. Then get them BROKE in the saddle. And it's all about pressure and release, timing, and knowing how much pressure to put on them.

                                        Originally posted by StrikeEven View Post
                                        I think I've found a reputable trainer who specializes in starting young horses from the ground up.
                                        Good to hear!

                                        It is not enough to know how to ride; one must know how to fall.