Horse Spooks at Changing Landscape
April 8, 2011 by cherryhillhorsekeeping
Hi Mrs. Hill,
I have another problem. In October a crazy wind came and blew away all the leaves from the trees. The change in the way the forest looks freaked Dolly out, and she hasn’t been the same ever since. Just recently (like the beginning of this month) I’ll get to this place in the trail that is a telephone line right-of-way. It has two hills that are pretty steep and not the type you’d go cantering up and down. The second I come out of the forest trail and into this right-of-way, Dolly begins to try to gallop off with me. She’s become very agitated there. The first time I figured there was just a moose out there since I had seen three the night before.
But its continued until she actually started to rear and leap and crow hop on me. She’s never reared before and its gotten to the point where its scary. I love her and I’ve put so much work into her, but I can’t figure out a way to get her to stop, trust me, and relax. She’s sending me mixed signals. I’ll ask her to move forward and she’ll throw a tantrum and buck and spin and rear, then when I stop her all she wants to do is paw through the snow and eat. So I know somethings not out there. Do you have any suggestions? I would really appreciate it if you did. Thank you again!
You need to work on this at home first, then on the trail in “safe zones” and finally in those “hot spots”.
First you need to be very aware of your own body language when these things happen. Even if you are alarmed when your horse starts freaking, your body, your seat, legs, back and arms and hands, and most of all, your mind, must be calm, cool and collected.
Then you need to perfect a means of control and give the horse something else to do. You should learn how to do a one rein stop and then once your horse is stopped, ride her in a series of circles and half turns calmly and not in too-tight of a bend until her behavior de-escalates.
You’ve halted her freaking behavior and given her something else to do.
A one rein stop is different from a double which is kind of like a spin, what your horse does when she is frightened. In a double, the horse’s head and neck is turned rather sharply in one direction while his hindquarters are moving in the other direction. It is like a turn on the center.
A one rein stop is just the rein signal. You want the horse to stop, not keep moving.
A one rein stop is best done with a halter, bosal or snaffle bit as you will be using direct rein signals.
To initiate the head and neck bend, reach down the rein close to the horse’s head and take up the slack.
If your horse tends to spin to the right when she freaks, you want to work on this to the left. You’d grab the left rein and hold her into the turn until she stops moving her feet. Then yield – let go of the rein signal. Drive the horse forward with your legs and then do some gymnastics – circles, half turns, serpentines.
Once you’ve mastered the one rein stop at home, you should set your horse up at home to “freak” and have your aids ready. You might have someone carry a strange item toward you or try and ride her past some balloons or an opened umbrella or waving plastic sack.
Once you can control her no matter what happens at home, set up these same situations on a safe part of the trail.
Each time and in each place that you control her and give her something else to do, it will build her confidence and make it easier in the next situation.
Finally, ride to the trouble spot. It should be a piece of cake.
But take the time it takes to perfect it BEFORE you go back to your trouble spot.
Be safe and enjoy your horse.