You’re out for a nice ride with your horse, and suddenly the fallen stump by the side of the trail is the scariest thing ever, and your horse doesn’t want to go near it. Horse spooking problems occur in most horses at one stage or another; different horses spook differently from one another. Some will jump to the side and away, some will stiffen and hop to cause your stomach to meet your ankles, some will turn and flee, and some will have the extreme reaction of a buck. Whatever the reaction, the spook is because something has just genuinely frightened them. Your frightened horse may be blowing, snorting, possibly shaking their head and generally being upset. While it’s tempting to force your horse or punish them for a bit of garbage startling them when a dump truck sounding it’s air horn didn’t, the best solution is to introduce them slowly to the item, to teach them it’s nothing to fear.
Horses are prey animals, which means, they’re always on the lookout for things that will get them. Typically the more high strung they are, the more they’ll spook but even the most laid back and placid mount can sometimes take fright. To introduce your horse to the scary-to-them-but-isn’t-actually-scary object, you can stop and let them look, sniff and consider the object. Pat your horse reassuringly and encourage them gentle to go forward and examine it.
If your horse just isn’t convinced that the omnivore knows what they’re on about, you can try approaching and retreating. Ride slowly towards the scary object and when your horse starts to protest, let them back up a little. You can try and dismount and show them the scary object is okay, but be sure of your horse. If they freak out, you could get stepped on or knocked over. Make sure to keep a good understanding of your horse’s comfort levels.
Don’t force the situation|Patience
If your horse is just so plain upset by the object that they don’t want to approach whatever it is, don’t force them. Forcing the situation will only stress you both out, so it’s best just to go wide around it and move on. Sometimes as you circle and your horse gets a different view or scent, they’ll decide the object isn’t so scary after all, and you should free to let them examine it to learn from the experience, but if they’re cagey, just let them work around it.
The less often your horse is spooked, and the better they learn to trust your judgment through practice and partnership, the less upset their systems will be. Ulcers in both humans and horses are caused by stress, after all. Your horses spooking problems could lead to gastric upset which can lead to ulcers. So best to take things one step at a time!
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