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Horse Spooking- Am I Caving Doing This?

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  • Horse Spooking- Am I Caving Doing This?

    So I have a 17 yo TB, who as a show horse is a been there done that type. He boards at a nice facility, excellent care, good hacking big bright arena. He is sound, has a well fitted saddle and get ridden 5 days a week, turned out for 4-6 hours pretty much daily, if the weather is really grim they get to stay in. I do turn him out for a run/roll/buck/fart/squeal in the arena most days before I ride.
    my problem is this- at the end corner of the arena is a double door with glass in the top panels- about 3 ftX3ft per window. Going to the left we can deal with it. Going head on to the right we spook, and run sideways about 99% of the time. It makes jump schooling in that direction very difficult, on several incidents he has turned me into a lawn dart with the stop/drop and roll spook. These leave me in the dirt, and I haven't been hurt but it's getting SO OLD!
    I have tried ear stuffing, lunging him by the door, poles on the ground as a distraction.
    If I cover up the windows am I caving? I am not a nervous type but at mid 50s don't bounce as well as I used to.
    The BO is okay with me trying it- what does the COTH group say?

  • #2
    Nope, not caving. I'd also have someone take a peek at his lenses.
    chaque pas est fait ensemble


    • #3
      No, not caving. You're being smart and ensuring that you'll have a productive and safe ride. He won't be thinking "oh, HAHA, I won!"....he'll just no longer have windows to spook at. I will also say that it isn't a bad idea to have his eyes checked out.


      • #4
        Sometimes there is a genuine reason that a horse might spook in a particular place; sensing that there is a threat, it's a horse's instinct to avoid it. As a flight animal, they can be very quick to react to a noise or motion, and they can be suspicious of a certain area if they have spooked at it before.

        But riders, too, can grow leery of places where they've had bad experiences, allowing their own nervousness to reinforce the negative behavior of their horse, creating a cycle of tension that if repeated, leads to a learned bad behavior often associated with a certain location, and this can be a real problem.

        I would tend to think that covering the windows might only lead to other problems without solving your main issue, which is that your horse loses his focus on what you want to do in that area of the ring. It leads me to wonder how focused he is on what you want elsewhere--is he ever really paying attention to you on the other three sides of the ring? By making sure he's focused , attentive, and responsive even in areas where he doesn't need to be, you will be able to rely on him to stay that way under more trying circumstances.

        Make sure he's warmed up and really working well and paying attention on the easy side of the ring before you work him in the problem corner. Throw down a few rails on the ground all over the ring so you have something to focus on apart from imaginary spooking. Get a strong rider to do this a few times before you try it, if necessary. Conditioning your horse to listen to you from the outset of a ride rather than allowing his mind to wander will help you both improve your ability to concentrate on each other, and the exercises you want to perform without giving him any excuses to misbehave.
        Inner Bay Equestrian


        • Original Poster

          I have tried letting him stop and look out the window, which he will do, but often seems like his eyes are bugging out and his heart is thumping. There is nothing out there- a view of 2 paddocks which aren't in use over the winter, waaaay in the distance a quiet country road. Whe he is loose in the ring he will go close to the window to the left, but avoids that end when going to right on his own.
          There are only 7 horses at this barn so not like he's had anyone else suddenly appear at the door. The stronger rider is a nice suggestion, but of the people who board there- I AM the stronger rider lol.
          I will get his eyes checked, but if we go to my trainers for a jump lesson he is beyond perfect. Showing he has honestly NEVER stopped, and flames could come out the jumps without him doing other than maybe jerking his knees a bit better. None of the other horses in the barn have an issue at this spot either.


          • #6
            it's a legit fear. if he works fine with a curtain over it, so be it. it sounds like this is your only fear/spooking trigger for your horse. he can have that one
            chaque pas est fait ensemble


            • #7
              Cover the window. I grow weary of the "teach him/her to not do ___________, 'cause you, the rider, are not doing the right ___________" answer on here. You've tried the reasonable, obvious solutions to a horse who has an issue with a WINDOW in an arena door! For heaven's sake, cover the damn thing up and ride. Sometimes, it is just a scary thing that they WILL NOT GET OVER. Doesn't make either horse or rider weak or lack training.

              Sorry--I'm cranky today. But, really, do what you have to do. The next spook and rider fall routine might result in a bad injury to you, so do the safe thing.
              Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


              • #8
                It cant hurt, so why not try it.

                I just started to ride a horse that used to spook or shy in the back corner of the arena. His owner has some health issues, so that is why i am riding him. I have seen him do this over and over w/her.

                I am a more confident rider than her, and that kind of stuff just bugs me.

                So, what i have been doing, is at the beginning of EACH ride in the arena, I trot him w/a purpose as far as he can possibly get in the corner. I let him stand on a loose rein and just rub the crap out of him. Telling him what a brave boy he is, etc.

                After a few rides, when going around the corner, he kinda hesitates to see if he can go in the corner or just past it. He actually likes that corner now.

                I still take him to it at the beginning of each ride. He instantly starts to lick and chew.

                He no longer spooks or shies from it now. It is now his happy place, if I need to send a text or just am gonna let him rest, he does it in that corner.

                Just a thought if covering the windows dont work. Good luck!!
                Riding is NOT meant as an inside sport, GET out of that arena!!!


                • #9
                  To reiterate what's already been said ... no, you are not wimping out by covering up the window.

                  Ride safe.


                  • #10
                    Does he do it with another rider? If he's learned that there's something to be afraid of, it might not hurt for someone else who sticks and bounces a little better than you do to try to help him learn that windows don't eat horses. But in the interest of you not collecting new and interesting bruises, cover up the window and hopefully that sorts it out! He sounds like a peach and that this is just his One Big Thing.
                    "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

                    Amy's Stuff - Rustic chic and country linens and decor
                    Support my mom! She's gotta finance her retirement horse somehow.


                    • #11
                      I'd cover it up but I'd let someone else take him around first to see if he's doing it because you're letting him do it. Sometimes there are things you can adjust with your riding and response time that will change their behavior because they can't get away with it so it stops bothering them. If he doesn't do it with a better rider then you can work on improving your skills but you can also cover the windows so you can have some fun every now and then.


                      • #12
                        I'd also have the vet check his sight; that he's worse one way versus the other is what makes me think something might be going on there.

                        If that checks out OK, can you get a good Velcro-butted trainer to school him and see what happens? Maybe he's just got your number, or there's something bugging him that he can only see when he's approaching from the right (or he can't see it well, and it's bothering him).

                        How does he react if you longe him by those windows each way?

                        I totally understand your aversion to being lawn-darted. I'd be looking for ways out of that experience myself.
                        Full-time bargain hunter.


                        • #13
                          I rode that horse for a long time.

                          Horse would spook at the hay stack at the end of the arena. Every day, three or four times, both directions. Every,single. day. For almost two years. Nothing wrong with her eyes, time of day, light, shadows, empty, full, did not matter, she did the drop the shoulder like a cutting horse spook, bolt down the short side. Dropped my butt every day for about a month. Then I got amazingly good at sitting the spook. Both ways. One day she only spooked once to the left and twice to the right, eventually, she only did a little shy and a head shake for a couple of laps, both ways, but... I think the key was it got less and less as I didn't come off.

                          I would check her eyes, but i'd get a good bouncy, bendy kid jock to ride her out of it.


                          • #14
                            I had our cat come out of the bushes right at my pony when he was green, he did the spin and bolt. I didn't come off, but riding through that corner became more of an issue than I wanted at my age. I want fun rides. So I forfeited a couple of rides and let him to the corner and made it a happy place. I groomed and hung out, literately with and all over him. Because I wasn't on him, I was not looking for the spook, and he looked to me for leadership. After that he was back to himself.

                            If covering the window doesn't work, try working from the ground in that direction for a few days or a week, it might pay off in the long run.


                            • #15
                              Its one thing to have a horse shy at something, counter bend, maybe even do a little jump at 'something in the corner'. But if 99% of the time he is running sideways, and dropping and spinning, by all means cover up the window, give it a try.

                              I have one of these and have been given all sorts of advice about desensitizing, lunging, ground work, etc. Well, going on 3 years now, trying all sorts of things, you know what, I need to ride my horse. Just recognize that some spooky situations CAN be resolved by above, but sometimes you just need to 'cover up the window' and ride.


                              • #16
                                My horse has a cataract in one eye and will sometimes spook at things when that eye is on the outside of the circle. It might be worth it to have the vet check out your guy's eyes.

                                I totally would cover the window too. No shame in that. I'm not a fan of being lawn darted either!
                                Last edited by PaintPony; Jan. 20, 2013, 01:35 AM.


                                • #17
                                  Its one thing to have a horse shy at something, counter bend, maybe even do a little jump at 'something in the corner'. But if 99% of the time he is running sideways, and dropping and spinning, by all means cover up the window, give it a try.

                                  I have one of these and have been given all sorts of advice about desensitizing, lunging, ground work, etc. Well, going on 3 years now, trying all sorts of things, you know what, I need to ride my horse. Just recognize that some spooky situations CAN be resolved by above, but sometimes you just need to 'cover up the window' and ride.


                                  • #18
                                    What are you going to cover the window with?

                                    What a genius plan.

                                    Can't wait to hear how well it works.


                                    • Original Poster

                                      I want to get some greyish coloured cardboard to try so as to avoid a big investment. If it seems to help then will get some thin plywood and paint it. Probably put it up with duct tape for the trial and then let DH McGyver something more permanent.
                                      I have tried lunging him in this corner before I get on in both directions, it doesn't seem to make a huge difference. He is actually worse at night when there is a reflection on the glass visible.
                                      I have owned this guy going on 11 years and his good points (very sound, ships great, has honestly never refused anything, and I have given him cause, does his changes, huge step) mostly out weigh his failings but this is soooo old.
                                      Thanks for the feedback, you guys are great. Will keep you posted.


                                      • #20
                                        Haha, I completely understand what you are going through.

                                        I have one that will jump anything, but if that "filler" isnt under the jump, its freaking scary as hell.

                                        Sounds like the horse has turned it into a big deal, and he's probably not even sure why.

                                        Good luck with the covers! Let us know how it works out.