Hey All,

So I thought I'd start a topic on De spooking. My 5yr old TB has zero confidence, and spooks (badly) at just about anything. He's been off with a suspensory injury and is just coming back to work now. So far we've eliminated numerous things from his "holy crow that is going to eat me" list. They include tarps of all shapes, sizes, colors and textures, yoga balls, wind chimes and most recently - umbrellas!

What have you guys done for de spooking your horse? What weird things is your horse afraid off? Wheels still needs to work on not being scared of the BM's toddler! LOL

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My horse Dezzi is deathly afraid of velcro, hoses, scissors and fly spray. Basiclly I just got her accustomed to them as much as I could. She is stil sometimes spooks at the velcro on her fly mask tho!!
Hi Jenna! Do you try to expose Dezzi to his feared things just when you have to use them or each time you spend time together? Can you graze your horse near a hose often so it comes to be a very common item when he's doing something he enjoys? Keep a spray bottle with just water in it and spray it at a distance that it doesn't scare him and then get closer and closer each week, day, hour whichever it takes to work. You can do this with most anything...while you are grazing him stand at a distance and keep playing with the velcro or the scissors. If you do it often enough at a safe distance and keep getting closer...he's gotta get used to it. Should work even in extreme cases if done slow enough. Has anyone ever shared the approach and retreat idea? Take one of these scarey items at a time. Stand far enough away that he's not afraid then gradually start moving closer. When you see some reaction then move back a moment and keep doing that till no reaction and gradually keep moving closer...to and from, to and from, If you persist with this regularly rather then just doing it when you have to, it should help a lot. This helps with touching their ears, or spraying or the reactions to the girth. And always end on a good note...however close that is where he still feels safe when you stop.
I hope my explanation is understandable....I've seen it work often.
You can also give treats each time you have to expose him to the scary and then they get so they associate the good treat with the scarey item and it gets easier.
I don't know how often this helps but it helps with my guy if I stay very light-hearted and sort of make a game out of it...just act a little silly with the item at a comfortable distance and I NEVER force him and try to do something scarey when I don't have time to help him work thru it. If I feel myself getting frustrated or angry ...it's time to stop for the time being.
And one last thing from me, some will think I'm a nut!! My horse really likes it when I tell him how brave he is. There must be something in the tone of it that gives him a sense of pride and he tries harder.
The result of this patience is my horse comes to the gate 95% of the time when he sees me come to get him and I don't give him treats at that point. And I never have on arrival. He gets plenty of treats thru-out my visits. Take the time it takes and it won't take as much time! If you are a real high energy type person you will have to train yourself first to show a calm demeaner or they'll feed off that energy.
I'd love to hear back if ANY of these helps...
Along with Shirley's suggestions, which are great, I'd also suggest, once she's gotten close to the 'scary' object, allow her to sniff it for a moment, then move her away. This will spike her curiosity, making her want to move towards it, not away.
My horse doesn't spook at too much, but some things still spook her.
I am new to this group and love the relationship that groundwork can add to our partnership.
My guy, Cash, is 8 and we've had some pretty BIG scares in our 5 years together with both of us being green. He was well trained but not much in the area of despooking. We have taken many swish and swoop side-passes but most of the time he then gains his composure, in other words no real run-offs while I've been on him. Well that is not totally true. When he was three i went on a camp-out with LOTS of others. We were still in the camping area and I had a horse and rider on both sides of us. Five people came galloping up behind us and I bucked off. Broke my helmet a couple of inches up the middle of the back and pulled some muscles but I got back on as soon as I was pretty sure nothing was broke. I take the blame for that because I didn't have prior and proper preparation for my young-in.
We have been doing indoor and outdoor arena work when riding and are adding riding around the outbuildings.
From the ground: We have a couple of young children that help with this by riding their bikes near but not too close, play ball near but not too close and now they've added a small four wheeler. I'm thinking of seeing if I can get them to play Frisbee around us while Cash grazes. There are five cats that come and go and jump out at inopportune times. One of the most recent things we had to get past was a small fire that was smoking, It took some patience to get beyond that but on the fourth trip, he was fine. I've noticed smoke concerns them from pretty far away. This week the farmers were in the fields next door with HUGE equipment. Things went fine with the warm-up ground-work so I got on to ride. Went fine for a while but then another piece of big equipment arrived and I chose to stay on. Cash payed attention but handled it UNTIL they BANGED something! This time he did want to run. Finally my instincts clicked into gear! I used my one rein stop and it worked!! I released and he bolted again so I put the one rein pressure on again and went into our small circle and this time he did settle and I let him stop and look to check things out. Another thing I do from the ground is swish my training stick and string all around him and smack it on the ground all around him. I did this in the arenas first and then extended it to going down the brushy lane that I hope to ride down soon. I have lost him a couple of times on the lane when something??? has spooked him and I was very thankful I was NOT on him during those episodes. Again, my fault, I now always wear gloves and use a rope halter that makes a huge difference in my ability to stop him. HUGE DIFFERENCE!
Something else that someone JUST suggested to me (after 5 years of riding) to do in the indoor arena: When I think there is a good chance he is going to spook at noises on the outside wall I should keep a firm inside leg on him which tells him not to go that way and with him feeling directed he's less likely to spook big time to the center. I was pleasantly surprised how much that helps.
I try to expose her to the scary things every time I work with her. So far I have worked with her on the velcro and the hose (on the warm days of course). Everyday before school I go out and put their flymasks on. I just brought her a treat and praised her alot and now she is quite good with it. Sometimes she spooks when I am taking it off but were still working on that. :) With the hose, I just did like you said (Thanks!!) and started out farther away until she got used to it then slowly moved closer and closer. Right now I can run the water over her lower legs and feet!!
Sounds like you are seeing progress...very cool!!!...go slow and take the time it takes. If you get it right early on, it'll take less time in the long run.
With my horse if I act up tight he will sense something is wrong. I have found it helps to talk to them in a sort of teasing/playful voice rather then getting all serious with him.
With the velcro, you might pull it & make the noise several times each day while you are grooming him and give him a small piece of carrot or apple right away each time you make the velcro noise. I'd expect in a short time that he'd associate the noise with the treat and think it's not so bad after all and then when he seems to be adjusted, gradually reduce how often you give the carrot bits after making the noise. I bet soon it will be a non-event.
With the hose, I'd be sure the water isn't too hot from laying in the sun or cold as ice either. Also if you aren't already doing this, rather then just going closer and closer with the hose if you have it running, go closer and then back a little repeatedly....closer, retreat, closer, retreat. There seems to be something about the retreating that kinda triggers their brain "OH, that wasn't so bad after all" and they just keep feeling braver and braver which convinces them the hose is okay after all and since you've done it in a friendly manner, they're trust in you will increase too.
Keep up the good work! Glad you are seeing progress.
I love horses!
I agree, you have to be positively calm. If you watch the Dog whisperer, he actually uses the phrase I think applies: Calm Assertive Energy.

Horses are emotional sponges. They really pick up when we're nervous, and it takes a long time for them to let go of that feeling. :)
My boy Canyon has spook issues and we've come a long way in about 18 months (he's 11, but apparently his previous owner didn't work through this with him).

Plastic bags used to be the major horse eater - until I started feeding him his reward carrot out of one. Now he checks every bag incase it has a carrot. LOL
That's cute!
Haha thanks everyone for the advice!! (i watch the dog whisperer too!! :D) I used that closer retreat method and it really worked with the hose!! (Now her flyspray isn't that scary either cuz that seems like nothin compared to the hose)
Way to go Jenna! Keep up the good work. I think it's really satisfying to know you did the work yourself. Down the road you will be so proud at what you've done with Dezzi.
Hi Jenna, How are things going? I have heard that this just keeps getting easier cause they get a little braver each time they overcome fear of something. I think I've seen it with Cash. He loves it when I tell he's a brave boy.


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