Its not always easy to stay entirely calm when your horse is spooking or being sharp, especially if the behaviour is putting you or others in danger. If you are terrified your horse will think “oh, there is something to be afraid of” but will not make the connection that what you are afraid of is your horse! Don’t Be Afraid It is sometimes easier said than done, but anyone riding a horse knows that it can pick up on your emotions and it will affect their sate of mind.
So how would you calm a spooking/fresh horse?”
- Top tip is to “keep their attention on you” hacking out or warming up use diversion tactics to get them to listen to you. Keep calm breath slowly and into the bottom of your lungs so that the ribcage fills out and back at the bottom. Focus your attention in front of the horse, keep your head in balance and your shoulders, back and seat relaxed (…not slumped – relaxed) ask your horse to back up, move his shoulders over change direction etc. All can be done when hacking out, opening gates, going over bridges (particularly motorway ones – Scary or what?)
- Use lateral flexion – Bend the ribs by only using leg aids if the horse does not respond this tells you your horse is bracing or his mind is somewhere else.
- Practice at home, riding at different speeds within a gait, so three speeds of walk, trot and canter.
- Lunge before you ride to take the edge off your horse.
- If he wants to increase speed going home, it shows and tells us that he’s un-confident … rushing home!
- Once he gets home work him, rest & work again … stay chilled you don’t want him working that hard that he sweats like crazy .. then tie up for a while.
- Out hacking get him to walk away from home at different speeds (or trot and canter) on way home, same deal … slow walk, then medium … etc.
- Avoid standing still as it is probably going to wind him up. Let his feet move but direct his energy in a way that keeps his attention on you
- Look at your work routine are you encourageing the horse to rush home for food? Breaking this cycle by a short hack then a work out or a work out then a hack/lunge (whichever your horse likes least) will help change their mind setting
- It is important to praise your horse too, if they behave let them know you’re proud with a soothing voice and a scratch.