Horses are flight instinct animals – OK, we all know that. But spooking does not always make sense — the horse may pass that same space daily, the object has always been there, but your horse spooks.
Types of spooks include new experiences, a quick flash, movement, or loud noise, eye/eyesight problems, and pain. Riding a spooking horse can be disruptive, exasperating and, at times, scary. It’s always a good idea to work with your veterinarian to rule out health issues (pain, eyesight). Sometimes, with a spook, your horse just needs a moment to ‘absorb’ the experience and can continue.
When you last dealt with a spook, how did you react? This is a good time for some self reflection. What were the circumstances? Did you look around to see what the horse spooked at … and abandon your horse as the wheels are falling off? Did you get after the horse … in an attempt to punish him?
Here are some tips for the next spook:
Calmly keep the feet moving, particularly the hind feet, but they need to move in a rhythmic beat, not a frantic scramble. Consider a leg yield. The feet are connected to the brain. When the feet move in rhythm, the brain quiets and is receptive to input. As best you can, do NOT pull on the reins. Other exercises are: turn on the forehand, side passing, shoulder-in, etc. anything that you can do to redirect his attention to YOU, and get the feet moving.
You may not be effective close to the scary object, so move away from it – but, with an exercise! Quietly work on the exercise and soften when your horse responds correctly. Try not to pull on the reins unnecessarily. You may not be able to work around the scary place today, or tomorrow, but, stick with the plan in a quiet fashion to build trust and confidence. Recognize that improvements come slowly, and, there is NO quick fix!
The speed of your success depends upon history, personalities, effectiveness of your exercises and patience. Be open to change if past exercises did not work. After it is all said and done, do you now have a better partnership with your horse? We hope so!
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