Suddenly Spooky

Last post 06-15-2008 7:12 PM by sarann_horse. 12 replies.
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  • 06-07-2008 3:44 PM

    Suddenly Spooky

    I have an 8 year old Paint mare.  I have had her for 2 years now.  She has recently started to spook at things around the farm that have always been around (i.e. tractors).  She sidesteps, blows loudly through her nostrils, and acts like she has never seen one before.  I had her vision checked, and it is fine.  What would cause a horse to suddenly begin spooking at things that had never been an issue before?

  • 06-07-2008 4:08 PM In reply to

    Re: Suddenly Spooky

    Boy, thats a tough one. I was going to suggest having her sight checked but then I read on. Have you changed her location lately? I adopted a mare that never spooked at anything, but when I got her here she spooked at everything. I recently placed her in a new home and she never spooks at anything for the new owners?????:( What the heck? I chalked it up to her not liking me (I never have been a fan of mares).

     I hope someone can give you some insight.
  • 06-07-2008 7:16 PM In reply to

    Re: Suddenly Spooky





    Permanent Mare Syndrome

    She's feelin' it, she's doin' it.  I bet she doesn't even know why.

    Just keep lovin' her anyways.  Tis' too will pass I'm sure.

    Oh wait, that was my wife!!!  What's the "M"?  Menstrual, right???

    By the way, good luck with your mare.



    Oops that blew up ... go figure!!
  • 06-09-2008 2:43 PM In reply to

    Re: Suddenly Spooky

    Have some of her pasture mates left the farm or her pasture?  Sometimes, they rely on the presence of other horses to give them security and when they're alone they act as if they're the only horse left on the planet!  Also, make sure that your energy is calm when you approach the spooky items, so that she's not picking up on your hesitancy.  Good luckWink

  • 06-09-2008 3:20 PM In reply to

    Re: Suddenly Spooky

    Not to scare you but do you notice any signs of a neurological issue?  When my 10 y/o TB came down w/EPM he became very spooky.  He has had a good recovery but it has taken a couple years to get over the spookiness.  One of the things that helped was hand walking him around the scary stuff and putting treats on them.  Good luck!  ja

  • 06-09-2008 4:46 PM In reply to

    Re: Suddenly Spooky

    Just because things "have always been around" doesn't mean that your horse won't spook at them as if she has never seen them before. If physical issues are ruled out (and is your horse getting sufficient exercise? Have you changed her diet? etc), I would suggest starting a de-spooking program. Can't hurt, in any case! "Bomproof Your Horse" by Rick Pelicano contains tons of simple despooking exercises. Repetion and consistency is key! Smile

  • 06-09-2008 8:33 PM In reply to

    Re: Suddenly Spooky

    Sounds as though she's "woken up".  Time to try retraining on the ground first, so your aids and your expectations of her behavior are clear there first.  Then progress to using some of those skills with riding exercises you can perform whenever you suspect she might "blow"....  Sometimes horse who have previously been calm (asleep) can reach a new level of development and "wake up"...  Not always the way you want.  As long as health isn't an issue, I'd try the round pen and/or lunge line.  Perhaps with a knowledgeable trainer/instructor.  You can even watch video sets of folks like Parelli, Anderson, or some basic dressage videos highlighting starting or re-starting horses.  Good luck!!
  • 06-10-2008 7:20 AM In reply to

    Re: Suddenly Spooky

    Horses are very detail oriented. Has anything moved? She might not have spooked at the tractors before, and she knows what a tractor is, but if it is in a different location or maybe the grass around it was tall and now someone mowed and it is short? I owned a mare that was really spooky from the time she was 1year old til she died at age 20 from colic. She was always spooky and believe it or not the only place I could not ride her was in her own pasture! She lived there, she was always turned out with just a run in shed. She would not let me ride her in there. She would spook and bolt so bad I would have to take her out or get off. An older horseman told me she was trying to protect me as she saw me as part of her herd and that is why she spooked. I had done every desensitising thing in the book and she would only spook on the trail if something flew out under her nose. I made it my life's work. I now train horses with spooking problems. You have to look past her behavior and look at what she is spooking at. From her point of view. I agree with the earlier post about her " waking up". Sometimes they get so used to walking past something (and we do too) that we just tune it out, but then all of the sudden, someone took the seat off of that tractor or mowed the grass around it or even turned the wheels a different way, parked it 2 inches away from where it sat before and now it becomes a whole new tractor. When working with spooky horses make sure you work on both sides. So that she sees and gets used to things right and left. If the objects have not been moved or in any other way altered, then she may have lost some of her trust in you as a leader. And you may have to go back to some round pen ground work. Horses have to have a leader. Is she your first horse and you have only had her for two years or do you have other horses as well? Do any of your other horses do this? You must be confident when leading her by theses objects, if she blows or sidesteps past any of them, then you need to stop right there and get her feet moving. Make her turn circles and get her mind back on you first to let her know that you are in charge and the leader and everything is ok. Then circle her closer to the object. If she calms down let her stop moving her feet and be still and think about it. If she stays calm, try to lead her toward the object. If she gets scared again repeat the circles. If she will touch her nose to it, GREAT! Praise her lavishly and move on. Repeat that with every object every time and soon she will see that you will go by it with no big deal so she will too. Hope this helps.
  • 06-10-2008 9:01 AM In reply to

    Re: Suddenly Spooky

    I know, with a couple of my horses that, when they are on "hot" feed or even a couple of weeks of spring grass, they jump at everything like its going to eat them. When they haven't been out for a while or they're not getting enough exercise they see everything in a new light. It's like they look for an excuse to use as much energy as possible on the simplest things. I know I feel like kicking up my heels in the spring too and making a big deal out of nothing. If your horse is on a very routine exercise schedule and is used to doing the same thing every time you get her out it could be a very simple change of scenery that makes her act that way or it could be that she wants a change of scenery so she creates drama for herself. (mares can be that way sometimes- well, so can geldings!) On the other hand, if she's not getting regular "outings" and exercise than she could have some extra energy that she needs to have worked out. I do know for a fact that wet saddle blankets make excellent horses! Good luck!
  • 06-10-2008 2:43 PM In reply to

    Re: Suddenly Spooky

    Lots of good points here.  My first thought was eye problems, too until I read you had them checked.  Has anything important to your mare been changed recently?  Different horses, things moved, etc?  Has anything seriously scared her in these areas?  Maybe a tractor coming up on her, or a loud noise in that area?  I ask this because a mare I had was very easy going about most things.  One day we were riding in a heavily wooded area on a really windy day, and a big branch broke and make a huge cracking sound!  We both just froze, not knowing where the branch was, and lucky for us, it wasn't on top of us!!  Anyway, after that incident, the sound of cracking branches or anything similar would spook her.  I think if you can figure out what, if anything, caused her to start spooking, you can certainly de-spook her; even if you can't, as someone suggested, take her around to these "scary" areas and let her know there is nothing to hurt her there, even if it takes many times before she relaxes.  Good luck!

    The cure for all evils is a canter
  • 06-10-2008 3:00 PM In reply to

    Re: Suddenly Spooky

    Think very carefully............what has changed recently in her environment or daily schedule.  You may discover the problem.  Good Luck!

    Heaven would no heaven be, were a horse not waiting there for me.
  • 06-15-2008 6:13 PM In reply to

    Re: Suddenly Spooky

     Another thing to check would be hearing. A hearing loss would make a horse nervous because they feel more vulnerable.

     Also feed - too much feed for the work done can lead to a spooky and spirited horse. And spring and early summer are when horses get more spirited, because of the season and new grass.

    Play detective too - has anything else changed? New horses? Horses moved away? New buildings? Dogs roaming around? Windy days? 

  • 06-15-2008 7:12 PM In reply to

    Re: Suddenly Spooky

    Thank you to everyone for your ideas and insight!!  I have been trying to think of things that may be different.  She has been on green grass for the past month or so now and not ridden much, no grain given.  We do lots of circling and "moving your feet" around these scary objects trying to show that it is much less work to just walk on by than to spook at it.  I never thought about checking her hearing.  My first thought was the vision, but that checked out o.k.  She has been such a solid, steady horse in the 2 years that I've owned her that it seems so strange that she would suddenly be spooky and unpredictable, especially being ridden on the farm around things she has always been around.  Will continue to work with her and see how things progress.  Again thanks so much to all for your help!!!

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