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Horse Problem - Spooky Horse - Horse spooks at things in saddle - how to desensitize spooky horse









QUESTION: I have a 5-year-old gelding quarter horse that we recently put into a month of training. He was purchased as a 3-year-old, with a pretty much unknown history. His basic temperment is good (although I am not an experienced horse person). He has been in an open field with a similar age mare and an old pony. The mare is a rather aggressive horse around people and horses. The gelding leads/longes without problems and will allow you to saddle and ride with few problems. The issue the trainer is experiencing has to do with startling when out in the arena for training. He jumps forward or backward or sideways (depending which direction his attention shifts) when approached by another person or when he hears or sees something new. This is a significant movement, enough to knock the trainer. The trainer tried "sacking" him and putting things in his stall that created noise and he tolerated all of that well. Did not seem disturbed at all. We are at a loss for anything that may help. He seems to have a good attitude and we really don't want to sell him. But we are not experienced riders. I would very much appreciate any assistance you could give. Thank you for your time.
REPLY: Sure, glad to help here. Sounds like he's making good progress in all other directions, so let me give you some tips to get past this last spooking bump to close that foundation hole once and for all. Sounds like the trainer has desensitized/sacked him out pretty well (make sure he sacks out with plastic bags, like you get at the grocery store, too, noisier the better, & tie some around his stall, paddock and feeder, and pray for the wind to blow!). 


But I would go a step further to raise your horse's fear bar there by putting a plastic bag on the end of a training wand and I'll show you what to do with that. I use my extendable/retractable training wand for this purpose and you can get one here: CLICK HERE
I tie a plastic grocery bag to the end, pop holes in/rip open the bottom of plastic bag so it won't catch air. This tool creates a very handy extendable/retractable training wand that then allows for a lot of creative use scenarios for our puposes here.

Here's what I would do: I would begin by (in a safe confined area like round pen or arena), have the horse in a natural horsemanship halter/12 foot attached (tied on) lead rope, which you can get here: CLICK HERE

Take a plastic bag and rub the horse all over his body with it to make sure he's not scared of it. If he is scared of it, slow down, start smaller (crumpled imperceptably at first in your enclosed hand if necessary, as you rub, and only let it open up slowly). Use advance/retreat, help him nurturingly, until he can accept this everywhere. Best to start on the face or neck, and use your fingernails to scratch the horse at the same time so he files it as pleasureful. I've got a training philosophy: if you're not getting your fingernails nice and dirty when training,'re probably not training right, nurturingly enough!

If the horse is ever afraid of the plastic, he will generally shoot his head up high, warily.

To help him digest the plastic as harmless, squat, lower your stature, drop the horse's head and let him sniff it with his head lower to the ground and it'll help him digest it is harmless.

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