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trottingalong

Spooky Horse

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I have had my paint drummer for almost three years now, I got him when he was 1 &1/2. He has been spooky about the main barn isleway ever since I got him. He's generaly a bit of a worry wort anyway but this one spot cause a upset every single darn time. It is a bussy area lots of stuff a blanket rack, three saddle tiers and some chairs for us to sit in off to the side..(its a very wide ilse way) you walk right in on the right is a wash stall w crossties then you go right in to the indoor arena and stalls. The gate to the pasture is in the back we walk all the way through the indoor then the goal is to get into the wash stall and crossties. He balks every single time. After a couple tries we make it through and into the wash stall. I've tried every thing I can think of to make him more comfortable. I walk him all the way through and back multiple times, fed him in there, just spent time there standing there, rewarding him with cookies, walking w a whip and sending him forward before he has a chance to go backwards, having a helper behind me. Its realy starting to drive me nutts. He will walk through with minimal hesitation if I am riding and walking through to go trail riding.... I often ride alone in the arena, and he's is often spooked when people come walking in through the isle way, he doesn't hear them then all the sudden they are there and he will jump or run a step or two, I get his attention back we keep on working do circles or figure 8s something and he is ok. Once he knows people are there he's good. I'm sure that's fueling the hatred of the isleway since its the same darn spot every single time. I just don't know what to do about it. Just wondering if anyone had helpful advice on how to get over this hump.

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There's an old saying. If they lead they load.From what I'am getting from this, he has a learned behavior of the barn isle. He should be focused on you. Look at horses that survive barn fires,they are the ones that can be led out of a barn because they don't question the handler. You can't get in a war with a horse in a situation where both of you could get hurt. Get him in the arena, work on his leading skills/ground work until he respects you even when pressure is put on him.If he is really pushy and disrespectful even working him, you might consider a good rope halter.I hesitate to suggest a studchain unless you really know how to use the pressure and release with one.JMO, but he has holes in his leading and ground manners.Also, if your apprehensive he is going to feed off this.

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Ditto to what has been said/

A great example , that I read some time ago in a horse mag.

This one particular horse at a riding stable was known to spook, when passed by a vecicle. Since the trail ride always consisted of some time riding down a on the side of a road, the barn manager always warned the person riding this horse

One day the manager was not there , and forgot to tell his fill in to warn the rider of that horse, before they headed out.

He was in a panic, and getting back, first thing he asked the rider of that horse, is how bad he spooked, an dif he had any trouble staying on.

The puzzled rider said that the horse never reacted when cars came up on him.

The moral of the story-the rider did not tense and expect the horse to react, and the horse thus just followed the body language of his rider.

Walk him by that spot like it is no big deal, keeping yourself relaxed, and without any hesitation. If he balks, do not try to win him over with treats , but take him away from that trouble spot, give him a good lesson on respect in leading, with either a chain shank or be nice rope halter, then just put that ordinary lead shank and halter on and give him a chance to walk by without an issue

The problem is not the isle, but rather that he questions you as to where he will, and will not lead

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My answer to spooking is always to get the horse's attention back to you...and I've actually reduced spookiness considerably by the simple method of making the horse work a little when the "scary" thing is around.

Smilie is also absolutely right. We have one little mare, nice little mare, but she gets very anxious. We can put guests (non-riders) on this horse providing they show no sign of being afraid of horses - we just make a point of *not telling them she gets nervous*. Then she doesn't. You may well have got into the vicious circle of scared horse = worried handler = even more scared horse. All it takes is your heartrate to jump up and that horse is looking to see where the monster is, because if YOU (a predator) are scared, there has to be reason for him to be scared. How does he react if somebody who doesn't know him and doesn't know his issues leads him through? Make sure you aren't holding your breath when leading him past the "problem" area...deep breaths and relax yourself.

Stop making a big deal about it. Treat "that spot" just like any other spot and *expect* him to walk through it.

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Phenomenal advice already given. From reading your post, it seems that because you are expecting that area to be a problem, your behaviour changes before you get there in regards to how you are handling your horse. He must sense that there is something to be worried about therefor causing an issue there every time. As posted above, if you don't make it an issue, over time you won't have problems there any longer.

I would go to the extent of getting some feed together, and purposely tie and feed your horse there, in the exact area you normally have problems. Groom him there, do everything you can there. You can easily fix this, it's just its going to take time and extra thinking on your part to make sure that you as the handler don't accidentally cause the behaviour.

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Ditto, ditto, ditto to the previous posts and advice. The horse is a flight animal. It's survival depends upon instincts honed over 50 million years of evolution. As a leader your horse will feed off your apprehension, no matter how subtle or suppressed you think it might be. As simple a problem as this appears on the surface it may require the assistance of a professional to get you and your horse past the apprehension you both now experience in the barn isle. I don't want to sound like Chicken Little but the confinement of a barn isle is a very bad place for a horse and handler to experience worry and lack confidence in each other. ~FH

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Wow sorry it took so long to get back to you guys. Anyway I do appreciate all the advice. I do have a rope halter I use with him frequently. I am not afraid of this horse and I dont get nervous when he balks. I cant say however that I dont anticipate a bit. I feel like otherwise his ground manners are pretty good. I'm not sure what I could do to improve uppon his ground work. I move towards him he moves out of my space,he backs well ,I can move his hip and shoulder, he lounges off my voice command. He doesnt get away with being sluggish either. I have tryied to be confident and just expect him to walk through but I guess im just not getting the message through, and I might be anticipateing him to balk. I guess ill just work on that the best I can and just expect him to go through

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I am not afraid of this horse and I dont get nervous when he balks. I cant say however that I dont anticipate a bit.

I have tryied to be confident and just expect him to walk through but I guess im just not getting the message through, and I might be anticipateing him to balk. I guess ill just work on that the best I can and just expect him to go through

^^okay. you've recognized the challenge-- that's half the battle. he'll only behave as well as you expect. if you anticipate he'll balk, then of course he will. if you keep your focus and ignore distractions, so will he. good luck!

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Just for giggles & grins see if you can find another experienced horse person to put the horse in the same aisle balk situation without telling them the horse may balk. Maybe just ask someone to lead the horse in or out of the barn for you while you ..."watch his way of going from behind" or some other excuse. If you can get more than just one other person to do the same you'll get a better grip on the problem as either apprehension being transmitted by you or definitely something in the barn aisle environment he doesn't like. And you might better see where his attention is focused when he balks if you're not the one leading him when it happens. ~FH

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little update, drummy and I are doing better. I really just did not realize how much I had been feeding into his behavior. thank you guys for my little wake up call. I finally got my crap together took a few deep breaths and focused. we aren't past it yet but at least making positive progress finally :) yesterday he even went back through after the stupid light on a timer turned off and startled him. we calmly walked back through so I could turn it back on no balking.

I do follow up question though. when I walk him through whether or not I am met with resistance or he walks through calmly I have quit turning him around to walk him out, instead if he wants in the arena I back him up to get him to his "safe zone" do you guys agree or disagree with that? my thinking has been that A im not putting the scary place behind him therefore avoiding an extra reason to spook until he gets more comfortable there and B im asking him to do a task that requires him to keep his focus on me, as opposed to just turning him around where he tends to rush back to his safe place.

oh and FloridaHorseman I have not been able to get ahold of someone I will trust w my horse to be able to lead him through so I can see if he balks with them or not. ill have to wait for my one friend to come by and if I can steal a few min from his busy schedule.

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Not quite sure what you are asking

Do you mean that if he balks, you don't make him go forward, but back him up to where he wants to return to?

If that is what you are doing, definately do not agree. Some people will back a horse in the same direction that they were balking to going, and I'm not even comfortable with that, but certainly not backing him where he wants to be!

The first step in a balk is for a horse to simply plant himself and refuse to move

Many horses will up the anty, by either trying to whirl around, rear, or run backwards. You certainly don't want to teach them that going in reverse, when refusing to continue forward, is acceptable

Horses that learn to run backwards,as a refusal, can be dangerous, as when you are riding them, they really don't care as to where they are backing. If you are riding somewhere with a drop off-well I think you get the picture!

When he refuses to go forward, try untracking him-ie making him turn over his haunches several times, or dis-engage his hips, getting after him and really having him yield those hips for several turns, then calmly ask him to go forward.

You asked for forward. This horse apparently knows how to lead, so expect nothing less than for him to continue forward

I would teach him the fundamentals of giving to a chain shank, away from that trouble spot. He needs to get more solid on leading, without questioning you where.

Horses get responsive and light-doesn't matter if it is riding or leading, if you at first ask, nothing happens, ask louder, still nothing-then demand. Remove pressure as soon as the horse complies. Next time, again ask with the lightest cue, giving the horse a chance to respond to that light cue

Horses are not stupid. They soon learn to respond to that first light cue, be it the lead shank or a leg, as they know that if they don't, there are consequences.

The horse learns to respect your leadership, instead of second quessing you, deciding where it is safe to lead when asked to do so. Instead, they say 'yes sir/mam, and lead where asked to go.

I don't consider that spot to be the problem . As one trail clinician put it, ''the obstacle is not the obstacle. The horse deciding when to comply and respond to your requests is the true issue

Edited by Smilie

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Smilie im sorry I wasn't very clear with my second question,my bad. No the balking is improving slowly I just walk forward like I'm going somwhere with a purpose and not anticipate him balking and staying focused. If he plants himself, I make him yeild his hips get his attention back and ask for forward until I get it. Your right I asked for forward and he needs to respect that. My second question was what to do after he is there. Its cold out and I'm a wuss when it comes to cold. Right now I'm not really asking him to go outside I just want to get to the cross ties(where he stands fine) so I can brush him or tack up. So the big double doors going outside have been closed making a dead end. Crossties are off to the side facing into the isle way. He will start walking then plant, I move him around a bit then ask again for forward and after a few tries usualy get to the big doors. Then once he is where I want him I let him stand for a second or two then we usualy make a u turn go back and start over until we can walk all the way to the big doors no stopping then we quit for the time being. In stead of making a u turn I've been walking straight in then backing straight out the direction we came.my thinking was, walking in was the easy for him going back where he prefers to be is now a chore. Or am I just teaching him he has to back up to get here he wants? I don't want that. I hope I explaned my self a little better. I have a really hard time explaining what I'm thinging to others writing makes it twice as hard. So let me know if I'm babbling on and still not making sense and ill try again:)

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I think the important thing is to make sure that he understands that it is you that decides when he goes back

Does he know how to pivot? If not, might be a good think to teach him. Then, kinda do a showmanship pattern. Walk him up to the door, make him stand there. You can even teach him to square up

Then walk towards his shoulder and teach him to pivot on his haunches, crossing those front legs over. Start with 180 and then you can mix it up, not always just walking back once he is facing around in his tracks. Make him whoa again, facing back to where he wants to go, and to wait until you ask him to walk back

You can also do a360, have him stand, then do a 180 and stand.

The more handle you put on him, and the more you keep him guessing as to what you will ask next, the more he will focus on you and the task at hand.

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I have never owned a spooky horse and I feel it is because I am not spooky. Feel confident and the horse can pick up on that. I like to jump and if in my mind I am not absolutely sure about a jump, if in my mind I deek out one side or the other, the horse will do exactly that. Think positive, think over the jump and the horse will jump every time. You are spooky and the horse picks up on that.

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Another point to remember, horses spook for two main reasons. The first being, it is a natural reaction of a prey species, until they learn to trust us enough so that they over ride this natural reaction , trusting in our judgement

The second reason is a smart horse that has learned to use spooking to his advantage, because the handler/rider inadvertently rewards that behavior. Horse spooks, knowing he will get out of work, or not be made to go where he does not wish to go. In other words, the horse has learned to use intimidation. We train a horse each and every time that we handle him, either for the good or for the bad.

Forgot a third reason, and it is a medical one. If a horse that never was spooky before, starts to spook in dim light of in shadows, he could be loosing his vision

Edited by Smilie

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Yeah, I know a horse who loves to pull the fake spooking thing, especially with new riders.

I was once schooling him and he walked around the arena fine at the free walk. The second I picked him up into working walk there was a horse eating monster behind the back door...

(He's very smart and has most of the barn fooled into thinking he's dumb :P)

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