Spooky mare in the show pen

Discussion in 'Horse Training' started by haffix, Jan 12, 2018 at 8:20 AM.

  1. haffix

    haffix Full Member

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2015
    Messages:
    104
    Likes Received:
    103
    Hello everyone. I'm about to start competing again with my mare, at regional and breed show level here in Italy, after an almost 4 years break caused by a terrible lameness. She's amazing, nice gaits, doesn't touch a pole in the trail and has a very nice topline, her only problem is that she's spooky. She's now 15 and started her show career at 7 I think, she always competed in the same places, she walked in those arenas many times, there's nothing very new to her. But she always acts like she sees the places for the first time. I know she did parelli things with her old owner, he tried everything but nothing really worked. She's always alert but the good thing is that she's still in control, she can still work normally etc, but of course doesn't looks nice to the judges and in this way she doesn't even show half of her potential. It happens that she spooks when she hear the speaker talking, or when she walks close to the stereo with the music, or when she sees judges moving papers etc..there are always different things but nothing in particular. The crazy thing is that she may spook at a piece of paper on the ground, but once a big white tent flew away from the ground and she didn't even move.
    I was thinking about using earplugs at least, but no one uses them here and I would like to hear someone's experience with them.
    I've spent a lot of money to have her healthy and ready to show again and I can't wait to enter the show arena for the first time in 4 years, but 'd really like to work on this issue, so we can have the best experience and have fun. Showing is very expensive to me, so I really wish to have the chance to compete without coming back home disappointed. I would really appreciate your experiences and advices on horses like this! Thanks!
     
  2. brl_rcr72

    brl_rcr72 Full Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2017
    Messages:
    56
    Likes Received:
    60
    It sounds like you need to take her out, off property without the added pressure of a show. Do you have friends with arenas or is there a public riding area you can go to? Maybe find a schooling show with cheap entry fees and be willing to not place for the sake of training. There is no reason you can't simulate noise, sound speakers, banners etc. whatever at home to accustom her too it. Honestly though it just sounds like a case of not being out to see enough. Some horses are spookier then others, seasoning them is more of a challenge then others. And if she hasn't been shown in the past 4 years she will be rusty and likely will not remember specific places and events that happened to her when she was 7. I'm not against using ear plugs but this sounds more like a rusty/unseasoned horse issue that can be fixed with some work. Good luck!
     
  3. slc

    slc Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2004
    Messages:
    21,118
    Likes Received:
    12,713
    I'm dying to ask you about horse keeping in Italy. What part of Italy are you in and what do you feed? What's it like there keeping horses? Maybe you want to start a thread in 'Horse Chat' about that.....pleeeeeeeze?????

    Okay. I'm fine. Really.

    A lot of people will tell you she absolutely must have ulcers. That's the WHOLE thing and that's all it can ever be.

    Generally, when a horse is spooking at sounds chronically, familiar sounds in the same environment that is very familiar to it, sure, you may find there's some physical cause such as distorted vision, general tension due to discomfort from a lameness or a saddle or bridle that causes discomfort(or in a mare's case, spurs that dare not be applied to the Body of the Royal Mare, at least not any further back or frequently than mare deems acceptable....), or, of course, it's possible the animal has some discomfort in its belly somewhere. Certainly, that's possible.

    But physical issues do not cause all spooking. And repeated exposure to said sound doesn't always cure the problem. It's not always simply or purely about 'I'm scared of that.'

    Now....from your description, it seems like it's about noises rather than things she sees, as she spooks at papers rattling rather than a tent blowing away.

    So what would cause that?

    Well, some mares are quite watchful about noises. Especially if there are reproductive issues, they are in heat constantly ('Who's trying to get fresh with me now...where is he...I just hate that....).

    Or she's acting like she has a baby to protect. The spookiness to noises is actually a sort of hyper-active protective instinct. 'I got my baby to worry about, I'm not taking any chances.' All the time.

    SO SOMETIMES treating a reproductive problem results in a mare being less watchful and 'hyper' about noises.

    For example my friend's 'hyper' mare was far, far different once a thecal tumor and a mild, chronic low grade uterine infection were treated. AND....in fact, these reproductive issues can have a very direct effect on both digestion and on anxiety.

    Another thing that affects watchfulness is plain old freshness. When a horse hasn't been allowed to stretch its legs, canter out and 'blow the pipes out' a little, it may simply not perform well.

    At one extreme end, a friend's horse needed.....well.....about an HOUR of trotting along the road and cantering in the warmup to 'settle' for.....a cross country run in 3 day eventing, HAHAHAHA. Oh yes. That little fellow was really up on his toes. It's just how he was. That horse was really at the extreme end of the spectrum. But I've seen PLENTY of horses who needed a good 20 minutes of frolicking at the end of a longe line or loping out or what people call 'long trotting' to blow the pipes out and clear the mind.

    Some horses simply are like that. It's all about accepting that and accepting that the horse gets the work it needs during the week, and the warmup it needs at the competition.

    My own mare is one that simply is not ever going to be a little angel when the papers rustle or someone starts having a little trouble loading a horse out in the parkin' lot. She's got a lot of energy and she doesn't mind spending it. She's retired now, but there were days when I was laughing the whole ride(and hanging on, LOL), because 20-30 minutes didn't even TOUCH all the energy she had. And there wasn't a mean bone in her body, really, she was just a lot of horse.

    AND YES.....Sometimes it's a riding/training issue. I wouldn't say sometimes, I'd say often. Really often, in fact. It's quite possible to actually cause repetitive spooking through riding/training.

    For one, a horse can actually be reacting to the rider's worry. Horse may have had a period of being really fresh for a while....AND NOW the rider tenses up or pauses or holds his breath when he or she expects trouble. 'Oh no, there's a blanket hung on the fence, here it comes.'

    So much so, that in fact, there HAVE been trainers who put the earplugs - on the rider! Yes!

    Or simply made the rider turn away from sights that rider believes might alarm the horse.

    Some trainers simply bark out orders in the warmup and keep the rider focused on the trainer ('You better do as I say or else!') and then SHOOT the rider into the competition ring at the last second, shouting a zillian things for him to focus on in there, and the rider simply doesn't react to sights or sounds, he's just too busy! 'Boy I better do what trainer says or she's going to strangle me after this class!'

    Miraculously, the horse doesn't react to the sight or sound!

    Oh yes, it's possible. I've experienced things like this myself. It is VERY possible. The horse has a 'bad day' (or a ....bad month....chuckle...) but AFTERWARDS, the behavior is maintained by the rider tensing up, even simply holding his breath or pausing momentarily in 'what he does' - little motions on the reins or with his legs, whatever....it doesn't take much. 99% of riders are not at all aware that they do this.

    Most of us, if we get anxious, we 'freeze' - even for a second, that's all it takes. Most pros, the moment anything worrying happens, use their legs and give the horse something that involves loosening the reins (even if one millimeter). 'Come on, horsey, you have work to do, go on.' The horse simply cannot think of two things at once and goes on with his work.

    He also gets the feeling, 'hey, if you feel you have to escape something, I'm giving you the rein. You're not stuck anywhere, you are free to go.'

    That tension that causes the repeated spooks to familiar things originates in the muscles of the back and can be addressed by suppling those muscles. Even just lightening the rein contact a tiny bit gives those muscles a little 'room.'

    Otherwise, what happens is that the horse is constantly just a little bit 'short' everywhere in his body, holding back a tiny bit, tightened up. The contact on the bit is 'really nice and light', the 'frame' may be 'perfect', but in this case, the horse actually needs to stretch forward to the bit more, and may need a milder bit it will actually 'lay on' a little bit and 'face' better.

    Now....generally, this is dealt with at least in part by having the horse go 'freely forward', in dressage, very forward. It clears the mind. But....If I understand your event well, much of it is at a slow trot or walk. Your horse will still benefit from going a bit more actively forward, from you giving the rein even a millimeter, from you not tightening up when some noise pops up, and you can make very small adjustments and find that they make a huge difference.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018 at 9:11 AM
  4. Alsosusieq2

    Alsosusieq2 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2016
    Messages:
    11,108
    Likes Received:
    8,071
    Put earplugs in her ears. Work with her at home wearing them of course also.
     
    mooselady likes this.
  5. Lopinslow

    Lopinslow Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2008
    Messages:
    17,569
    Likes Received:
    21,065
    yup, Ear Plugs. wonderful things.
     
  6. kodemiester

    kodemiester Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2008
    Messages:
    3,202
    Likes Received:
    966
    Agree, try ear plugs! My gelding who is VERY quiet, doesn't usually spook,etc, wears them at every horse show in every class, even showmanship. Good luck!
     
    GotaDunQH likes this.
  7. NBChoice

    NBChoice Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2014
    Messages:
    3,698
    Likes Received:
    6,697
    Which ear plugs do you guys use?
     
  8. Lopinslow

    Lopinslow Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2008
    Messages:
    17,569
    Likes Received:
    21,065
    I use "Plugz". "Poms" are very similar
     
  9. kodemiester

    kodemiester Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2008
    Messages:
    3,202
    Likes Received:
    966
    I use the "poms" from SSTack. The non-fuzzy ones.
     
  10. mooselady

    mooselady Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2012
    Messages:
    11,272
    Likes Received:
    33,031
    I used the fuzzy Pom Pom type with Fergie, made a huge difference for her. Sadly cannot show in them here, so used them for schooling shows, and will use them any day the indoor arena is noisy, just to help keep her focused.

    They helped us build our partnership, now we trust each other enough that she listens to me when I say “nothing to worry about” and I trust her enough not to expect her to react badly at every noise. Just wondering if she feels any anxiety from you in a show situation?
     

Share This Page