People often ask me how to “de-spook” their horses. They are afraid of their horses energy and physical capability. A horse is a powerful animal, so this fear is rational.
But a horses’ main job, after eating, is to be wary. To look out for danger. This ability has kept him alive and evolving for centuries. In my opinion, it is completely unethical to take the horse out of the horse by systematically dulling them to outside stimulus. Bombproofing clinics, methods and tools are wildly popular because the average rider grapples with fear as part of their ride experience frequently.
That being said, it’s incredible what horses can adjust to. They’ve been into battle, on ships, they pull carts and logging equipment, they work in inner city riots, they go into hospitals and nursing homes, and can handle quite a bit more than we give them credit for.
So how do you get your horse to relax and not spook? First of all, a good seat in IMPERATIVE. Even if you just trail ride, it is absolutely 100% important that you learn to ride well- at the walk, trot and canter. No way around this if you want to ride without relying on fear based control methods.
Get a strong core. See above, no way around this. If you don’t have an interest in this, might I suggest walking or a four wheeler?
Next, learn to communicate and direct your horse. Learn what bothers them, what tension and relaxation feel like under you, learn to read expression, and learn to get ahead of bother and help them come back to you mentally. You can’t just sit up there and hope for the best – you need to direct, watch, be a partner. The amount of people who say they want to be the horses boss or partner, but offer no support or direction is staggering. Direct, support, and help them.
And lastly, expose them to new things. Don’t expect the world around you to cater to your horses’ fear. Not everyone is going to call out “door” before they come into your groomed arena. Surprising things can happen when you ride – life is unpredictable. Give your horse new experiences, small pieces that they can handle, and keep doing it. When their (and your) comfort zone is not expanding, its shrinking.
After all this, ride with confidence, knowing you’ve prepared your horse, know how to sit, and can direct them through trouble if needed.