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Spooking

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  • Spooking

    My horse get's spooky every year around this time and it's getting old real fast

    Seems there's a monster in the dark corners of the arena and he has to run away. Not sure if it's real fear or if he's doing it to get out of work. Which doesn't happen because I still make him work.

    Are some horses just prone to spooking and do some of them grow out of it? Does anyone have any training tips that would help him grow out of it? He's already on low engery feed. HFHF and beet pulp and hay.

  • #2
    It sounds like he only gets spooky during a specific time of the year? If that's true, I'd look at a few things:

    1. Hormonal changes in the fall/winter might be involved, even in geldings. Might talk to your vet.
    2. Seasonal changes (less grass, etc.) can cause my mare to get a bit ulcery. You might try 7-10 days of a full tube of Ulcergard to see if that reduces spookiness.
    3. You might also have your vet check his eyes. If the arena is darker during this time of the season, he may be having trouble seeing correctly.

    Just a few thoughts. Good luck.

    Comment


    • #3
      My friend put her mare on Quiet Tex and that seems to have really helped. She gets I think 1 or 2 grams a day.

      Comment


      • #4
        The darker arena may be the problem. See if the lights are on fully.
        Just a thought.
        sadlmakr

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        • #5
          My horse is the same way in winter, but generally speaking it's because of the cold weather. He loves it, he feels great, he just wants to run and will take ANY excuse. My horse's normal spook is a startle reaction followed by a stop and stare. His winter spook is startle, hop, run, buck, pissy face, more bucking. Getting old fast is right.
          According to the Mayan calendar, the world will not end this week. Please plan your life accordingly.

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          • #6
            I think your situation is pretty typical for this time of year! My horse goes from *kick, kick, kick, whip, whip, whip, can't be bothered by anything* in the summer, then does a complete 180 in the winter and the spurs come off, the whip gets put in the closet, and everything gets VERY scary. Many of the horses in my barn have similar reactions when the cold weather hits. I just have to be creative with my rides, and go from riding 4-5 days a week to a solid 6 days a week. When I am careful about my routine, keep his mind working by changing stuff up, getting out of the arena whenever I can, work cavaletti a lot, etc., he all of a sudden he thinks things are much less scary. After two days off though it's another story!

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Mako View Post
              My horse get's spooky every year around this time and it's getting old real fast

              Seems there's a monster in the dark corners of the arena and he has to run away. Not sure if it's real fear or if he's doing it to get out of work. Which doesn't happen because I still make him work.

              Are some horses just prone to spooking and do some of them grow out of it? Does anyone have any training tips that would help him grow out of it? He's already on low engery feed. HFHF and beet pulp and hay.
              I hear ya. My other horses are pretty solid but one of my OTTB's, my 6yo, is hitting his time of the year where he seems to have excess energy he's just looking to blow SOMEWHERE It's cool out so they naturally move around more to keep warm (and my boy loves to run anyways, plus he's an extrovert always looking to run and play, to boot!), plus in my boy's case, due to the ice and snow outside in his pasture, there is less space/suitable footing to run on so he takes full advantage of the arena

              In short - yes, some horses do "grow out of it", for a variety of reasons. This depends on whether or not the rider develops their horse to have more self-confidence (to be a calmer, braver, smarter horse), whether the rider teaches the horse relaxation (think: Dressage Training Scale), the horse's maturity level, and also whether or not the rider earns the horse's partnership and leadership (whether the rider is an efficient leader or not), among other more minor factors.

              If your horse does not feel he can depend on you for leadership - to ensure his safety (and as a prey animal he is worried about his SURVIVAL), he is going to take matter into his own hands, erm, hooves and do what he feels necessary to ensure he survives to see tomorrow. This includes spooking at everything and anything, especially if you've got the extra energy that puts you on edge (ever experienced times when YOU are edgier than normal?). Better to spook and be safe rather than sorry if you didn't move fast enough and a lion actually DID poke out of the corner and grab you by the throat today. He's a horse. He doesn't know lions aren't roaming arenas in NA.

              As you develop your horse's self-confidence, he will naturally feel less inclined to spook obviously. As you develop your partnership with him, he will feel less inclined to take over leadership and he will be more inclined to respond to you immediately should he take over leadership for a moment. He will also be more inclined to seek to work WITH you and thus have a better work ethic with you. Case in point: while the 6yo I mentioned above used to be an absolute basket case, spooking at everything, he continues to improve with time - both as an individual and in respect to our partnership. He can still be spooky at times if he has excess energy but now he trusts me sufficiently to allow me to push him immediately back onto the aids - whereby he relaxes mostly because he is once more following my cues, aids, and leadership. He is also much less inclined to spook in general. As he continues to progress, eventually all spookiness will dissipate.

              Of course it is "real" fear - horses do not fake and they are prey animals. That said, his spooking might be borne of his being hyper-aware and hyper-sensitive because he is not focused on YOU and thus he might not have a secure work ethic. Extra energy (maybe not derived from feed) will also play a role in his naturally being hyper-aware and responsive to his environment. In that case, it is your job to earn said work ethic from him.

              Certain horses ARE going to be more prone to spooking. I just wrote a post in the "Personality" thread over in the Off Topic section that sort of pertains to that indirectly. Certain personalities are more reactive than thinking - those horses rely on strong, secure, safe leadership (ie. other horses within a herd) for their safety, security, and self-preservation. Some horses - the horses we normally classify as "lazy" are going to naturally be more inclined to be virtually unflappable.

              As far as training tips go, CIRCULAR patterns. Don't ride him on long, straight lines. Keep him on short lines and circular patterns. Progressive exercises (Progressive School Exercises for Dressage & Jumping, Islay Auty) that encourage relaxation and for him to be on the aids. Also, tons of undemanding time with him whereby you just build your friendship with him - grazing, feeding, grooming, just taking him out and spending quality time with him with no expectations. Use some desensitization exercises (use approach and retreat - approach then retreat before it is his idea, just as he becomes nervous about whatever it is you are desensitizing him to, then approach again...use RHYTHM in your movements) that build confidence in himself and in your leadership. Tarps, bridges, cones, various jumps, different scenery, etc etc etc. Have him put his nose on things, walk through, over, under things both by himself (completely by himself) and you. Challenge him (just be careful not to over-challenge him - that is where approach and retreat comes from). Above all, be patient and soft.

              In my boy's case, if he is excessively alert and high-energy, I might even turn him loose in the arena for 10-20min prior to our ride. He bounces and bolts around for awhile and comes back to me - eyes all happy sparkly - when he is done and ready for work. I only do this on the over-the-top days however as using exercise to blow of steam every single ride would simply cause him to be in better condition and thus even higher energy anyways...but a little time to himself to do what he wants at liberty can keep his mind super happy. Other days we just take awhile to warm up or we might even start off with 10min or so of groundwork that directly encourages him to focus on me and think through what I am asking of him (ie. various patterns, etc).

              It's the rider's job to develop their horse into a better individual. If you keep plugging away at it, it does happen
              Last edited by naturalequus; Dec. 9, 2010, 01:50 AM.
              ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
              ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.

              Comment


              • #8
                Thank you, Naturalequs, for your post. I am going through my first winter (even if it is Florida) with my TB that I bought last April. He is 10, and for a TB, very sane - but has his moments - as in a couple of weeks ago when we finished our work in the ring, headed back to the barn and, I made him, yes made him, turn left toward the pond. He stopped. I applied leg. He walked forward, which was all I wanted. As I turned him to head to the barn, the great blue heron in the pond flew away and we had a major spook. Still don't know how I sat it, but I did. Once "we" settled, we turned back the pond and looked at it. (This is the same pond that is just so much fun to wallow in and get all muddy in warm weather). Then went to the barn. Was proud of myself to actually understand the issue - it wasn't the pond and it wasn't really the heron, it was the fact that he thought we were finished and headed to the barn and I asked him for something else. We are not so far in our relationship that he totally trusts me in the saddle - ground is good and we are working on the transfer. I like and use the plan of working in circles when he is up, with lots of serpentines around obstacles and changes of direction to keep him listening to me.
                Thanks!
                And nothing bad happened!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Mako View Post
                  My horse get's spooky every year around this time and it's getting old real fast

                  Seems there's a monster in the dark corners of the arena and he has to run away. Not sure if it's real fear or if he's doing it to get out of work. Which doesn't happen because I still make him work.

                  Are some horses just prone to spooking and do some of them grow out of it? Does anyone have any training tips that would help him grow out of it? He's already on low engery feed. HFHF and beet pulp and hay.
                  He may grow out of it, he may not. I think it depends on the horse. I have a 19 year old horse that's still spooky in indoor arenas, but that's just his personality; he's a worrier. He's worse in some arenas than others and he HATED the arena at the one place I rode and I got really sick of him flipping out every time I rode, so what we focused on with him is looking but not reacting: if he bulges a tiny bit and gives the corner a look but otherwise does nothing, don't make a big deal out of it, but if he full out spooks, then correct him. We weren't getting anywhere by trying to get him to stop altogether but he improved a lot with that approach. He seemed to understand that he doesn't have to trust the dark corners as long as he's a brave boy and goes by them, and if he wants to keep an eye on them in case the boogeyman jumps out, that's fine. Now that he understands that, if there's corners he's nervous about I work him on a circle and just gradually make the circle bigger and shift it towards that end of the arena and by the time we get to that corner he's been on the circle so long that he forgets all about it (he's a little ADD lol so getting him focused on something else solves a LOT of his problems). Then I let him work large and he's usually fine.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I have noticed that some sensitive, shy horses, who usally are too timid to throw a fit or buck for the normal happy reasons, tend to pull the shying or spooking trick as a way of showing excess energy.
                    This might not be what you want to hear but, if you have checked his eyesight and other vet issues, he's probably just fresh. A little lunging might tone it down but it's an eternal winter woe.
                    If a horse is legitimately spooky what I usually do is have him face his fear head on. When he spooks I make him go back to where he spooked, have him face the object/thing/place and nudge/squeeze/kick until he walks up to it, smells it and relaxes. Once you've done this many times, your horses' reaction to scary things will be turn, look and bravely snort his way towards the monster. I've had more than one nervous, spooky chap become braver and respectful of aids even against his natural instinct (also comes in very handy when encountering strange obstacles in the ring: horse looks but is trained to face it, respect the aids and overcome his fear).
                    Over what hill? Where? When? I don\'t remember any hill....

                    www.freewebs.com/caballerizadelviso

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by jaslyn1701 View Post
                      Thank you, Naturalequs, for your post. I am going through my first winter (even if it is Florida) with my TB that I bought last April. He is 10, and for a TB, very sane - but has his moments - as in a couple of weeks ago when we finished our work in the ring, headed back to the barn and, I made him, yes made him, turn left toward the pond. He stopped. I applied leg. He walked forward, which was all I wanted. As I turned him to head to the barn, the great blue heron in the pond flew away and we had a major spook. Still don't know how I sat it, but I did. Once "we" settled, we turned back the pond and looked at it. (This is the same pond that is just so much fun to wallow in and get all muddy in warm weather). Then went to the barn. Was proud of myself to actually understand the issue - it wasn't the pond and it wasn't really the heron, it was the fact that he thought we were finished and headed to the barn and I asked him for something else. We are not so far in our relationship that he totally trusts me in the saddle - ground is good and we are working on the transfer. I like and use the plan of working in circles when he is up, with lots of serpentines around obstacles and changes of direction to keep him listening to me.
                      Thanks!
                      You're welcome and no problem! All those circles also have the added benefit of naturally causing him to have to balance himself better and naturally track up. As he starts to bend his ribcage along the circles he has to relax his body and release tension. All this encourages him to pick up the bit and be on your aids, too, which causes him to focus and allows you to focus him on your requests. If he is on the aids and concentrated on what you are asking - if he is working as a partner - he is not spooking. They're like men, they can only do and think about one thing at a time

                      Anyways, good job and have fun
                      ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
                      ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I'm too lazy to read what everyone else said so my apologies if this has already been said.

                        My guy hates the downhill end of the ring. There are trees and bushes there and the hill drops off. He can't see through any of it and believes evil lurks there.

                        Horses get better when they are more familiar with something new so I get him real familiar with that area by longeing him in that area all the time. Lately, that's been the only thing I can do at all because of daylight, so, he's down there in the dark.

                        He flinches a few times in the beginning and if he hears a car door slam somewhere else, he's certain evil is coming to take him away - that usually causes some farting and bolting (but I'm not on him!) and then later, he's blowing out and totally fine.

                        In the summer, when there were plenty of birds popping in and out of there, I just made him walk in a circle in one of those corners. Over and over and over until he blew out. Then did it again at the end of our ride.

                        Mounted Police used TBs for years as their mounts - they have recently shifted to Drafties. But trust me, if a TB can be exposed to enough boogie man stuff to make him useful in law enforcement in a major metropolitan city like NY or DC, our OTTBs can cut it on the farm or at a show if the same time is taken to get them used to 'spooky stuff'.

                        "If you have the time, spend it. If you have a hand, lend it. If you have the money, give it. If you have a heart, share it." by me

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