Hacking a spooky horse - How to do it / make it enjoyable?

Neptune

New Member
Joined
26 April 2013
Messages
154
So how do you all go about hacking your spooky horses?

I find with mine when ridden I need to keep his attention on me all the time, otherwise he finds his own entertainment.
In the school this is fine. Lots of circles / loops any type of bending and flexing seems to keep him listening and not gawping
at the ghosts and horse eating sparrows round the edge of the school.

But when hacking a lot of the tracks are straight and narrow, so no room to be circling and bending. He has all the time in the
world to find other things to take his attention.

What can I do to help him settle and concentrate on me? He can be the same in company as well, sometimes he is happy for the
company other times he marches on in front away from them anyway. He does like it when someone comes on foot with us though,
he will follow them quite happily. But can't expected someone to walk miles with us while we go out hacking!

He does hack by himself. I just want to make it less spooky and more enjoyable for the both of us.

Ideas? Thanks :)
 

Lanky Loll

Active Member
Joined
23 June 2009
Messages
4,058
Location
Wilts/Glos border
Sometimes it's just a case of getting them out there as much as possible. Mine is good in traffic, but a leaf or a shadow or something can cause an all four feet off the ground - not helped by her being a nosy beggar and she can be peering over the hedge only to jump at the car that has been "creeping up on us" for the last 10 seconds or so :rolleyes: The more we go out the better she is, and we happily hack out on our own.
How does he react when he spooks? Mine USED to spin - and used to get a smack for it :mad: she now knows it's unacceptable so doesn't try it. If she's scared of something she stands still pointing in our direction of travel if its a vehicle of some sort. Otherwise she just gives it as wide a berth as possible whilst still going forward - and that's the key thing. If it's a leaf or something then usual reaction is all four feet in the air - I don't tend to acknowledge that beyond a "stop being a twit" and the less you make of it the less she does it.
 

Sol

New Member
Joined
30 May 2009
Messages
4,133
Location
Shropshire, England.
My gelding used to spin/bog off, and be constantly finding something 'scary' to spook at. Shoulder-in seems to have been the cure! Not in the traditional 'shoulder-in past the scary object so they can't really see it' way, but that it seems to somehow almost reset his brain when he does tense up. He actually struggles with shoulder-in so I don't ask for much, but even just the 'asking' seems to be enough to get his brain back in gear. We spend a lot of time going *intentionally* sideways on hacks now, and we're just about getting to the point where we can trot & stay sensible too, previously trot was an immediate cue for 'stick your head in the air & gawp at everything' if we were out!
Getting someone to walk with us on foot really helps too. Another horse, even a super calm one, has much less influence on him than a person on foot does.
 

ILuvCowparsely

Well-Known Member
Joined
5 April 2010
Messages
12,310
my boy is out hacking 3 days a week and is mega spooky, he is getting worst is on magic calmer but can only walk at mo so has time to find scary thing , he is a git and a d'ckhead
 

burtie

Well-Known Member
Joined
4 October 2003
Messages
3,724
Location
New Forest
I found the solution with my spooky warmblood was to get a Western saddle!, of course it didn't stop the spooks to start with, but as I could be much more relaxed and happily ride really forward on a long rain without worrying so much about falling off he has got bolder and bolder and now very rarely does more than a small shy.
 

pippixox

Well-Known Member
Joined
9 April 2013
Messages
1,831
i try to relax and forget they are spooky! a few years ago my mare would not hack alone, then she started to, but with a lot of napping before leaving the yard and then spooking at the world! but the more she has gone out the better she has got. i tend to talk to her and sometimes even sing :) the more i think about what she is going to spook at the worse she is, so i try to switch off and not 'over-think'
 

Crumpet

New Member
Joined
5 September 2012
Messages
186
Location
Nottinghamshire
The ex race TB I hack out for a friend can be very silly spooky, killer birds and crocodile logs also shark infested puddles do it for him. He's much worse on narrow overgrown forest tracks yet in the open or on the road he's much better. I tend to get him working on the bit and moving forwards in the situations where he's more likely to faff about and plenty of trotting burns off the stupidity. I watch his ears tbh if he "watches something" with one ear it's a given that he'll goggle at it, but it's not often he catches me out!
 

canteron

Well-Known Member
Joined
15 October 2008
Messages
2,579
Location
Cloud Cockoo Land
I'm with Sol, lots of neck flexions and shoulder in, and get the horse to really march everywhere, learn a marching song and get the horse moving forward to the rhythm - then it has to drop back to spook and soon you will tune into that and send the horse forward before it gets to the spooking bit.

Failing that an Avacallo seat pad, they are awesome for sitting spooks!
 

Ema03

New Member
Joined
13 November 2013
Messages
13
Location
Northampton
I feel for you, my mare is ridiculous out. She's not spooky as such but if something surprises her like a bird flying out a hedge then my god do I know about it! It's a massive massive over reaction and it generally has me off as she is gone! She rears, spins and runs but it happens so quick your out the side door before you even know what's happened! It's very frustrating! I try and keep her focus on me as much as possible by flexing her and leg yielding but doesn't always work unfortunately so will be watching with interest!
 

Sol

New Member
Joined
30 May 2009
Messages
4,133
Location
Shropshire, England.
I'm with Sol, lots of neck flexions and shoulder in, and get the horse to really march everywhere, learn a marching song and get the horse moving forward to the rhythm - then it has to drop back to spook and soon you will tune into that and send the horse forward before it gets to the spooking bit.

Failing that an Avacallo seat pad, they are awesome for sitting spooks!
Ooh, yes, the marching bit is important too! We basically see hacking as schooling in the big wide world now, we go everywhere with a purpose!
His 'downtime' is really getting a good canter/gallop when we go off-road, at least once a week. But even then I insist that he does something 'purposeful' first - ie. we have to do a few steps leg yield either way in walk & trot before I let him canter, so he remembers that he's got to listen.

Helps to pop your stirrups up a hole or 2 too sometimes, more security. Although, probably less important if you hack in a GP/jump saddle, I only have a dressage saddle so find it useful.
 

khalswitz

New Member
Joined
17 May 2012
Messages
3,496
Location
NE Scotland
Personally, my lad can be super spooky when I try and school out hacking, but is a dude if we just go for a wander. It's pure evasion. I do sometimes insist on the schooling whilst hacking, but I intersperse it with lazy hacking that we both enjoy - and it tones down the spooking.
 

Auslander

Well-Known Member
Joined
13 November 2010
Messages
9,754
Location
Berkshire
Another one with a major spooked - he's a little ragbag who constantly looks for things to spook at - and a spook to him means leaping skywards, spinning and tanking off. Shoulder-in didn't really help, as he finds it very easy, so spooks just as much. I now move him between shoulder-in and travers constantly, which he really enjoys - the only slight issue is that the constant transitions make him really up and round and through, so he's perfectly primed for even bigger spooks when I stop re-focusing his attention!
 

AlexHyde

Well-Known Member
Joined
24 October 2012
Messages
3,526
Another one with a major spooked - he's a little ragbag who constantly looks for things to spook at - and a spook to him means leaping skywards, spinning and tanking off. Shoulder-in didn't really help, as he finds it very easy, so spooks just as much. I now move him between shoulder-in and travers constantly, which he really enjoys - the only slight issue is that the constant transitions make him really up and round and through, so he's perfectly primed for even bigger spooks when I stop re-focusing his attention!
:eek: sorry this shouldn't have made me laugh, but this is Topaz to a t!

She's actually very good to hack, but when she is in a spooky mood schooling we did shoulder-in which was great until she mastered it and so could shoulder-in and spook! Then we went for some leg-yielding which again when it's new it focusses her fantastically, but then when she's confident that she knows it goes back to spooking. Currently I'm using travers and for the moment this is keeping the attention, but I can see the patten continuing, maybe I just need to do as you do and shoulder-in-to-leg-yield-to-travers...

But to the OP as the others have said keep your horses concentration and keep a good contact, but most of all positive exposure to the big wide world should help.

x x
 

jessjc

New Member
Joined
6 January 2012
Messages
310
Location
Chaddleworth, Berkshire (Wantage/Newbury)
My mare's quite spooky - she's just very alert all of the time, and although doesn't bat an eyelid at a tractor or big lorry, a sheep or a leaf can bring her to a tremble. She darts out to the side generally, which is actually an improvement on stopping and looking with eyes on stalks. It is quite infuriating. To start off with I kept her in an outline all the time and made her work hard on hacks (as this worked for an older ex racehorse that I used to ride that is incredibly spooky), however I found that with my mare, the more relaxed she is the better, so riding on a fairly long rein and a relaxed seat and not reacting to the jumpiness seems to work better (although you have to be fairly brave if a pheasant jumps out at you or like the other day when a hare decided to gallop towards us (!!)).

Try a number of different things and see what works for your horse. I am hoping mine will grow out of it, as she does seem to be getting better. However, the ex racehorse I mentioned will do it forever - he invents things to spook at and leaps into the air. He is supposed to be sensible so he can lead the baby racehorses!! A great ride otherwise though.. Good luck!
 

Auslander

Well-Known Member
Joined
13 November 2010
Messages
9,754
Location
Berkshire
My mare's quite spooky - she's just very alert all of the time, and although doesn't bat an eyelid at a tractor or big lorry, a sheep or a leaf can bring her to a tremble. She darts out to the side generally, which is actually an improvement on stopping and looking with eyes on stalks. It is quite infuriating. To start off with I kept her in an outline all the time and made her work hard on hacks (as this worked for an older ex racehorse that I used to ride that is incredibly spooky), however I found that with my mare, the more relaxed she is the better, so riding on a fairly long rein and a relaxed seat and not reacting to the jumpiness seems to work better (although you have to be fairly brave if a pheasant jumps out at you or like the other day when a hare decided to gallop towards us (!!)).

Try a number of different things and see what works for your horse. I am hoping mine will grow out of it, as she does seem to be getting better. However, the ex racehorse I mentioned will do it forever - he invents things to spook at and leaps into the air. He is supposed to be sensible so he can lead the baby racehorses!! A great ride otherwise though.. Good luck!
Good point about the relaxation! i had a very interesting hack the other week, when someone came past me and trotted off up the bridleway. Alf is on mostly walk exercise, and only allowed to trot on the roads, so following at the same speed wasn't an option. Cue one EXTREMELY explosive horse - whose reaction to stress is curl himself up into a ball, and then go off like a firework. I had to negotiate a 2 mile bridle path with him in a complete fit of hysterics, and hanging onto his mouth just made things worse, so I sat there like an old hunting farmer with my legs stuck forward, and loose reins, only taking a heave when the antics started moving in an excessively forward direction. It's quite a leap of faith to sit on a horse that's having a complete meltdown - with no contact on its mouth at all. I survived, but it was a bit hairy! Had I put him on the bit and insisted he listened to me and behaved sensibly - he'd have lost it completely and I'd have been on the floor!
 

Dizzle

New Member
Joined
24 September 2008
Messages
2,304
Sounds like my old tb, I actually found that he was better to hack alone than in company most of the time, I found if he was having a particularly spooky day the best thing to do was power trot, it tended to keep his mind a bit more focused, I also use to shoulder in/leg yield past/round scary things so he’d not only be concentrating but also looking the other way.
 

Neptune

New Member
Joined
26 April 2013
Messages
154
You have all actually made me feel so much better hearing your stories and your way of dealing with spooking.

I admittedly do struggle with the schooling element on hacks, as some have said it seem to wind their horses up even furthur. We can normally get leg yield without to much struggle and do weave our way along the tracks. Only in walk mind you. But he seems to find this easy and soon gets bored of it.

I think with him I do just have to wear a pair of extremely big brave pants and just relax! I do find in the school if he spooks say in one corner, I have to remain relaxed next time we come round to it otherwise he will then play on it if he gets a reaction from me. Smacking him after spooking is not the answer for him, I tried that. He would spook and then just spook again as he anticipated the smack. He is best ignored when spooked.

He probably does just need to be exposed a bit more to the 'joys' of hacking. I do tend to try avoiding doing it. Even though I do actually enjoy hacking and used to go on all sorts of exploring trips with my old horse. Just not feeling like I have the confidence in my current horse lately. He is just so Jekell and Hyde at times!
 

Orangehorse

Well-Known Member
Joined
25 November 2005
Messages
9,793
Haven't read all the replies, but I had a spooky mare. We practiced shoulder-in, serpentines, half halt, leg yield, lengthening and shortening the stride in walk and trot, and since she would shy at a different coloured leaf, I used to make her halt if a car was coming up behind in case we ended up on the bonnet and wait until the car went past.

This resulted in the best schooled horse I ever had ........................

Actually, she loved hacking and always put her heart and soul into it and became a real joy to ride out.
 

turkana

Active Member
Joined
2 July 2009
Messages
907
I had an incredible spooky & reactive mare, I just used to ignore the spooking as much as possible, I found her better if I got a real move on as she had less time to spot things, I used to say it was like riding a hackney on acid, as she always did huge prancing strides when we were out.
I got an RS-tor which I kept hold of, it really helped as she had such lightening fast reactions (unilke me!), for cantering & galloping I had a handful of mane in one hand & the RS-tor in the other. The RS-tor kept me in the saddle several times, the only time I fell off I wasn't using it as I was leading another horse & I thought it would be too much of a handful, she saw a thistle & off I came. She was also a spinner, if we managed a one spin ride I considered that a success!
 
Joined
12 March 2010
Messages
6,270
Location
Solihull, West Mids
Try NAF Magic. Its worked wonders for my spooky horse, incredible stuff.
If my horse plants his feet and refuses to go forward I turn him and make him rein back past the object. This is reverse phychology for horses and is incredibly effective.
I personally would never pat the horse or praise him for going past something scary. You are just reinforcing his right to be scared by rewarding him.
 

jessjc

New Member
Joined
6 January 2012
Messages
310
Location
Chaddleworth, Berkshire (Wantage/Newbury)
Good point about the relaxation! i had a very interesting hack the other week, when someone came past me and trotted off up the bridleway. Alf is on mostly walk exercise, and only allowed to trot on the roads, so following at the same speed wasn't an option. Cue one EXTREMELY explosive horse - whose reaction to stress is curl himself up into a ball, and then go off like a firework. I had to negotiate a 2 mile bridle path with him in a complete fit of hysterics, and hanging onto his mouth just made things worse, so I sat there like an old hunting farmer with my legs stuck forward, and loose reins, only taking a heave when the antics started moving in an excessively forward direction. It's quite a leap of faith to sit on a horse that's having a complete meltdown - with no contact on its mouth at all. I survived, but it was a bit hairy! Had I put him on the bit and insisted he listened to me and behaved sensibly - he'd have lost it completely and I'd have been on the floor!
LOVE this!!
 

jessjc

New Member
Joined
6 January 2012
Messages
310
Location
Chaddleworth, Berkshire (Wantage/Newbury)
[I personally would never pat the horse or praise him for going past something scary. You are just reinforcing his right to be scared by rewarding him.
Yes - although, sometimes they just need you to help them gain a little confidence.[/QUOTE]

Occasionally I have patted them and then realised it was just because I was so relieved to still be on!! :D
 
Joined
4 August 2012
Messages
162
Location
Somewhere out there
My mare is incredibly spooky and I have developed a very sticky bum in the saddle nowaday's! The best thing I have found is to trot her on the roads so she does not spend her time looking in every driveway, at cows, drains etc. Its great for both of our fitness and when we get to the bridlepaths, we either walk/canter/gallop :)

She is a spinner sometimes if particularly frightened and I have learned to spot just before shes going to do it! I firmly say 'get on' and she does go past whatever it is without a fight.

If you haven't had your horse too log, I think you will eventually get used to it. It took me about a year and a half to know what makes my mare tick. I've tried all sorts of calmers and she doesn't get any cereals/high energy feed at all. I've just accepted she's a bit of a knobber!
 
Joined
23 October 2011
Messages
752
I have to do the opposite to most by the looks of things with my spooky pony. Sit very quietly on a long rein, keep relaxed and keep him calm. If I pick up a contact and ask him to work or get him on his toes doing lateral work he will immediately start finding things to look at. If he goes to look at anything, I ask him to stand, take it in, think about it and when he's accepted it, he gets a pat and we continue on our way. He's a lot better now, before hacking used to be terrifying, particularly as he was completely unterrified of traffic, so would merrily throw himself in front of a car if a leaf so much as moved in the wind.

That said my other horse is the opposite. Let him slop along and he starts being nosy and looking. Get him working and keep him occupied he's fine. He does however love schooling, the other one hates it with a passion and is much spookier schooling too - he's actually most at home on the hunting field, when he's going too fast to look at scary stuff, or jumping the hedge the birds would be flying out of... :rolleyes3:
 
Joined
20 April 2017
Messages
80
I know this is an old thread but I found it when looking for some advice on a spooky ex racer I am exercising! He spooks at one end of the school because there a couple of cows in it. Every single time we pass he spooks....at the same cows he sees day in and day out! He needs to be treated quite gently ie a a "smack" or "boot" so to speak only makes the situation alot worse.......active encouragement helps.....when I am doing some groundwork with him he will walk past perfectly calmly with me by his side, not so much as a glance in the direction of them...but once I am on his back they must turn into horse eating monsters! Interesting re the shoulder in/leg yield distraction. i will try that!
 

Littlebear

Active Member
Joined
27 November 2017
Messages
167
I know this is an old thread but I found it when looking for some advice on a spooky ex racer I am exercising! He spooks at one end of the school because there a couple of cows in it. Every single time we pass he spooks....at the same cows he sees day in and day out! He needs to be treated quite gently ie a a "smack" or "boot" so to speak only makes the situation alot worse.......active encouragement helps.....when I am doing some groundwork with him he will walk past perfectly calmly with me by his side, not so much as a glance in the direction of them...but once I am on his back they must turn into horse eating monsters! Interesting re the shoulder in/leg yield distraction. i will try that!
In addition I would add that the noise blocking ears are very helpful, you can also buy fluffy blinkers - may help until he settles into hacking being the norm x
 
Top