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Spooky/Worried OTTB

This topic contains 16 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  aubrey_osborne 1 year, 4 months ago.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 17 total)
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  • aubrey_osborne Original Poster
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 2

    I moved my OTTB over a year ago from the desert of eastern Washington to the wet and forest side of western Washington. Ever since hat happened my guy has been super worried about everything around him. He’s very spooky which makes it hard to get much accomplished when riding. Mind you I could put a child on him before and now he’s worse off than he was when I first took him off the track. I discovered about a year ago that he had ulcers in which I treated them and now he is on SmartGut Ultra and SmartCalm Ultra. He’s never been a hot horse, but he does have a very busy mind. In constant need of something new to learn and do. Repetition is definitely not his thing so he gets bored which I think has something to do with it. So far all I can accomplish is riding in one spot that he occasionally will spook at. Anywhere else I take him on the property especially the outdoor arena he will breath heavy and tense up. He knows his ground manners very well believe me we have worked and worked on those. He is very respectful Pretty much he’s ok on the ground and a mess when I ride. I’m a pretty confident person but unfortunately don’t have a western saddle to “cowboy” him so I’m stuck in my English saddle trying to work him past his spooks. What’s worked as of lately is when I longe him or walk him around the property is to look away at what he’s gawking at as if to ignore it and he responds well with that. I’m just having a hard time connecting that when I ride. I’ve also asked him to move forward when he slows down at the trot or canter to look at something which helps but he drops his shoulder and is a mess afterwards. And when I try to correct him its a fight and he tenses up more. Any advise would be appreciated. Thanks!

    Challenge me, dare me, or even defy me. But do not underestimate me. For on the back of my horse, anything is possible.

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Do you have a friend who could pony him with you on him? It should be familiar to him, and give him some confidence. With my own horses, I make them nervous, and just keep compounding my own problems, which are similar to yours, albeit for different reasons.

    It is never the horse's fault

    aubrey_osborne Original Poster
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 2

    I do not have anyone. Their are other boarders but they are only sunny day riders who think my horse is the devil and don’t feel comfortable with it. I wish I had a western saddle and I’d probably feel more confident but its hard to stay in my seat when he bolts the way he does.

    Challenge me, dare me, or even defy me. But do not underestimate me. For on the back of my horse, anything is possible.

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    The type of saddle does not make a real difference, except in one’s mind. Have you tried just letting him stop and take a good look at whatever he thinks is scary? That helps mine somewhat. Another thing that helped (although it sounds crazy) was taking Valerian myself, so that I am less edgy, and therefore less likely to affect my horses. It is available in the vitamin section of almost everywhere, and won’t make you groggy or anything else that could create a dangerous situation. I grew up with TBs – on and off the track, and generally they were less likely to spook at things because they experienced so much that the average horse would find terrifying. As for bolting, one thing that can work well is to turn him in a direction he does not wish to go. He’ll stop. He should also consider that a cue to slow down and stop is for you to stand up in the stirrups and lean a bit back – watch a video of a race and you will see what I mean. It might also help you if you can get someone to longe him with you on him, preferably in the arena, so there isn’t really anywhere for him to go. Your other boarders do not sound like very helpful people, and help with someone who knows what s/he is going is what you need. Is this just a boarding facility, or is there a trainer/instructor available?

    It is never the horse's fault

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Forgot – does he have a particular friend? Would he like a goat of his very own? Horses need companionship, and that might help him settle. Maybe you could find some good suggestions from the RRP, which you can find on Facebook.

    It is never the horse's fault

    G & S
    Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 249

    Horses are herd animals who take their cues about potential dangers from their herd mates and the head horse. Since most horses no longer live in a herd situation, they transfer head horse status to their riders. And they are incredibly sensitive to minute changes of the rider’s weight and tension in the rider’s body. A tense rider can be accidentally telling the horse that there is something potentially dangerous in the immediate vicinity just by tensing up. It never occurs to the horse that the rider is reacting to what the horse is doing, because the head horse would not do so. Learning to control body tension on a tense horse is not easy but doable. Joe-Joe’s suggestion about a calming agent for the rider could actually help, but you will want to try it out off the horse before you try it out on the horse. You can also teach yourself to relax muscle groups off the horse as well. Most of us carry a lot more tension in our bodies than we realize.

    TrishDarby
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 4

    I have two horses on Magnesium and B 1 Pellets, which seems to help a lot – you can give more or less Magnesium depending on the need. The mare also get Raspberry leaves, which levels her “mareishness” out. The Magnesium and B 1 appear to help the horses focus, and not be so reactive.

    Trish Darby

    Ottblover325
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    I would recommend ground training. I would watch some episodes on Clinton Anderson (down under horsemanship) to pick up on a few tips to gain respect and trust from your guy. I have a tb who is 17 and off the track and he can get a little side tracked. I had him since he was 5 and have gone through so many different training methods including different bits, extra lessons and other people riding him. Once I watched he’d Clinton Anderson and got my horse to move his feet and make him think, I would get much better results and he would listen to me 100%. I tried the smartpak ultracalm but it didn’t seem to help. As far as keeping him thinuking (while riding him) do bending halts (where you eould bend his head to your knee to stop him from bolting)if he tries to run away with you. Clinton Anderson has a good video on it. Also I do alot of circles big and small in the corners and if he’s bad about it I make him do it again and make sure he engages his hind quarters to really work and not be lazy. Hope this helps.

    bzovko
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    Put yourself in his shoes. Think like a horse. Remember, a horse will be scared out of his wits over a horse-eating butterfly!

    If you were were afraid of heights and standing at the edge of a cliff and a friend came up behind you and gave you a push (just for fun), how do you think that would make you feel? And what if that friend did it every time you were near an edge? Sooner or later you are going to turn on that friend and let him have it, aren’t you?

    You are like that friend to him. So stop pushing! The first thing you should do is get off so you can be safe, or he’s going to take matters into his own hands (or feet) and sooner or later he will flee from danger because that’s what his genetics have bred him to do. Then, do advance and retreat until he is able to move past whatever is disturbing him in a relaxed manner. Respect his fear and take the time it takes, not rushing him.

    Do this every time he hesitates. Soon he will realize you are taking care of his needs and putting him first by making him feel safe because you are not pushing him over the edge. You are making him braver and his spookiness will subside because he will trust that you won’t put him in the way of that horse-eating butterfly. You will have become the leader he needs.

    tabitha
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 7

    Hi and Nicker,
    Ok you have a very nice horse, remember that! Try earplugs, Pomms are great, they do a wonderful job of dampening the sounds and are suppose to stimulate a calming acupressure point just be careful not to pull on his ear hairs taking them out! Your horse is now hearing many sounds emanating from the trees that are triggering his flight response, don’t forget they hear from longer distances and those branches(especially with breeze and wind) along with all the critters scurrying around is like Times Square Manhattan to him, he needs time to adjust, the year you have been there means nothing yet, smells are different(are there deer in the woods? Hunters).
    I love circles over rails for the shoulder dropping. Remember inside leg to outside rein to set the perimeters and inside opening rein to invite him to “step thru the door your opening” Do not use inside indirect rein it throws off the balance of his hindquarters, regular direct rein comes later when you start to feel the shoulder is no longer dropping.
    As horsepeople there is an art to our discipline, we all want to be respected for what we know and bring to the sandbox, we open ourselves to a lot of scrutiny, its hard on us to move to a new barn. Just remember your relationship with your horse is number one, regain your bond with him, understand your Both under a lot of pressure, sing a silly song while you ride, tell him a joke, relax and have some fun :-)

    Chris
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 14

    Lots of excellent advice, but you don’t mention how much your horse is turned out or whether he’s with other horses. If you can just offer him lots of freedom in a herd situation (where the other horses aren’t afraid of their environment) I think he might work off a lot of this tension on his own. He can explore new sights, sounds and smells at his own pace. And if he is out with other horses, make sure another horse isn’t bullying him, especially if he tends to be lower in the pecking order. I’ve seen totally amazing changes in horses’ personalities by addressing just these two issues.

    bzovko
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    He’s letting you know where his thresholds are. Respect them. Start with the outdoor arena. Stop where he first hesitates. That’s a threshold. Don’t push him over it. Retreat and advance, and retreat and advance, again and again and again until he can move calmly past that threshold. Repeat this every time he hits a threshold, which may only be another foot away. You may not get very far at first. This is a process. It is not a physical thing, it is a mental thing. You have to get into his brain and his feet will follow. Horses are “prey animals” and they think that a horse-eating butterfly is going to kill them! By forcing him past his thresholds he is forced to internalize his fears and eventually could explode because he thinks he’s going to die. Every time he can walk calmly past one, you are building his confidence and he will put more trust in you that you are helping him to be safe. Horses don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!

    Olivier@horseComUSA
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    Horses don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!

    I love this one!

    amazonafaun
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    I am a western Washington rider, too, and I understand what you are experiencing well. Many years ago I moved my old Arab from California open country to the heavily-wooded Pacific Northwest. I struggled with him at first, but then I thought about it more deeply and changed my approach when I noticed that many horses I have known are generally less-comfortable in the woods than they are when they are in open spaces, some just handle it better.

    Horses are creatures of the open plains, and are perfectly evolved to survive in flat or rolling grasslands where they can see for miles and run fast in any direction when needed. Many of the same systems that serve them well in that environment fail them in what feels like the confines of a forest. If you have a horse that is naturally more vigilant (and some just are), and/or less trusting, you are going to struggle with this more.

    Horses are naturally far-sighted, so that they can see a potential threat a long ways before it is actually a danger, and decide what, if anything to do about it. They see fairly poorly, and do not have great depth perception, at close range. They also have good spatial memories about what should be where, but their brains (bless their hearts) are set up to map a few clumps of trees here and there in a mostly open space, not the infinite complexity of a dense forest that they can’t see all that well.

    As a horse in the forest, there are a gazillion things that might be a threat, but it’s hard to tell (especially when you are being asked to move fast), and if you decide (rightly or wrongly) that something actually is a threat, it’s already close enough to “get” you by the time you figure it out. And then if you think you want to flee that threat, you may or may not have an open path to safety away from it. When I think of how horses experience that environment (especially the hotties), I can be much more patient with the ones that struggle to function in it.

    Also remember that if your horse starts to feel scared in his new environment, and you inadvertently do something to reinforce that fear (like force him forward, or get scared yourself), you have just reinforced his basic understanding that this environment is really threatening, and he needs to be even more careful (what we call spooky) in the future.

    Like others have suggested, patience is what it takes, and the ability for you to remain calm when your horse’s natural fear starts to take hold. It may mean you have a very slow, quiet year while you gradually acclimate him to his new environment using gentle, trust-building, ground techniques, then transitioning to baby steps on his back- especially since you will be working on your own fear at the same time. In my experience, these types of horses may always be a little edgier in the woods than they are in the open, but they can be ridden safely when they learn to trust you aren’t ever going to take them somewhere that is actually going to harm them.

    I am not sure where in WA you are, but if you’re on the Kitsap Peninsula, perhaps we can connect in real life since it sounds like you haven’t found sympathetic help out here. Sorry! There are nice, patient riders in the area, you just can’t see them for all the trees…

    Risa’s Mom
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    I can relate to your situation and here’s why: We purchased and shipped a Fox Trotter/TWH from Tennessee to Redmond, WA. He came from wide-open spaces to Western Washington trees! He was a spooky mess for the year we had him there. Wind and rain in the trees didn’t help either. We tried different calming supplements (didn’t help much) as well as lots of natural horsemanship methods (Clinton Anderson, etc.). His temperament/personality was already very sensitive (didn’t take much to ask a little for a lot), but the enclosed environment of all the trees made him feel trapped and claustrophobic. You could see him thinking “There must be a horse-eating boogie-something in that forest!” It’s just a different “world” out on a trail, too, than an arena. He actually performed much better in a covered arena. After that first year of owning him in WA, we moved to southwest Idaho, with high desert & wide open spaces, and he changed overnight. Although he is still a sensitive horse, he is more calm and connected to the rider in this environment. My answer for western WA: Ground work in the trees. Get him used to the thinking side of his brain (instead of reactionary side) to get his focus on and trust in you when he is surrounded by trees (or anything scary). The Clinton Anderson Method is great for this. Also the use of a “dead broke” horse to read off of is a great idea. Whether or not the trees are his issue, I hope the best for you and your TB!

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