Tips for a Nervous Hunter Horse Who is Spooky at the Jumps

horse stopping and spooking on course
  • User AvatarJulie Winkel
  • 06 Oct, 2015
  • 3 Mins Read

Tips for a Nervous Hunter Horse Who is Spooky at the Jumps

Featured Image Credit (CC): Nikoretro on Flickr

Submitted by member: Jennifer

Tips for the common horse? I have a project… a warmblood who was gelded late that I show in the equitation and hunter divisions. He is a converted jumper and came to me pretty messed up. He is spooky and has a common streak. For example, I showed in a hunter derby last weekend. First round looking at jumps… but goes… 4th out of 23… happy. Next round props and wheels at the first jump. We had already done that jump the other way. Most of the time it will happen on jumps away from the schooling area. When he is scared he runs at the jump and peeks; when is being bad he props and wheels. From his previous owners, using a stick only makes him mad. Last year a trainer rode him in the schooling ring and took a stick to him and he wheeled and dropped him (I did warn him). When I got him you couldn’t walk out of the barn or down the road without wheeling. I try making it his idea and it has worked well, he’ll go calmly and willingly. He enjoys trail rides is much more relaxed on them.

Answer by Julie Winkel

This is really a problem dealt best using horse psychology and good old horsemanship. This horse has baggage due to poor training and understanding from his past. Often people that are scared of horses or don’t understand them try to use force rather than basic horsemanship to train horses or solve behavioral issues. It sounds like this is this case with your horse.

Being firm and encouraging, rather than forceful is the key. His behavior of shutting down comes from nervousness rather than wanting to be a rouge. Not over-facing him, nor over-working him is very important. Be aware of situations where he could balk, and encourage him, even verbally to be brave and go forward. A lot of praise for a job well-done goes a long way to build a horse’s self-esteem.

Also you mentioned he stopped on the approach to a jump he had already jumped the other direction. You need to know horses see things differently than we do, out of each eye, therefore a jump approached in the opposite direction is an entirely different jump to them, due to the approach.

I hope some of these suggestions will shed light on helping your horse through his problems by encouraging you to think like a horse.

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