spooky new things

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irishgirl
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spooky new things

Postby irishgirl » Mon Apr 26, 2010 7:46 pm

Hi, I've recently taken a horse on for a friend and he hasn't been out for several months hence it's all quite new to him and although he's brilliant in traffic he's so scared of drain covers, birds, old people!
He's doing this jumpy type spook and I'm starting to look ahead and 'see' the next scary thing. He's a 12 yr old, 16.2 ex racer and has this really fast walk. He slows down and I can feel him tense when he's not liking something. Can I stop him doing this?
Do you think he'll get used to all of this as although I'm riding him nearly everyday I don't want to get so worried that it puts me off.
I'm doing the deep breathing and rescue remedy.
I'd like to do some schooling with him but as he's only on walk until he's fit again what can I do?
Any ideas before my confidence slips??
Thanks x

Expert_LizPitman
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Re: spooky new things

Postby Expert_LizPitman » Tue Apr 27, 2010 4:34 pm

Hi Irishgirl,

There are a few things that spring to mind that should help you. The first one is diet. I'm not sure what he's on at the moment, but make sure that you're avoiding sugars and feeding him a low work diet. If he's getting more energy in that goes out, it could make him more tense and spooky.

Training wise, I'd look at doing some groundwork to build up the relationship between you and this horse. Really good in hand leading, asking for your horse's concentration all the time, making sure his head is at your shoulder, and working on a very clear leadership walk should help him start to look to you as his guide instead of having to worry about things himself. Any exercises that help you control your horse's feet - moving him around, backing him up, that sort of thing, should also help.

I'd then suggest some despooking work at home in a safe environment. Without pushing too far too soon, find some spooky objects that you can lead him round, all the time making sure that you're leading him very purposefully and consistently. Doing this sort of work at home teaches the horse that, regardless what you come across out, you are always there for him and he can trust you not to let him get hurt.

I personally like to do this in hand, then on longlines before doing ridden despooking work. This is because longlines are a safe way of asking the horse to tackle something first, ahead of you, while letting him know that you're still in control. There's a thread in the training section on starting to longline if you've not done it before. And longlining in walk or trot is great fittening work, too!

So, you're now the leader, making all the decisions. The last thing you want, then, is to show him that you're worried when you're riding. If you tense up if you see something, the message you're giving is that there is something to worry about, so he's in fact right to be worried himself. Relax and breath out from deep down. After all the work you'll have done despooking, it'll be fine.

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H&R_Editor
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Re: spooky new things

Postby H&R_Editor » Tue Apr 27, 2010 4:38 pm

In the April 2010 issue of Horse&Rider we did a great hacking feature with Michael Peace. I borrowed a few horses from a friend of mine - one for me and one for Michael - and we set off in search of some obstacles to tackle, with our photographer running along behind.

It was really interesting because I have always steered my horse around things he might trip over or spook at, such as undulating ground, ditches, plastic bags, etc, but Mike explained that you teach a horse to become more confident by introducing more and more obstacles in his life. It sounds as though your horse could do with some confidence training, too.

If you want a copy of the feature contact our office - 01428 601020. In the meantime, get out and about and introduce him to as many things as possible. Also, when you are leading him in hand, make sure he walks ahead of you slightly. It’s little things like that which will all help to boost his confidence, and consequently yours, too.

Stay safe, though, and if you feel you are at risk then get the right person to help you.

Oh and let us know how you get on.

Good luck.

Expert_LizPitman
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Re: spooky new things

Postby Expert_LizPitman » Wed Apr 28, 2010 7:45 am

[quote="H&R_Editor"]Also, when you are leading him in hand, make sure he walks ahead of you slightly. It’s little things like that which will all help to boost his confidence, and consequently yours, too.

[/quote]

Sorry I can't get the quotes to work, but you know what I mean!

I'd definitely agree with not avoiding problems if you meet them, more seeing them as challenges and finding ways to learn from them. You do, though, have to feel ready to meet those challenges first. I'd always suggest doing despooking at home first, then go out and about.

I'm not sure, though, that getting the horse to walk out in front works all that well (just in my experience). I want the horse to trust me as his leade and putting him in the lead position goes counter to that. Yes, I want him to be confident and know how to meet spooky things with more confidence, but I don't want him to feel he's up there deciding. If you think about it, if we say to the horse "you go first and decide", how can we then say "nope, wrong decision!" when he says he'll opt out or run?

Not that many horses really like being leaders, so by putting him first - and if his head is first that's what he will perceive - you are actually putting him in a position of less confidence rather than more.

The other thing about putting the horse first when leading is that it's less safe. A worried horse with his head in front of yours will often then spin in front of you and leave you completely out of control of the situation. I want to be able to control the horse's head which, in turn, controls the rest of the horse. To do that, I have to have his head next to me, not in front of me.

The confidence I would build up on the longlines. There you can put him in front because you are now in a driving position and with the two lines have full control.

Sorry if that sounds like disagreeing! There's often more than one way to look at it, isn't there? I try, though, to see it how the horse would, as that's the way he'll understand and learn best.

irishgirl
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Re: spooky new things

Postby irishgirl » Tue May 04, 2010 6:57 pm

Hi, thanks so much for your advice. I have been spending time with him on the ground, even just making more time for grooming. I am taking him into the school tomorrow and will start with some spooky things and leading and see how we go.
I actually took him out today which did the world of good as it was really windy. I must of gone outside 5 times before I tacked him up to check on the weather but the thought if I'm hesitating it can't be that bad so I got on with it and we had a lovely ride and he was really relaxed (apart from the scary little village) but in all it helped me loads and slowly I think we're getting to know each other.
Hopefully things will keep on being positive and soon I won't be worrying at all x

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Soraya_H&R_AssistEd
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Re: spooky new things

Postby Soraya_H&R_AssistEd » Thu May 06, 2010 1:00 pm

My old horse used to spook at everything he came across. He was however brilliant at trusting you completely if you were on the ground next to him. I used to joke that he would walk past anything with me by his side because he figured that if there really was a lion in the hedge then it would eat me first. He was much faster you see. But joking aside, from my experience groundwork can be invaluable. I've found that if your horse trusts you when you are next to him on the ground, it can get you out of a lot of tricky situations out hacking, and prevent the situation escalating. I used to jump off if there was something truly terrifying, lead him past letting him have a good look, and jump back on in a safe place. Better that than risk him going up or spooking into traffic. In safer situations I would always ride him past, teaching him that he needed to trust me on his back too. But I think it is important to remember that not all situations lend themselves to safe ridden teaching. And you are teaching your horse it is OK to go past by walking with him after all.

Another tip I would give is always carry a short whip with you. When hacking on the road hold it in your outside hand (the side nearest the traffic) and if you think your horse might spook into the road lay it on his neck on that side (don't hit him with it, remember a horse can feel a fly land on his coat) He just needs to know that you are saying 'no, not this way'. I started doing this with my horse when I first got him, and soon he understood that I was saying 'CAR' and would bend to look at the car instead.

Please keep us updated and let us know what works!
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