You know the drill, a horse sees a dog barking and he spooks. The wind blows a bag and the horse will spook. A car drives up the driveway and there he goes again. This is extremely common behavior and can be corrected. Horses are prey, and their instinct is telling them that they are going to get eaten. They also have instinct to trust the herd leader. If you are the herd leader then they will not worry about the goblins in the mailbox because you are always in control and make the herd feel safe.
1) Exude confidence. A horse can feel what you feel, if you feel nervous or scared your horse will feel that. If your horse scares you every time you ride him that will create a snowball effect and the two of you will feed off of each other’s fears.
2) Go back to the basics of groundwork. If your horse is jumpy on the ground, he most definitely will be just as jumpy in the saddle. Something is missing from your program, fill in the missing parts and then take it to the next level of riding.
3) Longe your horse. Longe him with a purpose, don’t just let him run around in a circle dragging you all over the place. This type of behavior is counter-productive and will not allow your horse to feel confidence that you are not only the herd’s leader, but an excellent one.
4) Practice, practice and then some more practice. Don’t expect to go out to the barn once and a while and for your horse to have gotten better. The only way for your horse to get better is by putting in lots of time on the ground and in the saddle. Expose your horse to as many scenarios and things as possible.
5) ABT – Always be training. If you are not training your horse you are un-training your horse. Start being the leader from the moment you get your horse from the stall or pasture until the moment you put him away.
If you do these five things, and do them correctly I guarantee you will no longer have a spooking horse, but a calm confident friend.