Horse Behavior Horse Care Riding and Training Young Rider

Stop Spooking!

Does your favorite horse jump 10 feet in the air every time he spots a plastic bag fluttering in the wind or some trash on the ground? Spooky horses can be a handful, so we’ve got some tips to help you out.

1. Say hello to Nervous Ned—the pony that’s frightened of his own shadow! He sees scary monsters lurking behind every hedge and thinks that a feed sack is going to bite him.

Most of the time he’s looking around, waiting for something to shy at. Then he snorts and jumps away from the scary object, leaving you a quivering wreck!

Some horses are naturally timid-it’s a natural equine instinct to want to get away from something he thinks is dangerous. But if a horse shies frequently, it might be caused by other reasons, for example:

  • High spirits caused but too much energy-giving food and not enough work
  • Bad eyesight—maybe the veterinarian needs to check his eyes. Are cataracts obstructing his vision?
  • A nervous rider who is making the horse tense

Don’t forget, even the most levelheaded characters shy sometimes, so always be prepared. Keep a firm hold on the reins at all times and stay alert to things going on around you.

2. When your horse shies at something, your first instinct is to turn his had to the scary object, trying to pull him back to it. Turn his head slightly away from the frightening thing and use your leg that is farthest away from the object and push your horse’s hindquarters back towards it. See if you can get him to walk by the object several times and then continue on your ride.

3. If your horse is really upset and seems genuinely scared, don’t lose your temper or smack him. This will only make him more excited. Talk to him calmly and urge him forward. If it’s safe to do so, let him take a good look at the object. If he wants to put his head down and sniff it, let him. Keep a firm hold on the reins in case he wheels around and tries to run off.

4. If he really won’t go near the object, hop off and lead him over to it. Let him have a good look and a sniff if he wants. Rustle it with your foot several times to show him that it won’t bite him!

When your horse has calmed down, walk away slowly. Don’t let him rush off at top speed.

5. If you are riding with a friend on an experienced, calm horse, follow him by the scary thing several times. If your horse is extra nervous, it’s a good idea to trail ride with a calm equine companion until your horse is more settled on the trail.

6. If you spot something that might make your horse shy, stay calm. Relax and take some deep breaths and look past the spooky object. Don’t get tense and hang tightly on the reins.

Keep a soft contact and use your legs quietly on his sides to ride him forward. Give him a pat once he’s passed the scary monster to let him know how brave he is!

Young Rider

Young Rider

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