March 19, 2015 at 8:46 pm
My horse lives in a pasture. I don’t have access to a arena so I ride him in there. I live near a dirt rode where few cars drive on. I would like to ride him there but whenever I take him out there he freaks out. He is extremely tense and is looking everywhere not paying attention to me. He has ridden with other horses before and does well then but I don’t have access to that. What can I do to get him used to being ridden somewhere new?March 19, 2015 at 9:49 pm
If you know the things that he fears most, you can work on slowly desensitizing him at home with some of those things. Hand walking where you want to eventually ride can help as well, ‘specially where it sounds not too far from home. Is there ANYbody around with a horse that you could ride/walk to? Shorter distances more often with lots of assurance and positive reinforcement can help, too..His reluctance and discomfort in leaving home might be that he DOESN’T get to see other horses, as numbers are best, in THEIR minds. Possibly he is afraid because he feels alone.
Check diet/vitamin/mineral amounts in his feed, he might be lacking in magnesium or maybe need a vitamin supplement.
Some of these deficiencies can lead to nervous and/or unfocus’d behaviour. Can you chat with a vet?
Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.March 20, 2015 at 4:36 am
Sounds somewhat familiar! Is he alone in the pasture where he lives? If not, is there someone who could ride one of his pals with you? One thing that helped a little with my boy was to take him for a walk, letting him take his time and graze so he would relax. This has not stopped him from being afraid of things (his field, the horses with whom he lives, his run in shed, dragons, etc.), but he is better. Pheets is correct – riding in company can be a huge help to the horse and his comfort level. Riding alone can be seriously dangerous to both of you. Are there any trail clubs in your area? Could you join one? Perhaps riding him behind a calm, confident horse could boost his confidence tremendously. My solution (not recommended) was to buy a second horse, so I have one for ring work and one for trail riding. You could also start by riding him outside his field, but near enough so that he only sees things with which he is familiar, and gradually move farther and farther away as he relaxes.
It is never the horse's faultMarch 20, 2015 at 9:55 am
Thanks. He does have a little pony friend in his pasture. I don’t live in an area with lots of horses. So there isn’t anybody close I can ride with. I also don’t have a trailer to take him anywhere.
The problem with desensitizing him is that he isn’t scared of much. He is so calm and relaxed in the pasture it borders on lazy. Then when I take him out he gets really tense.March 20, 2015 at 10:26 am
Really sounds like he doesn’t want to be alone. Desensitizing WOULD be pretty ineffective. Teach him how to pony the little guy, then take them out together?
Probably should mention the standard saddle fit, teeth and foot integrity points to consider.
Might take some time and negotiation but maybe consider a boarder for company?
I understand the frustration of looking at a mellow horse, desiring a civil ride and NOT getting it.
Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.March 20, 2015 at 10:35 am
A good trail horse is a mixture of sensitizing and de-sensitizing. Some ground work teaching this horse to focus on you would go a long way to build the confidence he needs to go outside his comfort zone. Clinton Anderson’s theory is that if the horse is moving he is “thinking” rather than “reactive”. He applies this by working the horse around things he is afraid of effectively desensitizing him to it.
This is how I apply his thinking: Work in the pasture on sidepassing, flexing, and leg yields and develop a pattern that you can use as you step into an area where your horse builds anxiety. Make him THINK and WORK and divert his fear. This is sensitizing him to you. I’ve found this works if you are not dealing with buddy sour or barn sour which is different than fear of the trail. Use your “workout pattern” when his head goes up and he stops listening to you. A pattern works best because then you are accessing his memory and he has to THINK rather than REACT. Make it complicated. Leg yield right, leg yield left, turn on fore, flex left, flex right, turn on fore, sidepass left, as an example. You can lop off more and more of it as he gains confidence going down the road.
Food is a better motivator for mares, but also works with geldings. I’d take a flake of hay down the road about half mile or so. Then walk him down to it. Stand there a while and let him eat it and let him get comfortable with his surroundings. Do this for a few days until he gets the idea you’re going somewhere desirable. Then take him out of the pasture – mount – and ride him to the hay spot – dismount and walk him back. IMHE, the biggest protest against the unfamiliar will happen within .5 miles of home.
FACT: Most trail horses are better behaving OFF their own property. To cure barn and buddy sour – work the crap out of him in the pasture and ease up on the road – let him relax and walk on the road. In the pasture, trot, trot, then trot some more. Do leg yields and serpentines and turns on the fore and turns on the rear. When he is sick of trotting and going in circles he’ll LOVE going out on the nice straight (now familiar) road. From this point on, no relaxing rides in the pasture, make him sweat and get tired. He can rest on the road…
Reward any progress he makes by not venturing out too far and always stop on a high note. Don’t let him run back home, ever, if he increases speed, spin him around and take him back out. He’ll soon figure that if he increases speed he can only do that in the opposite direction of home – not his goal.
The very best option is to invite a buddy over to help him get familiar with the road, but as you have said this is unavailable to you, it may take a bit longer, but if you are consistent, kind, and develop a pattern he can follow when nervous, you’ll go a long way to relieve his anxiety.
Mom voice on/
I have one major concern – please let someone know you are working with a nervous horse and where you are going – have them check on you while you are working. Wear a helmet. I see countless people on the trails and very few ride wearing helmets. If a horse can hurt Olympian equestrians, it can hurt you and 99% of fatal injuries on horseback are head injuries.
Mom voice off/
Keep us posted. (Okay, that sounded a bit “momish” too.) Good luck.
Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...March 20, 2015 at 10:42 am
To clarify the importance of this bit of advice:
The reason you dismount and walk him back after he ventures forth is that the dismount is in itself a BIG reward.
Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...March 21, 2015 at 5:28 am
Had another thought – is it possible that he is freaky because his pony companion is not with him? Sometimes, when two horses, horse/goat, horse/cat, etc. are separated, it causes problems. I have known people in such a situation who could not ride unless they had someone to ride the other horse along with them.
It is never the horse's faultMarch 21, 2015 at 8:58 am
That is possible. He is a very friendly horse. My pony,Jake, is too small to be ridden. I may have to teach him to be ponied and take him with us.March 21, 2015 at 10:09 am
Bringing the pony is not the safest solution. You pony if the horse you are on is the sane one. What happens if both spook?
You will be able to take your horse independently with a little sensitizing to you by teaching him a routine, and desensitizing him to the newness of the trail. Keep the faith in yourself and your horse. By the time you get your horse able to pony another horse safely, you won’t need the pony.
Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...March 21, 2015 at 10:36 am
Unless you have a lot of experience ponying, I don’t recommend it. Perhaps you could rent someone to ride with you?
It is never the horse's faultMarch 21, 2015 at 11:46 am
Because I pony a LOT, I think nothing of it other than an efficient and useful tool at times. My apologies for not taking safety into consideration in writing for one that has never ponied another horse/pony before. Behind you guys 100%. I admit to much complacence in my world. Thanks for the wake up call, Guys!!
Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.March 21, 2015 at 2:05 pm
Pheets – because I have both been ponied and been the pony (rider), I think of it as something that could be really serious if the horses in question aren’t accustomed to it. Easy way to get badly hurt, particularly when alone. It is a convenient way to take two horses somewhere with a minimum of effort, but this poster doesn’t seem to have any safety net available.
It is never the horse's faultMarch 21, 2015 at 4:14 pm
Thanks for the advice. I’ll work on desensitizing him to the trail.March 21, 2015 at 5:50 pm
Dillon – good luck, and let us know how you fare.
It is never the horse's fault
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