How to Be in Control When Riding a Horse That's Easily Spooked

Posted by Paige Cerulli
Carl Wycoff via Flickr

There are a number of ways you can reduce your horse's spooking.

Horses are prey animals by nature, which means that they react to threats by spooking and getting themselves to safety. That also means that when we're on them, we're subjected to quite the ride when the wind is blowing, an animal is in the woods by the arena, or basically anything else unexpected happens.

Riding the spooky horse doesn't always have to feel out of control, though, and there are steps you can take to help deal with your horse's spooking.

Don't Make Spooking a Big Deal

Carl Wycoff via Flickr

If your horse spooks, do your best not to make a big deal out of the incident. Yanking on the reins, punishing your horse, or otherwise making the incident into something larger than it is will only reinforce that your horse was right to be afraid.

Instead, act like the spook never happened and immediately continue on with your ride. This response teaches your horse that his reaction wasn't needed, and that there's nothing to be afraid of.

Keep Your Horse Focused

Remy Overkempe via Flickr

Horses often spook when their minds are allowed to wander during a ride. The more time your horse spends looking around at his surroundings, the more things he'll find to spook at. Instead, keep your horse focused on a task during your ride.

Even at the walk, do some direction changes, ask your horse to vary his stride length, ask for a shoulder in, and more. Keeping your horse focused on a task can make the ride a calmer one for you both.

Get Your Nerves under Control

Roger H. Goun via Flickr

Sometimes riders become major factors in their horses' behavior. If you are constantly worried that your horse is going to spook, then your horse will quickly pick up on the fact that you are nervous. The more tense you get, the more tense your horse is likely to become in return - you're telling him that there's something to be afraid of.

Practice some relaxation techniques to help get your nerves under control. Focus on taking deep breaths, since these both relax you and slow your heartbeat. Sing your favorite song or talk with your friends during a ride.

Be sure to check your body posture, too - we tend to raise our hands, tighten our fingers, and hunch forward when we're nervous, which will make your horse even more uncomfortable.

Rule out Physical Issues

Stefan Schmitz via Flickr

If your horse suddenly begins spooking or gets much more reactive than normal, it's possible that a physical issue may be to blame. Horses suffering from pain may spook as a result, so always check your saddle fit and have a vet rule out ulcers. Your vet should also check your horse's eyesight - when horses have diminishing or impaired eyesight, they may spook at shadows or objects which suddenly appear in their field of vision.

If your spooky horse becomes dangerous or starts to take over your rides, be sure to enlist the help of a qualified horse trainer. With some patience and training, many horses can reduce their spooking and can become more dependable.

While your horse may never be a bombproof horse, you can work with him so that you can enjoy your rides more.

Do you have a spooky horse? Tell us how you ride in the comments below. 

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How to Be in Control When Riding a Horse That's Easily Spooked