Horses are very unpredictable at times. At one moment they are afraid of a large puddle and another moment they are jumping out of their skin from the sight of their own shadow. It’s really tough sometimes to know how to deal with and help a horse who spooks easily. Sometimes, people who don’t deal with the issue at hand, immediately run into more problems in the future. As horse riders, we need to learn how to help our horses who spook and prevent further issues from developing. Today, I am sharing with you 3 tips that I feel can help a horse that spooks. I hope that you enjoy the tips and most of all find them super helpful!
Tip #1 – Develop a Well-Rounded Horse From the Beginning
Well-rounded basically means varied or balanced. To have and develop a well-rounded horse means to experience many different things with that horse. It might mean going to a horse show or a clinic, tagging along with a couple of friends on a trail ride, doing groundwork with your horse, or even completing an obstacle course. The first trail ride might be a bit scary for your horse in the beginning, depending on how they typically react, but eventually your horse will get used to it and learn to enjoy trail rides. Trying different activities with your horse can also gives your horse a change of scenery and this can help your horse to become desensitized to things that might be scary for him. This will also help you to become a more well-rounded rider!
Tip #2 – Desensitizing Game
Something that has really helped me with regards to my horse spooking is something I like to call the desensitizing game. This can also be called the “Friendly Game” created by Pat Parelli. It is a great groundwork exercise to do with your horse! Basically all you need is a long lunge whip and your horse. Swing the long whip around your horse’s head, run it along their body, and wiggle it under their belly. This really helps to desensitize your horse to things that might be scary and help them to remain calm when they come across something new. When they are calm, you will then be able to remove the thing that was scary to prevent a bigger problem from happening. The “Friendly Game” can also help your horse to stay calm while at a horse show as there are many scary objects such as flags and flapping coats that may otherwise send your horse into a spook. I definitely recommend doing this exercise with your horse!
Tip #3 – Have Patience and Stay Safe
I feel that this may be the most important tip out of the 3… have patience and stay safe. I started my riding journey almost 7 years ago and the biggest tip I have learned along the way is to have patience. To have patience even when your horse is frustrating or not understanding what you are trying to ask them. If your horse is continuing to spook, have patience and try to remain calm (even if you are freaking out inside). When you are calm, your horse will be calm as well. Horses basically “mirror” our actions and emotions. So, if we are tense, they will likely be tense as well. If we stay calm, they will likely stay calm as well. A tip I learned from my trainer is to stay level. Basically that means to have no emotion when your horse spooks. Act like nothing happened and they will be more likely to turn it around. Safety is so important when involved with horses as, yes, they are a one thousand pound animal. Always stay safe and be wise in dangerous situations. This will not only protect yourself, but it will protect your horse as well!
Until next time… don’t forget to hug your horse!
What is your tip to dealing with a horse that spooks?