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Mentally "recovering" from a spook; One-horse pressure?

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  • Original Poster

    @ Covergirl15-thanks for your "rambling" Very helpful! Like you, I am focusing on dressage work right now too, with many of the same goals: softness and suppleness through the body. All of this comes through relaxation, and I read something very interesting this morning about how these attributes depend on relaxation of both horse and rider. What I found most curious was the fact that this dressage "great" advised to not let your horse "look" at the spooky object, but instead to "give" to the spook to foster less tension and establish the rider as a reliable partner. I'm going to see if I can't find the link to this...


    • Original Poster

      @ Countrywood-I do see the spook as this "dreaded thing". You know, I compare a spook to opening one of those "pop" cans of cinnamon rolls (or choose your favorite pillsbury carb….. You know the "pop" is going to happen, just not sure when.

      I do need to change my mindset about the spook, and I think you're right-the spookiness (because its not super dangerous) is part of her talent.


      • Original Poster

        Findeight-So glad you chimed in here! I was hoping you would. I know I need to put that incident behind me. You're right, it was/is completely isolated. I've ridden her (and had a pro ride her) bunches of times since, and that type of spook has not happened again, and is somewhat out of character for her. I'm no stranger to a lunge line with side reins, and agree with you-a lot of positive work can happen here.

        The reason I wrote this post is because I emotionally tied my ride to the spook the other day. It happened in the first 10 minutes-a cat darted from one pine tree to the other by the ring…I could tell she was like "ohmigoshwhattheheckletsgetoutofhere". She dropped a shoulder and scuffled away, but wasn't dirty…she stopped and pretty much went back to work. The issue is my mind, because the rest of the ride, I was waiting for it to happen again, and she was probably like, "c'mon mom, its all good now, you can take a breath". I end up beating myself up for riding so defensively and not being fair to her. So you're right, I'm not a pro, and I should cut myself some slack, both mentally and physically, huh?


        • #24
          My older gelding was super spooky up until he turned 10. The way best for me to deal with it was to relax into it, grab mane if it was a big one, and kick on as soon as his brain returned to his body. His spooks were generally a lot of snorting and jumping sideways, but he was not against changing it up and adding spinning and bolting on occasion. Putting him back to work helped him refocus and we usually ended on a good note despite his hysterics.


          • #25
            DO NOT let the horse stop and look at whatever is or is not there causing the spook. Keep doing what you are doing, insist on it. No big drama, just keep going at the same gait even if she does squirm
            or suck back.

            That is a disobedience because you are allowing a break in whatever you are doing for her to "look". She is changing the subject-she cannot do that. Very easy for them to learn if something is a little hard for them or they are tired, hungry, miss the pasture mate or don't like working after 5pm? They can spook and change the subject, They win, you lose. Crafty beasts they are, especially mares.

            IMO stepping up your schooling to keep her focus on you and you alone, without distraction is your answer and what that Dressaqe guy is talking about-along with a myriad of other well respected rider/trainer/authors in all disciplines. IF they are finding something to spook at, they are not paying attention to you and respecting you as they should.

            Like I said earlier, get some help to get some no nonsense schooling for her and confidence building lessons and homework for you. Reading up on long established theory is good too, it's not rocket science, just consistency and repetition because that is how horses learn. You just have to be sure she learns the good things from you or other competent rider, not teaches herself the bad ones.
            When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

            The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


            • Original Poster

              Findeight-So true, so true-she wins, I lose when I let her stop and look at it. I have to say, I committed that sin the other day. I need to keep moving. I'm lucky enough to do most of my riding while the pro rides (I really don't like riding her without supervision-not so much for the spook issue, but more so for training guidance), so I do get lots of tidbits without being in a formal "lesson". I'll seek out some confidence building advice, and perhaps my mare is ready for more advanced flatwork or incorporating poles or something into the flatwork (I don't jump her...have the pro do that at this point too). Thanks for your advice!


              • #27
                Hey, you do realize that the best hunters and Jumpers are the ones that care where they put their feet and know what is under them, don't you? They rarely turn a jump into lumber by missing the fact it is an oxer and there is another rail in back of the first. They tend to bail you out of your questionable choices on course. And they look great in the photos with those sparkly eyes and cute ears.

                They care. You can't teach one to care about their surroundings, they either do or don't. Of course, if they do care what is around them, you need to work harder to get and keep their attention and that's why some prefer a different ride, less careful, more predictable and, IMO, dull. Some of those don't care if they have a front rub in the Hunters or a rail in the Jumpers and never will care.

                It is a little bit of a curse and a lot of an asset in a show horse. But we call it "careful" and/or "looky", not spooky in a good horse. Those horse shopping who don't want one like that should keep that terminology in mind.
                When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks Findeight! Yes, the good ones do care about their surroundings, which translates into being more careful. Hopefully, mare will live up to her breeding (and to my passion!) and enjoy doing jumpers, so perhaps this is an asset...no rails down! I think the short and long term goals for me are getting into a mindset to not let this "lookiness" affect my rides, and using this as an opportunity to improve her focus during training. She's clever, and has a great work ethic, so she's probably telling us she's ready to move on. Maybe one day I can share a great photo with sparkly eyes when we show later this summer.


                  • #29
                    I agree with not ever letting a horse stop to look at what it is spooking at. I generally turn their head away from what they are looking at and boot their body over towards it. So, if my horse is spooking at one corner or something, I will (over)bend him to the inside and use a lot of inside leg to push his body towards the scary thing while I have his head turned to the inside.

                    I ease up on this after we have passed it a few times, but if he offers to spook at it again, I remind him that I can turn his head in again and boot him over if he would like. He usually chooses to just pass the object normally with the one-ear-on-it-for-safety precaution, lol.

                    It's funny, but of all things horses do, spooking isn't actually something that bothers me very much at all. I have many more problems with true a-hole things where the horse is not actually afraid, but is just being generally fresh and reactive...or just being a jerk.


                    • #30
                      A lot of good posts here...

                      Imo, one of the things that "throws" people off about spooks is that we don't know when they are coming. We actually ride much more athletic movements in horses, such as jumps or flying changes etc, but the difference is, we know what is coming so feel prepared and ready.

                      That is why for me, watching the cutting horses (and also polo videos ) is helpful, because both those sports involve continued spook like movements...sudden stops, turns, galloping off, skittering sideways etc. So why doesn't it bother those riders? Because they know that is part of teh sport and are happy to go with the motion.

                      Once I looked at spooking as just another athletic display, the "dread"f factor went away. Though we can't plan for them, when they happen, just sit soft and go with the motion in a balanced way till horse regains composure (or you make it go back to work). It is when we brace up and clutch /fight the motion that makes it a problem.

                      OF course, keeping her on the aids and busy working will cut down on the incidents, but we can never eliminate them, so think of them as enjoyable interludes rather than dreaded events!

                      "Keep a leg on each side and your mind in the middle"


                      • #31
                        I'm an adult amateur who bought a very talented, but very green, 7 year old mare last November. When she's fresh, she expresses it through spooks and general lookiness at seemingly benign objects, like a pole on the ground or a pile of manure. Luckily, she doesn't spin or bolt.

                        Here are some tips that help me deal with her typical shimmy spooks. The first is to start the ride with a down to business attitude, even at the walk. As soon as I start trotting, I do shoulders in and leg yields. The more her mind is engaged with the task at hand, the less she focuses on distractions. If I sense that she's going to spook, I say her name and growl at her with a kind of "eh eh" noise. It's surprising how well this works. I think it reminds her that I'm in charge and am not worried about a coat on the rail.

                        When it comes to jumping, my mare has incredible scope and I don't think she will ever touch a jump. Sometimes the horses with a bit of blood and a spook make the very best show jumpers. Who knows how she'll develop over the years, but focusing on her positive aspects can only help!


                        • #32
                          If you ride enough, you will develop a 6th sense and recognise when your horse is going to spook and be ready for it. LOts of trail riding will help.

                          A 5 year old, just returning to work is a baby, and it's unfair to expect the behaviour of a mature horse IMO. It's probably eating too much for the amount of work it's doing too.

                          I also think that if your horse is not familiar with the outdoor surroundings of its workplace, it's bound to spook at squirrels or cats or rattly things in the wind.

                          Awfully unfashionable these days, but doing the parelli games on the ground before you mount does a lot to get the horse into receptive riding mode. I still do the 'pre-ride check' before I get on. It takes about a minute, lol.