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Horse ets spookier with work

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  • Horse ets spookier with work

    Hi everyone,

    I'm talking about Sir SpooksAlot.

    He tends to get spookier as the work amps up. Basically, when he has to engage his body more, he seemingly starts looking for things to spook at. On good days, his gaits improve by magnitudes. On bad days, he can spook at nothing, slamming on the breaks near "the gate of doom". Or splay his front legs so his front end drops out and turn and bolt. The other day, horses in the far pasture galloped up to the gate about 100ft from the arena and he splayed his front legs so low and bolted to the left SO quickly that I found myself on the side of the saddle and bailed. Today, he started very relaxed on a loose rein but got spookier and spookier as the work picked up - I had to restrict the amount of arena I rode in because he was afraid to go near the gate of doom. Sometimes you can push him to the gate in shoulder-in or leg yield and he listens to you over his fear, sometimes you can push him to the gate and he listens to his fear more and will bolt. Putting him on tight aids in that instance can overwhelm his brain, but relaxing the aids can make him feel "alone" and he's much more likely to take his survival into his own hands. Yesterday, he was equally spooky in this corner and I stood and talked to a friend for about 30 minutes (he went from head in the air and ears seriously pricked to bored and falling asleep). My friend put his horse in the playground overnight and I let my horse go in the arena, where he hung out at the gate with her. Today, the gate of doom area was going to kill him.

    Of note, the "gate of doom" is generally the spooky place. It is adjacent to the horse playground and then a pasture that has horses. Sometimes the horses are in sight, sometimes not.

    Things to note: He has ridden in this same arena for 6 years. He has walked out and spent a lot of time in the playground. I used to lock the horses in the far pasture in their paddock and walk him in that pasture. I let him look at at this pasture from the Gate of Doom on the ground and after I mount *every time*. My dressage trainer has also noticed he spooks more when the work amps up, she's not sure why except for distraction from the work. He's very athletic and capable. Sometimes he handles work well and his talent really comes out, sometimes he doesn't and gets reactive to his environment. The clinician I worked with a few weeks ago also noticed this. I was riding with the cowboy trainer today who is a great NH trainer and had this horse in training when he was truly edgy and reactive 6 years ago. He knows this horse and after he watched our relaxed ride today while he ate lunch and noticed how amped up he got said "I have no idea why he does that, you were riding him well". My vet, who came out today for shots and dental, suggested maybe magnesium or a clostrum biosynthetic. She's very aware of his quirkiness and knows his mind goes a million miles an hour. THAT is his issue in a nutshell. 6 years ago, I tried Mg and it didn't seem to help and the biosynthetic is likely too expensive. He has a great farrier. He lives outside in his own pasture with a run-in. Neighbors on both sides. Gets great nutrition and really great maintained pasture forage. His life is really good.

    Also, a horse in this weeklong clinic kicked and broke one of the arena boards right at the gate of doom, and my horse couldn't go near it because "it looked different". Seriously, could not. go. near. it. under saddle or that end of the arena. He was truly upset because something was changed. Took time on the ground to get him near it. It took me 20 minutes to re-align the boards, but I did.

    Soooo, given the above disclaimers, has anyone ridden a very smart but fearful horse whose brain goes a million miles an hour? A horse who notices all things out of place and is fearful because of that? Gets spookier when the work amps up even though he's physically capable of doing it (and sometimes is excellent doing it - no physical issues)? Can go through mental phases where s/he listens to your aids and others were s/he's truly freaked out by something? Any suggestions about how to approach the training? Any supplements that worked for you? Please assume that this horse is quirky and I have most bases covered.

    Thank you in advance!
    Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation

  • #2
    My spooky horse became downright unmanageable a few years ago. After numerous vet tests, a mineral screen revealed an excess of iron, which in turn caused a zinc and copper deficiency.

    Apparently iron is very prevalent in the water and hay in many areas and excess is not uncommon.
    I did find some research to support a link between iron and glucose metabolism, which may or may not have caused the spookiness since it could cause erratic blood sugar levels.

    I treated this with a trace mineral supplement that had very little iron content (hard to find!!!). The extreme reactions subsided with this treatment. Also, once the supplement was stopped the behaviour returned.

    Comment


    • #3
      So... thirty years ago I had I horse who was super talented and just hated to work hard. He would be fine for a bit and then drop a shoulder and turn right and be gone. He also was just as likely to jump out of the outdoor arena and take me for a long gallop. I put a full bridle on him to gets brakes. I evented him and never had a stop XC but once left the dressage arena ( and the three and a half foot behind it). He got better at about 7 or 8 and more importantly went to an owner with lower expectations.

      The horse I have now can be 'sensitive'. Very looky occasionally. When she was in rehab we used a supplement (Via Calm) which seemed to calm her a bit. Though there are times when it is very windy I tell her we will work the 10m circle in the center of the arena till she calms down. For us a slight half halt and then a ease in the rein seems to help. Not dropping her but letting her know that I am NOT holding on (for dear life). Don't laugh... I also whistle the song from "The King and I"... "Whistle a Happy Tune" with the line..'And whistle a happy tune And no one will suspect I'm afraid.'

      Mostly you have to be safe while at the same time not allowing the horse to get into any bad habits (right). Good luck.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Oh thank you!!!

        A couple of years ago I analyzed his diet by weighing feed and sending pasture samples off to EquiAnalitical. I worked his diet around these results, and he's on balancer now. The pastures were lymed and fertilized this year, so I didn't repeat. Thing likely changed. We did do soil samples and I'll look back on that data.

        I supplement with copper due to his bleaching coat in the summer. Soil samples say we're high in zinc. The BO is a professional geologist who has had his water extensively tested prior to purchasing a few years ago (we're "legacy" peeps). He considers it "pristine" but I'll specifically ask about the mineral content. The hay is harvested from an adjacent field, so likely similar soil and the same water table.

        I will review everything because of your input. THANK YOU!
        Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation

        Comment


        • #5
          I joined this board when the very intelligent TB, I was riding and training daily, I had to stop riding as I seemed him too dangerous to ride.

          How in ##### could a horse I am training be deemed that. It was so frustrating. It was like I was walking a tightrope. He could be perfect. Or he would go from a free walk on a loose rein to a bolt. I could stop him immediately but he did it in dangerous places as I did not have an arena.

          On COTH we figured out that he was overfed and underworked, even though I was riding daily and he was only on hay.

          On advice from this board I took him out of his paddock and gave him a biscuit of hay to munch on while the cattle were fed and he was put back in when they had finished eating. This worked overnight and he never did it again.

          I have also found from other horses I have retrained that the ones that shy in an arena because a chair has moved, etc, stop doing this when I take them off grain and throw them out in a paddock and train daily, so they too were overfed and underworked.

          Another one is that he is training you and work stops when he shies so he does it.

          The other is that acid gets splashed onto ulcers during canter work. So the pain starts after work starts.
          It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

          Comment


          • #6
            My horse would do that when he was asked to do something that hurt him. He was a big winner at 1st level. But at 2nd level he was asked to lighten his front end and bring his hin end underneathnhimself end to push. Ears pinned, grinding of bit, ears pinned back. Through a full workup, including full ex rays we found out that he has a neuro problem at the base of his neck that was causing shooting pain when his neck was in a 2nd level position.

            We switched him to baby green hunter, where his neck goes long and low.

            He has been champion at every show he has been to, and his ears are always forward, After a full work up by a universal hospital THEN you will know what his problem is. He may be in pain when you are asking for a certan thing.. ONLY then will you be able to work on the problem.

            In my horse's case, he was in the wrong discipline. He adores being a hunter and the judges love him. It was as simple as that.
            "He lives in a cocoon of solipsism" https://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/c...lies/smile.gif

            Comment


            • #7
              He sounds like a horse TRT Method might be good for, because it trains the horse to calm itself in a tense situation and learning that a relaxed posture helps the scary thing go away.

              My mare was getting really whacko after many months of stall rest, and was breaking through her Ace/Reserpine cocktail. I put her on DePaolo Tranquility in early December on recommendation of her bodyworker, and it made her safe to ride, and I haven't had to Ace her yet (and I took her off Reserpine in December as well). It seems to help her cope, and I will probably use it for a few weeks if and when I try to show her again. Doesn't work for all horses, but might be worth a shot for your guy.

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Thanks Rerider54 , Normally my guy has great brakes - he wants to be lazy except when he doesn't want to be. I'll check out Via Calm, thanks for that! This horse is 11!

                SuzieQNutter , he just gets balancer and pretty poor hay ( posted here about it). No grain. He gets a flake of alfalfa in the PM for nutrition because he lost weight over the winter with his pasture. He always gets alfalfa in the winter. My vet approves of his current diet and she has known him and helped my with his diet since a nutty 3-year old.

                He surely is training me! But I have to weigh safety. No trainer that has worked with him hasn't been hurt by his reactivity. We have to capture his brain reliably.

                He has learned to work cattle.

                @LordHelpUs, He doesn't pin ears and can put himself into an upper level frame without pain. He can move really well!! He has had extensive radiographs - no findings. He seems to worry sometimes, and look for things to spook at. I'm now convinced his issues are between his ears. I have called him Mr. 90% because he can give 90% just fine but that extra 10% can require work. He can be really lazy, until he isn't. I think he would love to be a Western Pleasure horse because that requires no work, until he's excited and then Western Pleasure is out. I used to take him to local "Open shows" with a friend to give him experience working in different environments. I entered an English Pleasure class (at a venue we had been at multiple times) and the judge said to me, when we lined up "Are you OK? That didn't seem very pleasureable" it wasn't! Hahahahahaaaaaa! We actually won a belt buckle!

                outerbanks77, what is the TRT method?
                Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation

                Comment


                • #9
                  You've gotten some fantastic advice so far! This will sound silly and it's likely too simple to be the cause, but I'll throw it out there. Have you ever exhaustively examined the Gate of Doom from all angles at various times of the day? I ask because at our farm, one corner of the outdoor arena is haunted by a ghost named Zul. No one is immune to Zul's haunting. The truly bizarre part? Zul is apparently kind of lazy and only reveals his terrible visage maybe 1 in 5 trips past the corner. While he may be lazy, Zul is highly effective. Because those times he does appear elicit some spectacular reactions.

                  One day last July my daughter took a lesson and came home kind of out of it from the heat and dozed off on the sofa. She woke up the next day and realized that her very sentimental name plate bracelet wasn't on her wrist. She was frantic thinking it had fallen off during her lesson so we drove over to the barn. There had been a torrential storm the night before that had carved rivulets in the footing so the farm hand had cleared all of the jumps and dragged and leveled the arena. This worked out well for us because we could walk an unobstructed grid.

                  About an hour into the search and no bracelet, we more or less gave up. (I found the darn bracelet in the sofa cushions the next day :/) But walking the last quadrant of the arena I noticed something about Zul's corner. If you approached it from a diagonal the light pole cast a patchy shadow. The shadow was not visible from any other angle. I started watching the horses in the arena to test my theory. Sure enough, the spooks were happening on a diagonal approach to Zul's corner. Might be worth checking out with the Gate of Doom in case Zul has picked up and moved to your farm?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    My horse is similar. These horses are extremely intelligent. Mine is a well bred performance horse. Work is his goal - He can literaly stand for hourse in cross ties watching other horses work. He comes to the gate of his paddock all hot and bothered if he can see horses working in the indoor arena and he's not there too. He's an eventer. Cross country, you can see him looking through the trees for the jumps and working out his distances. No lie. You can see him doing it, waiting patiently to go, then using a ground clearing, energy conserving gallop to tackle these fabulous jumps we built, surely, just for him. Riding him through the woods over streams and stone walls is a joy we all dream is possible and hope we find in a horse.

                    The last time I rode him, I had a wonderful indoor session with him. He was working on his second level debut with his trainer, and I had come home from living away to visit this fabulous animal. After the work, we went out to the field to walk around and cool off. A murder of crows conspired in the middle of the field. As we toured the edge, I could see him keeping his eye on these bell-weathers of certain danger. He was waiting, I could see him watching them. They rose and disbursed, and he watched them go, then, it seemed he remembered - Oh, yeah! When the crows fly off cawing, it means a dangerous predator is about! He dropped his shoulder and spun out from under me, plunging and bolting, his favorite gimmick. I came off and landing on my back, pneumothorax and cracked ribs. He ran straight for the cross ties in the barn and stood their waiting pleasantly for me to trudge up.

                    He could perform this almost any time. It was never a matter of being worked, or in pain. It was a favorite event for him. And he would only do it two, three or four times a year. The best thing for it was to never come off him, and bully him out of the bolt, but he onlly did it to me when he knew I was totally relaxed and not paying attention. As a result, it happened less and less as I learned never to drop vigilance, and to always keep a leg on him. He would want to, but not try, if you were onto him. However, he still managed to find a moment for it several times a year with me on him.

                    I believe it was his intelligence, his being in fabulous condition, and knowing if he was only patient enough, some day, some month, some part of the season, I would be laughing and relaxed and happy, and his time would come.

                    Once his trainer, a wonderful rider, 21 years old, had not been unseated a couple of times, he never tried it with her again. Never. Me, however, alas.

                    Just my experience with super intelligent performance oriented horses.
                    My warmbloods have actually drunk mulled wine in the past. Not today though. A drunk warmblood is a surly warmblood. - WildandWickedWarmbloods

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by J-Lu View Post

                      Soooo, given the above disclaimers, has anyone ridden a very smart but fearful horse whose brain goes a million miles an hour? A horse who notices all things out of place and is fearful because of that? Gets spookier when the work amps up even though he's physically capable of doing it (and sometimes is excellent doing it - no physical issues)? Can go through mental phases where s/he listens to your aids and others were s/he's truly freaked out by something? Any suggestions about how to approach the training? Any supplements that worked for you? Please assume that this horse is quirky and I have most bases covered.
                      My answer to all of these questions, is basically yes.

                      My 8 year old P.R.E. is quirky.

                      His brain can move very quick, but a majority of the time he is not actually afraid, he's just dramatic. He is a drama queen. I think he convinces himself that he's scared sometimes, but he's not. Once in a while he is *actually* scared but it's rare. So is your horse actually fearful or a joker and just doing it because he can?

                      Interestingly my horse can get spookier when the work increases. This has happened a little bit lately as it is spring, and his work is more difficult. He has to trutly use his hind end and the work is both challenging and new to him (passage, pirouette's, really focusing on a correct, collected, and accurate canter). He will walk around cool cucumber on a loose rein and then when the real work starts, he may start looking at things. He did a hard stop and spin the other day at a shadow of a jump standard. He's quick, but he doesn't bolt, just spins. When he does this, I know it is because he is behind my leg. It may only be for a second or two, but it is enough to allow his shenanigans. He's hot but also naturally lazy, hence the evasions, and the spin, but no bolt because he is not actually scared and bolting takes energy! The work is hard, he is caoable and smart, but sometimes he asks "do I REALLY have to" to be fair, this usually occurs when i ride him less, and I've been doing more long lining, hand walking, and lunging with this COVID-19 thing and minmizing risk, so my riding hasn't been super consistent.

                      He's had episodes of disregarding my aids (spinning, backing up, doing odd manuevers) but I just sit them out and keep asking...calmly. It is tempting to just smack him with the whip and demand, but that gets him more worked up. I have to sit calmly and ask firmly, but not overwhelm with my aids or whip. This always works. I could muscle him around and get ugly about it, but then it takes him awhile to settle back into work. It's hard to describe as it is more of a feeling; maintaining the balance between him not losing his mind but still getting him to continue on.

                      It always comes back to him being behind my leg. So basic. Just because he is going forward or at speed, doesn't mean he isn't behind my leg.

                      I've put him on magnesium before but that was mostly because he's an easy keeper and magnesium oxide is supposed to be beneficial while he is on grass for fatty pockets and whatnot, but it made no difference in his behavior. I get blood pulled every now and again to make sure all is proper, and it always is. He's on a special mineral for laminitis prone horses/easy keepers that balances well with our forage. I also compete, so I cannot use supplements that test. I am also just not one for calming supplements, personally. As it is usually training. This guy is WEIRD, and that's him. I have to learn to work with it. To be fair, part of it is his breeding. I did treat him for ulcers with no change, and scoped him about a 8 months after treatment ended and he was clean, surprisingly. His lifestyle helps.

                      I've done clicker training and that has helped. He is now more curious and inquisitive/will approach a scary object when told. I also ground drive him, which for whatever reason he likes, and I think having him "in front" so to speak gives him confidence.

                      I think he is so good at new places/competitions because he doesn't know what is out of place whereas he notices changes at home. I generally ignore him. Some new cement blocks in the parking lot? a bedding bag blowing in the wind? a new car? he looks, does whatever, but we keep walking like any other normal day. I've literally tied him up in the aisle and watched from afar as he looked for things to spook and snort at...and continued to spook to himself. I don't know if it is for self entertainment or what. Oddly enough, he can be quite calm, and most people are surprised by what I can do with him (body clip, blow dry, ground tie, vacuum, tricks, liberty work, ride with a neck ring/bridleless, hack on the buckle). So he's well trained but weird and an opportunist. Interestingly, most of the time when other horses spook he's not interested and just looks at them. It wasn't his idea, so I guess it's not as cool.

                      Have you tried clicker training?

                      There are some horses, such as my previous Warmblood, that had to be ridden every single milisecond of the ride. Busy, busy, and onward. He was exhausting and better suited for a pro, quite frankly. While my P.R.E. is odd, spooky, and whatever else, I never feel at danger, and his episodes are short lived, and now more rare as he ages. My WB would take it to dangerous levels and also had big movement, my P.R.E. is smooth and easy to sit, so that definitely helps. A clinician once said (about my WB) that I was doomed and that he'd never touch a horse with that breeding! So I really know how to pick 'em He got along with my husband though (a big tall strong man), so maybe he was a man's man.

                      TL;DR

                      It's about keeping the horse in front of your leg and riding it out most of the time. You're the boss, the herd leader, and he needs to both trust and respect your demands. Ground work and clicker training can help. Some are just more freak'n difficult than others and require more professional intervention. Living out, forage 24/7 and a balanced diet are all productive, generally. Quick reaction times help. And get out of your own head (Idk if this is your issue) but once they spook at something or do whatever we can allow it to get in our own head and subconsiously send signals through our body to the horse. Some spook because the rider expects it. How often do you lesson?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Ambitious Kate View Post
                        My horse is similar. These horses are extremely intelligent. Mine is a well bred performance horse. Work is his goal - He can literaly stand for hourse in cross ties watching other horses work. He comes to the gate of his paddock all hot and bothered if he can see horses working in the indoor arena and he's not there too. He's an eventer. Cross country, you can see him looking through the trees for the jumps and working out his distances. No lie. You can see him doing it, waiting patiently to go, then using a ground clearing, energy conserving gallop to tackle these fabulous jumps we built, surely, just for him. Riding him through the woods over streams and stone walls is a joy we all dream is possible and hope we find in a horse.

                        The last time I rode him, I had a wonderful indoor session with him. He was working on his second level debut with his trainer, and I had come home from living away to visit this fabulous animal. After the work, we went out to the field to walk around and cool off. A murder of crows conspired in the middle of the field. As we toured the edge, I could see him keeping his eye on these bell-weathers of certain danger. He was waiting, I could see him watching them. They rose and disbursed, and he watched them go, then, it seemed he remembered - Oh, yeah! When the crows fly off cawing, it means a dangerous predator is about! He dropped his shoulder and spun out from under me, plunging and bolting, his favorite gimmick. I came off and landing on my back, pneumothorax and cracked ribs. He ran straight for the cross ties in the barn and stood their waiting pleasantly for me to trudge up.

                        He could perform this almost any time. It was never a matter of being worked, or in pain. It was a favorite event for him. And he would only do it two, three or four times a year. The best thing for it was to never come off him, and bully him out of the bolt, but he onlly did it to me when he knew I was totally relaxed and not paying attention. As a result, it happened less and less as I learned never to drop vigilance, and to always keep a leg on him. He would want to, but not try, if you were onto him. However, he still managed to find a moment for it several times a year with me on him.

                        I believe it was his intelligence, his being in fabulous condition, and knowing if he was only patient enough, some day, some month, some part of the season, I would be laughing and relaxed and happy, and his time would come.

                        Once his trainer, a wonderful rider, 21 years old, had not been unseated a couple of times, he never tried it with her again. Never. Me, however, alas.

                        Just my experience with super intelligent performance oriented horses.
                        Ah, this is similar to what I was trying to explain. My guy does it a few times a year, this "I don't wanna" fit, but I have never *knock on wood* become unseated. They've become rarer. His episodes are shorter and he gives in. Once they learn "ditch the rider and run to safety, this is good" it's a bit more difficult.

                        One time we had just finished a long lesson, I dropped my reins, he spooked at a jump he'd been by 500 times. Why? because he could, probably.

                        If I couldn't stay on or handle it. I'd definitenly involve a pro.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by CanteringCarrot View Post
                          Once they learn "ditch the rider and run to safety, this is good" it's a bit more difficult.
                          There's no way of knowing, but I don't believe they even necessarily want to ditch the rider, but just want to get to safety. For all we know they want the rider to stay with them and have no idea why the rider jumped off. I think they probably fight the restraints that make it harder for them to reach safety, just as any fearful animal (including the rider) would if they felt they were in danger and needed to escape.

                          One time we had just finished a long lesson, I dropped my reins, he spooked at a jump he'd been by 500 times. Why? because he could, probably.
                          Or it just looked different in that particular light from that particular angle? I know that as my eyesight has deteriorated I sometimes have a very hard time making out shapes that could be a predator, so I get why horses will spook at something they've seen hundreds of times. Even though I think my spookiest horses' eyesight is fine, they still see things in low light situations that they don't react to when the light is better, or they're not moving as fast, or they approach from a different angle. I also wonder if, as they age, they also have floaters in their eyes that make them think they've seen something? :-)

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by kande04 View Post

                            There's no way of knowing, but I don't believe they even necessarily want to ditch the rider, but just want to get to safety. For all we know they want the rider to stay with them and have no idea why the rider jumped off. I think they probably fight the restraints that make it harder for them to reach safety, just as any fearful animal (including the rider) would if they felt they were in danger and needed to escape.



                            Or it just looked different in that particular light from that particular angle? I know that as my eyesight has deteriorated I sometimes have a very hard time making out shapes that could be a predator, so I get why horses will spook at something they've seen hundreds of times. Even though I think my spookiest horses' eyesight is fine, they still see things in low light situations that they don't react to when the light is better, or they're not moving as fast, or they approach from a different angle. I also wonder if, as they age, they also have floaters in their eyes that make them think they've seen something? :-)
                            I've wondered about floaters before. Or maybe he is really sensitive to a change in lighting. But sometimes he can be near "bombproof" other times, not so much I blame it on a creative and intelligent brain. Yes, that sounds good.

                            About ditching the rider, I don't think they plan it, but I do think some "catch on" if the rider falls off and their work ends. This isn't super common, but I think there are some out there. But yes, usually the rider falls off by chance in the horses pursuit to safety.

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                            • #15
                              I was going to add maybe something going on with his eyes, But looks like kande04 and CanteringCarrot have already thought of that. I knew an eventer that vetted fine but would have the occasional really bad spook or refusal. Over the course of a few years we figured out that whatever he was spooking at seemed to be things presented to his left front. Long story short, he was blind in his left eye within about 4-5 years. What was interesting, is once he couldn't see out of that eye, he was virtually bombproof as long as anyone walking up to him made some noise first so he knew you were there..... but once he couldn't 1/2 see any potential bogeymen to his left, he stopped spooking at them.

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                              • #16
                                Originally posted by kande04 View Post

                                There's no way of knowing, but I don't believe they even necessarily want to ditch the rider, but just want to get to safety. For all we know they want the rider to stay with them and have no idea why the rider jumped off. I think they probably fight the restraints that make it harder for them to reach safety, just as any fearful animal (including the rider) would if they felt they were in danger and needed to escape.



                                Or it just looked different in that particular light from that particular angle? I know that as my eyesight has deteriorated I sometimes have a very hard time making out shapes that could be a predator, so I get why horses will spook at something they've seen hundreds of times. Even though I think my spookiest horses' eyesight is fine, they still see things in low light situations that they don't react to when the light is better, or they're not moving as fast, or they approach from a different angle. I also wonder if, as they age, they also have floaters in their eyes that make them think they've seen something? :-)
                                I agree. IIRC, horses don't see all of the colors we do and their depth perception is more keen than ours and just different than ours - higher contrast. Almost akin to what we see wearing 3-D movie glasses. The horse I leased when I was a teenager was afraid of crosswalks and those grid drains that run the length of a wash stall. And at a hunter show I observed several OTTB and WBs freak out when a blanket appaloosa entered the on deck area. Now, I've seen plenty of OTTB wig out at seeing a pony for the first time but the appaloosa was an average sized horse. The trainer and I theorized that it was the blanket pattern. Did the horse's hind end look like it was on 2 different planes? Disintegrating like the ghosts on the galloon in the last installment of Pirates of the Caribbean?

                                As for spooking and dumping the rider I imagine it comes down to how genuinely visceral the reaction. I mean, people do unbelievable things when fight/flight/freeze is triggered (run headlong into traffic, trample the elderly, children, and mobility compromised...) and our first mode of defense isn't to gallop off at 35 mph like the horse's is. The spin and shoulder drop can be an evolutionary thing -- ahhhh! predator landed on my back must dislodge it. A horse that reacts consistently with the spin and drop but not with riders with whom previous attempts to ditch haven't worked? Not an evolutionary thing. lol

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                                • #17
                                  This is going to sound strange, but sometimes I wish it were something blatant like loss of eyesight, ulcers, or sensitivity to certain things only... That would create far less head scratching! I really do believe that spooking can be used as an evasion though.

                                  While my horse's vision has been deemed fine, I don't know what he actually sees and how he sees because I'm not him. I do know that things below eye level (boots on the ground, a grooming box, ground poles) often cause a side eye or short from him. He does have a floater. So there's that. I had an OTTB that was super sensitive to changes in ground color.

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                                  • #18
                                    Sometimes, with some horses, as you sharpen up their response to the aids, you end up sharpening all their reactions. I have ridden a number of horses that were more likely to spook, etc further into the ride than at the beginning. It wasnt an evasion, but them being increasingly sensitive and in some cases focused so when there is an unexpected stimulus they react more strongly. I found this especially as we started collection since they had more energy and mobility and perhaps felt too constrained when startled. But it sounds like this horse starts saying no early and just amps it up through the ride.

                                    Warwick Schiller has some good videos on choosing where you work that might help. Personally, if I didnt have a trainer who could get both of us over most of this, I would likely move him on to someone willing to deal with it in order to work with his talent. YMMV

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                                    • #19
                                      Before my self-imposed staying in place I got to ride the QH with moon-blindness in his new Guardian Horse mask, the one that blocks 95% of UV light. We first put it on him 4 days before. His eyes had improved (less tears, cloudiness), and he seemed to me to be reacting to his surroundings with more acceptance.

                                      When I first started riding this horse he had PROBLEMS at the walk on up. He balked, he'd back up quickly, and it was hard to get him to go where I wanted him to. I taught him my aids, he became more obedient (that took a lot of patience), and now, though he is the ugliest and worse conformed horse I've ever ridden, he has turned into a neat riding horse, until he isn't.

                                      I was expecting a freak out from the mask while riding because he had not been ridden in it before, and new things totally swamp his mind. Instead, after an initial attempt to balk with a hint of being ready to back up, I let him look around a little bit, asked him to walk with my legs, and ended up having a pleasant ride. He was less resistant to the bit as the ride went on, stopping while relaxed, not setting his lower jaw, and mildly champing on the bit (Fager titanium Bianca three-piece with a roller). He was reluctant to extend his stride at a walk, so I was down to rewarding any slight increase, but he did not offer to balk again.

                                      I am now wondering if a lot of his earlier problems with being ridden were because of changing conditions with his eyes. Moon-blindness is periodic, and this horse does not react to change real well. Since he is thick-joweled, with a low set sort of ewe neck and a high croup he is conformed to easily resist his rider's aids. He did not have good schooling, most of what I've taught him is obviously new, and he learned that his riders could not do much when he resisted. BUT now I think he was resisting all those years because the poor horse could not SEE very well and he could not tell if it was safe to move forward. He seems to be turning into a placid trustworthy horse (a new dog ran right under his belly with no reaction.)

                                      What would it hurt to try a Guardian Horse Mask as an experiment? Yes they cost a bit, over a hundred dollars, but in the end it would be a lot cheaper than the endless veterinary visits and medicines. I have to wear sunglasses outside, well this is the first thing I've found that is the equivalent of polarized sun-glasses for horses.

                                      I hope you all have good luck with your spooky horses. It is hard to relax in the saddle when you never know what your horse will react explosively to in his environment.

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                                      • #20
                                        A lot of times when a horse spooks the rider takes 17 laps of circles, walking to "regroup".

                                        The horse then learns that "spook" = "walk break".

                                        The best way to handle a spook is to ignore it and IMMEDIATELY ask to return to what you were doing pre-spook. If he dives and does a twirl cantering up the long side, ask for canter immediately again and head up the same long side, continue as if nothing happened.
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