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Fearful situations

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  • Fearful situations

    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?
    ::I do not understand your specific kind of crazy, but I do admire your total commitment to it::

  • #2
    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.

    Comment


    • #3
      Sing. :-)

      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.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        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.
        ::I do not understand your specific kind of crazy, but I do admire your total commitment to it::

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by chicamuxen1 View Post
          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.

          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.
          ::I do not understand your specific kind of crazy, but I do admire your total commitment to it::

          Comment


          • #6
            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.
            Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by Guilherme View Post
              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.
              ::I do not understand your specific kind of crazy, but I do admire your total commitment to it::

              Comment


              • #8
                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.
                Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by SmartAlex View Post
                  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.
                  __________________________
                  "... if you think i'm MAD, today, of all days,
                  the best day in ten years,
                  you are SORELY MISTAKEN, MY LITTLE ANCHOVY."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    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

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      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.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        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.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by chicamuxen1 View Post
                          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.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            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.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by katarine View Post
                              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

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by katarine View Post
                                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.
                                __________________________
                                "... if you think i'm MAD, today, of all days,
                                the best day in ten years,
                                you are SORELY MISTAKEN, MY LITTLE ANCHOVY."

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  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.

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Oh we did cows last year....

                                    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.
                                    ::I do not understand your specific kind of crazy, but I do admire your total commitment to it::

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      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!

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                                      • #20
                                        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.

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