Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Horse Training – Spooky Horses on the Trail

I had previously posted a short article on sacking out horses on ground obstacles and embedded a video on getting a horse used to a wooden bridge as found on some trail class competitions. In that post I briefly talked about desensitizing horses and how I preferred to look at it as allowing a horse to figure out that he can think through a problem and doesn’t have to turn and bolt ever time he encounters something he hasn’t seen before. Craig Cameron calls this making a brave horse. That’s a good as description as any out there.

You aren’t doing your horse any favors if you are out on the trail and your horse spooks on something and you take him or let him walk away from it. This may be re-enforcing the idea (to the horse) that he should be scared of whatever it was.

Now if your horse is almost uncontrollable when faced with a spooky object, then you probable don’t need to be on the trail with him and instead work with him on the round pen or arena on spooky things.

However, when on the trail and you find something that is causes anxiety for the horse, gradually let him figure out that it’s no big deal.

The below video was shot upon horseback when I out on a long ride and we encountered a junk pile. It’s a damn shame people see the need to dump garbage out in the desert, but it happened,….my horse didn’t care too much for the spooky things,…so we used it as a training aid to help him become the brave horse that I’d like him to be.

As I walk my horse toward the junk pile, I don’t push him. When he wants to stop and try and figure it out, I’ll let him. If he wants to scoot side ways and try and turn around, I’ll only hold him facing the object and not let him backup. His head is going to go up and down, his ears forward and he may blow some air out his nose (I think he’s trying to clear his nose to get a scent). His feet may be moving a lot, once these sides subside I’ll ask him to move forward and repeat this process.

I very seldom dismount to lead a spooky horse towards something, but I won’t hesitate to do so if I think I need to.

If you Horse continues to spook or seem to spook on many things, especially in circumstances he has been in before, then you may want to consider getting him back in the round pen, going back over some basics and keep his saddle blanket wet.


  1. My horse gets really agitated when the others horses ride off and leave us, even when we are seperated by just like 100 yards. He wants to run to catch up. How do I correct this? Alice, Fresno, California.

  2. My horse has suddendly become afraid of leaving the turn out. She is really dangerous as she totally loses it and runs into you. What can I do. She is really spooky lately.