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Horse Spooking- Am I Caving Doing This?

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  • #41
    Originally posted by littlecreek View Post
    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.
    What a lovely horse!
    Considering how he is at your other barn, why doesn't he spook at the window at trainer's barn?! I can see why you'd be frustrated. Hope the window covering goes well.


    • #42
      I'm also in the cover the window idea, and it is so great your BO is understanding!

      If you ever decide to try that area of the arena sans window covering again, or if this situation comes up again in any way, some tricks I have learned in the past may come in useful...

      Horses do see differently out of each eye, if I remember correctly they see better short-range out of their left, and long-range out of their right, yet another good reason to lead/mount on the left side. Horses will often be fine going one way, but turn them around and all of a sudden they can see the boogey man much more clearly.

      There is almost always the indication that they may spook; tightening in the back, a big blow, raising the head, etc. Right at that moment, give any type of aid; voice, leg rein, and see if you get a response, ideally an ear back on you, then move on without too much worry. He is still paying attention. If there is no response, sometimes it can help to go right into a figure-8 pattern where you are (or move the pattern off the wall a bit if it feels safer) and repeat it until you feel the horse soften, and then move right on to business. I had a horse that I only had to do this with a couple of time in a scary corner, after that
      he was refocused. Or, shave off the scary end and little by little, expand your work area until it includes what is scary but neither you or the horse think much of it anymore.

      Did anyone else watch the video of Dr. Deb at the George Morris Horsemanship Clinic this year? Session 2 I think? She had a helpful (different) approach to this type of thing, very interesting.


      • #43
        Then there is always the possibility that he might spook at the "new" thing taped on the windows. I would get a can of dulling spray or streaks and tips (black paint for hair or anything else) and spray the windows down. It will darken and stop the shine and the ability to see out.

        Just a simple suggestion. Good luck!


        • #44
          Just throwing this out there...especially since you mentioned he liked hacking out so much. But is there the possibility he's spooking because he's bored and "over" being ridden 5 days a week in an indoor? I don't know if you ride those 5 days in the indoor throughout the winter or not, but I've ridden a couple of horses--very experience and very nice--that would have a weird "spooking" issue in a certain part of the ring and most of the time, it was due to boredom of doing the same old, same old.

          I have a coming 5-year-old that had a spooking issue at one end of our unfenced, outdoor grass ring. That end has a hedge of bushes, finishing with a big bush and, of course, one of our cats decided it would be fun to start stalking us and jumping out as we would go by. And every once in a while the dog would get in the bush too. We had some wild bronc, exit stage right moments from the side of the ring and I can't say I blamed him!

          So it became the boogie side of the ring and even on his very good days I could feel him waiting for the "attack." However, he's had some time off this winter, and I've been bringing him back into work by hacking out. This week was our first time back in the ring, and I noticed he didn't even think twice about that end. It was like the time off and change of scenery helped him reprogram (and probably maturity since he is young).

          You may have already addressed all this, but I figured I'd throw it out there.


          • #45
            Just an anecdote: I boarded at a place where almost every horse I rode or my daughter rode or most everybody rode did not like one corner. Some just got a little tense, some cut the corner, some absolutely refused to go near it.
            Well, the owner decided to renew the footing and the base for first time since buying it. In that corner was a hole, about 3 feet deep about 3 feet wide, filled with packed gravel. So the horses were right! there was something to spook at!
            If he spooks more at night, I'd bet his vision is seeing a distorted reflection of another horse suddenly coming RIGHT AT HIM - hell, I'd be scared, too.
            And I am firmly of the school that I'd rather get off a horse and lead them over or by something they are LEGITIMATELY scared of than try to bully them. So definitely get his eyes checked and cover the window.


            • Original Poster

              Update-windows covered...

              So DH got the windows covered, and riding with a couple of others today went pretty well. I lunged him beforehand, and he almost sat down in the arena doorway when he saw the windows covered initially. A few minutes each way and he was settling, but still looky. With others out there he was definitely better, and I had someone else also ride him to see. I do believe he is being a bit of an a$$, as he had a huge "testing"spook, then went not too badly. I think there is hope, going to give it a few days before I pass final judgement.
              Thanks to all for your support, ideas and words of encouragement.


              • Original Poster

                And we rode all on our little lonesomes today. He was tense goingvinto the corner but stayed quiet, nobody died and we ended furry side up and shiny side down. Going to try a few jumps tomorrow. Fingers crossed.


                • #48
                  Good luck today! Thank you for the updates - I enjoy seeing results.


                  • #49
                    Great! Keep updating!

                    Equine Photography in the Northeast


                    • #50
                      I feel for you. I own this horse. My princess of a TB mare likes to spook at the door in the indoor arena. No rhyme or reason, just worse one way than the other. I think it's a combination of a) making a big deal out of it in the past, b) her being OVER working indoors, and c) being a smart little sh*t who gets bored easily. What has worked for us is riding a slight shoulder in, and as we prepare to round the scary corner by the door, I ask for softening (which I don't usually get, but it's better than letting her go all giraffe) I used to have a bad habit of locking up and tensing during this, so now I stretch up, breathe deeply and relax as I open my shoulders slightly to the inside. I expect to ride the spook. I also raise my eyes up to the ceiling in the direction we're going so I do not collapse and get tense. I like to pulse the inside aids to keep her focused on me and not the door. Being non-reactive with firm aids has helped a lot. Giving her kind words and big rubs on the neck as we're passing it at the walk can help set the tone for the ride.

                      If she's really fresh? I ride her with her fly mask on (flat only). This diffuses her vision slightly, and we work for a little while until she's relaxed and focused, and has enough work under her belt to be working and not spooking. If I want to work over poles or jump, I take it off.

                      It used to be a source of endless frustration, now it's just made me a more focused, sticky, patient rider. (on my better days...eyeroll)


                      • Original Poster

                        Free lunged him with no pressure to do anything but stroll and he actually went up to that end and by the door all by himself. When he went that way again I met him there and we had many treats just hanging out by the door. Then we started today by ourselves, slightly better than yesterday, a bit quick in the canter going to the dreaded right in that corner but a rail dragged out to give him something ELSE to focus on seemed to help him relax. My friend and her young TB came in about 2/3 of the way thru the ride.
                        Jumped a bit thru a gymnastic both directions without too many problems so felt like I really was having positive things, concentrated on leaving him alone as much as possible all the way around.
                        Ended the day with a lovely hack about the property with 2 of the other boarders, both with young horses. He lead the way like an old pro trail pony, thru drifts and over/thru thin layers of ice.
                        I feel I'm getting there.


                        • Original Poster

                          Lawndarted Again..

                          started off flatting with my friend and her young horse, went pretty well, still a bit tense int the Dreaded Corner of the Door of Death but survived.
                          Started jumping with a simple line of 3 strides between 2 Xs, trotting in. Decided to get brave and jump the 2 little verticals on the diagonals, going into the corner opposite the DCotDD, thru that end and down away from it. Fences maybe 2'6.
                          Got nicely deep to the first, good to the second on the first attempt.
                          Went again, found a nice quiet distance, landed and F*ckwit spins off hard right, I buy real estate out over his left shoulder. It was dirty and seemed quite deliberate. Gathered myself up, climbed back on after re-setting my saddle and did it again, without incident, got both of the distances really nicely.
                          Went home to console my aching lower back with Ibuprophen and alcohol.
                          Beginning to think maybe a driving pony...


                          • #53
                            LC, I'm so sorry you lawn-darted again...

                            Speaking for myself and the dozens (hundreds?) of horses I've ridden over the years... in my experience, repeated spooking at the same spot (in the absence of a physical issue like a vision problem), 99.999% of the time, it's MY issue, not his.

                            It usually goes like this: Horse spooks, I may or may not get dumped. Next time past the scary thing, I'm bracing for what MIGHT be coming. Horse (being the hot sensitive creature that he is) senses ME tensing up, no matter how much I try to "force" myself to NOT be tense (like that ever works), and guess what happens?? Another spook. At that point it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy that can be EXTREMELY difficult to break.

                            And the funny thing with positive reinforcement is that it gets reinforced even BETTER if it ISN'T an every-single-time thing... So the fact that he's spooking in that corner only SOMETIMES, but when he does it's BAD, means that you are probably subconsciously bracing for it Every. Single. Time. And you better believe, your horse feels it.

                            I've started dealing with these spooks by actually telling my horse, out loud, "I did NOT ask for your opinion!" whenever he spooks, we immediately circle around at the same scary spot until both of us are bored, and then we carry on as if nothing happened. If I know we're coming up on a regularly-scary spot, I'll tell him to mind his own business before we even get there.

                            Of course my horse has absolutely no idea what I'm saying to him, BUT it gives ME a bit of a psychological lift, a "get over yourself" kind of thing. Again, it's just what works for me; YMMV...
                            *friend of bar.ka

                            "Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"


                            • #54
                              Hmmm..... Is this a red head thing? My horse started such odd behavior at a former farm that every time we'd get near an exit point he'd buck. Sometimes hard, sometimes not. But was always tense. With the repeated bucks/sometimes not/sometimes good I got tense and started to hate riding him.

                              Finally caved and just moved him period. While he still has his "I hate you and hope you ride some grass" moments he's never serious about it enough to get me OFF. Maybe he just isn't liking the ring?? I forget, have you been in there for an extended amount of time? Can you ride him outside? Looks cold where you're at......