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Re: RC: Need Vet Advice-Help?
In a message dated 5/7/99 5:47:20 PM US Mountain Standard Time,
<< > Maybe you could help me with a problem I'm having with my 5 yo gelding.
He's a very forward horse, hard to get him to stand after I mount him and
always ready to go off at the trot immediately. I've ridden trails with him
for the past 2 years and done a few LD rides with him. Now for the first
time, we are training alone on roads next to open fields of crops and he's
started spooking by planting his r front foot and turning 90 degrees while
we're at a good paced trot which makes me go right over his r shoulder onto
my butt!!!! ouch. He always seems to spook with his R fore..never on his L.
When we ride with other horses he's never done this. Maybe this is a learning
curve thing and a trust issue because for the first time he doesn't have a
buddy to focus and depend on? He's got all the responsibility for bugger
Another thing he does is sling his head to the L occasionally for no
apparent reason and it doesn't matter if he's in the barn or cantering.
He'll just all of a sudden sling his head to the L about 60 degrees or
Someone has suggested he might have a visual problem. Is there any way I
can check him for a field defecit or a spot blindness?
Is the horse slinging his hips around a planted front foot? Or is he ducking
out away from the right, to the left? I wouldn't think eye trouble but it
never hurts to have the vet look when he/she is out to do something. When I
was doing some dressage with one of my horses the instructor was sure that he
was ducking out and pulling all kinds of stunts because of a vision problem.
Now that I have done a considerable amount of work using the John Lyons
methods I KNOW there was never any problem with his eyes. One of his
evasions(stunts) was to stop by planting a front foot and then swinging the
hindquarters. I went over his left shoulder on two occasions.
Now that I have done a lot of JL work with "giving to the bit" I have control
over the head, shoulders and hindquarters which is the ENTIRE horse since the
other parts will be in close proximity! When my horse starts to let his
hindquarters drift or slows his forward motion as though he is going to plant
a fore foot, I ask for more forward motion (squeeze or kick) while asking the
horse to give to the bit.
If the horse is spooking then you missed the signs that he had his attention
on something that was more important to him than you and your cues. If the
horse cannot give you his attention because he is sure that the spooky thing
is out to get him then stop your forward motion or retreat back to where the
horse will give you his attention (he is giving you his attention when you
can ask for simple circle and he complies calmly without trying to duck out
or staring at the spooky thing) and practice circles or transitions,
whatever, spiraling closer to the spooky object.
Remember, your goal is go by the spook as though it wasn't there. The horse
will know it's there but as long as he is not actively noticing it, that's
the performance you want. That means you have to have YOUR attention on the
horse and whether he is giving you the performance you desire and NOT have
your focus on the spooky thing. The way I grade my horse's attention now is
how well he can give me what I was asking for when some level of distraction
occurs such as horses/people in the distance or coming down the road, loud,
rattling trucks, dogs running out, etc. The kinds of things they see every
day but this horse was ALWAYS on the alert, wanted to be in control at all
times, and if a spooky thing didn't materialize he was OK with spooking just
for the hell of it. Now he's not perfect but we no longer fight about
control, he's much, much calmer and when I don't have his attention I know
it's my responsibility to get it back by giving him a job to do. That might
be something like making sure we go abound the left side of the small rock in
the road, speed up or slow down, make a transition, move the shoulders or
hindquarters, all with giving to the bit.
As for the horse slinging his head, I've heard it called the Arab head fling.
One of my horses will throw his head in a complete circle to the left when
he is loose in his pen and does it more at feeding times. The other has a
head toss that he does only when turned out and is running, bucking and
playing. They can and should learn what is appropriate behavior when you are
leading or riding and what is OK when they are at liberty.
If you are still interested in the John Lyons stuff let me know. It has
radically improved my enjoyment of my horses, making them calmer, safer and
more responsive and I am spreading the word to anyone who will give it a try.
Melanie in AZ
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