Scared of traffic

Cassy

Well-Known Member
Joined
4 July 2007
Messages
483
After a frightening incident with a 4 x 4 my horse has become very nervous of all vehicles. I took her to a livery yard last summer and she had a paddock near a road and I thought she was getting better. Most of the hacking was off road.Then she turned tail and cantered off down the road with me when she saw a truck with a large coiled pipe on the back. A week later I was on a track some distance from the road when a car whooshed past from behind and we ended up galloping across a wheat field. I took her home for the winter and now only ride her in the school which is very disappointing. We are on a farm and one corner of the school is near the cow barns with various tractors etc passing by. We usually stand and look from half way up the school and she is ok. But when a 4 x 4 drove past today we ended up spinning and cantering off to the other end of the school. Can anyone advise me on how I can get her trust back.
 
Joined
20 February 2009
Messages
31,168
Location
W. Yorks
Can you find a traffic proof friend to giveher confidence? I would take a few steps back and just let her look at vehicles which are parked, then parked with the engine running, then moving slowly towards/away from her, building up to passing her at a reasonable speed but somehwere where if she needs to do so, she can get away. If the friend can accompany her through these steps, she will probably make faster progress. I find that food rewards are very helpful in this kind of situation, could you try feeding her next to a parked car etc?
 

Tern

Well-Known Member
Joined
23 December 2012
Messages
2,608
Location
Gloucestershire
Not what you wanted to hear but after 3 years I have finally got my mare in most traffic excluding big vans and lorries, tractors etc.

I tried everything but the only thing that worked for me was her not seeing any traffic for over a year. Then introducing her by leading her a couple of times.

My mare didn't have an accident though as far as we know, she just had never been put in traffic since 4 years old to 7 years old.
 

PeterNatt

Well-Known Member
Joined
15 July 2003
Messages
3,828
Location
London and Hertfordshire
From my many years of experience of riding horses alone on the roads (including central London) some horses have no problem with vehicles etc. and others do and there is very little one can do about the ones that do not like traffic as they just do not have the temperament to cope with it. You may find that your horse is more confident when ridden on the roads in the company of other traffic proof horses but I am afraid that if they can't cope they never will cope. I wish that I could be more positive but experience has shown me that if they can't cope with it they never will do.
I believe that part of the problem is that young horses are not exposed to traffic etc. from an early age and from the point of being started are not ridden on a daily basis in traffic (in the company of other traffic proof horses) so that it just becomes the norm for them.
If you want to be able to hack a horse out alone in traffic then my suggestion is to buy one that is totally bomb proof, spook proof and traffic proof. They do exist in all shapes and forms as it is just based on their temperament rather than a specific breed. As much as you get a horse that is good at show jumping or dressage you also get horses that are completely laid back and don't have a problem with traffic etc.
 

Dubsie

Well-Known Member
Joined
26 January 2009
Messages
4,756
Location
The Edge of Suburbia, Berkshire.
Part of the problem with a sensitive horse or pony is that they sense when the rider tenses in anticipation of a reaction. Can you try a change of rider to someone very competent and confident and see if she is OK? Took someone else to hack my daughter's pony years ago when she first got him for her to discover actually he was fine in traffic if the rider was.
 

Cassy

Well-Known Member
Joined
4 July 2007
Messages
483
Thanks for all the advice. Strangely enough my mare is not the sensitive type but more the solid dependable type. She was chased around her field and down the farm track by a driver in a 4 x 4 (It is a long story but the driver does own the land so police couldnt do anything) This was a couple of years ago and since then, I suppose understandably she has never been the same with traffic. You are probably right Dubsie about me not helping matters by tensing up but she has been ridden by my daughter who is very relaxed and she reacted in the same way with her. So perhaps we are destined to stay in the school or pay £15 every now and then to hire a local UK chasers course for a quiet hack.
 

Lintel

Well-Known Member
Joined
6 February 2012
Messages
2,878
Location
Scotland
I wouldn't give up on her, get a good old "bombproof" type and head out with them, maybe ask around your local area if there's anyone with a schoolmaster on the roads type of horse that could head out with you. If you were close to me I'd be more than willing to help, we had a horse at the yard who also got a real fright and was the same but he has been out with others including my boy and has gradually got his confidence back! "possible silly suggestion" - How about a local riding school they always have your typical bombproof older ponies for hacking and leading, could you head out with one of them? Perhaps your daughter could go too?
 

Misty05

Well-Known Member
Joined
15 October 2012
Messages
361
Location
Near Huntingdon
My pony reacts badly to motorbikes, spinning and running a few yards. I taught him the word Polo in the school, and when he had got that tried it out on the road. Everytime we saw a motorbike and before he reacted I said Polo and gave him one. Now when normal motorbikes come past he is looking for his Polo rather than worrying about the bikes. It still has to be put to the test with noisy bikes and multiple bikes. I also taught him the word treat in case I run out of Polos. I decided to do this after riding down a road with deep ditches on both sides of the road, and three motor bikes came towards us fairly slowly, they ignored my request to stop and my pony took me a few yards into the field beside us, the only one without a ditch. Then two days later met another three, I just about managed to keep hold of him. If I could get him into a field entrance he could just about cope. Now he stands quietly looking for his polo. Now I need to try and keep him moving until it has gone past before he gets one. But I much prefere the standing still to spinning and running.
 

supsup

Well-Known Member
Joined
5 January 2015
Messages
758
I'd do a combination of "chase the car" and ground work with narrow spaces. Work your way up to following vehicles around, starting with just approaching them while parked, then while parked and running, and eventually get someone to drive around for you so you can follow. Following or "chasing" something helps horses to switch from a fear reaction to a curiosity reaction - If you can "chase" it away, it's not a predator.
I'd also do ground work working in particular on leading through narrow spaces, as well as backing up through tight spaces. I think sometimes horses spook when they see traffic coming towards them because they feel there's not enough space for them between the vehicle and the hedge. Groundwork can help re-educate them as to how much room they really need, and not to panic when things get tight. Backing through narrow spaces then starts getting at the problem of something approaching from behind, leaving little room.
Just turning out in a field next to traffic may not be enough. You want to teach the horse that being close to vehicles is fine, and they are not likely to voluntarily go closer than they are comfortable with initially. Of course a traffic safe companion will probably help will all parts of the re-training.
 

Angelagain

Well-Known Member
Joined
10 December 2008
Messages
11,569
Standing (with a rider on board) behind a gate at 90 degrees to the road (with my completely traffic proof boy for company) and just watching was a big help for my friend's horse. Over a period of about a month,twice a week we would go to a friend's field on a fairly busy road and just stand there for about 20 minutes. We started with them behind us, then on our left as the traffic that was closest to the gate approached from the right, then with them on the right. We then opened the gate and gradually made our way forwards and eventually shut the gate behind us. We then started going for little walks up the road, where we could return to the gateway easily if we needed to. Mine thought it was great as he spent the whole time eating the verges!

For about 3 months after that we stuck to a hacking route where we knew there were plenty of gateways to pop into. I would stick to the outside and be very clear to cars that they needed to stop or give us time to get to a gateway. He's now fine in traffic although he never goes out alone as his owner finds the thought of it too much.
 

soloequestrian

Well-Known Member
Joined
14 January 2009
Messages
2,481
You could try introducing reward into the desensitisation process. Rather than the presence of a car having no effect, link it with something positive - a food treat being the most obvious thing. You would still start very slowly - 4x4 as far away as the horse will tolerate with no reaction = treat, gradually move closer, treating every time you improve and get no fear reaction.
 

mirage

Well-Known Member
Joined
4 October 2011
Messages
820
Location
Leicestershire
We had a pony that was terrified of bikes. We took him to a quiet lane,and I held him whilst my children cycled backwards and forwards, slowly at first and then we picked the speed up I also got them to give him polos as they went past, not every time as studies show that they react better if the treat is random. It certainly helped a lot with him.
 

Luci07

Well-Known Member
Joined
13 October 2009
Messages
9,382
Location
Dorking
Lots of good ideas, thanks. I am afraid we do ride alone as no one with horses near.
then it could be worth either boxing to meet someone with a traffic proof horse or perhaps you have a friend where you could stay? repetition is the key. I do agree there are some who are always nervous. My friends youngster is not keen on transit vans and sadly we meet a lot of them. Our process now is that my new horse happens to be brilliant on the road so now when we ride out together, I take point duty and when I see a van behind or in front, I drop back slightly so that the head of my friends horse is firmly to the side of my horses backside. It is working and my friends horse is massively improved although she doesn't think he will ever be as good as mine. Oddly enough, off piste and my horse is having kittens at dappled sunlight/squirrels/decorations whereas my friends horse will march straight past!
 

Misty05

Well-Known Member
Joined
15 October 2012
Messages
361
Location
Near Huntingdon
I used to ride alone, which is why I tried the Polo idea. I needed something that did not involve other people being about. I now have a hacking companion most of the time.
 

laura_nash

Well-Known Member
Joined
17 July 2008
Messages
1,616
Location
Ireland
Work your way up to following vehicles around, starting with just approaching them while parked, then while parked and running, and eventually get someone to drive around for you so you can follow. Following or "chasing" something helps horses to switch from a fear reaction to a curiosity reaction - If you can "chase" it away, it's not a predator.
This ^^ worked wonders for a fear of tractors with a usually sensible horse that had been chased by one and frightened. Once he'd "chased" it around the field a few times he was much better with them. Afterwards out hacking we would always try and follow one if we met one, even if it meant turning around for a bit, and would avoid having one follow us if at all possible, and he became pretty much bombproof with them eventually.

Unfortunately I have known one horse that never became good in traffic again after a bad incident (hit by a car) so I do think sometimes the bad memory can be too much to overcome, but definately worth trying some organised sessions. I think a field by a road is good for introducing traffic to horses that aren't used to it, but won't be enough for one that has actually been frightened. You will need to do some specific, targeted training.
 

Misty05

Well-Known Member
Joined
15 October 2012
Messages
361
Location
Near Huntingdon
We took the ponies out today for a very short ride. Two slightly noisey motorbikes came from behind us, passed singly and nice and steady. My pony stood looking for his polo, and got it, but he refused to move. He had had only one polo for two motorbikes. He got his second one and was happy to walk on. Lol, i did not know he could count. Lol. But I am happy he stood nice and calmly. Such an improvement on a panicking pony.
 

crystalclear

Well-Known Member
Joined
1 December 2012
Messages
634
Agree with poster who,said its a circle with the rider tensing up too. From experience...Practice leading in field with someone driving car near then around you, then walk by hedge doing this also so smaller area, led out in hand, then ridden in company. Ride two up, until they slow down then you go in front and other pony head on your horses bum. If there is a horse in front they can't see an escape. Also standing by the road just watching traffic is very important. There isn't a quick fix but you can do it.
 

Kacey88

Well-Known Member
Joined
5 September 2011
Messages
720
Location
Ireland
We took the ponies out today for a very short ride. Two slightly noisey motorbikes came from behind us, passed singly and nice and steady. My pony stood looking for his polo, and got it, but he refused to move. He had had only one polo for two motorbikes. He got his second one and was happy to walk on. Lol, i did not know he could count. Lol. But I am happy he stood nice and calmly. Such an improvement on a panicking pony.
I think your idea is brilliant Misty05, and your pony sounds like great fun! You can imagine him getting all excited now when a load of bikers pass by, you can test his maths! :)
 
Top