Saturday, December 8, 2012

Confronting the Spook


At what point do you determine that a horse is genuinely scared of something versus just being naughty?

Do you soothe the horse, letting him know that it's OK? Or do you discipline him in hopes that he learns he will be corrected should he act up again.

But the thing about giving discipline for naughty spooking is this: some horses are looking for that confrontation. They want you to get against them, they want to fight back, they want to get into that battle with you. So, giving them discipline is in fact just adding fuel to their fire, they will continue to spook (and spook harder) over and over again knowing that they can egg you into a fight.

As the rider it is so important to just ignore the horse and not do anything. At all. To just ride out the spook and shrug your shoulders and go "no big deal" and continue riding and doing what you were doing. To the naughty spooker this just bursts his bubble. He doesn't get the reaction he wanted from you and instead has to continue on with whatever it was that you were working on. Eventually he looses interest in spooking and becomes rideable.

But the problem with the rider is emotional attachment.  This is your horse, your friend, and you have great expectations for your horsey partner and want them to succeed so badly, so every little miss-step is a huge deal to you. You get upset that your horse is not performing and become flustered and frustrated. The horse picks up on this and it just snowballs.  I think the single hardest thing when working with a spooky or naughty horse is remaining emotionally detached. Especially with a horse you know and love. It's not easy, it's hard.

So, my plan for Cash is this: essentially stay away from that "stupid corner", work in areas of the arena that I know he'll behave in, and really focus on the core elements of his training, of staying in front of the leg and moving off the aids. Once I feel that he is more solid in listening to my cues we will readdress the issue of the spooky corner. As much as I want to push him through his spooking and try and correct it, I know I need to fix the underlying issue before I can even think about correcting the spook.

Wish me luck!


Excellent plan!! It's amazing how well it works if you can stay calm. :)

When Cuna spooks, I generally stop and turn around, just to see what exactly is bothering him. It's bad practice for 99% of horses, but he is so rarely rattled that I'm always curious what does it.

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