Spooky horse training tips

Riding on a spooky horse that gets scared often or even gets scared in situations that he already knows well is not very pleasant. There are two main things influencing this kind of behavior the most.

1. The first one is your horses’ temper. Shy, spooky horse can genuinely get scared of anything. While confident, more balanced horses are getting scared very rarely.

2. The second thing is the way you react when your horse gets scared.

So how do most of the riders react?

When their horse gets scared and is afraid to get closer to something, most of the riders react by letting him look at the scary thing, while they stroke him with their hand, trying to calm him down.

Or they even praise their horse.

The usual reaction when their horse gets scared jumps to the side and starts running away is quite similar. They hold on to stay in the saddle, and then after their horse stops, they go ahead and praise him.

Your horse is never going to get any better this way

I don’t think that it is correct to praise your horse for doing something wrong, or praising him for behaving in a way that you do not want.

I don’t want my horse to get scared, I don’t want my horse to stop listening to me and run away. I also don’t want my horse to be too scared to go somewhere when I ask him to go there.

You should never praise your horse for behaving in a way that you do not want.

However, you should not punish him for it either!

Maybe I am getting you a bit confused.

So what are you actually supposed to be doing when you have a spooky horse?

You should always get your horse to pay attention to you. Teach your horse to always pay attention to you and to what you want from him instead of focusing on all the things happening around.

horse paying attention

When your horse pays attention to you instead of focusing on the things laying around, he is not going to be getting scared of them.

You can offer your horse support, give him confidence and expect him to listen to you, only if he is paying full attention to you.

Your horse is going to feel alone and without a leader when he is not paying attention to you. That means that he is going to act accordingly. In those moments you turn into a passenger that is not in control.

Why is your horse not paying attention to you

(if you don’t consider that some horses are naturally going to pay more or less attention to you).

Your horse stops paying attention to you when you stop communicating with him and when you want too little from him in order to maintain his attention.

For example, if you are hacking out and you ask your horse for trot when others ask for the trot, and then five minutes later you ask for a walk when others slow down to walk, your horse is going to stop paying attention and he will switch on his “autopilot”.

You might be asking your horse to do something so rarely that he will forget that you are on his back and that he should be listening to you. When you don’t ask your horse to do anything, he will find other things to focus on and to care about. He is going to start acting according to what he thinks is the best, as if you were not there.

How do you get your horses attention?

The first thing to realize is that if you want your horse to pay attention to you, you also have to pay attention to him.

This is important with any horse, but with a spooky horse, it is even more important.

When I want to get my horses attention back I do it by asking him to do simple exercises.

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If my horse turns his head to the left and starts observing something, I am going to pull my right rein to ask him to turn his head to the right. Or I can ask him to do a small circle to the right.

If my horse starts looking at something on the right I do the opposite. I do a circle to the left, or ask him to turn his head to the left.

I do not do it as a punishment, and I use as little pressure as possible to get my horse to do what I want.

I am not turning his head to the side so he can’t see the thing that he is afraid of. He is going to be able to see it anyways even if you turn his head to the other side. I ask my horse to turn his head because it tells him “I am sitting on top of you and what I want is more important than that thing you are looking at.”

It is really important to react quickly and correct your horse as soon as you lose his attention. Ideally within 2 seconds.

If you wait until your horse gets worse, or if you wait whether things get better by themselves, everything is going to get much more difficult.

If you are consistent and always correct your spooky horse quickly enough he is soon going to learn to pay attention to you and ignore the things around. You will no longer have to keep correcting him. He is no longer going to be getting scared of a plastic bag flying by the road. It is not just going to be more pleasant for you, it is also going to be more pleasant for your horse. He will feel safe and secure under your solid leadership (by solid I do not mean harsh).

Spooky horse training tips
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