Advice for a nervous rider with a nervous horse?

Joined
5 January 2022
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1
I've been riding western once a week for about 4 years now (and English on-and-off for longer) and for the last year and a bit I've been on this horse which has a tendancy to spook in one corner of the arena where the gate is.

It got to the point where he was spooking (not quite sure if that's the right terminology - his head would shoot up with ears pricked and then go running off away from that corner) every lesson. I've stayed on, and he's good at calming right down soon after, but I'm very shaken about asking him to do things at that corner since I feel like he'll bolt. He's got a pretty slow trot so the disparity between his usual speed and him running away is vast. It's taken me a year to feel comfortable picking up the canter again (which sucks, because it's so fun) and I can't help but feel like I'm doing something wrong, especially since I'm a nervous person and I can't help but feel like he's picking up on that even when I'm more comfortable. It got better over the spring/summer but picked back up again in autumn - I think possibly because the doors on the gate are closed during winter/autumn so my instructor isn't leading him over to them before the lesson so he isn't spooked by the goings-on outside it. He's the third horse I've been on at that stable, but the other two were both older which I think is why they might have been less fussed about my nervousness?

I'm really bad at taking initiative/speaking up and it shows in how I ride - the second horse I was riding on at that stable didn't need a crop at all, this one needs it reguarly since I struggle to make him listen to my leg commands, and I think since I'm bad at showing that I'm in charge he takes the inch and turns it into a mile.

General information is that it's always in the corner where theres a little-used gate to the yard with large doors (it's an indoor arena) and I've been told he's nervous and spooked there before with others (but I feel like maybe every lesson for over a month is a little too much.) It's also only when he's in the walk, never the trot or canter. Theres a fair amount of noise, but he doesn't seem to care about anything thats common around the yard (airplanes, tractors ect.) but even if he pricks up his ears at an unfamilar bad sound he always waits until that corner to bolt. He also tends to rub his teeth on the bars of the stall whenever he's being tacked up and toss his head once the bridles on, but maybe that's normal behavior.

Any advice would be great, I love riding and I'd hate for it to be soured just because of one little stumble.
 

Elno

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1 November 2020
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246
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The far, far north
I've been riding western once a week for about 4 years now (and English on-and-off for longer) and for the last year and a bit I've been on this horse which has a tendancy to spook in one corner of the arena where the gate is.

It got to the point where he was spooking (not quite sure if that's the right terminology - his head would shoot up with ears pricked and then go running off away from that corner) every lesson. I've stayed on, and he's good at calming right down soon after, but I'm very shaken about asking him to do things at that corner since I feel like he'll bolt. He's got a pretty slow trot so the disparity between his usual speed and him running away is vast. It's taken me a year to feel comfortable picking up the canter again (which sucks, because it's so fun) and I can't help but feel like I'm doing something wrong, especially since I'm a nervous person and I can't help but feel like he's picking up on that even when I'm more comfortable. It got better over the spring/summer but picked back up again in autumn - I think possibly because the doors on the gate are closed during winter/autumn so my instructor isn't leading him over to them before the lesson so he isn't spooked by the goings-on outside it. He's the third horse I've been on at that stable, but the other two were both older which I think is why they might have been less fussed about my nervousness?

I'm really bad at taking initiative/speaking up and it shows in how I ride - the second horse I was riding on at that stable didn't need a crop at all, this one needs it reguarly since I struggle to make him listen to my leg commands, and I think since I'm bad at showing that I'm in charge he takes the inch and turns it into a mile.

General information is that it's always in the corner where theres a little-used gate to the yard with large doors (it's an indoor arena) and I've been told he's nervous and spooked there before with others (but I feel like maybe every lesson for over a month is a little too much.) It's also only when he's in the walk, never the trot or canter. Theres a fair amount of noise, but he doesn't seem to care about anything thats common around the yard (airplanes, tractors ect.) but even if he pricks up his ears at an unfamilar bad sound he always waits until that corner to bolt. He also tends to rub his teeth on the bars of the stall whenever he's being tacked up and toss his head once the bridles on, but maybe that's normal behavior.

Any advice would be great, I love riding and I'd hate for it to be soured just because of one little stumble.
If your trainer would ride him would he spook in the same corner? It might be that you anticipate a spook and tense up and the horse picks up on it.

Oh and btw, it is not normal behaviour what he is doing when he is being tacked up.
 

Pearlsasinger

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Joined
20 February 2009
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37,109
Location
W. Yorks
From the behaviour when he is being tacked up,I would suspect that he has ulcers. There is nothing that you can do about that, it's the owner's responsibility. In your position I would ask to ride one of the other horses, you are obviously not being given the riding tools to deal with his behaviour in the arena, so if you want to enjoy your riding, ride a different horse.

If he were my horse/I were riding him and he doesn't spook at trot, I would trot him round the corner, every time and I am surprised that your RI hasn't suggestd that. You would both gain confidence from trotting through the corner without a spook.
 

paddy555

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Joined
23 December 2010
Messages
8,689
there is a difference between sitting on a horse that carries you around and riding one. I think that is where your problem lies.
I am not sure what your instructor is doing but it appears to be nothing. I think you will have to speak up both to the instructor and to the horse.
To the instructor ask them to ride the horse round and round that corner at a walk, I expect it will be perfect and you will see the horse doesn't have a problem. Then you will need to tell the horse what it is going to do and the instructor should be there assisting you with each stride as you approach the corner telling you to ride him, look ahead, more leg, push him on, breathe etc etc. ie the instructor is empowering you to send the horse one. That way you will get the confidence that it can be done.


You could try instructing yourself to see if that would work. You are riding down the side towards the corner. Start talking to yourself, out loud if you feel that is better. Right we are going to walk around the Bl**dy corner and we are going to get a *bl**dy move on at a walk whilst we do it. Count the steps, one, two three four. Right now lets keep going. Don't even think of going faster. Stop, right now walk on. Now stop again. Now start listening to me. Try to get yourself worked up out of your nervousness and lay down the law to the horse.

If he calms right down soon after I doubt he is going to bolt. If this horse needs a crop to make him move I suspect he is far too lazy to fun very far.

Alternatively if this horse is just shattering your confidence ask for another. You are paying for an hour of pleasure not worry.
 

Fellewell

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Joined
5 June 2010
Messages
784
Napping near gates is very common in RS ponies because they get bored and he's probably been punished in that spot for napping towards the gate. You need to get his attention back onto you otherwise you'll both be anticipating the gate. Start with half-halts to get him listening, or leg yields are always good. Try a turn on the forehand next to the gate and always lots of pats and praise when he goes past the gate nicely. Walk can be a very good pace for teaching both of you.
 
Joined
18 January 2022
Messages
11
I've been riding western once a week for about 4 years now (and English on-and-off for longer) and for the last year and a bit I've been on this horse which has a tendancy to spook in one corner of the arena where the gate is.

It got to the point where he was spooking (not quite sure if that's the right terminology - his head would shoot up with ears pricked and then go running off away from that corner) every lesson. I've stayed on, and he's good at calming right down soon after, but I'm very shaken about asking him to do things at that corner since I feel like he'll bolt. He's got a pretty slow trot so the disparity between his usual speed and him running away is vast. It's taken me a year to feel comfortable picking up the canter again (which sucks, because it's so fun) and I can't help but feel like I'm doing something wrong, especially since I'm a nervous person and I can't help but feel like he's picking up on that even when I'm more comfortable. It got better over the spring/summer but picked back up again in autumn - I think possibly because the doors on the gate are closed during winter/autumn so my instructor isn't leading him over to them before the lesson so he isn't spooked by the goings-on outside it. He's the third horse I've been on at that stable, but the other two were both older which I think is why they might have been less fussed about my nervousness?

I'm really bad at taking initiative/speaking up and it shows in how I ride - the second horse I was riding on at that stable didn't need a crop at all, this one needs it reguarly since I struggle to make him listen to my leg commands, and I think since I'm bad at showing that I'm in charge he takes the inch and turns it into a mile.

General information is that it's always in the corner where theres a little-used gate to the yard with large doors (it's an indoor arena) and I've been told he's nervous and spooked there before with others (but I feel like maybe every lesson for over a month is a little too much.) It's also only when he's in the walk, never the trot or canter. Theres a fair amount of noise, but he doesn't seem to care about anything thats common around the yard (airplanes, tractors ect.) but even if he pricks up his ears at an unfamilar bad sound he always waits until that corner to bolt. He also tends to rub his teeth on the bars of the stall whenever he's being tacked up and toss his head once the bridles on, but maybe that's normal behavior.

Any advice would be great, I love riding and I'd hate for it to be soured just because of one little stumble.

You are most likely tensing before the corner because you are expecting him to spook. Could just be your average horse and takes the mick though, although it may be scary at the time you must keep your leg on and push him into the corner with your inside leg. Be as harsh as possible, sounds to me like he’s being a little bugger and isn’t actually spooking.
 
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