A spook is another word for shying or being frightened by something. It’s a natural response for your horse. Unfortunately, it can make them hard to handle and dangerous, depending on how often they spook and the severity of it. After you learn the why, you can help them overcome their fears.
Why They Spook
Horses have a ‘flight or fight’ mentality. The majority of horses would rather run away from the situation than attack. They also have a quick reaction response, which would help to keep them alive in the wild.
With this in mind, our world can look scary to a horse. From plastic bags and tarps to loud tractors and screaming kids, these situations and objects can startle your horse. When you combine these things with a horse that doesn’t see their handler as a leader, you’re in for disaster. Horses rely on a herd leader to keep them safe and warn them of danger. Without one, they tend to be insecure and anxious.
To put it simply – a spooky horse is one without confidence in their handler and/or their environment.
How Can You Fix It
You can become the leader your horse needs! You must start by not being scared or anxious yourself. Always stay calm and collected when your horse spooks. They will be able to sense your confidence.
A good way to become a herd leader of your horse is to earn their respect. You should begin with groundwork. Many like to turn to natural horsemanship, which helps you communicate with your horse in their language. Check out Warwick Schiller or Clinton Anderson.
Other helpful exercises to reduce spooking include using patterns to keep them busy and move their feet, teaching them to give to the bit, and working on desensitizing. It’s important you learn to recognize when your horse’s energy is starting to creep up. You want them to stay relaxed!
An experienced trainer can offer you personalized feedback. They’ll help you come up with a plan to be proactive. It’ll take time, but soon enough your horse will have more confidence!