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Spooking & horse breeds/owners

I find this thread interesting and timely as last weekend I judged one 
exercise in the Trail Trials sponsored by Tamapais Trail Council at Novato 
Horseman's Assoc. area.

My exercise was to hand a plastic bag full of cans to the rider which in 
turn had to:
1.  Horse stands still while the rider shakes the cans and passes the bag 
from side to side
2.  Horse maintains a circle at any gait while rider shakes the bag of cans

I always asked (especially with the kids) if theyve ever done this before 
and many never had, so suggested they take their time, let the horse get 
real use to it, don't just grab and shake, don't worry if they don't make 
noise at all the first time etc.

What I found were the horses were really getting their cues from the 
rider....if the horse trusted the rider they were scared, yes, but able to 
deal with it with the rider's help, if the rider was more in mind mine a 
'bullying' type (which unfortunately there were many of these) that horse 
just flipped out and that rider had to throw away that bag of cans so fast 
and just get the horse to stop from running away!  This was different 
breeds, horses of different ages, sex and different types of riders.  The 
ones who did it the first time I'll tell you, you could just tell that human 
and horse had a trusting relationship and made ya feel so good.  The others, 
well, they don't really know what it is to train a horse...

BTW, part of training a horse to do this exercise is they find out if they 
do stop moving the noisy shaking stops...the stimulas is removed as the 
reward.  If you keep shaking the bag of cans even when they are good and 
stop moving then you defeat the exercise. (this is for first lesson).  You 
have to reward the horse for just trying, not necessarily succeeding....

Another exercise I found really helpful in the past to help sit a spook and 
get through it was a really windy day up at the ranch.  The horses were 
spooking at nothing and the trainer said great conditions to help with leg 
yields and spookiness.  So when the horse spooked at nothing on the fence we 
would leg yield them side to side to face the spook, learning to keep our 
seat, and when the horse stopped spooking the pressure of working was 
stopped and they rested.  Good lesson for us both.  So next time the horse 
is spooking, stop him, do some exercises around the spook bending that 
horse, invite him to stop facing it and rest, and you will be on your way to 
less spooks on a horse that trusts you more and able to sit a spook better 

Gotta go!

Kimberly M. Price

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