Ride out those spooks!

During winter some fresh or spooky behaviour is often to be expected but here to help you maintain calm and control as you ride is Richard Maxwell.

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Rehearse your response in advance

Dealing with a spooking horse starts long before you meet a scary object. Rather than waiting until you’re in that situation before doing anything about it, the more effective approach is to have the groundwork in place and some tactics at the ready. 

Faced with a horse prancing sideways with his head and tail held high, many riders become paralysed and are unable to think of using movement as a way to regain control again. Using movement means being able to manoeuvre each end of the horse, both separately and together. You don’t have to be a dressage diva to be able to master the basics of control – just a few simple moves can make all the difference. 

Alongside developing a controlled walk, trot and canter, it’s useful to work on some lateral flexion where your horse is asked to bend through the neck in each direction. You can then introduce a basic turn on the forehand and a turn on the quarters. You don’t need a school to work on these movements – a quiet, grassy field with a hedge or fence will do. 

Turn on the forehand

First ride alongside the hedge, keeping it on your left, and ask for halt. Position your left leg behind the girth, and ask for a slight left bend, maintaining a steady contact on the right (outside) rein. Now use your left leg to ask your horse to step to the right with his hindquarters. Practise a few steps, before circling around and reversing the aids to turn his quarters in the other direction.

Turn on the quarters

For turn on the quarters, the forelegs are encouraged to step across as the horse pivots on his hind end. Ask for a little at first, praising your horse if he manages a step or two. 


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