Start EasyWhen a horse is broken to ride, the basics are instilled. Walk > trot > canter > left or right. But you will need more than that for a good all round horse. If your horse knows what aid is being asked, then it is easier to distract them and calm them down instead of them being confused. If you have an area you are in the best position to practice the following, advised to us by Lesley Williams. But we understand that not all people have the use of an arena, so Lesley tells us that it can be done anywhere.In response to our Facebook Question “How would you calm a spooking/fresh horse?” Lesley said:•Lateral flexion•Bend the ribs by leg aids only if not possible tells you horse is bracing or his mind is somewhere else. •Keep their attention on you, back up, move shoulders over etc. All can be done when hacking out, opening gates, going over bridges (particularly motorway ones.)•Practice at home, riding at different speeds within a gait, so three speeds of walk, trot and canter.•Lunge before you ride to take the edge off your horse. If he wants to increase speed going home, it shows and tells us that he's un-confident ... rushing home! Once he gets home work him, rest & work again ... stay chilled you don't want him working that hard that he sweats like crazy .. then tie up for a while. Out hacking get him to walk away from home at different speeds (or trot and canter) on way home, same deal ... slow walk, then medium ... standing still is probably going to wind him up. Let his feet move but direct his energy in a way that keeps his attention on you”Most people get off, feed or turn out. Getting turned out or fed is a treat to the horse, they know that if they go on a hack or a work out that as soon as they come home they get food. This is what entices them to go faster on the way home or to misbehave and get sent back to the stable. Breaking this cycle by a short hack then a work out or a work out then a hack/lunge (whichever your horse likes least) will change their mind setting, and you might find they want to work at one thing for longer, anticipating something less fun when they finish it! It is important to praise your horse too, if they behave let them know you’re proud with a soothing voice and a scratch. Don’t Be AfraidIt is sometimes easier said than done, but anyone riding a horse knows that it can pick up on your emotions and use them. If you are terrified your horse will think “oh, there is something to be afraid of” but will not make the connection that what you are afraid of is your horse! The following tips show how you can calm yourself down, in turn helping to calm your horse:•Breathe! When we are anxious our breathing becomes rapid or stops. Take deep breaths to relax yourself.•Relax your shoulders. Drop your shoulders down and let your arms relax a little too.•Relax your legs. The more tense you are the more your legs will dig in. A sensitive horse may confuse this as an aid.Soothe Your HorseHorses don’t like to be afraid, so work on their natural instincts to bring them back to harmony:•Let your horse look. If it sees no danger it will calm down. Be prepared for it to not like what it sees and spin, but if it does keep it going in the circle to face the problem again until it understands there is no danger. If a car is the “problem” let them know what you are doing and thank them or being patient.•Encourage your horse to lower its head by having low and open arms. A horse is relaxed when its head and ears are down.•Scratch your horses withers and neck as if you are mutually grooming.•Talk in a soothing voice. “Shhh” your horse and talk calmly to it in a low husky “whickering” voice. You can practice this at home, soothing your horse when grooming and just making a it relaxing time for him/her. This will also relax you.•Laugh and Yawn. Even if you are on the verge of tears, yawn and giggle even sing! If you are doing this at home when your horse is relaxed, he will associate the sound with no danger. Know your horseIf you know what your horses limits are then you can work on them. If you have a new horse always introduce them to a few “scary” things in the arena or yard before hitting the road. If your horse is scared of one particular thing, have one near them at all times (if he is afraid of bikes, have one sitting outside his stable and take it for a spin now and again.) If he is afraid of tractors ask someone with one if you can bring your horse to it to have a sniff of it turned off, then have it turn on and again slowly introduce your horse to it. bomb proofing can start in the arena too. Many people use the following in an arena, and just ride their horse around them:•Umbrellas•Tarpaulin •Wheelbarrows•Bikes•Cars/lawnmowers•Plastic bags on the fence
If you hack, you have probably experienced your horse spooking at some point. Or perhaps you have come across a field of horses who are enjoying the sunshine and have decided to go for a gallop along the fence, taking yours with them? Even if you horse is 100% bombproof with vehicles, there is still a chance that it can spook or get feisty, especially in spring when the sweet grass and fresh air gets into their blood and they begin to think like Red Rum!So what can you do as a rider to control the situation? Read through the following and see.