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New Horse- Kind of a spooky one- Opinions!

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  • New Horse- Kind of a spooky one- Opinions!

    I recently bought a new horse and she has been at my barn for a week now. WB/TB cross, 7 years old but still very green and somewhat out of a normal routine. She has this definite spook to her-nothing mean but she peaks, shoots out if something freaks her, shy in..etc. She is especially leery of boxes and going thru standards when there is no jump up.

    So this week I have been very slow with her. We walk until she breathes out that big WHEW, trot, canter, circles, changes of direction, etc. but taking everything slow and being repetative. I am looking for suggestions on what to do with a little spooky one. Do I start to push her to really work and keep her attention or continue to be slow for awhile? I dont want to freak her or myself out but we will need to try to get her over this. I know it has only been a week but any thoughts would be appreciated!

    Anyway, she is a lovely little mare that I think with time and a routine will relax and go safely around. I think that she will always have a moment or two but I remain optomistic that with patience and a program, she will progress.

  • #2
    A few things here. One is that it make take time, we recently got a gelding in that took about three weeks to stop being STUPID. Now he is settled in and very happy. One thing that helped him was to hack him around the famr and let him see everything. Even tho he acted scared the next day he was MUCH better and within a week things were "old hat" to him. Another is to do some ground work with her, desensitizing her to things like going thru the standards, beside bixes etc. Not leading her, but put her on a lungeline and "send her" thru the standards and beside the box (putting the box between you and her) etc to help her to learn to deal with those things.


    • #3
      Shawnee Acres has some good advice. Sometimes it helps to lunge them too. Not a run lunge, but a lunge where they pick their speed, get a chance to look around and wiggle if needed.

      With my spooky horses, the get a free passa handful of times, then they have to work. Small sitting trot circles, around or past the object. I like to allow them to sniff and investigate.

      A horse like this needs nlots of exposure to different things, she needs rto hang out everywhere a lot to absorb stimulus. I find that these horses are quite smart and tend to be crafty rides once they learn to focus on us for guidance, rather than all the lurking demons.


      • Original Poster

        Thanks! Good advice. I started her on the lunge line on Sunday and she was pretty good. Had a few QUICK moments but seemed to settle in. I think that she is quite smart and the minute I saw her I knew she was the one for me. Now I just have to fix that spook


        • #5
          Has Her Turn-Out Time Changed?

          Just a thought; has your horse's amount of turnout time changed? Do you know if she was out all day in her previous barn and now only gets out for an hour or two? I have found that spooky behavior oftentimes is reduced with lots of turnout time.


          • #6
            Have you considered an eyesight evaluation?
            Robin Quasebarth


            • Original Poster

              She has only been up in our barn for a little over a week but she is going out overnight just as she did before.

              As for the eyesight, she had a full medical pre-purchase exam and her eyes were fine.

              I think that she is just one of those horses that is very green and very "alert" to new things


              • #8
                Give it time and stay very consistent. I've had horses like this and it has always helped them to have a warm-up routine that is very much the same everyday. For mine, it has helped them establish a "comfort zone" to start their ride off with. For me, it always worked best to ignore a spook in a new area - for example, if they spook left, don't jump with them and immediately pull the right rein to turn them towards it - ride forward, ignore it, and follow up with something work related: a lateral exercise, transition, something. If I thought or knew I'd have an issue the next time around at the same area, I'd maybe take the quarter line and leg yield them into the space, then add a circle and spiral out to meet the spot again. When going towards something that freaked them out (jump, whatever), I'd just widen my hands to funnel them in, leg on and even on both sides, and then soften as soon as they go over/through, even if it wasn't pretty. If they stop, no going backwards allowed. Depending on the horse, I'd usually let them look, but they had to move forward from that spot.

                Other than that, ground work and exposure will help. With one horse that was super silly about flowers, I took a bunch of flower boxes and lined them up against his front stall wall. He had to touch them/look at them, and go through them to eat. Not going to say he didn't still spook under saddle or when asked to jump them, but he definitely showed a ton of improvement, and did great as long as he had a consistent, firm ride to them.


                • #9
                  I don't think you can train a "spook" out. You can desensitize them so the reaction is more manageable. You need to channel the energy into something productive.

                  You cannot ride a horse like this holding your breath waiting for something to go wrong, you need to keep their brains busy.

                  Personally, I think htat spooky horses who settle into their jobs jump great, and develop into real showmen.

                  Have fun, keep it safe.


                  • #10
                    You can't change a horse's basic nature, just be kind and consistant, give her time to settle in.
                    You might try hand walking her in the ring or just hanging out or feed her some treats then go back to the barn, so she doesn't think she has to go to work everytime she is in the ring.
                    Good luck have fun!


                    • #11
                      One things to keep in mind, I have had horses who have used the spook as an avoidance technique. With these horses, if you let them look and spook and you break what you are doing to investigate the scary area/item, they take full advantage of this and become more "spooky". With this type of horse, I have found it much better to ignore the area, and ride through it. Act like there is no reason for this horse to be spooking and that the horse actually isn't. They then get the idea through your body language and your energy that there isn't a reason to spook and that spooking isn't going to get them a break and they give up.

                      Good Luck!


                      • #12
                        I have found taking an older "non-spooky" horse friend out with new or young horses. I think horses can talk to eachother better than we can.

                        I have a horse that came with a spook and I too ignore it. When I feel the spook comming; if were tracking left and he wants to spook left away from the rail - I slightly hold outside rein, use inside leg and inside hand to keep him doing what he was doing.

                        I have also done some police sensory training with him and that has helped too.

                        As a kid I think I was a better horse trainer because I was bold, didn't over think and just went for it.... and it reflected on my horses behavior.
                        Live in the sunshine.
                        Swim in the sea.
                        Drink the wild air.


                        • #13
                          IMO a green 7 year old horse in a brand new, and busier, barn for a whole week gets a pass on alot of things.

                          I wouldn't even "diagnose" excessive spookiness at this point. It's just acting like a young horse that's unsure of new surroundings. They do that.

                          It is "looky" because it is not sure about stuff and there are alot of older horses that don't like those jump standards with no jump-they know something is missing, it's different and not to be trusted. Plus they don't naturally take to being "squeezed" into a narrow place.

                          It's also still early spring and the weather is all over the place and still chilly. I'd cut this one a little slack there.

                          Try to structure your schooling sessions so you never over challenge them and cause a problem, you MUST always end on a good note and never, ever let them think a spook or hard look can "change the subject" from something they do not care to do. And they can figure that one out in about 30 seconds.

                          Anyway, there is really nothing to panic over fixing here for now. Don't overface (as in a known scary spot, not a jump) him with something you feel will cause that problem-get your basics stronger before you add the challenge-because once you add that, you have to be successful. I wouldn't add it for a few weeks until both of you are more sure of yourselves. Keep your schooling to areas free of distraction-not a thing wrong with staying away from the spooks for now.

                          Just personal but I HATE leading them up to sniff or letting them stop and sniff. Once I am sure I have the control, I just continue the excercise, they can peek, they can even wiggle around a little. But they have to keep going.

                          Most horses that are smart and care, even finished ones, take longer then a week to adapt to new homes. IME it's anything from 1 to 3 months before they really relax and get comfortable.
                          When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                          The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                          • #14
                            My spooky horse is trying to teach me to not care so much. He spooks with me, but not as much when my friend rides him because she just trots around and doesn't really care what he does. I do, and he knows it. My new strategy is to simply not care.
                            ~Amy~ TrakehNERD clique
                            *Bugs 5/86-3/10 OTTB Mare* RIP lovely Lady, I miss you
                            *Frodo '03 Anglo Trakehner Gelding*
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                            • #15
                              Is she fresh? Sort of along the same question as to has her turnout changed - but my horse's spookiness is freshness. Some horse buck or get strong when they are wild - mine spooks a lot more. During the summer when he gets really consistent turnout and its warm he spooks very little. Just a thought.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Bugs-n-Frodo View Post
                                My spooky horse is trying to teach me to not care so much. He spooks with me, but not as much when my friend rides him because she just trots around and doesn't really care what he does. I do, and he knows it. My new strategy is to simply not care.
                                I did read something the other day about horses spooking and there was some theory about not giving the spook any attention and the way a horse behaves that works better - something I don't remember where I read it... ugg.
                                Last edited by doublesstable; Mar. 30, 2011, 03:48 AM.
                                Live in the sunshine.
                                Swim in the sea.
                                Drink the wild air.


                                • #17
                                  I agree with what others have said...lots of great feed back. I really agree with exposure and just trying to stay cool about it all. If you would like to hear the up side a little bit spooky or a looky horse sometimes has a jump to die for because they tend to be careful tidy horses.