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Riding the Spooky Horse

I know that riding a spooky horse can be challenging and frustrating so here are

some tips to help you understand why your horse spooks and to give you some

tools to help cope with shying.

*You might be more patient with your spooky horse when you understand that

horses have survived in the wild all these years because of their natural flight

response. So, when you think your horse is being unreasonable because he's

shying from something that seems benign, change your attitude toward his

behavior. Say something like. '"You have incredible survival instincts." or "You

don't need to be on the lookout for potential danger. I'll keep you safe."

*Do you get frustrated when your horse spooks from the same flowerpot he saw

two minutes ago? Maybe the answer lies with the "theory of the dominant eye".

You see, most of us (including horses) have a dominant eye. To find out

which is your dominant eye, keep both eyes open and point at an object like a

tree. Then alternately close each eye. You'll find that when you close one eye,

your finger doesn't move, but when you close the other eye, your finger jumps

to the side. For example, if you close your right eye and your finger doesn't

move, that means your dominant eye is your left eye.

The dominant eye explains why a horse tends to shy more when perceived

danger is on one particular side of his body. Let's say you're circling to the right and your horse is left eye dominant. He seems pretty secure about his

environment because his dominant eye (the left one) is on the outside. He can

see his surroundings and keep himself alert and safe from "danger". However, if

you're circling to the right and he's right eye dominant, he'll want to whip his

head around to the left so he can check out the environment with his right eye.

The result is that he spooks more from objects that are on the left side of his


*Here are some "Don't's" for riding the spooky horse.

--Never punish a spooky horse. Shying comes from fear. If you punish your

horse for shying, you convince him he was right to be afraid.

---On the other hand, don't soothe him by patting him for "being brave"

while he's shying. You're just rewarding behavior you don't want.

--Don't make a nervous horse walk straight up to something scary. That's

the most frightening thing you can do. That's like asking a horse to come face

to face with a cougar when every instinct tells him to flee from danger.

*Here are some "Do's".

--If the scary object is at one end of the ring, circle in the middle of the ring.

Then, as your horse relaxes, gradually shift your circle toward the scary end of

the ring. Your horse doesn't have to eat a whole bale of hay at once. Let him eat

the bale a flake at a time. This "slow" way usually ends up being the faster

way...and you accomplish your goal with a minimum of resistance and trauma to

your horse (and you!).

--When you're at least 15 meters from the scary object, use your inside rein

to gently but firmly bend your horse's neck enough to the inside so he can't see

it with either eye. Remember, a horse has both binocular vision (like us) and

monocular vision where he can see with each eye separately. So, you need to

bend the neck enough so he can't see the object with either eye. He won't shy

from what he can't see.

--Once you are directly beside the scary object, relax both reins. Many

horses are claustrophobic, and you don't want your horse to think he's being

"pinned" against something with no escape. That's very scary.

--Don't stare at the scary object. If you focus on it, your horse will too. Look

at your surroundings instead.

--Breathe! If you're holding your breath, you'll convince your horse there's

good reason to be afraid. Inhale deeply, and as you exhale, feel your butt

lowering down into the barrel of the horse like a centaur.

Are you sick and tired of complicated and confusing training techniques?

Are you frustrated by negative emotions like fear and lack of confidence?

Would you like to be trained by a Three Time Olympic Coach? Learn how by

going to: http://janesavoie.com/


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