Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dun Spookin'

So a reader sent me an email about her horse spooking and bolting only at one end of her arena, even though both ends look IDENTICAL! So here was my reply to her.

"OK, so when a horse is "spooking" at something you need to address why? Sometimes it's simply because they can LOL. Since this seems to be your horse's issue this is what you need to do. First off lunge him down in that area right next to the end he spooks at. If on the ground he is fine and it's simply when you are mounted then what you want to do is make the situation harder than it is. Example: He bolts you stop him and back him all the way back up to where he first took off. Or if he takes off pull him into the wall he is spooking at and do circle after circle walking hm as close to the wall as possible. The idea is to always make the WRONG thing HARD for them and the right thing easy. He'll soon learn that it is becoming wayyyy too much effort in his part to keep bolting. Another option and this is a REALLY good one is if he bolts, KEEP him running. HARD!!! Make his lungs do the talking. Run run run run run him around your arena until he is huffing and puffing. Again Wrong thing hard. Then finally when you ask him to walk stop him at the end he spooks at and see if he'll walk calmly by.... Let me know how it goes for you. Keep me updated :) Sorry for the delayed response LOL!!! "

Today's lesson happens to be one of my FAVORITE motto's... Always Make the WRONG thing hard and RIGHT thing easy...


Equus said...

Another tip is to REST him at the spooky end - further making the right thing easy. Use approach and retreat if he doesn't want to rest close to the wall at first. WORK him whenever AWAY from the wall and REST him closer and closer to that wall until he is standing right next to it - make it (the wall) his "sweet spot", a good spot to be. Having a horse's leg aids down really helps too - as a horse spooks he arcs his body away from the spooky object, then bend him INto the object (arc his body so that his barrel is jutting TOWARDS the object, his head and hind away). This only works though if your horse has his leg aids down solid though, and particularly if he mostly trusts your leadership. Asking him to continue running after he bolts, as you suggested, is GREAT reverse psychology that also works too!! It's often a technique people don't even think to use, yet it can be very effective. Most of all, keep your own body relaxed and don't tense at, or even pay particular attention to, the spooky end of the arena - pretend all is normal. Just thought I'd add a few additional ideas!!!

Nicely dun said...


Will do, Make the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy.
He does like to LOL at me it seems, but then again, I LOL at him all the time too.

Now we definitely have some homework/experiments to do.

The Pale Horseman said...

This is advice I have followed for a while now that really does work. Nell has more or less stopped broncing in the school since I started making her work hard whenever she does it. It helps to know your horse and also be confident enough to push past the problem. I remember you talked about this quite some time ago and it has really changed the way we school now. Thankyou and hope everything works out Nicely Dun.

CinammonSwirl said...

I tried the hard working thing when my horse acted out and was just awful under saddle. Didn't work a lick with him. I could run him ragged, he'd still do it anyways.

What ended up working was giving him something to do like go over ground poles and just have little things to keep his mind alert. Turns out he was just incredibly bored. So I have to say you should at least disclaim those techniques don't always work.

OneDandyHorse said...

Great ideas everyone! Along with X's motto, mine is Be Patient and Consistent. Training a horse takes A LOT of patience, trial and error.

Cinnamon Swirl, truly not everything works for every horse, they are as diverse as human beings. Some are easily entertained, some are hard headed, some are nervous, etc. really, this is a trial and error thing... if one thing does not work (i.e. making the wrong thing hard) then maybe you should try another approach (i.e. making the right thing easy) it works both ways and it does not mean that if you run your horse to rags, that it wil automatically work... try stopping at the spot where they spook, calming them down by speaking to them... if they are bored, this might not work because you are not making them do anything... to divert their attention by sidepassing butt towards rail AND nose toward rail, if your horse does not sidepass, make something else of it, do figure eights, a small circle, etc. Run them for four turn around the arena, then slow them at the spot... whatever you can think of, but be patient. Groundpoles is a GREAT idea, it keeps their minds focused on the poles, not spooking at nothing.

My horse used to spook at our firewood pile... I made her walk past any cut timber or wood... I would act as if there was nothing there and if she ever spooked or jumped sideways, I would turn her around and make her pass it again... if she would spook... I would turn around and make her pass again... and so on until she thought it was fine and that she wanted to continu the ride... she would never get past that point no matter what, until she stopped spooking... Worked for me but some horses might take it as an advantage to not go further than this point... I analyse every situation and correct or train accordingly.