Bombproofing your horse is an incredibly important part of forming a good relationship. Many of us find spooky horses nerve-wrecking and stressful, but working on bombproofing your horse will help to improve the spooky behaviour. Though it is important to ascertain that the spookiness is not pain-related before you begin to change the behaviour. If the spookiness has come on suddenly or has changed it may be pain related, and it is worth having your horse assessed by a competent professional to rule out any pain issues.
Spookiness can be broken down into the different senses and into the different directions that the object can appear. As with all the work that we do with our horses, remember to break down the problem into small pieces and work through each area, building up confidence as you do so. The different senses are vision, touch, hearing, taste and smell. There are different techniques to approach each of these sense, but the basic premise remains the same, which is to break the problem down, and build up slowly. For example, if your horse is spooky out hacking, break that statement down into sections. Is he only spooky when ridden? Can you lead him along the same route? We believe that unless you can confidently lead your horse along the route which you want to ride along, you should not be hacking.
If your horse doesn’t like being hosed down, don’t start with trying to hose him down, break the problem down. Is it the water he doesn’t like? Is he happy being sponged down? Or is the hose he doesn’t like? Why not get a short section of pipe and work with that, before asking for more? Most problems are possible to overcome if you make the steps small, and think about each step in turn.
Horses react differently to perceived threats coming from different directions. Some find objects coming up behind them difficult, while others find anything above them a threat, including their rider! Again, try and ascertain which areas your horse finds the most difficult. If he dislikes objects coming up from behind, why not try long-reining, if it safe to do so, and then introducing noise from behind. It is better for us to introduce different noises and conditions in a safe controlled environment, than simply holding our breath every time something comes up behind us.
There are some extraordinary feats of trust from horses, such as jumping through fire hoops, cantering with balloons trailing behind them. Remember those horses were built up slowly gaining trust at each step before they were presented with the next level of difficulty. You won’t get there overnight, but by laying strong foundations you will be able to improve the bombproof levels of your horses, giving you a safer, and more enjoyable ride. You can’t always control the conditions around you, but you can work on training yourself and your horse to respond in the best possible way.
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