Riding a nervous, spooky horse can be enough to unsettle even the most confident rider. These tips can help you to ride a spooky horse confidently and safely.
#1. Think Forward
When you’re riding a spooky horse, your first inclination may be to tighten up on the reins and slow the horse’s forward movement. This may have adverse results, though – horses often settle down when they’re allowed to go forward and move. Many horses feel claustrophobic if they’re held back – you could end up with a horse which tries to rear up, rather than spook, if you hold him too tightly.
#2. Look Up
There’s a saying among riders that if you look at the ground, that’s where you’ll end up. It’s true. While it may be tempting to look down while you ride, make sure to keep your eyes up and your focus ahead of you. This slight change greatly improves your balance in the saddle, increasing your chance of staying put if your horse spooks.
#3. Take Deep Breaths
Your horse can feel both your breathing and your heartbeat. If the horse is nervous, try to slow your own breathing to help calm him down. Keep your shoulders back and resist the temptation to curl down and forward – it’s a nervous response which reduces your ability to breathe. Instead, take deep, slow breaths and focus on filling your lungs with each breath.
#4. Change Your Focus
If your horse zeroes in on an object that he thinks is scary, don’t stare at it. If you focus on the object, then you’re reinforcing your horse’s decision that this is an object to be feared. Instead, focus on something in the other direction while you ride your horse past the scary object.
#5. Don’t React
If your horse spooks, don’t make a big deal out of the issue. Reacting by either punishing your horse or by stroking him and reassuring him that he’s okay only teaches him that his spook was reasonable. If you punish your horse by yanking on the reins or kicking him, then your horse will grow to associate times when he is scared with physical pain, which will only make his spooking worse. Patting and soothing your horse also teaches him that the situation was worth spooking at. Instead, stay calm and ride confidently forward when your horse spooks.
If you’re tense, you will only be contributing to your horse’s nervousness. Do your best to relax. Try singing, talking with a friend, or counting your horse’s strides to help you relax.
#7. Get Help
If your horse’s nervousness is becoming an issue, don’t be afraid to enlist the help of a qualified trainer. Getting help will allow you and your horse to stay safe and enjoy riding again.