Horses spook at all sorts of things. If a horse gets frightened, the first thing he’ll look for is how to get away. That’s when you could lose your saddle or hurt yourself.
Horses spook at all sorts of things. Some of the common problems for horses who spook are plastic bags, flapping flags and children running around, but horses can also be frightened by more natural causes like a snake or something else that you didn’t see coming.
If a horse gets frightened, the first thing he’ll look for is how to get away from whatever is scaring him. That’s when you could lose your saddle or hurt yourself.
The most common causes of spooking are plastic shopping bags, flapping flags and children running around while the horse is being led.
Before you start thinking about how to stop this behavior, first it is important to understand why a horse spooks. It could be because he is afraid of something – he associates the object with fear or there are things in his environment he cannot see and therefore cannot work out what they are. Horses have an acute sense of hearing and smell but their sight isn’t as good as ours, so flapping flags and plastic shopping bags can be very scary for them.
How would you feel if you were blindfolded and then someone ran into your path? You too would probably jump! So when people run around the stable yard while a horse is being led toward them, this can frighten the animal making it bolt. Other examples include loud noises such as cars backfiring or fireworks. The horse will then associate this noise with danger which means that when next he hears it, he will spook again.
Your horse will spook less if he’s well adjusted to his routine and surroundings. Your horse will also be much less likely to spook if he’s fit, settled and relaxed.
- Spooking: A spook is a sudden movement, usually caused by fear. Horses spook when they see, hear or feel something that frightens them.
- Signs: You can tell your horse is about to spook if he stops and stares intently at something in the distance, or if his ears are back and he’s looking around nervously. This is known as ‘ear pinning.’
- Causes: There are various things that can cause your horse to spook: busy traffic, other animals (dogs and sheep are common causes), loud noises from machinery or fireworks, being startled by an object or person jumping out at him while riding past. The list goes on!
- How to stop it: Though you can never 100 percent prevent your horse from spooking entirely, you can help reduce the number of times it happens. Training will go a long way towards making him more confident in situations where he might feel threatened. Long-reining him on roads will help get him used to traffic noise; taking him into different environments – such as arenas and woods – will show him he’s safe in new places; getting a friend to jump out at you when riding past will give him confidence that nothing bad is going to happen when people approach you!
If your horse is constantly on the alert and uptight, take some time to work on his ground manners and training before you get back in the saddle.
There are few things more frustrating than a horse that spooks at everything. Fortunately, most horses can be trained to stop spooking. If your horse is constantly on the alert and uptight, take some time to work on his ground manners and training before you get back in the saddle:
- Why are ground manners important?
- Riding is only part of our relationship with our horses, but they need to be safe on the ground too. A lack of ground manners can be dangerous for both you and your horse. Imagine leading a horse with no respect for you as a person or space boundries: He might run over your feet or legs when eating hay or grain from a feed bucket, step up behind you while in cross-ties or accidentally bite you while doing something as simple as adjusting his bridle!
- How do I address my horse’s lack of ground manners?
- Before addressing these issues from the saddle, start by working with him from the ground. Begin by teaching him basic commands like “whoa” (stop), “back” (move backward) and “stand” (stand still). By establishing yourself as an authority figure, your horse will feel more confident both under saddle and in other situations involving humans.
Get professional help from a trainer if your horse has become very anxious, isn’t leaving any food or appears to be losing weight as a result of anxiety.
If you are unable to identify the reason for your horse’s anxiety or your efforts to calm them down aren’t effective, it may be time to seek professional help from a trainer. A trainer will have greater experience with horses and can understand their behavior better and quickly identify issues that are causing anxiety. They will also know many different ways in which you can help your horse feel more comfortable and calm around the things that make them anxious.
In extreme cases, if your horse has become extremely anxious as a result of spooking then it is possible that they might need medical attention. This might involve administering tranquilizers or some other medication under the supervision of a veterinarian. Symptoms of severe anxiety include:
- Your horse isn’t leaving any food
- Your horse appears to be losing weight
If these symptoms occur then it is definitely time to get help from a professional trainer or veterinarian immediately so they can help you figure out why your horse is so anxious and what you can do about it.
It’s natural for horses to be curious about new things, so don’t punish an inquisitive nature – instead, teach your horse what is safe for him to investigate and what isn’t.
It’s natural for horses to be curious about new things, so don’t punish an inquisitive nature – instead, teach your horse what he can and cannot investigate.
Out in the field a horse will spend hours trying new plants to eat or exploring different parts of the field. On occasion they will try something out of the ordinary and have a bad reaction but most of the time they learn that it’s safe which is why we are with them 24/7 and can spot this before it becomes a problem. When riding you should follow suit, if your horse gets spooked you may be inclined to pull back on their head but this just tells them that pulling back on the reins is an acceptable solution to their problem. Instead teach them that what has scared them isn’t actually scary by talking softly and going forward calmly.
Don’t punish your equine friend for having an inquisitive mind!
Avoid always riding the same route or doing the same activities with your horse as this can lead to boredom – and boredom can lead to stress which in turn can lead to spooking. Vary his routine as often as possible.
There are several things you can do to vary your horse’s routine each day. Try any or all of the following:
- Ride in a different area. This could mean crossing the road, riding down a street, or even taking your horse to a new event altogether. The key is to break up his normal routine and change up what he sees on a regular basis.
- Another way you can mix up his daily life is by changing the activity you’re doing with him from time to time. This will not only keep your horse engaged and interested but it will also keep him stimulated and learning new things rather than getting bored with the same old thing every day (and potentially spooking).![horse](https://user-images.githubusercontent.com/32105705/36371170-6813d398-1539-11e8-8045-50e9218b5f28.jpg)