Monday, April 28, 2008

What is your horse afraid of?

Good thing I hadn't planned on riding tonight anyway, because we had the return of the Jack Donkey from Hell.

There's this little old horse dealer type guy who, for reasons known only to him, occasionally parks a trailer in the parking lot here overnight with his jack donkey in it. J.D. does not shut up the whole time. Bray, bray, stomp, stomp, bray, bray.

My VLC, who normally never spooks at anything, is terrified of this donkey. Or rather, I think he is probably afraid of the fact that there is a trailer that sounds like a very loud donkey. You can't see the donkey, so you merely hear the braying and the stomping. We had to lead past it to turn out and come back in tonight. He was flipped out. Neck arched, snorting, trying to run around me in a circle, totally out of character for him. I put my elbow into his shoulder to keep him from crowding me and made him walk past, but he was not thrilled.

Of course, it occurs to me that we may encounter a donkey at some point in our future performance career, and it would be a good idea to desensitize him. This is easier said than done. Apparently the jack donkey is a breeding donkey and extremely aggressive, so the last thing I am going to do is put my horse anywhere near him. The VLC is not afraid of cattle or llamas, so maybe he won't be afraid of a donkey that isn't having a shit fit in a horse trailer, but I don't want to find out the hard way. I think I need to find a friend with a gentle donkey I can introduce him to!

OK, what's your horse's biggest fear? Is it something you can mostly avoid or something you are going to have to get him or her desensitized to? What's your plan for doing so? Do you think the horse is as scared of X at this point as you are of the horse's possible/potential reaction to X? Are you spooking your horse? (Lots of us do this. You know, the horse has spooked at X three times before, so when we spot X, we literally spook in the saddle, whether or not the horse does a thing. I admit it! I've done it! Who else?)

On a related note: Can we desensitize ourselves to things we fear the same way we desensitize our horses? I think that we can. Let's say we're scared to jump an X. Won't it help to trot over a ground pole 50 times and then the half-X 50 more times? Sure it will. It wears down the fear. You realize you probably really aren't going to die. So what do you fear doing on horseback, and is it something you can desensitize yourself to by easing into it, one baby step at a time, with lots of repetition so that the positive experience gets drilled into your head?


Diane said...

My gelding is ABSOLUTELY terrified of umbrellas. As far as we know, he's never had a bad incident with one, but that's mostly likely because the second he spots an open umbrella, he heads as far and as fast as he can in the opposite direction. We worked with him for several months. I'd carry an umbrella int he stall, groom him with it, open them and leave them near the arena fence, the grooming rack, even tried putting his dinner in one once (like a big upside down cereal bowl. Tasty!) Nothing worked. He never got over it, and now that he's living the life of Riley with his harem of retired mares, there's not much need to terrorize him with it in the hopes that he will overcome his fear. He's 29, he's entitled to a little paranoia.

My mare was scared of the sound the spray bottle makes, which is understandable since she grew up in the western part of the state, where there are lots of rattlesnakes. The warning rattle sounds suspiciously like fly spray. We solved it by keeping her fly spray in a coffee can with old rags, and then wiping her down instead of spraying her. It saved time, hassle, and greatly reduced the amount of flyspray needed to achieve the same results.

L.L. said...

We used to own a HUGE appendix QH and he was horrified by a llama. We had actually sold him to some folks and they had 1 llama. This horse tried to climb the side of the barn when he saw that....THING. We ended up taking the horse back because after 2 weeks of being at the new place, he was still having fits all day long about the llama.

Jan said...

when I first brought Patch to the barn where we board, a horse was colicing. The owners were walking the horse while waiting for the vet. Horse was wearing a cooler so only the nose and legs showed. This "thing" in distress at the opposite end of the arena was gonna eat Patch, he knew it . . . (horse was put down)

For several months Patch would react very badly to blankets flapping in the wind. I did a lot of advance and retreat desensitization with him. Patch sometimes still doesn't like things flapping in the wind, like loose mumus on women at the sidelines of a parade . . . and he notices with a headpopping snort, but doesn't want to leave the state.

My3Arabs said...

Nothing bothers my boys but being ridden alone. That is one of the many things I have to work on this yr.

My biggest fear on a horse is having the horse flip over on me. I have had it happen before and just barely got most of myself off.

I rode my big ole TWH tonight for the second time. He has a very high head carriage and it scares me. He was ridden for the past many many yrs in a bit that was an inch too small for him so he tosses his head a lot. His new one fits great and is a very mild "c" curb. He isn't used to it at all so he still throws his head a bit. That head tossing terrifies me.

I had my husband lead him around while I was up on him. I was trying to be sure that he wasn't too mad about the bit and that he would listen to me. After about 15 minutes I had hubby remove the lead but walk with us a little bit longer. Then of course Noggin out walked hubby and we were on our own.

He doesn't really listen to the bit but he does neck rein beautifully. He isn't used to calf contact on his sides, I rode him in my AP saddle. He did good as long as I talked to him but the minute I turned him to go to the left he sped up and did his TWH gait. Smooth but hard to ride when you have never ridden it before.

He also would throw his head when asked to slow down or whoa to the left. So that freaked me out and during this whole time I have having a conversation with myself in my head to calm myself down.

I have a lot of work to do with him but I will not ride unless someone else is there to help out if things go south.

Sort of off topic. My son is an artist and he is drawing up a CSS (Chicken Shit Syndrome) chicken for me. It is drooling with google eyes and I hope to have it on a shirt this summer. I am going to have him draw one of the same chicken on a horse too!

apocalypsepony said...

Well, so far just the sight of me in the saddle. But give us time. He's experienced so few really freaky things. He wasn't here when the stray emu visited. Everybody freaked over the emu.

I have a mare that is afraid of the sheep after they are sheared. The sudden change in their appearance seems to make her think they are whole flock of something new.

Sagebrusheq said...

I find it interesting that horses feel so strongly, initially, about donkeys and mules because they're so much alike. "Don'tcha know me? I'm your little baby." But boy they sure know the difference. They get quite attached though once they get to know each other and donkeys are very protective of those they love. Woe to the dog who can't tell the difference between the two equine cousins. Donkeys don't run past and count coup with predators like horses are apt to do. They chase, corner, bite, stomp, and kill them dead. And then stomp them again for good measure. But back to horses.

With young horses I used to stop by where some mules were corralled just to get them used to the critters (there's nothing like introducing your horse to mules,for the first time, on a narrow mountain trail to convince you that this is something that should be addressed under controlled conditions). The mules would come up to the fence to get their apples and always looked so friendly and curious to meet their snooty relatives, and the horses would be so, well, snorty. But it never took long for the horses to get over it.

Spray bottles are a not uncommon fear with horses, and some could care less. I've wracked by brains over that one but have no theories on it; and had one horse that, like Diane mentions, would not get over it. I used well known methods that always worked for me with other horses but to no avail. Then I got serious. For a couple of weeks I had spray bottles filled with water within handy reach everywhere. I would spray while doing chores, irrigating, drinking beer, you name it, even leaving the house to feed I'd be spraying away. And I worked with him in his stall everyday, it became a real challenge for me. I could always get him to relax, ignore, and accept it but the next day he would be worse. It got to where he would get nervous when he knew I was anywhere about, spraying or not, and at that point I gave it up. It took a while to get his confidence back again.

Let's see what else? Sometimes it's surprising the things they're NOT afraid of. You'd think that an animal that goes berserk at the sight of a toddler on a tricycle a 1/4 mile down the road would also have concerns about a shiny double-trailer semi bearing down on him, lit up like a christmas tree and belching black smoke as it comes; but it ain't necessarily so.
Or how about 'funny looking rock' vs 'sheer cliff'. That's always a disconcerting experience that imparts a deeper appreciation for outside aids than can be acquired in the manege.

It's just the way people think. And I'm very skeptical of theories by people who think they're privy to the mysteries of how horses think. If it works for you that's a good thing, but I don't take them to be literally true.


Liri said...

My gelding has issues with deworming and sunscreen (his nose is white and burns easily). I'm pretty sure he's not actually scared of them, and is just being a brat, but he will throw a HUGE FIT about things like that.

He is, however, TERRIFIED of ropes being swung at him, lunge whips, and anything moving over the level of his head. He was abused pretty badly before I got a hold of him.

He is slowly getting desensitized to the rope/lunge whip thing, but I am almost at a loss as to what to do about deworming. I don't really want to spend an hour fighting with him over it every couple of months, and then spending the next week trying to get him to let me near his face again. We were very gentle with him last time he did it, but he was still horrible. He's also extremely strong, so jerking his head away from you is easy.

Ezme said...

We had a shire cross cob who we bought from gypsys as a youngster but he has a very good head bred into him and I'd never seen him spook at anything in is life. He was brave to the point of almost bolshy. He was a driving horse and we would put him in a pair with a younster and he would practically drag them past anything they though scary which was a god send. Anyway we'd had him about eight years when we got called up for the queen mothers hundreth birthday in london. Now we are in North devon (opposite side of england) and although our horses have done parades, carnivals, weddings and the like it doesnt really compare to walking down the Mall and past Buckingham Palace! We got to london and he was fine, a bit worried about being in a loose box on the 2nd floor but went up the ramps find, the next day was the parade. We put to, went out, and there it was.... A CAMEL! That was it. He was terrified which of course scared the horse next to him who was used to bumble being a rock. Well none of us knew what to do, tell him not be be such a prat and give him a touch of the stick or reassure him? Eventaully we got a lead from another vehical and drove around london like a lamb but never again did he go near a camel. Figured there wasnt any point (or opertunity) to desensitise him to camels and he worked happilly for another 4 years ish before he had do be retired due to DJD. I never met a horse like him, before or since.

Mads said...

With my silly little gelding it was poles when we were bending. I started him doing games at Pony Club when he was six and the first time I had a pole in my hand it was OMG I'M GOING TO DIE. He's okay now, but that was amusing.

Speaking of games, I was once jumping a little super fast ex-barrels pony. He kept trying to go right up to the barrels someone had put in the arena after he jumped. Finally, he slammed himself into the barrels and got the shock of his life. He bucked around the arena like a mad man. Of course, the horse never went to close to the barrels unless you made him after that.

However, it's my 21 year old absolutely 100% bombproof rescue standardbred who has the problem. Goats. Now, this horse will see a massive semi-trailer truck on the road and not bat an eyelash, I was hacking along the road with him once when about 30 motorbikes went by- absolutely fine, kangaroos and wombats dart in front of him- fine, he even reversed calmly away from a snake once! But his problem is goats.

I was trail riding once with a friend. She was on Mr. Perfect Standardbred and I was on my younger horse. There was a goat on a property we were walking past and it ran over to the fence. My younger horse was fine, just like it was anything else- older horse REARED and freaked out and tried to bolt in the opposite direction.
Once we got over the shock it was slightly funny. My 16.2, mature, lovely, perfect standie ... afraid of a goat.

BigRedTrain said...

Re: Deworming-

Hopefully, your horse likes sweet things, such as molasses or applesauce. Save an empty tube of dewormer, load it up with something yummy, and dose him with it every day. Before too long (with luck), deworming will be a treat, and you'll be home free. It might surprise him the first time or two to get real dewormer instead of his treat, but he'll get over it pretty quickly.

If your horse doesn't have a sweet tooth, then I think you're just out of luck. Have you considered one of those deworming bridles? It's got a hollow bit that you fill up with dewormer, and you can squeeze it into the back of your horses mouth.

Good luck!

4Horses&Holding said...

My pinto is scared of just about everything. Or he was. I'd never met a more 'fraidy-cat' horse in my life.

I couldn't rush riding him anyway (as I was always home alone), so I spent a long time (over a year regularly, and still ongoing occasionally) "playing" with him - doing bomb-proof / desensitizing type work with him.

He's still not a brave horse, but when faced with something scary, you can see him make a conscious decision to stand and face it. It's hard for him sometimes, but he tries so hard to be brave. God forbid a REAL horse-eating monster ever jumped out at him. :) I've got him convinced right now that they're just in his imagination. He is okay with umbrellas, tarps, tents, balls, go-karts, bikes, anything I've thought of to expose him to, sometimes I have to talk him down a bit to get him to relax, but he's 180 degrees away from the horse he used to be.


I have another horse who is not afraid of anything. Before I got him, he was hauled with another horse to an arena. While they were there, a 'convention' of motorcycles showed up. My friend said there were hundreds of them. Loud, revving motorcycles - she said he didn't bat an eye.

4Horses&Holding said...


Thank you for taking away the verification letters! THANK YOU!

SOSHorses said...

When my red gelding was young he was terrified of deer. We live in a rural area so seeing deer is almost an everyday thing. After the deer began sharing the pasture with him he has decided he likes them and instead of running/spooking from them the would rather chase them. Which is almost the same effect. Instead of whirling and running away, you have about one second to tell him HO, or you are on a deer chase.

readytoride said...

bigredtrain- I also used the "syrup in a paste wormer tube" when trained my previously unhandled PMU foal to accept paste worming. He had never had wormer before so his first experience with a paste worming tube was one filled with yummy syrup.

It worked so well that he would literally run up to the fence when he saw me with a worming tube. He did not even have to have a halter on to be wormed. He would try to rip the tube out of my hand in his eagerness to get what was in that wonderful tube.

I always made sure that I gave him wormer in sort of a sandwich- one tube of syrup, the worming paste tube, followed by another tube of syrup. He figured it is like eating nuts- you know how sometimes you will eat a bad nut but that doesn’t stop you from cracking and eating more because they are mostly good.

readytoride said...

oh yes,
His current owner (he grew too big, tall and heavy for my chicken self) tells me that he is still wonderfull about taking any sort of paste medicines-

verylargecolt said...

>>Thank you for taking away the verification letters! THANK YOU!<<

They were driving me nuts, too, but I had to figure out how to get rid of them. They weren't a default option when I set up the first blog.

Truthseeker said...

My fear: getting on a young horse for her first ride. I break it down into itsy bitsy pieces. I begin by standing on a block and putting a little weight into one stirrup. I do that a zillion times and work up to actually sitting on her. Then I get off, lead her a few feet, get on, get off, lead her a few feet, etc. Yes I'm a big chicken...this chicken is into self-preservation. However, I think it benefits the horses a great deal.

Anonymous said...

My TB mare hates cars. Her previous career was that of a jumper, an injury sidelined her and now we're having a hard time keeping her sound for lower level dressage work. I would love to use her as a trail horse, but she just won't have it...she's perfectly fine about everything else.

My Paso Fino gelding, who stands 13.2-ish, will NOT go by someone who's standing on the mounting block.

Heidi the Hick said...

My half-Arab gelding was terrified of mailboxes, farm signs, culverts... yep.

I told my ol man that really, this horse was just looking out for our safety. Who knows how many times he saved us from a killer horse-eating mailbox...

Honestly he was very stud-like. It was like herd stallion behaviour. Always wanted to control the group.

I got into the habit of doing a running commentary as we rode. "There's a mailbox. Some people think mailboxes eat horses, but I happen to know that they don't, because we have ridden past it before and it didn't eat us. We had to go past it sideways, but we lived. So we'll live this time too."

I think just the talking out loud forced me to breathe evenly and that really helped him. He was super-sensitive. Plus telling myself to not worry about it obviously helped.

He did get better with our trail rides. He ALWAYS gave everything a wary look but he didn't fall apart.

The two I have now? She only loses her mind when she's away from her buddy. In 7 years she hasn't really spooked at anything. And I suspect he's the same but I've only had him for a year and haven't taken him off the farm. I was told he was pretty solid and so far, that's true.

mulerider said...

When I was looking at one of the mules I currently own, the owner and I went on a trail ride. The mule never batted an eye at anything, including the garden we went past that had every kind of flag and blowing or spinning whirligig thingy you could imagine. I was really impressed.

Anyway, I bought the mule and when I went back to pick her up, the owner said, "Oh, by the way, if you ever ride over at the state park, there is a person with a mini and a cart that uses the trails a lot. I don't know why, but this mule absolutely freaks out when she sees that mini and cart, so be careful."

The weirdest thing is that the mule is trained to drive and apparently has no problems with full-size animals in harness, but something about the mini in harness just scares the crap out of her.

I find the good old approach-and-retreat works just as well with my fears as it does with the horse's. There is a corner in my pasture where one of my mules has spooked a bunch of times and I started spooking at it myself. So, I just started going as far as I could without tensing up and then turning away, getting closer and closer over time.

Heidi the Hick said...

Oh my gosh! The horse in Readytoride's photo is a similar colour to my two Apps!

I hardly ever see that colouring. Cool.

SquirrelGurl said...

The worst freakout my mare ever had was over a 3 day old dairy calf... keep in mind that my horse has been around cattle all of her life, in fact she was pastured with cows. But apparently dairy cattle are vastly different that beef cattle... we have beef cattle and she doesn't bat an eye at them and is great a working cattle and team penning. But for some reason when this itty bitty dairy calf looked at her you would have sworn the thing had fangs and claws the way she sat back on her lead rope before it snapped and she ran off.

But that is just Buttercup I think, she just up and decides to be scared of things somedays. The other day we were riding in one of our big pasture and she decided to spook at the fence posts and whirl around. Around and around we went b/c holy Sh*t they were EVERYWHERE! Gah! Silly mare.

McFawn said...

My TB isn't afraid of much. He's a very focused horse, and if he spooks he almost acts embarrassed. (Anyone else seen this reaction? The horse spooks then makes a big show of going back to work IMMEDIATELY, almost like they hope no one saw?)

HOWEVER--he has meltdowns about various things that aren't fear related: being stalled while the other horses are out (he is VERY herdbound), being given a tab of bute, having his teeth done. He gets HYSTERICAL and dangerous. That's his madness.

But one thing that's interesting about owning him is that he has only really spooked (where he really felt afraid) a handful of times. At these moments, he is almost impossible to help. He plants his feet, paws, and bounces up and down while trying to turn. He is so brave by nature that when he is scared you better believe its for real. He's a horse that takes his confidence from himself, so he is not used to looking to his rider for reassurence. Other horses are far easier to reassure than stubborn, independent old Fancy.

readytoride said...

Hi Heidi!
Yep- I actually have two matching red roan app types- except one is a 13.1 hand POA (in photo) and the other is a touch over 15.2 hands-

Roan, or varnish, apps can be the outright ugliest horse color in the world- especially the black roan ones-

My two however actually have very pretty and classy heads- with large, dark expressive eyes (not pig eyed, as is common) and very pretty mottling on the muzzle-

In horse judging terms, they are "short from eye to muzzle" and "chisled"

THanks! put up a picture of yours-
What does yours look like?

Lisa said...

My filly's biggest phobia seems to be large birds. She undoubtedly learned this from my gelding who is equally as terrified of them.

I'm not really sure how to go about desensitizing her of this. I really don't have much control over when the wild turkeys visit the property or when the egret will land in the pond.

Maybe I need to purchase myself some guinea hens and turn them loose in the pasture. Oh, what a sight that would be! ;-)

Anonymous said...

i've got a welsh cob who is bombproof, if you're used to him. sometimes a rabbit scuttling in a hedge will make him leap sideways suddenly, but as soon as you've realised he's spooked, he's back walking on like it never happened. he's had hares and pheasants leap out of his way and not fussed, but just sometimes, he likes to have a spook. his worst freak out was at a large JCB/tractor coming towards him, where he jumped into the road and snorted for a long time, til the driver turned his engine off and we could prance past. i was so embarrassed since he's lived with and around large machinery and vehicles most of his life. it just depends how he's feeling.

jeniferb said...

My mare is not brave at all and neither am I. What a combo. She just learned to face a scary object, look at it, then walk up to investigate an object. She gets a treat when she does this and that is how she was taught. This little trick has been the best thing for my spooky mare. She will now go up to a flapping tarp to get her treat. In the past I would not let her look and try to ignore the object. But now when she needs to investigate she gets the opportunity to do so that and a treat. This has given me a lot of confidence as well. Although she only gets one opportunity to do that then she is asked to move forward and ignore the object.

We went throught the donkey thing too at one time. She didn't spook too much but she certainly did act surprised when that thing brayed. It didn't take long to get used to it though.

bigpainthorse said...

BigPaintHorse is a model of bravery in the face of motorcycles, wind, tarps, flapping birds, peculiar creatures of all sorts including mules and llama, garden hoses, plastic bags, rushing water, narrow bridges, umbrellas, etc., etc., etc. But she is TERRIFIED of the blue plastic recycling bins at the corner of the covered arena. We work on this constantly, as you can imagine, and she eventually grinds up the guts to go by them, but gives them the "big eye" the whole time and sweats and snorts up a storm until they are out of her immediate line of sight.

For some reason, the sight of her reins in the grass is also a big spooker; that happened once by accident and I thought she was going to have to take a Valium and lie down, she freaked out so severely. I guess they are the same color as some dangerous horse-eating snake (even though they are navy blue biothane with purple beta insets).

I don't consider either of these things too awful to deal with, although having to play whoopsie with the recycling bins all the time is a bit tiresome and I'm hoping I can get her past that this summer.

Anonymous said...

What is she really afraid of? Or what does she [i]pretend[/i] she's afraid of? She's currently doing "therapy" work (sort of). The girl was playing basketball off of her back - with a beach ball. Of course, I've ridden her, and she's spooked at my helmet (when taking it off to fix my hair, or something stupid like that), she's spooked at tall grass, and yes, even her own shaddow (and it just kept chasing us!). Of course, all of those things aren't scary at all - unless she's bored. (*insert eyeroll*) Leave it to a pony to make her own fun. ;)

She really isn't a huge fan of cows, or those 2000lb pigs. But she'll deal with both. Just don't let them touch her. ;)

artdoc said...

My big Perch gelding is afraid of clippers. Ridiculously afraid of them. He can't abide the noise, even my fairly quiet cordless clippers turn him into a big quivering wuss. I'm gonna try horse cookies as a reward for being brave; he loves horse cookies. He's actually gonna work on that today.

Lulu said...

One of my yearling fillies is DEATHLY afraid of plastic. Sure, many have had horses spook at a plastic bag blowing in the wind...but this filly will kill herself to get away from a non-moving plastic bag.

I'm not even sure how to safely work with her on this one!!!

Sagebrusheq said...

I don't clip my horses but do inure them to the process. Here's a thought; try picking up one of those cheap battery powered massagers that fit in the palm of your hand. I've found it to be a good way to start. It makes a similar sound and vibrates, but start with the thing off and rub them down etc. I had a similar horse with whom I had to set the thing on a towel some distance away while I groomed, then in my coat pocket, to him to get him over the sound of it. Once that was accomplished the vibration factor was pretty easy, in fact I think he got to like the soothing massage. Not that it will always work but it won't cost you much to give it a try.

Horsegal984 said...

Ok... have to brag for a minute... we haven't found anything that my boy is afraid of yet!! We thought it was going to be beachballs, but after it was laying at his feet for a min he got curious and within 5 min was trying to pick it up and kick it around! He's not real keen on the dogs, but he's ok as long as they're not chasing him. He doesn't really lood ahrd at anything that I don't get nervous about. We did a little of the NH type desentization when he was younger... tarps and big blue exercise balls and things of the like, doesn't mind any of it. About the only good part of NH lol. Wheelchairs, crutches, flowers, ditches, puddles, gunshots, deer, and the usual stuff is all good. We used to pony him when I hacked off the farm on my older gelding so he got used to a lot of things.

Now my fears... I'm scared to death of the moment he freaks out enough to buck like he did when he was 3. I've started a lot of horses and ridden a lot of buckers, but nothing can prepare you for the atom bomb that exploded under my saddle the last time he spazzed. We went from trotting to his head between his knees and all four feet 4' off he ground. Took us a while to figure out what happened, apparently like a lot of TB's he's flat footed, he was barefoot that day, and must have hit a rock, he had a nice stone bruise the next day.

Redsmom said...

Bubbles -- kid's blow soap bubbles. Although my horses got desensitized to them after my daughter did them in the back yard outside their pen for about an hour. At first they were freaked! Strange roadside garbage, like couches and grocery store carts also make Dude hesitant or shy if they suddenly come into view. I hate the shying. The shying at a gallop unseated me once years ago and I haven't gotten over the fear of it. For the little bit I have ridden in my life, I have fallen a lot. Last year a big draft stumbled and fell down with me. She rolled on my ankle, but stopped herself from flattening me. Sweet old thing got up and snuffled me, afterwards as if to say "You dead?" That didn't help my confidence!! Dude's head tossing, bucking and cutting to one side at the canter (not a shy, a deliberate cut to one side!) were developed, over his years as a school horse, to make little girls (like me!) cry and ask to be assigned a different horse. However, I have now mastered the full body snort with "cat back", the head throw down, the head toss and the not very high bucking. Sometimes the full body snort catches me off guard, but he's just about given up the bucking. I'm waiting for the quick cut to the side at the canter to happen again (he used to do it with me every time in the arena, but we haven't ridden in the arena in a long time). If I can sit that quick cut to the side and not cry and want to get off, I think he'll quit trying it on me eventually. The big fears I have left with Dude are the quick cut to the side in the arena and bolting on the trail. As I'm getting to know him, though, I think he is too lazy to bolt. I hope so. If he does, I'll either stay on (I hope) or bail. I plan to try him out in an arena again next week or the week after, when my shoulder heals, at Ms. Dee's when we take barrel lessons. I think he's just ring sour from schooling (W,T.C. boring!) He likes jumping, he gets going fast because he gets excited. So maybe he will like learning speed games and that will keep him from doing his nasty cutting to the side trick. I just hope I stay on if and when he does it. I've been reading centered riding and working hard on my seat and legs! Als9o, the arena is a lot softer than regular ground. Oh, I have a huge fear when we're riding on or over concrete and paved roads. Not only is it far down, it looks scary hard down there!

Horsegal984 said...

Deworming... My first horse hated it, fought me as best he could when I first got him. However he loved Mountain Dew, and would drink it right out of the bottle. So when deworming time would come around I would give him the bottle, which he would hold inbetween his front teeth. Left plenty of room to put the dewormer behind it in his cheek and he gulped it all down.

He never could figure out why sometimes his pop tasted so funny!!!

fssunnysd said...

Hi Lulu -- the plastic bag thing? I don't know if you've ever considered using a clicker, but it's worked wonders with the plastic bag issue for me. Idea is that they get immediate positive reinforcement (click) followed by a treat (scratch, cookie, bit of grain) for any positive attempt to deal with the scary monster bag. So if they'll stop and look at it - click, treat. Tiny progressive steps lead to eventually being rubbed all over by the nasty scary thing, walking up to & putting nose on it, etc.

I'm looking forward (not) to giving the annual shots very soon. I give my own, and the three-year old pinto gelding is absolutely terrified of anything even loosely resembling a needle. He had an abscessed foot as a weanling, and we had to give daily antibiotics. Poor thing didn't mind the twice-daily foot soaking, but the needles for penicillin - horrors. As a baby the space we had to give all those shots in was so small he was really sore. SO... shots are evil.

And of course, the vet who lanced the hoof, and basically all strange men, have become initially scary, too. Thankfully, he's an evader, not a biter, striker, or runner-over of holders. We've been working the stranger-danger problem with every stranger I can drag out to pet and admire, so he's getting a bit better. The farrier is now acceptable, except that he has to approach front feet stooped over. Once silly boy realizes he's not getting a shot he relaxes and all is well.

Karen V said...

My 16.2 QH mare will eat her hay off a mat in her stall, but is afraid to stand on the mats at the wash rack. Any road striping. Plastic Walmart bags EXCEPT for the ones with cookies in them.

My fat appy - rocks. trees. birds in trees. tree monsters. mailboxes. chickens. Owner carrying a prize money check.

ALL my horses are afraid of minis. It completely blows their minds! (minis eat horses, in case you were wondering.)

De-worming - agree with the idea of filling it with something yummy! I use applesauce!

Sunscreen - If you can find it, buy some lanocaine cream and apply it to the sensitive nose before putting on the sunscreen. It'll numb his nose long enough for you to rub the sunscreen in.

4Horses&Holding said...

Lulu - additionally to what fssunnysd said: Use a tiny piece of plastic bag at first when using the clicker. Gradually increase the size of the piece of plastic.
*click & treat when she is still and calm*
Progress with each increasingly big piece by showing it to her *click/treat* crinkling it *click/treat* letting her smell it and then touch it with her nose *click/treat* touch her shoulder with it *click/treat* Progress to her side, back, belly, neck, head, and on and on.

Tiny little steps, as tiny as needed.

A great thing to do, also, is have her follow it. A horse will be MUCH less scared of something he is "chasing" than something that is coming at (chasing) him.

Clicker training & approach / retreat are the two best ways to 'defear' a horse. I'm speaking from experience, as I happen to own the once-'most fraidy cat' horse in the world.

4Horses&Holding said...

fssunnysd - use a white pen (it will look the most like a syringe). Just carry it around, then use the blunt end and touch him all around. Use the clicker. :) Once you can touch him with it, give him a soft, little pinch with your fingers, while holding the pen up to his neck (or wherever your injection site is).

Penicillin is very thick, I think - and it requires a larger needle and slower injection. Normal vaccines are usually quick & easy.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

>>I got into the habit of doing a running commentary as we rode. "There's a mailbox. Some people think mailboxes eat horses, but I happen to know that they don't, because we have ridden past it before and it didn't eat us. We had to go past it sideways, but we lived. So we'll live this time too."<<

I do that too!

And yes, it does work. On both horse and rider.

Lisa said...

My filly had a deathly fear of plastic bags as a yearling, too. So bad that she once flipped herself over just hearing one crinkle at the other end of the barn. I tried desensitizing her to it in hand with baby steps, treats, etc... but not much seemed to help.

Realizing it was getting out of control, I threw her feed tub on top of a large plastic bag in her stall. She figured out soon enough that if she wanted dinner, she was going to have to stop trying to kill herself and go near the deathly plastic. LOL!

Now it's a non-issue.

SolitaireMare said...

Hmm, only thing my horse is deathly afraid of is me deciding one day that the free ride is over and he has to go out and get a job to pay for all his stuff.

Seriously though, my TB/WB gelding is a pretty good soul. Doesn't have any particular hangups and I have found over the years that the 3 times rule is applicable to him. Which is - if something causes him concern, it almost always takes 3 times of introducing it to him and then he just gets over it.

Example - Plastic bag stuck on fence flapping in the breeze. Bring him past it, let him briefly see it and snort at it. Circle wide away, bring him past it again, will still snort but urge him to come closer to it and keep moving past it. Then circle wide again and come back to it and move past. As long as I am firm that it's nothing and we are not going to stop moving forward to make an issue of it, he will drop it and we can continue whatever we were doing.

CutNJump said...

None of ours are really scared of anything. We thought the Arab mare might not like the cows, but after she turned the herd loose into the arena with her and stood in the middle of them, that blew that theory with her.

Still gotta bring the TB's near them though. That might be interesting!!! One is a jumper and the other is from the track so I doubt either of them has seen much of cows before now.

My first horse- Arab gelding was horrified of them. Wouldn't get near them as he was certain they would kill him. Acid like slobber or something as equally bad, for sure. Probably thought if you touched one they would electro-zap him too.

He may have been a big, broad, strapping 16 hands, but cows made him shake, sweat profusely and just mentally come undone.

And hooray for getting rid of the letters thing. It might teach us all how to unspell.

Anonymous said...

The TB mare I used to ride (16.1h) is deathly afraid of mini donkeys. She's the alpha mare but VERY respectful on the ground until there is a mini donk around and she'll jump on top of you or drag you. Craziest thing in the world. My old QH is afraid of bucks that have a rack on them. That comes from being stalked by a HUGE buck during rut. That will learn that stupid QH for coming into the buck's land. :0)
My fear: VERTICALS..unless it's a ground pole ON THE GROUND. I can't go over it. Even on my TB mare who I trust w/my life. She takes care of me but I almost start crying, I'm so scared.

CutNJump said...

Karen V-
ALL my horses are afraid of minis. It completely blows their minds! (minis eat horses, in case you were wondering.)

My pony mare, when we were driving would unsettle many of her larger counterparts. They had no idea WTF she was and with that THING attached to her and trailing along behind- Oh the Horrors!

dp said...

Goats and sheep. Tonka is terrified of both, despite being in a paddock next to pygmy goats. What a wuss. Raven is only scared of not getting treats when Tonka is getting treats.

Sagebrusheq said...

Some of these stories serve to strengthen my conviction that simple techniques are not always effective remedies for curing fears of certain types in some horses. Camels, lamas and spray bottles can be avoided for the most part and chances are that no harm will come from saying, 'the heck with it'; but things that fall into the class typified by plastic bags, which are encountered everywhere, are another matter and really need to be addressed somehow, because they're dangerous. For example, to take a horse who is afraid of plastic anywhere near a road, or free access to one, is suicidally optimistic.

But it can be a challenging problem to solve after you've exhausted your own wit and inventiveness. The easy answer would be, 'take him to a professional'; however, not only is it a fact that any fool can hang out a shingle, but even the best horsemen have their strengths and weaknesses, and finding one that is adept at handling your horse's particular phobia can be hard to accomplish, especially if the last two have made him worse. But what alternative is there?

I know what the answer isn't. It isn't to fancy him a good trail horse. I'll go further and say that a GOOD trail horse is a highly trained animal that takes years to produce, and I bristle everytime I see the modifier 'just' appended to that designation. Barn sour, hangs back, herd bound, won't jump, hates dogs... but he's a great in the mountains. In other words if all goes well and you don't ask anything of him he'll follow the horse in front of him with some equanimity.

Some Irish wit opined that there's a mysterious force in the universe that watches over the ignorant and drunks, maybe so, but those who SHOULD know better should take care.


BTW could someone please set up some old Puritan style stocks at the horse show so that horsemen, whose egos are too big to put a ribbon in the tails of horses that deserve one, can be held up to public scorn. (This site is definitely bringing out the snark side of my nature)

dante said...

LOL at everyones comments. Horses keep you on your toes, don't they.
Pony is very laid back about most things found on a trail ride but a new rock in a garden caused a few snorts and needed a good look before he would move on. Dramas the next day as the rock was gone, obviously eaten by a manic sabre tooth tiger.
Worst spack attack was caused by birds. Pony is a sedentary bloke in the paddock and will generally have birds sleeping on him; sparrows, starlings, pigeons, and once a crow who was nicking hairs out of his forelock. No big deal. Till the day we met an emu. "That things NOT sitting on me " he shrieked and took off. Didn't settle till we had a fence between us.
I accidentally desensitized several horses in the paddock to spray bottles. Daughters mare had cancer on her lip that needed a saline wash several times a day so I used a spray bottle. She loved it and would stand like a lamb with the bottle squirting in and around her mouth, licking up the dribbles. I think she told all the other nags about the treat as I ended up needing helpers and several more spray bottles just to keep the others out of my hair.

Redsmom said...

Oh, funny story I've told before, but it was so fun. I was riding my daughter's21 year old lesson master, Matty, during his second encounter with cows since we had him. Once he found out they would move when he approached, he wanted to chase them fast! He galloped up a hill with me (I'm counting in my head 1,2,1,2, shit that's a gallop! 1,2,!!!). I got him to stop and walk after I got over my shock We caught up to these hornless young heifers sometime later, but they had congregated around the people's Texas Long Horned Bull! It was near dark and Matty wanted to move those little cows some more. When he got close enough to get a good look at that long horned bull he WHEELED around and started to run away. He stopped pretty quick, but I couldn't stop laughing that his new found bravado didn't last.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

>>ALL my horses are afraid of minis. It completely blows their minds! (minis eat horses, in case you were wondering.)<<

I've covered THAT on the other blog. There is something about a mini with a cart that flips out the most sensible, been there, done that horse!

4Horses&Holding said...

ESPECIALLY pinto minis. Those are even more scary.

Anonymous said...

I donno if my horse is necessarily scared of this or if she just as a complex. She never poops or pees when I ride her. My instructors have always said keep the horse going when they are pooping (i haven’t had to worry about it since i bought her). It is nice because i don’t have to worry about her doing that in the dressage ring and such. Anyways her deal is that when a horse pees in front of her it freaks her out. I had only SEEN her pee maybe twice when the dreadful event happened.. She’s very secretive about that kinda thing. But basically I was in a lesson with a large Belgian QH cross and it was me on my little appendix QH well the large horses decided she had to pee and did it while we were waiting to do something. Well after that happened not only would my horse not go near that spot on the ground.. She wouldn’t go near it for a month without A LOT of coaxing nor would she go near the horse for a solid 2 weeks. It was almost that she was appalled a horse would do that. She also hates it more than normal when horses cut her off.. If a horse cuts her off then the rest of the time I ride with that horse if we come anywhere near each other my horse will either stop dead or rush past the horse. Okay that’s it.. But she sure is an oddity.

4Horses&Holding said...

LOL - verseifeyerap, your horse is a prude! Too funny.

Anonymous said...

omg she is soooo narotic its not even funny!!! but the best thing is that she is not aggressive, i have never seen her kick another horse or bite one.. with me or in the pasture.. and i have lived with her before.. so im just glad she isnt a nasty mare that pins her ears back at every horse. = ) i guess i would rather have a prude!!! = )

icepony said...

ROFL, my first gelding that I ever owned was a total prude about peeing in public, too. He would make it very clear that he had to go, but the only way he actually WOULD go was if I took him out behind the barn with no one around, and TURNED MY BACK! Haven't thought about that in a looong while; thanks for bringing up a giggle!

whoadammit said...

So far, I haven't been able to find anything that my little mare is actually "afraid" of. She pitches a fit with the dewormer. I tried the goodie trick with the tube, but she doesn't like applesauce *rolleyes* I've got my deworming sessions down to about a 5 minute ordeal (maybe 10 if she's in season).

Her biggest issue is going anywhere alone. Last time I took her out alone, she was very nervous about a horse eating pink ribbon tied to a tree.

a beautiful disaster said...

So my first reaction was that Buddy isn't scared of anything...but then I realized that it's more that I am conditioned to barely notice the spooking. He doesn't have any real phobias any more (used to be the doors of the indoor arena but solved that one just by making him go by them and ask for canter transitions if he was starting to spook), but he will shy away from / eyeball just about anything that catches his eye funny (like the grass under the fence of the outdoor ). Silly Little project Mare is scared of the horse eating goblins that live in funny dark spaces and howl through the walls (aka wind).

And they both freaked at the kids flying kites in the hunt field a couple weekends back - and then i freaked at the kids :D

Skye said...

My 2-year-old gelding is TERRIFIED of sprayer bottles(yes, like fly spray).
He doesn't mind the sound, or even feeling it being sprayed on him, he just can't handle looking at it, for some reason.
He's calm and quiet to have his legs/underbelly/bum sprayed, but as soon as it's in his direct vision, he freaks the fuck out. He starts fidgeting/pulling back in the cross-ties if he even sees me pick up a bottle, 5-10ft away; by the time I've walked up to him w/ it, he's having a fullblown panic attack.
It baffles me.

I've had him for over a year, since he was 10 months old and not even broke to lead, and he has always been like this. I've tried every method I've ever heard of to make him more comfortable w/ spray bottles, but to no avail.

Over the course of being fly sprayed every day, for a year, he's finally calmed down enough about it that I can spray him without worrying for his safety(as I did for a while- you should have seen the fits he threw). He's still quite ridiculous about it, and I do have to move him from the cross-ties to a straight-tie on the fence, for the sake of safety.

Hopefully after another year, he'll stand still to be sprayed.

I've never had a problem w/ him otherwise. He's quite stoic.
He can get kind of nervous/pushy around vehicular traffic, but that's to be expected, and can be worked out.

Reading that over - I sound like a awful person, terrifying my colt like that every day.
However, he HAS improved over time; and I absolutely refuse to cater to this fear for the rest of his life, when there is no reason why he should mantain said fear(that is, he obviously hasn't been traumatised for life by the sight of a spray bottle, so he needs to get over it).

I don't think, personally, that I'm scared of much, horsewise.
I'm still young and fearless. ;)

ellen said...

My rock solid 20 year old lesson mare is a total plastic bag freakazoid paranoiac. She turns into a rigid mass of terror stricken muscle and heads for the nearest exit and the slightest rustle of plastic bag (everyone else on the farm comes zooming up to see if said bag might contain a oarrot). This has gotten interesting a couple of times when lesson kids had on slickery plasticky sounding coats.

I have tried grooming her with them (quaking, mind leaves, exit stage left over me and plastic bag), feeding her with them (ms. chow hound standing in the back corner of her stall with eyes like saucers looking intently at her plastic-festooned feed bucket going SNOORRRRRRRRK.)

Other than that, nothing much bothers her.

She is, however, responsible for the funniest spook episode ever -- on her very first ever trail ride when she was a baby, we were going down a dirt road, when she snatched a piece of johnson grass growing beside the ditch -- it came up root and all, and she bolted down the road being "pursued" by her snack, but she was completely unwilling to let go of the treat. I was laughing so hard at her it was hard to get her stopped.

All of mine are convinced the measuring stick is going to eat them - no matter how much I rub them all over with it, when measuring time comes they shrink two inches cowering from the stick.

Diane said...

Liri- We've had a few like that come through my old barn, and what we did was give small syringes filled with applesauce or molasses to get the idea of "Not All Syringes Are Full of Pony-Consuming Plague Bacteria" idea across. It takes a while, but when they realize you are going to squirt a tasty treat in their mouth, they seem more willing to forgive you when you occasionally give them something nasty. Of course, you have to find a liquid that they like for this to work. The only think we could give one horse that he enjoyed was beer. Needless to say it wasn't the first option, but we only had to do it for a month, and we always made sure it was flat so as not to give him carbonation.

rockymouse said...

I took Mouse on her first out-on-the-ranch ride a couple weeks ago. We were with two other horses. She did pretty well, given the unfamiliarity of it all and the wide open spaces. We'd been out a couple hours and we were near a water trough in the middle of this enormous pasture. I steered her over there thinking she might want a drink. Nope. She started quaking and got starey and snorty within about 20 yards of the thing. Spooooooky trough!

DC said...

My gelding is completly terrified of Polar bears. So I make sure that I never take him to the zoo or Antarctica. ;)

deanna may said...

I rode my VLG tonight! After about a month off, I felt like a total sack of potatoes. He was okay... fairly unfocused, not as supple as I'd like, and a little indignant (but still compliant) about leg yielding, but other than that he was okay. We're both just grossly out of shape. He's quite the tub these days.

He's an odd duck when it comes to spooking. There are some boxes (used to fill in jumps) piled in the corner of the arena that he has been spooking at off and on for about a year. Once I was so frustrated that I got off and threw them out the door into the snow! I don't have time in every ride to spend twenty minutes schooling the same corner of the arena, for crying out loud!

However, he would bravely gallop up to one and jump it.

Once, when riding down to the outdoor arena, some prairie chickens in the trees started beating their wings on the ground and making that racket that they do. He didn't bat an eyelash. Then, two ducks FLEW out of the ditch RIGHT IN FRONT OF US and he kept moseying along down the road like it was no big deal. THEN, a DEER comes out of the trees, leaps onto the road, and trots down the road in front of us (which was cool, but it scared ME to death!) and he acts like it was his old pasture buddy.

Then, once we get to the arena, he spies a blue lawn chair sitting in the grass and absolutely freaks out! He spun around and attempted to canter away in the opposite direction! I had to force him to walk by it, but he was snorting and looking all bug-eyed the whole time. He gave it an enormous berth. What a weirdo.

Heidi the Hick said...

For Readytoride:

Not sure how to post a pic here (and don't want to hijack the discussion!) but you can go to my blog and check out the Flickr banner under the title. I've got a whack of Appaloosa pictures there. The spotless one is the 14 h mare. She actually has kind of a big head for such a tiny horse, but I think she's cute. And my gelding... I'm totally and unapologetically love blind for him!!

QueenSkankarella said...

Well, tonight we discovered that waves are a little scary ( think this is her first time being ridden near the shore), and that golfers in the distance are absolutely terrifying.

irisheyes999 said...

Beast is terrified of balloons. Trucks are fine. He doesn't bat an eye at motorcycles. I could probably put a wolf on his back without much of a reaction. But God forbid a balloon gets near him. He turns into a spinning, snorting idiot.

I have no clue what primordial instinct makes him fear balloons. To my knowledge, there has never, in the entire history of predators, been a predator that was round and floaty.

OutRiding01 said...

I don't do any real ground work or desensitiztion so if a horse is having a hissy fit about something, they just have to learn to deal with it. I mean, I am obviously not going to try the brilliant tactic of beating a horse into submission, I just ignore it and ask the horse to work through it. If something is truly scaring them senseless, I'll probably get off and let them take a good look.

My 16.2hh fearless Clyde/TB Junior jumper, who would go in the jumper ring at HITS with the rain pouring, winds howling, plants blowing across the ring with out blinking an eye, only has one fear. He's terrified of minis. Our trainer bought one for her 2 year old daughter once (it was one of the larger, shetland looking ones) and it would roam free around the stable yard and my horse would turn into a nevous wreck whenever he saw it. If it was far away and just grazing, he would eventually get over it, but the little thing used to randommly take off running, chasing dogs or other people on horses, and would sometimes try to chase my horse, and he would flip out. I couldn't really do anything but laugh hysterically. I mean, the chances of us being chased by a mini at an a-rated h/j show were pretty slim, so I wasn't too concerned with him developing a mini phobia.

He also isn't to fond of sheep, but since they stay in the back pasture there have never really been any incidents. The time when I hooked my rams to the mini's cart and they got loose, my horse was turned out upfront and missed the excitement, although some others were there and were pretty unhappy.

fssunnysd said...

4horses&holding, thanks for the advice! I will definitely try the white pen thing -- I've been fooling with the hoof pick (since it's already in my pocket), but something with a slightly pointy end that's more obviously syringe-shaped and less familiar-looking will be a good change.

Forgot to mention children on list of fears -- along with small horses (minis), small people also take some getting used to. I took an older gelding out in public for the first time a few years ago. For some reason, what he got all big-eyed over was the kids. People evidently weren't supposed to come in size x-small! Oddly, the baby strollers didn't worry him (it's on wheels, it might contain food!), just the toddlers & pre-K set walking on their own.

Shana said...

Hmmm...lets little mare is an Arab, so I'll try to keep this list to the biggest fears.

1) barrels
2) poles
3) trot poles
4) driving horses...when pulling that is (which is great since we board at a driving barn)
5) flat dirt in the arena
6) tall grass
7) bridges
8) cows
9) the far end of the arena
10) being ridden anywhere beyond our normal areas
11) water
12) fly spray
13) the wash rack

I'll leave my list at that, but there is of course many more things she is afraid of. Luckily I've learned to stay in the saddle for the sideways leaping she does when she sees such things.

I know a lot of her fears are made worse by my lack of confidence and her lack of confidence in me. I'm gaining some bravery, and I think eventually we'll be just dandy, but this is my first horse, my first real major experience riding, so its not the easiest thing for me to just get over it - I never was over it to begin with!

While an arab might not be the best first horse for a scardy-cat (I'm 25 btw) but she's sweet as can be, doesn't have a bad bone in her body, no bad habits, and while we have issues, they are all ones I made. She's just a peach, and I can't wait for us to get past all the fear and move on to the fun stuff :)

Lulu said...

Thanks ALL, for the 'plastic suggestions'! You guys rock!

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

Deanna May - good for you for riding! He sounds like quite a character. :-)

>>I have no clue what primordial instinct makes him fear balloons. To my knowledge, there has never, in the entire history of predators, been a predator that was round and floaty.<<

That made me laugh out loud!

QueenSkankarella said...

Shana said:

"I know a lot of her fears are made worse by my lack of confidence and her lack of confidence in me. I'm gaining some bravery, and I think eventually we'll be just dandy, but this is my first horse, my first real major experience riding, so its not the easiest thing for me to just get over it - I never was over it to begin with!"

Seconded. Not my first horse, but I've been out of riding for a few years, and this is my first young horse. She really is very good, but I think part of it is she senses my nervousness. I've been blessed/cursed in the past with absolutely bombproof horses, and I think in a few years she will be, but we need to work on it together. I think though, that she's ultimately going to make me a better rider, better than I was back when I was showing and doing the whole Pony Club thing.

woodlandduck said...

vlc wrote: Can we desensitize ourselves to things we fear the same way we desensitize our horses?

absolutely. check out:

vlc wrote: It wears down the fear.

not precisely. Densnsing .replaces. the fear with a different conditioned response.

That is what happens when you use a marker and treat. You make a different association with The Scary Object.....if you don't flood the training subject.

fssunnysd said...

Shana, add to that Arab-terrifying list: rocks, especially white ones. Evidently they shouldn't exist in nature, or they move when you're not looking at them?

Anyone else find that their horses work better and with less spook when YOU have a goal in mind? The day we got caught away from home with a storm coming up and the boy could have been a true basketcase, we just motivated for home at a lovely, loose-rein extended trot (neither of us wanted to be out with the sky turning sucha lovely shade of green!). Same with the time we worked cow/calf pairs and one ran underneath him (he is used to cows, thankfully) -- would have been a perfect excuse to blow up, but nope -- he just held momma in the corner.

I'm trying to do better about really planning what I'm going to do as far as ring-work in advance of getting on. Otherwise, after a few minutes of riding he gets bored and starts finding excuses to act silly.

Shana said...

I was really brave two weeks ago and rode out in the fields beyond the barn and covered arena.

Then we saw cows a few farms away, moving through trees. Jade froze, head up high with that giraffe neck those Arabs can get, and I felt like I was sitting on her withers, that head was so high! Then she started trembling and I thought "I need off NOW!"

Well, I tried turning her, and she tried galloping, and I tried stopping her, and finally with some wimpy little bucks I decided to just bail off.

Total chickenshit.

I was fine, but Jade reached the barn at a full gallop and attempted to stop on the cement aisle and proceeded to fall and skid and hurt herself. She's fine now, but wow, I was so worried about her for a few days there.

And of course, now I'm afraid to ride outside. I'm not completely unable to, but I'm definitely worried when I do it. And Jade isn't a confident horse so she totally feeds off me.

I'm in Portland if anyone else is afraid and wants to go riding with a scardy on a scardy horse that snorts and refuses when we come across smoothed out dirt in the arena :rollseyes:

Shana said...

fssunnysd said:

"I'm trying to do better about really planning what I'm going to do as far as ring-work in advance of getting on. Otherwise, after a few minutes of riding he gets bored and starts finding excuses to act silly."

I know exactly what you mean! Jade gets so bored working in the arena she just starts acting like a turd to amuse herself. Or she'll start focusing on something far far away and then get all afraid of it.

She does a lovely leap into her trot - its really kind of fun - but the more bored she becomes the more she hops into the trot. The more focused the more likely she doesn't do it at all.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

Shana, do you have a truck and trailer? I have a friend in Portland with a bomb proof horse that you could probably go riding with to help yours out, if you could meet her.

And you guys, a new update is coming. I have been too busy to ride the past few evenings. Hoping to do it tonight though it will be late as I have something else going on first!

Jackie said...

Houses! Well, the new development that has gone up, next door, in her total view..doesn't bother her from the pasture, but we tried to ride past it *once* and I had to get off, she flipped out into the frothy lather and would not calm down...we walked (Ha!! if you an call it that) home, and I finally turned her in the pasture..and she for days snorted at the same houses she saw go up over the past few months! They For Sure Eat Horses!

I haven't tried riding there since..some homes are now occupied and I see Many Scary Horse Eating Things in the yards!

Sagebrusheq said...

>Anyone else find that their horses work better and with less spook when YOU have a goal in mind?<

No doubt about it. Focus.

Shana said...

Fugly -

No trailer yet, but eventually. I haven't really looked for one yet, since I can't get more than a 100 yards from the barn before she starts getting jumpy.

Man, this horse has done hundreds of miles of trails in the Idaho wilderness. But her last owner had been riding since she was in the womb and is super confident, so I know its me :(

Sagebrusheq said...

>>No trailer yet, but eventually. I haven't really looked for one yet, since I can't get more than a 100 yards from the barn before she starts getting jumpy.

Man, this horse has done hundreds of miles of trails in the Idaho wilderness. But her last owner had been riding since she was in the womb and is super confident, so I know its me :(<<

Horses certainly derive most of their confidence from their rider. But new surroundings, weather, etc have a destabilizing effect too. Also the trails in Idaho may have been very familiar to her; she may have been ridden in company. So don't blame yourself. Horses aren't brave.

Try working her by the barn and then relaxing when you're away. Maybe let her graze if you allow that. Like curing jigging there's no quick fix but if she gets the idea that you're taking her someplace good rather than trying to make her go it will help instill confidence in you, in her. Think that way yourself. And it doesn't have to be far, if a hundred yards is where she starts to fidget reward her at 99. Go back and forth. School her by the barn and reward her away.

Ammie said...

At the barn where I board there is a storm drain near the arena, which is at the bottom of a hill (the barn at the top) and I have owned three horses that were terrified of it. We refer to it as the "portal to hell" because of the way the horses look at it. It isn't super noticeable, off to one side, but I've only seen one horse not snort at it, and these are all well trained western pleasure show horses. Go figure.

4Horses&Holding said...

fssunnysd -

Funny, but I thought about this in the middle of the night last night. :) It woke me up.

Anyway - make sure that when you use the pen as a 'faux' syringe, you keep your body language the same as if you were really going to give him a shot.

Or, conversely (and probably better), when you go to give the shot, make sure that your body language is the same as when you were using the pen. You'll probably be more relaxed and matter of fact when you are using the pen, try to bring that same feeling when it's vaccination time.

He'll pick up on whether or not you are expecting him to freak out or not.

fssunnysd said...

4horses& holding, the thought of giving shots tends to wake me up in the night, too! :-) It's actually not the process of giving the shots, it's the thought of having a shot reaction -- so far so good, but there's that possibility....

Storm drains definitely eat horses. Is part of it a vision thing, do you think? I mean, I know a lot of it is the fight/flight instinct of a prey animal, but watching a friend's mare carefully pick her way over the painted lines in a parking lot as if she was stepping through cavalletti (which I KNOW she's never seen), I wonder if depth perception isn't a factor, too. She wasn't afraid of the yellow lines, but she was convinced that those stripes had substance and might trip her if she didn't lift her feet to clear them.

I will say one thing -- a steady Arab on the trail is a wildlife spotter not to be beaten. I don't always see what Sunny sees, but I know there's something out there to be interested in! He's found new fawns, foxes, multiple deer, turkeys, pheasants, cats....

Redsmom said...

I rode Dude bareback yesterday - twice. We were trying out a bareback pad on both horses. It did not work out, but we rode around the yard anyway. As I was about to put a leg over with the bareback pad in place I had the visions of me and the pad being bucked off. It was sliding around, not tight and unnerving the Dudester. So, I took off the pad and rode regular bareback. I did a layover first since I wasn't sure he was over his nervousness. He did his usual walk-off which we need to work on, but no problems. To my surprise, I came upright and slid into place pretty well. I relaxed and let my legs be like ballast. We circled around the yard a few times, following my daughter on her horse. I did whine once, but that was to please get us off the driveway as I so did not want to fall on the conrete. By the way, my daughter, age 10, advises that I should just go ahead and fall off while riding bareback and after that I will be a better rider as that has been her experience. LOL. The rest of the vening I felt so happy even though I had to ice my sore shoulder and then put heat on it. I remembered why I love to ride. It always brightens my day and I fell the exhilaration and endorphins for hours.

hope4more said...

My 9 yr old gelding scares himself. He is great in an arena being a show horse most of his life but outside he is positive something is going to get him leaves, rocks, you name it. I gave his keeper ( I board ) a christmas present and I hung it outside his stall on a hook on the door and he stood at his door and just stared down at the bow on the bag.....and when his keeper went out to do last call she said he was still standing there staring at it. This is the same horse when we rode last time had a barn cat jump on his butt in the arena, he did nothing just gave it a ride until the cat jumped off. I thought I was a goner when I saw the cat mid flight....but nothing. He used to be a roping horse I wonder if he thought it was just a rope hitting his butt?

My 14 year old gelding HATES and I mean HATES paper of plastic bags. Never ever wave them at him. He will tolerate it for awhile his eyes get HUGE and nostrils flare to where I could probably stick my head in them.....he will stay like this for awhile but if it keeps up he blows up. So as you can imagine flags bug the crap outta him too, I think it is the noise. Crazy horses I love them.

MissMyFuglyHorse said...

I had this beautiful, swishy-tailed witch of a roan QH mare once that had issues with fence posts. On our first ride out of the arena, we were walking down a fence row. Brown post, brown post, brown post, white post. Then it was OMG THAT WHITE POST IS GONNA EAT ME! HELP!! She spun so fast and sharp, my behind ended up on the ground much to my surprise. We rode that fence row at leasst once a week after that and she finally got over it. She also turned out to be a pretty good reining mare. Go figure.

irisheyes999 said...

>>I will say one thing -- a steady Arab on the trail is a wildlife spotter not to be beaten. I don't always see what Sunny sees, but I know there's something out there to be interested in!<<

Or ghosts. I'm convinced that Beast sees ghosts. He'll go completely still with his ears pricked and his eyes completely focused on something that isn't there. No amount of kicking, hollering, or treat persuading can budge him when he's communicating with the dead.

Shana said...

sagebrusheq -
Thanks for the advice!

I've done a little outside since our 'accident' and she does ok. I know horses and dogs are not the same, but I have a Great Dane that's afraid of everything and everyone, so I've had a lot of experience working with him and handling a frightened animal. The difference is this dog is my furry little soulmate and has full trust in me. My horse does not, not yet at least.

We have recently tackled a few scary things that she's given me trouble with before. Today we rode deep into the corners at the far end of the arena, previously we couldn't get 30 feet from it (its a very large arena) before she'd snort and back away. And the culvert on the dirt road out into the 'back 40' where I'm attempting to go and where she threw me before, well that culvert is not crossable! I still have to urge her a bit, but we get over without any freak outs. At that is about the point where she gets nervous, so for now, if I'm feeling brave I'll cross the culvert and come back.

Right now I'm not allowing grass eating. Primarily because we have some leadership issues and I'm certain I'd really have to fight her about it later and right now its only a tiny issue of her trying to eat grass and ignore me - no need to make it a real issue.

I do want to say I rode today, in the arena. Thursdays are my riding lesson days - usually I feel good after them. Jade can be very bad at going forward, she'll stop, she'll slow down, or she'll go too fast. The trot is the worst. She'll feel and look like she's troting but a human can walk faster. Now this horse has a 20 mph trot - its been clocked. She has a huge stride and beautiful suspension. But I can't get it out of her, or I suppose when I almost do I get scared and slow her down. But today her trot was perfect. It was extended, and man was there some suspension going on! It was wild! I thought she was bucking at first her hind was pushing off so well! I totally wanted off because its big and scary and feels so fast. But it was a good ride. I'm feeling a smidge more confident.

Redsmom said...

irisheyes999 said...
No amount of kicking, hollering, or treat persuading can budge him when he's communicating with the dead.


MissMyFuglyHorse said...
I had this beautiful, swishy-tailed witch of a roan QH mare once that had issues with fence posts.

I can relate - that mare in Dallas dumped me at a gallop because of no bush. See, along the side of the trail it was bush, bush and then no bush. OMG the no bush was gonna swallow her! The hot air balloons overhead that day did not help the situation. This horse did not like the sound of the hot air rushing over her head!

Sagebrusheq said...

Well thanks, Shana;

It's easy to talk about horse problems but not so easy figure out what's going on and solve them. I had a little gaited mare in my charge for the better part of a summer and never succeeded in getting her to calm down. In her case she just needed to grow up. I tend to think a lot and may be way off base with your horse.

You're probably wise not to let her graze if you have any doubts that way. A very good argument can be made for never letting a horse eat when it has a bit in it's mouth. I don't allow that liberty with other people's horses. Basically once you allow it they will test you ever after on it and you have to accept that. I'm a trail rider, and I let my own graze when we're stopped AND I give them the office to do so but they are not allowed to take a step. But it's a difficult line to establish in a way that the horse understands. I would guess that most experts disagree with me on this point and I may come around to their way of looking at it some day. It's happened plenty of times in the past.

You say you're taking lessons. That's great. That's the person whose advice you should heed.


OrangeElmo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
OrangeElmo said...

Liri said... "I am almost at a loss as to what to do about deworming. I don't really want to spend an hour fighting with him over it every couple of months, and then spending the next week trying to get him to let me near his face again."

Yeah, I got tired of that too. The final straw for me was when the 3 y.o. spit $10 worth of wormer on the floor of his stall.

Someone on FHotD suggested applesauce in a bucket with the wormer mixed in. I tried that and life is good. I give them their supplements mixed with applesauce for a couple feedings before it's wormer time, then just stir in the wormer. No problem, (except for having to wipe the sticky applesauce off their noses. Har!)

I did try the applesauce or molasses in the wormer tube idea. All I did was get sticky yuck all over me and the horse.

OrangeElmo said...

And the stuff you think will scare them... always surprising.

My older gelding got the back ends of his shoes caught in the crappy old wire fence and was patiently waiting for someone to free him. Our great neighbor spotted him and came running over. So 4 of us are working with the horse trying to get his foot free without tearing the shoe off... when the 5 Thunderbird military jets flew in formation low over the house on the way to the airshow in the valley below us. All 4 people freaked out. The horse was perfectly calm.

Jets just aren't on their predator list, I guess.

icepony said...

Jets may not be predators, but let me tell ya, the HELICOPTER that flew over the fields the other day sure needed some serious watching!

JDKdressage said...

My pony, normally fearless and entirely bombproof (he even likes llamas!) had a completely irrational fear of cows. COWS. They would moooo, he would bolt. It was the dumbest thing ever.

The barn where I board now has beef cattle on the property, and one of their pastures borders on the one where the pony is turned out. He figured out he could try to steal their hay through the fence, and got over it pretty darn quick. Maybe you could turn out the Donk From Hell next to the VLC, let him acclimate from more of a distance? (sorry if people have suggested this already, I only had time to skim! *grin*)

Also, the New Morgan? Terrified, TERRIFIED of lunge whips and plastic bags. He's an ex-saddleseat horse, so it makes sense, but it's still kind of annoying. He panicks at the first rustle of a bag, it's pretty severe. He's learning that some bags hold carrots, though, so slowly it's getting better!

heater said...

Hello, first time commenter but here goes...
I work with carriage horses on the hot, sweaty coast of Georgia. We get our horses from various places, always knowing how to be driven, but not always traffic safe... yet. The key is always repetition, repetition, repetition. People ask me a lot on tours how long it takes to train the horses. Sometimes a month, sometimes it takes six months, it all depends.

We got a horse last year named Wilbur from some Amish connections in Ohio. Wilbur is a wonderful middle aged black Percheron. He was traffic savvy from day one, like any good Amish cart horse. Nothing bothered him, not even the usual terrifying things to new carriage horses like busses, skateboards, or dump trucks. Wilbur had a different fear. He was terrified... of water.

Apparently the Amish had never bathed him, ever. If you had to drive him past a set of sprinklers, or someone washing their car, or a puddle, it might as well have been molten lava. It took 4 people and a lot of space to give him a bath. This did not bode well for Wilbur considering he was about to face his first summer out of Ohio in Georgia of all places. We worked with him nearly every day. Starting with only getting his front feet wet, praising him when he stood still for it, and moving on from there. 4 months later Wilbur figured out, as all good carriage horses do, that whatever it was that was so terrible before really wasn't all that bad. He can now be bathed by one person without a fuss. He still gives sprinklers dirty looks, but hey that's fine.

That's the way we work with those big drafts. One horse was so dangerously terrified of dump trucks that the old owner parked one in the paddock with him for a month. He was fed out of it, groomed by it, anything. By the time they sent him back out he would run TOWARDS the trucks, lol!

I know drafts are a little different than riding horses, but the same principles still apply. Repetition! ;)

I love this blog! My riding horse only seems to be afraid of things on the trail. A bomb could go off in the ring and he could care less, but on the trail... "Omg that leaf over there is evil I must leap about accordingly!!!!!"

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

Orangeelmo - one day I was out with various other people exercising polo ponies.I was on this big gray gelding named Fantasma that was the world's biggest chickenshit. Seriously, it would take me 10 minutes to put the saddle pad on him. I think someone had done a very, very evil version of sacking-out to him in Argentina!

Anyway, some kids were playing on the field and we didn't realize til it was too late that they were about to set off bottle rockets. OMG. Every horse took off bolting and bucking except...

You guessed it. Mr. OMG The Pad Will Eat Me continued to lope quietly onward.

You really NEVER know!

Shadow Rider said...

My horse has done the parade in DC, with bands, balloons, etc without blinking an eye..but walk through the woods, and OMG! it's a leaf! It's a rock! We recently came across and orange camo back pack a hiker and put down on the side of the trail. She had to walk by it very carefully, never taking her eye off it. She used to jump, whirl, etc but she has gotten better because I stay calm, talk to her (I agree it is very scary, and we should keep our eye on it) and ask her to move on. She does ok, mostly it's stop, snort and walk sideways past now. We did run into some calves a while back though. We were walking up a farm lane, and as we turned a corner, a herd of white faced calves saw us, and came running up to see what we were. Shadow side-teleported about 50 yards (yes, right into the farmer's crop, yikes!) I hopped off before the explosion got worse, and calmed her down, and eventually walked her up to the fence to see the calves. She never did touch them, but watched as I petted them, then she was ok. I hopped back on and we continued the ride. Fortunately the farmer didn't come out and yell at us for the crop damage..I am guessing they were still laughing too hard.

wildrosepony said...

I had a mare who was convinced that th elittle yellow flowers that grow alongside the highway ate horses...she would not step on a patch if her life depende on it.
WE wne through the sideways dancing; snorting and blowing the backing up in circles while my legs drummed futily against her barrel....and finally she would compromise by leaping over it.
I'm sure we gave more than a few drivers a really good laugh watching as she would half rear and launch herself over thin air.
For as long as I leased her, we never got over it.

surfait said...

my bombproof smart-as-hell QH pony (who grew up in a paddock next to train tracks) got scared shitless the first time it was warm enough to toss my black down jacket onto the asphalt driveway. he thought there was something bubbling up from the abyss, apparently.

and the older one, a big 24-year-old QH rescue, is terrified of farriers' aprons. everything else about feet he's fine with, but we guess that some asshole wearing an apron forced him to stand once upon a time. :(

spooking can be a good thing sometimes, though — i used to ride a little welsh named chico who'd bolt when the wind blew against the side of the indoor. the first time it happened, he ran into the corner, turned a sharp left, and left me sitting on a very sore ass in the dirt. second time, i stayed on like i was glued to the saddle! it was one of the best things that could've happened to improve my seat (especially since the next season i leased a chincoteague who liked to buck in midair over jumps just to amuse himself! xD).

Fluffy Foot Owner said...

My walker is afraid of the white arrows painted on asphalt...don't ask I don't understand it. He will practically do the 4-way splits and walk his hinney around while keeping an eye and ear of the arrow. He about fell over when he turned around and he was almost standing on another! lol Otherwise little things here and there bother him but 99% of the time his reaction is to flinch and freeze then continue like nothing ever happened.

My draft horse however is afraid of mailboxes. He's a lot better about them then he was when he was younger but still isn't 100% with them. When he was young he thought it was going to eat him so to get him over his fear I walked him up to the scary horse eating mailbox and started petting it and opening the door a few times. He is a very curious horse by nature so he reached out and touched it all over and thought it was fun to mess with. Then somehow (still not to sure how he managed it) he caught his upper lip on the door latch and jerked his head back which in turn opened the mailbox with a loud pop. Thats all it took to convince him they are indeed out to eat him. *rolls eyes* However this is the same horse who likes going into downtown, doesn't bat an eye at sirens (even if they are only a couple feet behind him), and has simply LOVED flags since the first one he saw.

EmmatheQueen said...

I know this post was a week ago and I haven't read all the comments, but you can DEFINITELY desensitize yourself to things you are afraid of. It's a lot harder than with horses, because you have to force yourself to face your fears little by little.. no one is there to make you.

For instance, I have a fear of ticks... a rather debilitating one, actually. I've thrown up and passed out before, but my usual is to go weak in the knees and start screaming like a maniac, plus a little vertigo. When I got my dog from a bad situation, he was COVERED in them. I do not have a kennel to put him in, and I couldn't leave him outside because then the ticks that dropped off of him would still be alive and in my yard, ready to make baby ticks or to get on one of us again. So I was in a situation where I HAD to face my fear, as I had no transportation to take him to a groomer that day. I picked about twenty of them off and scoured the rooms he had been in for ticks before I dissolved into a blubbering, crying, incoherent, panicky mess. Then I called my mom. LOL. With her help we got more off of him, applied frontline, scoured the rooms yet again (only to find many more I had missed). Then we took him to a groomer the next day, where he got a flea/tick dip and some more frontline, and a bunch were pulled off of him. I worked on him a little every time I calmed down and got as many ticks off of him as I could, and cleaned up the dead ticks every morning from inside and around his crate.

Since then I've done regular ticks checks on him and myself, since with a dog I'm out and about more. Now instead of lipping out at one tick I can keep my cool for 5-10 of them and pick them off of myself and other people. I'm still freaking out on the inside, but I'm calm enough now to get through all of that... not that it doesn't still suck.

Fluffy Foot Owner said...

ALL my horses are afraid of minis. It completely blows their minds! (minis eat horses, in case you were wondering.)

I read this and it made me laugh. I have the opposite with my draft horse, first time he saw a mini he was in love and wanted nothing more than to touch it and follow it around. Heaven forbid if it is a pinto one because he falls all over himself with the goofiest look on his face.

Alan said...

My paint gelding is terrified to be out in company on the trail. Seriously he is a lunatic when he has buddies.
I bought him after he'd spent 12 years in a pipe paddock in a tiny backyard. But my trainer had trained him years before that for a previous owner. Of course she was amazed at how good he was on the trail (though he was never ridden in groups). I get on him for a camping trip and the rotten animal was a nut case. Of course he was still the only horse who would cross the rattling-creaky-bridge-from-hell-complete-with-gangs-of-horse-eating-trolls-living-underneath at which point the other horses had to leave and go the long way round then my horse settled down. So much so we decided to go off by ourselves and had a great ride. I've tried him again in groups with the same results.
He doesn't mind having one other horse with him as I've found out by either ponying him off my 16.3hh OTTB mare, or ponying her off him (he's 14.3hh with shoes we make quite a sight). But groups are not an option and trying to get him more used to them isn't an option now since I'm one of two on the farm that rides and I'm not letting my roommate ride (read ruin) my horses.

I used to have an 11.1hh Welsh Mountain Pony that refused to jump anything over 3 feet. Damn pony had a built in tape measure I swear. You could build all kinds of scary jumps, combinations, courses and he'd fly over them but don't dare put that pole over three feet, or you'd be the only one flying over it.

We used to have Polish Arab at the barn that would not step foot on wet rubber mats. He'd stretch his neck out and lean forward while tied to the hitching post but his toes never touched them while wet. Once they dried he's calmly walk on up but until then he'd dance around them.

We had a tragic case once of a sucessful Western Pleasure QH that was so stressed out from abusive and boring showing he's colic if he saw horse trailers parked anywhere near him, had his white legs scrubbed etc. He was purchased cheaply by my trainer as a lesson horse after he was no longer of use as a WP vehicle. Showing him later in life as a combined training, local schooling show mount meant loading everyone else out of sight. Then grabbing him and throwing him grubby socks and all into the trailer as we were pulling out the farm gate. His last years were happy as the poor sod was actually allowed to live out year round with a buddy and got to do something other than wog and 4 beat in an arena.

Another Half Arab mare I had to ride was scared of this duck at the boarding barn we were at. Not all the ducks. Just this one big white duck with a mohawk. (The duck literally had this natural mohawk of white feathers on it's head) None of the other ducks bothered her. Except the Mohawk-Duck-Of-Death. Silly irrational Quarter horse blood contaminating her veins *grin*

furnacelady said...

Wild turkeys, yup, turkeys.

My Mr. Perfect aged gelding whom I've had for twenty years is pretty much bomb proof. Pirate lost an eye as a weanling, and I bought him as a three year old as no one thought he was trainable. No doubt he would have gone to a KB.

Last fall while quietly riding trail by ourselves the first thing I noted was the lack of noise. Suddenly a huge noise started in the bush beside us! As Pirate was spinning like a top I was trying to get a look at what the noise was, thinking some huge bear was coming at us.

It's hard to see when your horse is spinning and trying to bolt, but the first thing I lock on was a large teardrop on it's side shape. Then I realized it was a bunch of wild turkeys crashing threw the underbush that we must have frightened. Really now, you couldn't beleive the racket they made.

When I got the old man stopped his heart was slamming so loud I could feel it through the saddle. Poor guy, took me a while to calm him.

A couple weeks ago another turkey startled just under his nose (how those damn things blend in so well at that size is incredible). He spun causing the other two horses following us to shy also. Then he cocked his head to better watch it fly away. I'm sure he was swearing at it in his mind. LOL! K

mulerider102 said...

my mule is afraid of snakes. i tryed 2 solve the problem by taking a rope and wiggling it between his legs and he was alittle afraid after wards but all animals besides snakes are most likely 2 be afraid of snakes.

mulerider102 said...
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