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Spooky pony

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  • Spooky pony

    First time posting but long time lurker... we bought a pony for our 9 year old. The pony is 8 and is a saint - until he is not. He spooks at seemingly nothing and then his world falls apart. He is not like any other horse who spooks and gets over it. He remembers it for weeks and it takes a lot of work to desensitize him again. When he spooks he does whatever he can to get away. It is a genuine fear response. Everything else is in order.. saddle fits, HEALTHY, feet all good etc.

    He has trouble with things moving around him like taking off a jacket while mounted, or another horse centering near him, some invisible monsters. Yet he will pick up and play with things that are not being moved by humans such as tarps, brooms, lead ropes or anything you accidentally leave within reach.

    Totally babysitter type pony and really lazy normally. These spooks happen every 2 to 3 months and set us back a lot. Daughter of course LOVES her pony and I can't bear the thought of moving him on unless we try everything to help him first.

    She has fallen off once when he bolted.

    What are some things we can try?

  • #2
    Have a qualified vet check his eyes.
    "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin

    Comment


    • #3
      I've been watching Elisa Wallace's videos on training her current mustang for the 2018 Mustang Challenge. They are chronicling almost daily training sessions and a lot of it is based on getting him acclimated to darn near everything. I've learned a lot from them. Give them a try. Good luck.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Originally posted by Marla 100 View Post
        Have a qualified vet check his eyes.
        Yup did that on the PPE. Checked out fine.

        Comment


        • #5
          Check pony's diet- is he getting more grain than he needs? Does he have any nutritional gaps such as low vit E, magnesium or Se? I would first address his diet, then enlist the help of a professional for some regular training- personally I would send pony out for 30-60 days and then work with training on regular set schedule thereafter. This horse needs consistent work with someone that he can't bully. Not sure if a 9 yr old is a good choice for this horse.

          Otherwise you can take your pick from training dvds but I've never found that to be has helpful as real training where you can see and be a part of it.

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          • Original Poster

            #6
            Originally posted by TWH Girl View Post
            Check pony's diet- is he getting more grain than he needs? Does he have any nutritional gaps such as low vit E, magnesium or Se? I would first address his diet, then enlist the help of a professional for some regular training- personally I would send pony out for 30-60 days and then work with training on regular set schedule thereafter. This horse needs consistent work with someone that he can't bully. Not sure if a 9 yr old is a good choice for this horse.

            Otherwise you can take your pick from training dvds but I've never found that to be has helpful as real training where you can see and be a part of it.
            I'm not sure if he is the right one either but at i have to try a few things before giving up and breaking a little girls heart.

            He is only getting hay and a mineral vitamin supplement. We are working with a trainer and I ride him also. He is lunged before every ride and is amazing 90% of the time but when he spooks ge checks out and it takes a long time to get him back.

            Comment


            • #7
              I had a wonderful holstriner mare that was as near perfect until something spooked her. Maybe once a year or so....I learned to dismount asap because her brain would just go away. Never got over it and she was a pretty good show horse and never did spook at a show but once it started, she was really out of control. Did every test and calming supplement imaginable

              good luck with the pony. Wish I knew a solution!

              Comment


              • #8
                Could you have his magnesium levels checked? Sometimes low magnesium can cause spookiness. I wouldn't add a magnesium supplement without testing him, but might be worth a shot if you have ruled out other physical issues. Good luck!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Cowboy-ish? or trainer that specializes in re-training/building up horse's confidence & obedience so they're not spooky or overly reactive. Especially because he doesn't get over it quickly and has been a recurring issue.

                  I'd be concerned about lungeing before every ride also. Makes me think pony is not really that saintly or suitable, even without the spook issue. I would want pony trained so I did not have to lunge all the time.

                  Also look into the usual go-tos: no grain, more turn out, ear plugs, magnesium supplements, another check for pain/discomfort, ulcers, etc.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I treated my spooky pony mare for ulcers and had a different pony after one month of omeprazole- she’s now the quietest and easiest handle animal in the barn. She was not girthy or obviously sensitive but we decided to give it a try and my only regret was not doing it much sooner.

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                    • #11
                      Instead if desensitization , which teaches them not to spook. You want to use Spooky Object Training which teaches them that when they do get a fright the reaction is to stand still.
                      It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Pocketpony View Post

                        I'm not sure if he is the right one either but at i have to try a few things before giving up and breaking a little girls heart.

                        He is only getting hay and a mineral vitamin supplement. We are working with a trainer and I ride him also. He is lunged before every ride and is amazing 90% of the time but when he spooks ge checks out and it takes a long time to get him back.
                        My former horse who passed away was kind of like this- he would lose it- and he didn't come back until he was good and ready which was usually a while.

                        I would try some magnesium without any further testing to see if it helps- min of 5000 mg but closer to 10,000 would be better, then if it works, you can back off and see what is the best dose. You may also try "treating" stomach issues to see if that improves his behavior. Adding U Guard or G.U.T to see if they make a difference or a few days of Ulcerguard.

                        Other than that, this may very well just be the horse's personality and you'll have to decide if that's a good match for a 9 yr old. Being that horse has the propensity to be explosive on occasion, I'd say an older more intermediate rider would be a better match.

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Originally posted by SuzieQNutter View Post
                          Instead if desensitization , which teaches them not to spook. You want to use Spooky Object Training which teaches them that when they do get a fright the reaction is to stand still.
                          Can you give me an example of what to try? Pony spooked and bolted when my daughter put her rain jacket on while mounted. I was holding on to him but he dragged me across the ring.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Pocketpony View Post

                            Can you give me an example of what to try? Pony spooked and bolted when my daughter put her rain jacket on while mounted. I was holding on to him but he dragged me across the ring.
                            It is done on the ground. It was taught to me by John Chatterton 30 years ago. Every horse gets that training now and I am happy to give examples of situations where I am still alive on several horses that are tbs.

                            First the horse is taught to face up. Next it is taught to stand still. 3rd it is taught to be touched all over.

                            I cant remember which step it is, but facing up teaches the horse that you are safe and gives it confidence in you.

                            Where it differs from desensitization is with desensitization,you give it a fright with a lunge whip with a bottle with a plastic bag on it. In a round yard. Desensitization you don't drop the whip until it stops moving. So you have trainers with scared, terrified, shaking horses who won't take the pressure off and you end up with horses who turn off. In the end you could put a lion in the ring and the horse won't react. These are the professional trainers who say the stupidest thing I have ever heard that horses cannot tell one person from another.

                            Then a month after the new owner has had the horse who has not spooked at anything, who they treat with kindness and have shaken out the saddle blanket every day before putting it on with no problem. The horse switches back on, they shake the saddle blanket, the horse sees it for the first time and pulls back and takes off with the owner saying he has never done that before.

                            Spooky object training in a small yard. Apply the pressure with a lunge whip with little rocks in a plastic bottle you can rattle. Let the horse go on a long lead. Drop the pressure. They stop. You call them to you as taught with facing up. They stand still and you praise with stroking, no patting, saying good boy or good girl. Until they don't bother to go.

                            The next day they start off with the same flight response but get better quicker.

                            John Chatterton has himself on a horse on the front of DVD riding with an umbrella put up.

                            It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Pocketpony View Post

                              Can you give me an example of what to try? Pony spooked and bolted when my daughter put her rain jacket on while mounted. I was holding on to him but he dragged me across the ring.
                              Agree with Suzie. Also, spend the $25 and subscribe to Warwick Schiller's website (he is currently at WEG competing for Australia). He has a lot of good information on there. You need to desensitize and then do spooky obstacle training - the crazier the better.

                              Moving can be a great big deal for a horse. I had kids and always got them "kid safe" mounts. They were all a bit nervous and spooky when we got them home. I don't think I was lied to, I think it's just the nature of the horse.

                              The desensitizing helps them stay in control when things make noises and move around etc. They learn to stand still and learn that most things are not going to hurt, so they get tolerant. Then you take that response and move on to more challenging spooky objects, like putting on a rain coat.
                              "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederacy against him."

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                When he spooks, I use whatever the source was, like a rain jacket, and pet him all over with it until he stops reacting. I then stop and praise him. I'll repeat it on the other side over and over until it is no big deal. Did that yesterday and his knees almost buckled from fear

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  What are his bloodlines and breeding? Is he getting a lot of turnout? What did he do prior? I am big into young ponies...these answers might explain some stuff.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Pocketpony View Post
                                    When he spooks, I use whatever the source was, like a rain jacket, and pet him all over with it until he stops reacting. I then stop and praise him. I'll repeat it on the other side over and over until it is no big deal. Did that yesterday and his knees almost buckled from fear
                                    I find the more fearful they are the better they learn the lesson.

                                    Same as I said above. Don't pet him with the coat. Put him in a smallish yard on a long lead after being taught to face up, stand still, what good boy means and that stroking is a good thing. Leading correctly with not following your feet and other things that John Chatterton says. Stand in front holding the arm of the jacket. Pick it up and swing it towards him.

                                    He takes off. You have the long lead and the fence keeping him from going. The moment he goes you drop the jacket and call him back to you. Then spend at least a minute or 3 stroking, saying good boy and whatever you want to talk about with him.

                                    Rinse and repeat.

                                    This will come down to timing. With the correct timing. He will learn to stand while you throw the coat over him.

                                    Use the incorrect timing and you will teach him never to go near a coat again.

                                    Can you rug him? You would think a rug would be scarier than a coat and trillions of horses have been rugged in their life time without caring.
                                    Last edited by SuzieQNutter; Sep. 11, 2018, 07:03 PM.
                                    It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      OP, is he getting grass hay or alfalfa hay? Usually with spooking, I address: 1) feed, 2) pain, 3) training/behavior. When was your PPE? Did they do flexion tests? It wouldn't hurt to have an evaluation with your vet and also address appropriate feed for him and if magnesium or other supplementation would help. Honestly, I'd send him off for 60 days desensitizing myself but that's me. He needs 5-6 days consistent work and if you can't do that, it's not going to make much impact.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Pocketpony View Post
                                        First time posting but long time lurker... we bought a pony for our 9 year old. The pony is 8 and is a saint - until he is not. He spooks at seemingly nothing and then his world falls apart. He is not like any other horse who spooks and gets over it. He remembers it for weeks and it takes a lot of work to desensitize him again. When he spooks he does whatever he can to get away. It is a genuine fear response. Everything else is in order.. saddle fits, HEALTHY, feet all good etc.

                                        He has trouble with things moving around him like taking off a jacket while mounted, or another horse centering near him, some invisible monsters. Yet he will pick up and play with things that are not being moved by humans such as tarps, brooms, lead ropes or anything you accidentally leave within reach.

                                        Totally babysitter type pony and really lazy normally. These spooks happen every 2 to 3 months and set us back a lot. Daughter of course LOVES her pony and I can't bear the thought of moving him on unless we try everything to help him first.

                                        She has fallen off once when he bolted.

                                        What are some things we can try?
                                        In your post on the other forum, you stated he has spooked TWICE in the 2 months since you have owned him (and not at all in the prior winter months that you leased him).

                                        Twice in 2 months isn't super concerning to me, but of course, none would be ideal. Horses are fight-or-flight animals. You will not prevent them from spooking 100% of the time, no matter how bombproof the horse.

                                        It seems like the two instances just really caught him off guard for whatever reason 1) horse galloping up behind him 2) daughter putting on rain jacket.

                                        As other posters have mentioned, and as I said on your other thread, is that you need to be proactive with desensitizing. Work with him every day (not just after he has a spook -- his brain is already fried after a spook).

                                        You said your daughter is taking lessons. Have you asked our trainer for help?
                                        It is not enough to know how to ride; one must know how to fall.

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