How to stop a horse locking on and being dangerous

melandmcbe

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Any advice or tips for stopping a horse "locking onto" things and then spooking?

My rising 9yo ISH gelding is very nosey, and "locks onto" objects, like today a pink sloping jump block was left outside opposite end of the arena, rather than where it normally goes, and he immediately "locked on" and wouldn't stop looking no matter what I did. I eventually started lunging him, and he couldn't manage a half circle without looking at it and completely angled his body at it every turn. He then starting spooking by bucking and kicking at me, broncing and rearing nearly throwing himself over backwards. It is not new behaviour for him, but it is the worse he has been in a long time.
I've recently started bringing him back into work, but he has never been this bad and has been lunged everyday for a week (excusing yesterday) and every other day/ third day for a number of weeks prior to this, so it's not just freshness!

I just want to stop him locking on, I don't mind nosiness so much as I do the behaviour that always follows it as I have suffered injuries from such behaviour! Any tips are greatly appreciated :)
 

be positive

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He may be fresh, bored with lunging each day and getting fitter in the process while not actually really using his brain to work so using something as an excuse, he is 9 so should be beyond requiring lunging to get back into work after a break, most people would be walking out hacking at the early stages.
I would be riding him and getting him focused on the job rather than sending him round in circles, if he is really listening to you he will not be able to take advantage, often the more you try to avoid something like this the worse they get, one of my horses is spooky and can be sharp especially on the lunge but if I put some poles down he will start to think about those rather than looking about for monsters and he will soon settle down to doing some proper ridden work.

If you are getting injured by him maybe it would be an idea to get some professional help in to get you going, it would concern me if I was injured by any of the horses in my care, other than by having a fall, and it would, if it happened more than once for no good reason, make me question whether it was the right horse for me.
 

Mike007

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Start giving him Magnesium oxide in his feed . For example ,magnitude. Seriously,its the first thing I would do . Magnesium deficiency is so common and can cause exactly this kind of hyper sensitivity .
 

JillA

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Start giving him Magnesium oxide in his feed . For example ,magnitude. Seriously,its the first thing I would do . Magnesium deficiency is so common and can cause exactly this kind of hyper sensitivity .

Ditto this - my horse was all but unbreakable, and then almost unrideable until I realised and he has been on MagOx ever since.
Magnesium blocks the action of adrenaline, I am told, and without it they are running on adrenaline the whole time. It isn't normal for horses not to get used to something that is new but shouldn't be seen as threatening - their survival depends on working out what is or isn't something genuinely to be avoided. Took about 10 days to make a difference, so you should know fairly quickly if that is what it is
 

Shay

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Magnesium will only work if the diet is otherwise deficient. Where it is - usually because local conditions mean there is reduced magnesium in grass and hay - then it is incredibly effective. But where that isn't the case it won't touch them.

I have an ISH prone to this type of behaviour and would support be positive's comments. Our ISH is very bright and you have to get his brain thinking about things or he will loose focus and use any excuse to fixate on something silly and then mess about. You have to keep his focus on you and on what you want. That could mean things like work over poles, long lining (if you are experienced and able to be safe!) other ground work, horse agility type stuff. Anything to get his focus on you and to help him understand that you are a safe leader to be with so he doesn't have to be hyper vigilant. Endless work on a lunge is going to bore the bright ones - you have to spice it up a bit. Or he'll spice it up for himself!

Perhaps get an experienced instructor to work with you for a while and show you ways to vary his ground work? Also perhaps talk to your vet - if you are bringing him back into work this way on their advice - about something to take the edge off and make him safer to be around.
 

be positive

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Magnesium will only work if the diet is otherwise deficient. Where it is - usually because local conditions mean there is reduced magnesium in grass and hay - then it is incredibly effective. But where that isn't the case it won't touch them.

I have an ISH prone to this type of behaviour and would support be positive's comments. Our ISH is very bright and you have to get his brain thinking about things or he will loose focus and use any excuse to fixate on something silly and then mess about. You have to keep his focus on you and on what you want. That could mean things like work over poles, long lining (if you are experienced and able to be safe!) other ground work, horse agility type stuff. Anything to get his focus on you and to help him understand that you are a safe leader to be with so he doesn't have to be hyper vigilant. Endless work on a lunge is going to bore the bright ones - you have to spice it up a bit. Or he'll spice it up for himself!

Perhaps get an experienced instructor to work with you for a while and show you ways to vary his ground work? Also perhaps talk to your vet - if you are bringing him back into work this way on their advice - about something to take the edge off and make him safer to be around.

My horse was worse on magnesium, when I was bringing him back into work after injury he was on it and was getting more and more spooky as we were only walking out hacking for 2 months so I increased the magnesium thinking it should help but he got worse rather than better, he came off it and did improve slightly but it was upping the work that had most effect on his behaviour.

Magnesium is not going to be the magic bullet for all horses, we are in an area that is low but so far I have not found adding mag to make any difference to any of the horses here and several became sharper, one pony was dreadful on the Magic calmer paste, he did his worst most tense dressage the day I tried it.
 

BethH

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If you decide it's a deficiency in his feed, try adding progressive Earth mineral - it gives their daily required allowance for all the major minerals in a scoop and it is well priced, it covers magnesium, zinc, selenium etc etc and I do think it had really helped my horse perk up and he looks so well since I've been feeding it.

Aside from that, my horse is very bright and very spooky/sharp, I have to constantly think one step ahead, especially if he decides he's not going to play ball. Long reining works brilliantly for us and also, if something has changed, i.e., a jump block where it shouldn't be, I will always walk him up to it first in hand and allow him to see it from both sides. The requirement is that he stands quietly still next to me and is allowed to have a good look, I then get on and crack on! It is frustrating but I have learned to notice what might cause a problem before it happens so I can nip it in the bud, I also never lunge it is very one sided and they can get faster because you don't have an outside rein to balance them. The long reining created a great bond and we can even do some basic dressage tests on them, I love it.
 
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Oscar

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My otherwise sane and sensible horse started doing this last year after a period of rest following a field accident. Vet & Physio pronounced his sound and well enough to commence work again, but he became very spooky and would shy away from any poles or blocks outside the arena, worse on right rein than left. I asked the vet to come back and check him and he said he is completely sound, asked me to ride - by this time I was terrified of him, but rode as requested, I think the vet thought I was just overhorsed as he told me he needed firmer riding but I assured him this behaviour was completely out of character. He suggested getting a Chiro to look at him, he had had good results with a local lady so I called her out and a few days after treatment I had my old sane sensible horse back!! She said his pelvis was mis-aligned and he would be very uncomfortable. So now when he starts being a plonker and spooking at nothing I know he needs a treatment and the halo remains intact.

Horses aren't devious or nasty they only have so many ways of saying something isnt right - please listen to your horse he is trying to tell you something.
 

JillA

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If you decide it's a deficiency in his feed, try adding progressive Earth mineral - it gives their daily required allowance for all the major minerals in a scoop and it is well priced, it covers magnesium, zinc, selenium etc etc and I do think it had really helped my horse perk up and he looks so well since I've been feeding it.

It's all about the balance - in some cases surplus is excreted but in others (magnesium and calcium for example) excess of one inhibits the uptake of the other. I read that the majority of soil in the UK is short of magnesium, so unless you can have your soil and forage analysed, supplementing with magnesium is a useful place to start. And like I said, if it is going to have an effect (i.e. because you have a deficiency) it will do in a week or two at most. Cost you just a few £££s to test it out.
 

melandmcbe

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He is on a topspec conditioner and safe and sound chaff.

He had emergency surgery to repair a ruptured tendon sheath a few months ago. Vets said he needs to come back into work very slowly, hence why I have been lunging and slowly building it up as his leg would get hot very quickly in the early stages (which it no longer does). He was also assessed by a vet physio before coming back into work, and he was given the all clear.

He has been very good on the lunge recently. I have been using a bungie, and having been working on flexion, speed within paces, etc. which he had been doing very well and is very smart and responsive, rather than having him charge round like a mad thing just for the sake of tiring him out. He locked onto the block before we even reached the arena, so its not that he isn't concentrating on his work as we hadn't started at that point. The only reason I then tried to lunge him is because I thought getting him working would get his mind off it but sadly not.

I would like to long rein or get someone to ride him, but it is not safe with this kind of behaviour, but he needs working hence the lunging.

He isn't on any supplements as I thought this kind of outbursts would be behavioural rather than supplement deficiencies so I'll look into it. He is behaved in every other way, but every so often he just locks on and sometimes is fine afterwards and gets working nicely and other times he doesn't. I just want to make him more reliable and safe. He has thrown me a few times before from locking on and then exploding like this when I've been riding him a year or so ago, which is why a friend took the ride of him up until his injury. Thanks for all the suggestions you've given :)
 

BethH

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Fully understand, mine is very awkward at times as well and will be a superstar 9 times out of 10 but gets really uptight if something silly unsettles him and then he does the black horse impression and has an utter panic attack at which point no amount of conversation works, so I try to prevent it before it starts. I can say though that I honestly with any horse feel much safer having learned to long rein properly years ago than I ever did lunging because I can walk out of the way, but that is mainly because my horse at that point wouldn't lunge without charging at me with 2 feet in the air, the worst thing was that he had such a lovely nature but had KS which taught him to run from pain as a baby. I've spent 12years coping with him & have the t-shirt so to speak. He's done some pretty dreadful things to me too.

My 12yrs of experience with him in particular (and I appreciate that makes my experience limited) is that he is usually trying to tell me something and he is either sore so looking for an excuse to avoid work which might cause him pain or that his grass/diet is unbalanced hence the minerals working to re-balance him. I have fed just magnesium before but he won't drink it in his water and I worried I was upsetting his mineral balance by just adding the one thing although it did really help calm him down. I thought it best this time to buy one that ensure he gets everything he needs as he has been struggling lately and it has really worked, I am going to half the dose over the Summer when the grass is richer and more nutritious and see if he is ok with that. I also add brewers yeast and linseed.

Good luck they can be very terrifying animals when they flip out so you have my sympathy!
 
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