- Published on Tuesday, 18 February 2014 11:00
Why does my horse spook? cont
There are a number of reasons horses spook and it can be a truly unpleasant experience to ride a horse that spooks at everything. Not to mention how dangerous it can be for both horse and rider! When a horse spooks it always has a reason and has a number of options for the action it can take; spook and bolt, spook spin then run, spook and buck or it can freeze. Some horses are really good at using a combination of all these! The majority of riders cannot sit these and they then add to the fear situation by hanging on to the horse or falling off it. This is also not the best time to fall off or argue with a horse as once it is in its flight response mode it is afraid and it not thinking but is rather reacting. This is usually what leads to riders being kicked as they are falling off. I often hear “my horse has never kicked, I can’t understand why he did this to me. I thought we had a good bond” Unfortunately the horse didn’t even think about kicking the rider at his rear end he just reacted, it is inherent in his nature. He reacted as if a lion were going to jump on his rump and kill him, in his mind he is just surviving
Often time’s horses accumulate tension from being kept in stables and small camps. This state of tension heightens their senses making them more prone to spooking. Simply allowing the horse to go out into a bigger camp to run and play for a few hours is enough to help. Horses that are kept in are also often fed high cereal and fat diets and don’t spend hours moving around grazing. All this pent up energy has to go somewhere and it is often expressed by spooking at things it normally doesn’t have a fear of. The answer here is to increase the work the horse is receiving, or change its diet by reducing the hard food and increasing the roughage. By roughage I don’t mean the bright green Lucerne that we all love so much, but by increasing it with baled grass or veld hay add lib. The increased time spent chewing will also relax and help calm the horse and he will be kept busy far longer than he would if he were just wolfing down his hard feed. Initially I will alter the diet and increase the work and exercise the horse is getting at the same time, it is amazing how quickly the horses settle down and become less spooky.
Another reason why horses suddenly become spooky is when they are over worked or over faced with something that is new. A example here would be a child jumping a course of jumps four or five times. The pony jumps perfectly and then suddenly spooks and shies out a jump that is has just previously jumped four times – the pony is more than likely getting tired and the jumps are requiring more effort on his part so he gets tense, when he gets tense things look more scary to him! Then we usually beat him with a crop to make him go over the spooky jump,,,,,,,so he is already scared and we just convince him the jump is really scary cause when he looks at he gets bitten on bum by the riding crop.
This type of pony just needs to get fit and build more confidence.
The important thing to remember if you are riding a spooky horse is to stay really calm. Don’t look at or put your focus on the scary object. Pick a point somewhere in front of you, focus on that and ride towards it. If your horse does spook just be patient and try to just continue as if nothing happened. Taking the horse back to the scary object or area over and over again will most likely just start making the horse more apprehensive as it approaches. Just ask for one positive approach and leave it at that until your next session.
Turn your horse to look at whatever was scary, try to let your horse follow it if it is moving. So if your horse is scared of trucks get him to stand facing the on coming truck then turn after it and take a few steps in the direction is has gone.