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Horse Spooking- Am I Caving Doing This?

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  • #21
    Another vote for covering up the window. Although it may may sense to check his eyes out (just in case). I used to board at a place where one end of the indoor faced a local road. The doors at the end used to be left open in the good weather. Problem was, runners and bicyclers would "pop" up occasionally going by the doors. Spooked a lot of the horses, including mine, who "lawn darted" me on occasion. The solution--the doors were closed. Some people complained that the horses should get used to the distractions. I, also in my 50s, was not one of them.


    • #22
      If his eyesight isn't a factor, there are a few things to think about.

      1) You are more than likely anticipating his reaction, which gives him reason to think that there is the boogeyman in that corner. My mare can be the spooking QUEEN! It's impossible sometimes, and she goes through the 'scary' part of the arena at least twice a day (in and out). I didn't even realize that I was getting tense, waiting for the spin and bolt. Working her in hand in that corner, getting her mind off whatever make believe things that she had come up with, really helped. She learned that Mom had things under control and then things were fine.

      2) Another poster linked this Warwick Schiller video for me, and it makes sense. This is a good one as well. I don't really agree that he's riding a young horse the way that he does, BUT the idea is the point of it. It worked like a charm for my mare.

      3) I don't think that you are being a chicken by covering up the window! At the end of the day, you need a safe ride. That's it. If it works, it works!


      • #23
        I have had two horses with a blind spot in one eye. Each one spooked at light changes on the bad side. It could be something as simple as the ground being a different color or a shadow. Sometimes I think it's easier with a one eyed horse than one with partial sight.
        "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
        Thread killer Extraordinaire


        • #24
          I haven't read all the replies so forgive me if this has been mentioned, but have you tried standing with him in hand and letting him look out the window? Maybe rewarding him with a treat if he stands relaxed? Perhaps letting him look out the window before you get on might help him.

          My gelding nearly had a heart attack one day when there were grain bags piled up outside the indoor arena(the door was open). I could not ride passed them, we ended up sideways across the ring to avoid going near the door. I tried walking him up to it, but he wouldn't get any closer than 20 feet. I had to get off and walk him over to let him sniff them. I had a much nicer ride after that.

          I also have one that is terrified of filler when it's not under the jumps. She was also terrified of birds when I first got her. She was completely convinced there were birds living in the mounting block. She is thankfully over that now!


          • #25
            If that's his only issue, covering the window seems pretty simple.

            You might find that if you cover it for a while and he gets used to that end being o-kay, he may be fine when it's uncovered.

            You might want to cover it for a bit and then uncover it before you cover it permanently.


            • #26
              There are some battles worth fighting...and some not.

              I had a wonderful equitation horse that hated tractors. We tried to get used to tractors but every time he saw one he'd start squealing and spinning. So we just stayed away from tractors because it really wasn't worth the fight. If that was going to be his thing, I let him have it. (He ponied a 3 year old all over a huge park in Los Angeles, under freeways, through rivers, went to shows, so he was really broke and great).

              The only thing perhaps you could try is having someone a little stickier get on him and try to work him through it (not in a mean way, just in a supportive way). Now it's sort of a habit so it may take a few rides, but it might work.


              • #27
                Cover it. Had a horse at my old barn who was terrified of anything blue. It used to make things really interesting when they'd cover the back arena doors (not in use) in the winter with blue tarps. All winter long you couldn't get him down to the far half of the arena because the big blue tarp monsters were going to eat him. Riding him was very unproductive because he was being such an idiot.

                So we changed them out from blue to brown, problem solved.

                Ain't nothin' wrong with that.
                Adversity is the stone on which I sharpen my blade.


                • #28
                  Sounds exactly like my TB! For us its the back door to the indoor in general. Tracking left we can handle it- I feel his body tense up as we pass. But tracking right? Forget about it. We are literally flying sideways away from the darn thing at every pass. For us I think it has to do with a few things- I think it started as a legitimate spooky situation for him but evolved into a behavioral thing. He's a typical OTTB- way more comfortable on his left lead than right, and we tend to have more balance/collection issues on the right lead anyway. I don't think its a coincidence that he spooks tracking right- I think its harder for him to bend into the turn at the end of the ring and the spooky door is an excuse for him to not have to work as hard. I also think I am a MAJOR part of the issue. I know the flying sideways-spook-bolt is coming so I tend to tense up. Tested that theory one day and voila! With my trainer aboard the door magically wasn't as scary.

                  Does he have this issue with anyone on his back or is it mostly with you? Perhaps a trainer could help work through it.


                  • #29
                    Have you tried feeding him right near the window? We had one that always spooked at a specific corner in the ring so we started giving him grain in that corner. Treats work too, but we were able to turn him out in the ring and feed him in the scary part.

                    I don't think covering it up is caving at all - if we had been able to cover a whole corner of the ring it would have been done long ago!


                    • #30
                      I have one doing the same thing right now except my ring is an outdoor and the offending sight appears to be the neighbor's property in general. Trust me, if I could cover something to avoid the spook and spin, I would and would feel no shame. Once it isn't sub-freezing, he should return to his normally harmless ways.


                      • #31
                        My Trainer went through the same thing when someone decided to clean the window in the sliding door to the tackroom. No horse noticed it when it was dirty, but clean the white wall behind it freaked the horses out to some degree, and most have been around the ring a few times. After a short time, they switched out the door with the window with one else where that was solid. Everything has been good since.
                        Last edited by red mares; Jan. 26, 2013, 12:33 AM. Reason: spelling
                        Visit my Spoonflower shop


                        • #32
                          you could paint it with poster paint-cheap, non-reflective, removable.


                          • #33
                            Have you tried riding shoulder in? (Position away from window.) And pulsing the inside aids? When horses can look, the object 'jumps' (because of their eye placement), and if you hold they want to flee even more.
                            I.D.E.A. yoda


                            • #34
                              Originally posted by Brooklyn Born View Post
                              Another vote for covering up the window. Although it may may sense to check his eyes out (just in case). I used to board at a place where one end of the indoor faced a local road. The doors at the end used to be left open in the good weather. Problem was, runners and bicyclers would "pop" up occasionally going by the doors. Spooked a lot of the horses, including mine, who "lawn darted" me on occasion. The solution--the doors were closed. Some people complained that the horses should get used to the distractions. I, also in my 50s, was not one of them.
                              This seems like a good solution EXCEPT for the owners/riders of the horses that now spook with the door CLOSED

                              OP before you block off the windows, please open a discussion with all the boarders at the barn - something such as roll blind that can easily be left open/closed might work better for everyone

                              Yet another vote for
                              1) eyes checked (you may want/need an opthamologist rather than your regular vet)
                              2) have your trainer attempt to work him through this after (1)

                              Of course, perhaps by now you've already tried the cardboard?


                              • #35
                                A barn I used to ride at had a mare whose corpora negra in her pupils were so large, they caused her to have trouble dealing with dramatic light level changes, and she would spook as she went by the open door of the indoor every single time in one direction. I would say eyesight issues are a definite possibility.
                                www.cobjockey.com - Eventing the Welsh Cob


                                • Original Poster

                                  I have been trying some of the suggestions like the feeding, leading in hand, treats, shoulder in and they help a tiny bit. I wanted to go this before "caving". He is much better if there is another horse to follow/hang with when we first go out there, he does seem to relax somewhat and is less "on guard"if there are other potential victims for the demons that lurk outside. DH is coming today to try the McGyvering so will keep you posted.


                                  • Original Poster


                                    So I have had the vet out to do an eye exam, which came up as nothing out of the ordinary, some uneven muscling in his neck most likely from cranking his head in the outside direction during the spooks, had his neck adjusted and discussed the very tiny possibility of EPM.
                                    Went to my trainer's barn this past weekend and he was again better than perfect, had one of those awesome rides where I couldn't have missed if I tried and he was so soft and right on I could have wept.
                                    Sunday we tried the McGyvering of the window version 1 - 2 layers of black window screen taped neatly and securely into place.
                                    It proved much too see thru, and the double layer of screen makes a weird spidery pattern when against each other.
                                    Off to Home Depot for a piece od 1/4 inch plywood...big I told ya so coming the way of DH...altho he is trying to help, foolish horse is proving his theories wrong.
                                    Had a couple of days where getting out and walking around the property has been great-everyone else's beasts are jiggling idiots, butter wouldn' t melt in King of The Spooks mouth it seems.
                                    To be continued...
                                    Last edited by littlecreek; Feb. 4, 2013, 11:45 PM. Reason: typing on a tablet is challenging for me.


                                    • #38
                                      Is there any way to take your horse around to the other side of the door and let him look through it, or open the door and get him to walk through it (even with you on the ground)?

                                      I had a horse whom I rode in an arena just after we'd moved to the facility. It was at night and dark outside and the top of the end doors were open, leaving the lower halves in place. I could NOT get him much more than halfway down the arena (180' long) to save my life as it looked like a big, black hole down there.

                                      Solution: walked the horse under tack around to the back side of the arena and let him look through the doors into the arena. Problem solved with absolutely no issues after that. He just thought he was looking at the big, black hole of nothingness until I showed him it was an optical illusion!

                                      Sometimes, all it takes is a different perspective! (Oh, and this horse had recently lost the vision in one eye, so that may have had something to do with it. However, I do know that he'd previously had issues with "black holes" years before the vision problem occurred.)

                                      Good luck!
                                      "Facts or opinions which are to pass through the hands of so many, to be misconceived by folly in one, and ignorance in another, can hardly have much truth left." - Jane Austen: "Persuasion"


                                      • #39
                                        I certainly wouldn't fault you for covering the window.

                                        However, before doing that, have you tried working your horse in hand in the ring or ground driving? Or feeding him dinner in the scary corner? Sometimes a horse will be a bit braver if you're on the ground with him.
                                        Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                                        EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                                        • Original Poster

                                          Done the in-hand thing, lots of treats, lunging him by the door with tack, without tack, letting he have a good buck/fart/squeal/gallop before and then lunging. Tonight the wood goes over the windows. God bless my BO, for putting up with me and my stupid nag.
                                          The way he can go-this was last weekend up at my trainers. Jumps are smallish because my friends 4 yo was with us, and it was about riding well thru the turns for me. He looks so brain dead its hard to believe he can morph into the spooking spinning idiot I am learning to hate.