How can I help my horse feel confident when we go out?

A horse that's fine at home and then spooks when he's out at shows can be a bit of nightmare. Ben Hart has a few tips on how to boost his confidence when he's at his next competition. 

Q: My horse is spooky if we go anywhere new, even though he’s fine when we’re at home. What can I do to help him feel more confident?

A: This is a common problem as horses can often be fine in their home environment if everything is kept the same with very little changes.

However, the changes your horse experiences when moving to a new environment, can expose an underlying fear or lack of confidence, which leads to spooky behaviour.

It’s easy to presume a lot of your horse if he behaves well in one environment, we’ll then expect him to behave well in all environments, however, without training, his ability to generalise information and rules from one situation to another is quite limited

In order to allow your horse to develop their ability to deal with new environments you have to develop their ability to solve problems, increase their confidence in themselves and you and increase their trust.

This can be achieved by following a training program that introduces your horse to a large variety of new objects and situations in the safe home environment.

This needs to be done firstly in-hand from the ground, and then moving onto long-lining and finally ridden work.

Over time your horse will experience eight or nine challenges in different areas of his home environment, which will increase his ability to cope with new environments away from home.

When you do start to take your horse out to a new environment make sure it’s a great learning opportunity.

Don’t have any expectations just allow a good experience of a new situation and allow him to remain calm and relaxed so that he can build his confidence and your trust will increase too.

You’ll then be able to increase the level of what you achieve and undertake as their experience increases.

If you have difficulty writing your own you can find two such plans on my website ‘Shaping plan for trust , confidence and problem solving’ and one for ‘Advanced obstacles’.