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OTTB Using Spooking as a behavior tactic?

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  • OTTB Using Spooking as a behavior tactic?

    Posting here since I'm still riding Tb in western tack, but plan on making the switch to a dressage saddle soon.
    At any rate, I'm thinking I might be spoiling this horse. He tosses in a spook most every ride. I keep riding. Today he spooked hard, I stayed with it and kept riding. Spooked again. Got off and threw his butt in round pen and lunged him hard. Got back on, no more spook. Prior to our ride I had lunged him but not to break a sweat.

    Same arena, same tack. Little cool out. I'm thinking he's looking for stories to tell, a reason to spook. My answer is to ride him more forward into more contact, rather than be looser with him. Am I on the right path? Don't most of these OTTB's like to be worked and told where to go and how to do it?

    As always, feedback is appreciated. Trainer is out of town at a show. TIA

  • #2
    OTTBs sometimes use spooking to deal with their extra energy or even boredom. Send him forward and make him use his brain with lots of gait and direction changes...that's the best bet. If he's busy using his brain and concentrating on you and going forward, he won't have a reason to spook. Good luck!

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    • #3
      If he's spooking as an evasion tactic, it needs to bring him no benefits. No breaks. By the time you get off, go to the round pen and start him moving he has no idea whatsoever that the spook is the reason he's in there. If your horse gives to the bit and you release the rein pressure 1 minute+ later when he's no longer offering the behavior, does he understand what happened? Or if you hit him with a whip because he kicked out 2 minutes ago? Consequences - good or bad - must be immediate.

      If round penning helped it's likely the spooking is just too much energy and him feeling good. Just like a horse in turnout finding an 'excuse' to leap sideways and go boinging across the paddock with their tail over their back.

      If my horses are going to be silly and treat a work session like a play session we really go to work. Not just trotting circles. Spirals in and out, lateral work, changing gaits/tempo every 3-4 strides...they don't get time to think about being silly.

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      • #4
        I have a 3 yr old arab and boy let me tell you did he ever spook he doesn't anymore. What i did that really worked for me was i kept his mind busy, i weaved through everything no matter if there was something in front of us or not, sometimes that didn't work but as soon as he spooked you would have to be quick on this but grab one rein pull his head right to your knee and make him do those tight circles no matter how many you do if he doesnt respect it and stop after a couple circle like around 5 switch directions make him work keep tapping his side let him know that when he spooks he has to work in uncomfortable ways. alot of trainers are saying trot around trees make him stop go backward etc. that would never work for my spunky little boy he loves trotting around stopping and working but when its not comfortable he won't like it and he wont want to spook. infact when my horse is about to spook his head is high and he gives a little shiver and if you can tell hes about to spook do a circle it stops his back end from rearing or running away it really helped me good luck

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        • Original Poster

          #5
          All great advice and much appreciated. Thank you!

          Comment


          • #6
            Forward is your friend!

            I think that he's being a bit testy with you, and maybe a little bit bored. He's probably getting more and more fit as well and is eager to show off his new skillz.

            I echo what everybody else has said about keeping his brain engaged. Gaitedincali is dead on with some great advice!

            I'm not sure where you are, but it seems like it's that time of the year for EVERYBODY. Last night all my mare wanted to do was jump around and spook at nothing in particular. Wet saddle pads are your best ally, my friend.

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            • #7
              Forward is your friend.

              That being said: OTTB have a greater chance of having ulcers (over 90% of race horses have them) and its entirely possible your horse is jumpy and spooky because he has ulcers, that is a symptom.
              "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                I do keep him on Tract Guard and smartpak coli care ultra. He's very mellow on the ground. I think perhaps his boredom and fitness is starting to show!

                Comment


                • #9
                  I find TBs spook for a variety of reasons but the most common one is because they are trying to evade the work you're doing. Sometimes its behavioral -- sometimes it's saddle-fit -- for the most part you have to set them up not to fail and the only way to do this is to thoroughly inspect if every piece of equipment (especially that western saddle) and every criteria you ask of him is fair.

                  My old OTTB used to spook when he was a baby and no amount of "circling hard" ever fixed it. Personally, I don't believe in that method - it doesn't really rectify the behavior and it just supplements their worry; now, on top of spooking, they have to worry about having half their face ripped off around a tight turn.

                  What I used to do when my horse spooked is ALWAYS use a verbal reprimand: "HEY!" works very well on several horses - they usually stop and theyre like wait, what? A firm "NO!" works too. Then, go back to what you think spooked them. Or go to the area they spooked, and thoroughly walk back and forth so many times that it bores them.


                  FWIW, you don't want to supplicate their negative behavior with a negative reinforcement in this instance because for all you know they could be telling you something about them being uncomfortable: negatively reprimanding them will only make them worry more.

                  That being said, if you find there is no "good reason" for him to be spooking (i.e saddle fits perfectly, etc) then you need to keep him engaged. What I like to do on trail rides or outside of the ring when I'm hacking is do leg yields back and forth across the trail - keeps them busy, and it keeps them focused on me: you can also, if he's "knowledgeable" enough, ask for contact - whatever you do, keep him engaged.
                  AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I have a TB that will spook sometimes - just a bolt forward about three strides. that's always our cue to lunge him in the arena and let him get all the buck/farts out after the lesson is over.
                    Teaching Horseback Riding Lessons: A Practical Training Manual for Instructors

                    Stop Wasting Hay and Extend Consumption Time With Round Bale Hay Nets!!

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by wylde sage View Post
                      I do keep him on Tract Guard and smartpak coli care ultra. He's very mellow on the ground. I think perhaps his boredom and fitness is starting to show!
                      Show me the evidence that TractGuard treats and/or prevents gastric ulcers? Same with SmartDigest Ultra...
                      "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."

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