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Riding down a wooded trail, across an open field, along a country lane, or across a rocky ridge – these are the images of dreams.

No matter how often riders refer to “just a trail ride”, leaving the confines of the arena for open spaces and all that may be encountered there, can be a true test of a rider’s skill.

A universal challenge of trail riding is that horses get spooked. Even the most experienced and level headed horse can become startled or be wary of something new.

For any horse, it takes going out and working through the anxiety of new experiences, learning that bicycles do no harm, that traffic noise can be tolerated, and that every rock or oddly colored bush does not need to be shied away from before they become that seasoned trail mount.

So how do we help our horses become more confident on the trail, and how should you react when your horse becomes anxious?

The challenge is that every situation will be unique, but in this video I will explain the principles of increasing you and your horse’s confidence as well as how to ride through two spooky scenarios – first when needing to pass something your horse fears and second when your horse is afraid of something moving – traffic, a bicycle, or a loose dog, for example.

Click play to watch the video below!

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Instructed by: Callie King
A comprehensive program on horse behavior, training, and riding. Ride with balance and learn to communicate effectively with your horse. Learn riding in a completely new way!
Instructed by: Callie King
This 28 day program is for every rider who has ever experienced fear or anxiety about riding – whether from an accident, a bad experience, or just the question of “what if?”

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151 Responses

    1. Pat, this is actually a really great thing you can set up in a controlled environment to practice with the help of a friend!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

    2. I have had to deal with semis, loud pickup trucks, bikes and cars, etc. What I do is ground work on a safe place near a busy road. After that, I ride out. When I hear a motorized something from behind, I turn Zara around to look at it. Then I make her walk toward it. If she starts getting tense, I pull her into collection, then make her pick up the pace. The faster she goes, the better she does. But keep in mind, this isn’t easy and requires a LOT of ground work first. Always do what is safest. Dismount if you need to and do ground work right there.

      I had another great experience. I was riding on a road that has absolutely no place to get off, just about 6″ or so of berm. There were some men from the county cutting over hanging branches right in the place where I wanted to go! So I thought I would just turn around. I got about 5 steps away when a school but came along! Trapped! So I started to move Zara toward the bus, but when it passed by, she whirled around, reared up, but I was able to keep her in control. I calmed her down and went back home. I couldn’t chase the bus because of the work crew cutting trees. It was a real thrill!

  1. When riding along on my 6yr old mustang, something jumped out of the brush. My horse jumped sideways but did not continue. I did crash into my boyfriends horse, who also jumped side ways. We just stood there for a few minutes and patted their necks and talked to them til they settled down. Asked them to move on and everything was fine!

  2. What about patting, cooing, rubbing or “talking to” a horse that is blowing up… does it help break the attention on the issue or does it just help me release tension? I ride OTTBs and often deal with issues… most of the time I try to start moving their legs , pushing past or turning around and coming back at a different angle. Works sometimes… But, my last bad fall … I remember the spook, turning back towards the issue and waking up in the ER with the doctor Googling equestrian falls… I was found on my horse, repeating “I fell off and my face hurts…”

    1. Philip, if you are speaking in a calm voice then I think it can definitely be soothing to the horses!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  3. When my horse spooks she does not usually give prewarrning. She just starts bucking and continues to do so until I am off. Would love to hear how you handle a bucking horse.

  4. Hello there, Loved your talk on spooks out on trails. My horse is usually great. Not worried about drain covers, cyclists or cars. But lorries! Oh my! He’s petrified. So we live in a semi rural area and are lucky enough to have lots of woodland hacking but there is a relatively quiet lane which we must use to get to the woodland. This tends to be used as a cut through for large lorries. Most of the lorry drivers are usually very kind and stop and switch off their engines when they see my boy stopping and on his toes and trying to spin on the road. And I can usually get him passed it with a lot of persuation! But if a lorry is coming at speed and is not showing signs of slowing then I fear for my life and often consider dismounting. But I know that will teach my horse to act up more often. Would love your advice.

    1. Isabel, I think that dismounting isn’t teaching the horse to act up – if you don’t feel comfortable staying on in certain situations I do think dismounting is a great option!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

      1. Thanks for this answer Julia I have also been taught not to dismount. I don’t do it for every scary thing but if my young horse seems really panicky about something I will dismount, lead him past then get back on him. I have much better control of him on the ground and he seems to de-escalate faster than if I continue to ride him.

        1. I sometimes dismount, when my horse spooks, lead him past the scary thing, give him plenty of time to think, lead him back, mount again and try again.

  5. Also what do you think about getting down and leading past something on foot? If the horse is not calmer when trying your suggestions, is getting off teaching the horse a behavior of more spooking?

    1. My trainer – who has decades of experience – often advises to get off the horse in a difficult situation, and she does so herself (even when she’s riding the horse she has had for 15 years). Her view is ‘why take the risk?’. There’s absolutely no shame in taking the safer route and she tells me that it’s not teaching the horse to spook to get you off.

      1. Mez, dismounting should totally be allowed! Your safety is absolutely paramount so if that means dismounting then it is totally an option!

        -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

    2. Hi Beth, dismounting is a fine option if you feel more comfortable dealing with the scary obstacle from the ground !

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  6. Hi. Thank you for your video clip. My problem is that I’ve been out of riding for over a year due to back issues. I have got a lovely girl who rides to keep Harry moving. I am now at the stage where I’m getting back on again & would like to go out for a hack on my own. I have a very good cob but obviously he’s not bombproof & I just need a push to do it as yes I’m a bit nervous. Once I’ve done it I’ll be off. I have hacked with someone else but want that feeling of how I set off. HELP.

  7. Hi Callie, my experience once was a horse did fine until he saw his shadow. He started to run off so I circled him and stopped Then there was no stopping I tried to circle him again but he wouldn’t go in the circle he was running with his head pulled to the left. Once I thought wow little bigger. Anyway once igot him under control I took him back to barn and worked on introducing him more to his shadow. 🙂

  8. Thanks so much for this video Callie, spooking is a huge topic! I was so glad to hear that you advise letting the horse look at the scary thing, and approach in stages, because this is what works for mine and yet so many people seem to advocate just riding strongly past. Today we met a very aggressive dog, who sprinted towards us and started barking and chasing us. Luckily my pony is so good with dogs that he just walked on – but it unnerved me a bit – so I ended up turning a circle to face the dog, just in case pony should shoot off. I have learnt so much from this little pony, as he can be a spooky little guy, so I really appreciate any videos on spooking!

  9. Several things that I have learned over the years really help out on the trail or roads. I have started doing lots of groundwork with a flag, plastic bag, dragging a plastic grain sack turn inside out so it is all white. I used the lunge rope and dragged the bag behind the horse & threw it over their back & under the belly. Whenever I encounter a bike, I talk to the rider and make them talk to me. Same with people pushing a stroller. Hearing a human voice from the scary object seems to help. I ride lots and lots of miles on the back roads and trails. Every day there seems to be something that can spook my horses but the amount of the spook gets better each day. The other day two male pit bulls came out and tried to grab my foot in the stirrup. My horse was worried but I had complete control. All the groundwork paid off. I give lots & lots of praise once we are by the scary object.

  10. How timely your post is today. One thing that helps my horse is calmly talking to him, which also seems to keep my stress level down. Yesterday a loose dog followed us and my horse was fine as we kept it in sight by turning and trying to push it away. The young dog then started jumping in and of the tall grass, which made my horse side step and tense. I kept talking to him until we were out of that situation.

  11. Hi Callie
    Love your videos.
    I ride in England, where we have to do a little bit of road work to get to off road hacking. Our main problem is tractors and other large vehicles on the narrow country lanes. How can I reassure my horse in these situations. She is good with cars and bikes… Just the big scary stuff spooks her, which a bit unsettling on the road!
    Any advice much appreciated. 🙂

    1. Jan, I would recommend following the recommendations Callie discusses in the video!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  12. I ride on city trails and have to cross busy streets on horseback. She is generally ok with busy
    traffic , but on occasion she will have a meltdown. If I just cannot calm her down I will occasionally just dismount and walk her across the street. Should I be more patient and wait until she’s settled or is dismounting the right thing to do in these situations?

    1. Patty, have you noticed any pattern to her meltdowns? I think dismounting if you feel like her behaviors are outside of your comfort zone is totally allowed!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  13. All great information. The biggest issue I see with trail riding is people who do not have ground work and arena time well established before they hit the trails. I am “just a trail rider” but so believe in all the training and arena work for a good solid foundation for my trail horses. Enjoying your videos.

  14. Horses often don’t associate bicycles as humans. When I see or hear a bike coming, I call out to the rider and ask they say something. That way my horse hears a human voice (which is familiar) and will often relax.

  15. Great post! It feels so good to hear you say it’s ok to let her pass sidaways, or if she jump a bit or get startled. I’ve always felt it’s a bit of a disappointment, but as you say – give them time and let them face the trouble. Thank you for a great post! Relieving!

  16. I am a very new horse rider and just went on my first trail ride with my trainer last week. The first ‘spook’ was a large rock on the side of the trail. I was in the lead and we took a second to observe the rock and I really tapped into my confidence and focused on reassuring him that is was safe by asking him to walk forward and keeping my focus and energy up and farther down the trail. The second spook was when we came upon a large log fallen across the trail. My horse was going to have nothing to do with it! He did a complete 180 degree turn to head back the opposite way. I calmly turned him back around to face the log and when it became clear that this was much more frightening than the rock, my trainer and her horse took the lead so my horse could feel comfortable and confident following his friend. The rest of the ride consisted of more rocks and branches and as I kept him moving and reassured him he gradually became less and less bothered by them and became more assured himself. It was a great learning experience (for us both!) and very much in line with your video. Thank you!

    1. Helen, there are a ton of factors that go into this! If you feel more comfortable dismounting then that is a great option, you also have to consider if mounting again is available to you or if you plan to lead the horse the rest of the way. Hope this helps!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  17. Thankyou for your insight . I just moved to a different barn and my senior horse has been scared and uneasy with the many changes we are both facing . I love hearing how patience and at times my own fears can enhance or detract from adapting to a new barn with many new situations . Each day my horse is moving forward over the challenges of change and I am learning alot from him as well.

    Love your teachings

  18. Callie-what a great clip!
    I think many split “trail riding vs arena riding”…when actually- the trail as a GREAT place to practice “arena riding skills”. If you go back to the white horse looking at what appears to be cows or sheep with a wide alley way of rail fence on either side-a person could first go to a place where he is comfortable, get off and lead him back and forth through there-doing relaxing already practiced ground work. Once relaxed-get back on and do the lateral work and the diagonal work. Transitions as footing allows.
    Same with the little pinto and the big white shipping container. The horse was mostly “looky loo” as we say-so use that obstacle to do a bit of lateral work, turns on the forehand, and hind. etc. Having those obstacles actually reinforces that type of training and makes more sense to the horse. Always work through till they are relaxed.
    The little bay is more animated and may really benefit from going out with a quiet leader-or just ambling with its person. I always try to practice as much of the other obstacle stuff I can in “safe” places…Out on the trail or road is not a good place to get a horse used to bicycles, traffic and dogs.
    And-my favorite? I’ve been fortunate enough to have two sterling geldings-that I pony all my youngsters off of for miles and miles and often a couple of years. Going out with a person who has a “steady Eddie” makes SUCH a difference to an in-experienced horse. Or-go for a walk with them yourself and be their steady Eddie. I do a lot of “singles riding” too-but getting them used to the “trail” with a trustworthy pal is training without stress! 😉 They are expected to lead nicely, often carry tack, or really “odd” loads and perhaps the lunch. The dogs are along, and as they mature-they just naturally step into their new role as a pretty decent green trail horse.
    I also haul my youngsters to the outskirts of parades, shows, rodeo’s and other hullabaloos, just to walk around and hang out. I consider it “abusive” not to help a horse become a pretty steady mount. While I never take on one that I am planning on selling-I can’t guarantee it won’t outlive me-and it has a much better chance of a good life if it is a calm and steady riding partner-arena and trail! And-these are all “hot-blooded” horses-arab crosses, morgans and TB crosses.
    My biggest kick is watching and experiencing them work through staying on the thinking side of their brains as they mature. My present wee mare has had some real “doozy” spooks and reactivity over the years-and each time-she licks and chews and you can tell she says-“Dang-that was BAD!”…and she will hang in there holding her panic button that much longer the next time-or even override it as much as she can tolerate, waiting for me to give her ANY direction to MOVE! 🙂 It’s never a matter of IF she will spook-but when and how. After many many trail rides-I can honestly say that now-she truly tries to “stay under me”. I appreciate her efforts so much! It is so nice to be an age myself-where I too-can just guide her through things without reactivity myself.

    1. I love your comments and wish I could emulate! My fjord is on the spookier side She would rather bolt than figure things out. I am getting old but I do t want give up on her. She loves people but we both lack confidence. We are working on it slowly. Your comments and CRK help a lot

    2. Love this story… we cannot underestimate the importance of ‘walking’ your horse, and if possible ponying from a confident horse which are the greatest confident builders…

  19. I get confused by different people telling me different things. I really like what you said in this video. However, a month ago I was riding with someone I didn’t know well. 2 German shepherds started running and barking across the road behind fences. Her horse spooked which caused Frosty to spook (dogs as a rule don’t bother him). Her horse calmed down but Frosty had whirled and is now prancing around. It was a tight spot and she told me to face away from the dogs and keep moving. Since a huge truck was barreling down the road towards us I decided to dismount. I was unhappy with myself. My question is that I had him turned away from the road, dogs and truck. Should I have turned him to face them? I’m confused.

    1. One thing I have learnt from some very experienced horsemen is to get off if things are escalating and you don’t feel safe. Once your horse is calm again you can always get back on. It’s not about the horse ‘winning’, it’s about keeping everyone safe. We have to get over this idea (already mentioned by Faith) that horses are somehow trying to ‘manipulate’ or ‘get one over us’: horses are just trying to cope with their own instincts. Remember, it takes a brave person to get off their horse because of all the misinformation we have been given: instead, listen to Callie and learn to build confidence in yourself and your horse safely and effectively.

    2. Linda, it is tough to make the call without having been there to see the situation, I do think you made a good call by dismounting and there is no reason to be unhappy with yourself for doing so if it kept you safer!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  20. I found this video very helpful. My horse spooked the other night when the horses in the pasture next to us started running as if something scared them . She started jumping and I turned her sideways and talked her through while trying to remain calm also but not keeping my reins to tight. She did calm down and returned to a semi relaxed walk, but keeping her eye on them . She doesn’t spook at deer or other animals but seems very sensitive to changes in other horses when they react.

  21. My horse spooked when several turkeys jumped up a few feet ahead. She whirled and bolted, I fell off (onto soft grass). Our biggest challenge is sudden appearances. Would love tips for this.

    1. Amanda, unfortunately when dealing with other animals you have no control over there isn’t much you can do…does your horse have a lot of experience out on trails?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  22. CRK Training is my favorite horsemanship site. Your videos have helped me a ton. This one, with all its practical information, is the perfect thing for my little riding club. I’m sending everybody here (again).

    1. Thanks for sharing our videos with your riding club Jennifer!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  23. My ongoing issue is jets flying overhead- we are very near a practice flight path that jets use for training runs. There is no predictability to when they come by or how fast/low/loud they will be. The horses are usually not bothered at all by them turned out in the field, but when they are facing other challenges/in training, the jets can cause a huge upset. I have really struggled with how to deal with it, since it is unpredictable, and often times it is over so fast there’s no opportunity to work through anything. The only predictable part of it is that they always cone in twos, but often not at the same height/volume.

  24. Do you recommend the one rein stop? I practice that before each trail ride both directions, I have found that it gives them a focus and after the spook, I can sometimes then give them some time to approach or just calm from the experience. Just recently I had two riders come off their mounts and I was in the lead so the horse came thundering up from behind, bucking and galloping off. The immediate one rein gave me the control and I was able to then ride ahead.

    1. Barbara, Callie does not recommend the one-rein stop because it can throw the horse significantly off balance and actually even cause the horse to fall if done at a high enough speed!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  25. Hi Callie,
    Just last week while riding my 3 yo QH gelding on new trail in the woods, he noticed a massive cut tree few feet off the trail. Ears perked … high alert. I just stopped and turned him to face the crouching cougar. I gave him time, watched his ears and when I felt him relax I moved him little closer, eventually moving up to the tree. I ride with a great group of ladies who have years of experience and give me time to work on scary objects and different obstacles. Love your videos!!!

  26. Thank you for this review! I use all of the techniques you mention in the video. My horse, unfortunately, would sometimes spin around on his hind legs and bolt. He has a thick neck so I found it difficult to stop this quick bolt. A trainer recommended always keeping his head in a straight line, so I would be looking directly, evenly, between his ears. This has helped ! The other approach I have used is to build on his clicker training. Doing ground work we play a game called Can You Touch? We started with plastic bags, flags, the parked 4 wheeler, my parked bike. If he touches the frightening object with his nose, he gets a click and a small piece of carrot. This often helps on the trail. When I say , (sometimes in a loud but calm voice) Can You Touch, it triggers in him the idea of a treat. Now sometimes if he is approaching something scary, he will stop, turn around and ask for a carrot strip! It cuts the tension and his adrenaline flow!

  27. Hi! I enjoy all your video’s!
    This video today is the very thing I am not confident about if my horse spooks. I try to breath and work through the situation. I ride two outside of the arena at neighbors, I have yet to take my horses on a true trail ride. I was hurt in January as I have a horse that has limited saddle time. He is awesome on the ground with liberty and on-line with great manners. He spooks as he has not experienced much outside of a stall previous life. My trainer and I in the round pen starting slow to make stops, turns etc. good before actually starting our class. Suddenly with tremendous energy took his head, He bends sideways, then changed direction sideways. Well off I went as a big mover lost my center. Weird! We have no idea what provoked his spook. He stood over me concerned like why are you down there?

  28. my large pony was trained natural horsemanship, using a flag in the round pen while free lunging, to teach him to deal with pressure. Unfortunately, he is extremely over reactive to anything. The wind, objects mostly above ground level, moving or not. Last incident was in the ring. Horses playing too rough in nearby paddock spooked him. I halted to let him look he bolted, I turned hard to stop it, he threw his head, broke my helmet, broke my nose, and gave me a concussion when his head slammed into mine. My biggest problem is more my lack of confidence than his, due to things he does. I am not inexperienced, he is my 3rd horse, but the spookiest. First horse had no fear of anything, but was a runaway, which was easy to deal with. Next was a spook, but not nearly this bad, and already broke when I got him. This one was wild at 4 1/2 when I got him. Been 10 years trying to work him past his problems, and yes, I do have a good trainer. He is getting better, I am not.

    1. Debbie, it sounds to me like you are being really hard on yourself! He sounds like he is been a challenging ride for you – does the trainer ride him out on the trails as well?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  29. I find that working on my balance and calmness is key to handling any spook on the trail. I’ve been trail riding for thirty something years and have encountered a lot of spooky things. I do a ton of ground/arena work to prepare my horses so they can build relaxation and confidence. This also helps me know how they are going to react to scary things(stop, bolt, spin ect). Once out on the trail and we come across something spooky I can breathe and stay calm so they can gain confidence from me. I work on a lot of balance exercises so if something jumps out of the bush (deer, birds, dogs) and they jump or bolt I have the balance to stay with them. This also gives me the confidence to keep my head together so I can help my horse gain control. Nothing worse than trying to regain your balance on a runaway.

  30. This is such an important topic, and your advice is spot-on. Over the years I have heard some horse people saying things like: “Push your horse through or past the thing they are afraid of”, “Don’t let them look at it!”, and “They live with that thing they are afraid of today: they must be playing with you! Show them you are in charge.” And experience has shown me that all of those thoughts are not good for the horse or with building trust between you and your horse. Sure, you might be able to push them past that thing today, but you definitely risk escalations. My response back to these thoughts is that, if my horse is manipulating me (which I don’t think they are), then the tact of taking time to build their confidence by slowly getting closer, letting them see the thing they are worried about will just mean we are taking longer to get through or past this thing today. But if they really are worried, and we work through this slowly and methodically, think how much more readily my horse will be to trust me in future new situations! I think it is also helpful if possible before riding around in a new place, to take some time leading your horse around on foot. That is also relationship and confidence building. 🙂

  31. I was riding down a leafy track today when a horse in a neighbouring field was desperately whinnying (it sounded afraid) my horse was very aware and distressed at this as he started to bronch. I moved him forward, patted his neck to reassure him, suddenly he threw in a few half rears for good measure! . I was scared but tried to remain calm and move forward. We moved a little way down the track still bronching occasionally and then he heard workmen and heavy machinery over the adjoining hedge. We were unable to see what was happening. My horse was really afraid, he Froze on the spot and started pawing the ground, when I tried to move forward he simply bronched and reared. I ended up dismounting and walking past the workmen and their machinery. (We never saw them, we just heard it all from behind the hedge) I just talked to my horse and stroked him all the way to the end of the track where I was able to mount him and carry calmly on home. I was quite shaken up and wondered if I could have done anything different?

    1. Hi Sue, I’m really sorry to hear that you experienced that situation! I think you handled it well, dismounting to keep yourself safe is a great idea.

      I would just be careful with the stroking or petting as to not reward him for being afraid or scared. Hope this helps!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

      1. I don’t think that it’s possible to reinforce fear. If talking calmly and stroking your horse calms him, I think it’s a useful and kind technique. We are not operantly conditioning the horse to be fearful when using positive techniques. You can’t punish away fear either. The use of punishment may very well heighten stress and increase fear.

  32. My new leased horse decided she was unsafe near the round pen( other horses don’t like the area also). I decided after several rides of the same response from her that I was going to make it her “happy place”. I Put a rope halter under her bridle. Each ride we’d ride to the area. I’d wait until she relaxed & ask for mores steps until she tensed stop repeat. Some days I was happy for only one step. At the end of our ride we’d go back & repeat. Once she’d relax I’d jump off, remove her bridle & hand graze her in the scared area. It’s now a favorite place for her.

    1. That’s a creative solution! Of course, it only works for something in the immediate environment that you pass regularly but for this situation, I think this is a great idea.

  33. Thank you for a great video. From my experience of riding trails in the Hiawatha National Forest with my 14 year old Morgan mare for over 6 years I could say that all of the things you recommend work. It is very important to learn on your own riding (positing, rhythm, breathing) and on building a very solid partnership with a horse. I am lucky to have a fairly brave horse, but in the beginning when I first rode her she spooked at all the usual suspects. It really helped when I was able to stay on, stay clam and just pat her and reassure her. I ride with a friend and we tend to start on a familiar part of the trail and let our horses pick the gate to “let their steam out” and relax. We allow our horses to pick the direction when practical and encourage them to go truly cross country – off the trail, up the hills, over the streams etc. We deal with the dogs, fourwheelers and dirtbikers by riding off the trail and facing them, although our horses are well desensetized to all of those stimulus as well as cars. We also take the time of day and time of the year into consideration. I have learned that horses are a lot more “spirited” in spring/fall – less so when they either have been somewhat cooped up in winter (or have been too hot in summer) to really have energy for a big spook. Also, other animals are out in troves in spring and fall and on sunrise/sunsets and hence the spookiness is higher. So choosing the time of day/year for the first trail ride is important. We are always looking forward and around and listening – being aware and noticing things is the best way to be prepared for a grand spook. Also, beware of anthills – my horses biggest bolt /buck situation was when she cantered through the anthill and got bitten by many red ants at the same time. Happy riding to you all!

  34. Great information Callie. What about noises that can’t be seen? There is a quarry over the hill from the farm we board our two horses. My horse would just freeze (balk) when he heard anything from the direction of the quarry. I tried riding past the area for a few weeks a few years ago but my horse wouldn’t move past the quarry or he would trot fast past the area. I decided to stop putting my horse and myself through this area of the farm for safety purposes. Also another concern of mine is wind or things we can’t hear but the horses can?

    1. Eric, horses can definitely pick up on sounds that we can’t! If he is having trouble moving past, I would recommend any time he takes a step forward to reward him!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  35. Im curious, at what point do you recommend an emergency dismount? A part of me always wants to see if the horse will work through a spook but another part of me wants to get off! And many trainers have different thoughts on it. Some say stay with your horse, others say, consider yourself lucky and get down before you get hurt.Whats your thoughts?

  36. After a 1 or 2 hour drama free trail ride my horse has spooked at a bird flying out of a bush., someone moving up ahead, or something unseen by me. It’s usually a pretty radical spin & sometimes a bit of a run but on a couple of occasions a full on bolt. There’s usually no warning but if there is I can encourage him past the scary monster. Recently, riding out with a friend after a lovely session in the arena, a man was walking toward us through the trees. Both horses stopped & were alert. We let them stand, reassuring them for a count of about 6 seconds. Both suddenly whirled & bolted. I turned up a driveway & stopped. My friend was behind me. We rode back to the scary man & spoke with him & continued out on the trail.
    These reactions are way too much & have ME spooked now. Hindsight is we probably should have kept them moving. I consider disengaging the hindquarters? My trust is all but nil right now which is upsetting. I’ve applied all the advice in this video but I doubt, after 10 years, my horses will ever have a calm sensible nature & I’m getting old & not as flexible or capable.
    I still enjoy some beautiful stress free rides & I love my horses. They both came to me with problems but they can also be so responsive, well behaved & lovable. However these sudden radical spooks are messing with my confidence. Feeling sad & frustrated.

    1. Maria, this can be a really difficult conversation to having about making sure that the horse is the right fit for you. Horses that tend to be more reactive can be really difficult to get them desensitized to everything when we are trail riding. Are they both equally reactive or is there one that is quieter that you could keep riding to build your confidence back up?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  37. Hi out on trail with a friend – both of our horses spooked at different things and same things. She was getting upset with her horse and says- ” oh my horse just needs to move out – lope to get the nerves blown out.
    She kept walking then another spook and she spanked her horse and yelled at her.
    I myself have learned to not be upset or have fear and just keep moving and pat or rub my horse as she gets past the ‘thing’ that bothers her. It can get old having spooks that are jumps or sharp moves right or left. I find too that more rides help. When they seat too many days they need a round pen run . Just energizes their souls to run about and then they relax .
    What do you think???

    1. Marjorie, movement is calming to the horse as long as it is rhythmic and they aren’t racing away! I would just caution about rubbing or patting when she is scared of something in case she is feeling like she is being reinforced for being afraid!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  38. I go riding with a friend and quite often we come across big scary dragons (usually tree branches on the track )
    Happy to say we already let the horses check out the scary stuff before moving on most times but have been known to get off . Is staying on better for the horses confidence.

    1. I’m really chatty today. I hope none of you mind. Jillian, your comment reminded me of another time when I was working Zara through some scary objects – like the big black garbage cans. I did ground work first, let her sniff them, etc. Then I would ride her up to one. At first she balked, but when she was ready to, she made the choice to go up to one. She sniffed it, then we road on. I took the opportunity to let her go up to as many of those black cans as possible. A few days later, we tried again and no balking, no crow-hopping, she was calm and fine with them. But I also noticed that she felt that when riding passed them, she was supposed to go up to each one and sniff it! LOL!

  39. Thanks for the great information. My 17 year old mare will all of a sudden tense up and start running backwards. We have ended up in one swallow ditch. I have had to get off twice because she was headed for a deep ditch. Both times as soon as I got off, she wrapped her head around me and nuzzled me. On foot on a loose lead of the rein, she walked forward, stood, backed- back on, she was ok. It happens more when she is out alone but has happened with one of the gelding. I have been in a safe area twice and worked her through it by moving her in a tight circle and widening the circle( we did tear up a lot of corn, thankful for understanding brother). She has done this going away from the barn and coming home. A couple of the times, are areas we know there are deer and one where we had seen a skunk. It is just never in the same place and not every time. Thanks for any advice.

  40. I am always alert and aware when I ride my mare on the trail. I’ve walked her many places on the lead rope, which has helped, but she still remains prone to spook. Fortunately, she “spooks in place” most of the time, and does not bolt. I will try your method, Callie, when she sees something that draws her attention, I will just stop and wait, rather than push her through it.

    Thank you

  41. Years ago a dressage trainer at our home farm had two horses who were terrified by our cows. She went out of town saying, “If you would like to make cow ponies out of my two warm bloods while I am away, you are most welcome!”
    The following day I invited a couple of friends to hack out with me on the first dressage horse. I warned them that they had to be patient with us. We walked near the cows. Every time the hoses got tense we all stopped I relaxed the reins, and we all chatted and laughed and enjoyed each others company. As soon as the horse sighed, relaxed or licked his lips we continued to walk around getting closer to our very relaxed Angus mamas. After about an hour I was not only able to get close to the cows but able to MOVE the cows away from the horse. I have found that horses are empowered once they realize that they can “scare” the cows away! I did so with the next horse with the same success.
    Dressage Queen returned home and could hardly believe my success until friends confirmed the story.
    However the dressage rider was never able to get her horses relaxed near our cows. I think they both fed off her tension! Lesson; learn to be relaxed and and teach relaxation to your horse. They are so sensitive to our emotions and look to us for support and security, just as a wild horse or colt is influenced by the alpha mare or the mama horse!
    I love your weekly lessons!

  42. How long should you let your horse watch a scary object if he does not start to calm down, but keeps getting more tense? On a trail ride my horse spotted an emu in the distance and stopped to figure out what it was. The emu started walking toward us and I could feel a blow up coming. Instead of waiting for that to happen I tried to get my horse to move on. He did . . .at full speed. Would it really have been better to let the emu get to us?

    1. Hi Irene, I think it is really difficult to know exactly what to do when another animal is involved. Especially if the other animal is running free and you can’t predict its behavior. In this case, without being there is see the situation, I would recommend keeping him bent so that he can see it while walking away.

      Hope this helps!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  43. Thx Callie. I am in my sixties now and have alot more confidence issues or fears of the “what ifs” could happen if I decide today is the day i am going to brave the trail rides i feel the thoughts of what ifs flooding my brain and anxiety. So i decide to stay close to our comfort zones and be happy with what we end up doing there like arena or grass area. I have my 16yr old young standie agisted on a gr8 property of 300 acres. I used to age 47 have a gr8 time on the trails it was the best but i was on a well schooled old clydie god bless her who made it so easy for me. Now i still want to enjoy the trails with my boy who i have had for 10 years now and we have a beautiful relationship. I walk on foot and he on his lead out on the trails as much as i can to hopeofully get him confident of the environment. Spring summer we have alot of snakes and huge goannas . All year we have kangaroos, goats, cows, motor bike riders who have no respect for horse riders. It can all be sooo daunting for me now. My boy has always been on high alert of his surroundings and will jump sideways quite suddenly when there does or doesnt seem to be anything obvious to other horses or riders to cause this. Your suggestions i have taken on board and make sense. I still need to focus on keeping myself calm and confident to help us both thru the scary monsters. Thanku Call appreciate your videos.

  44. I was riding my horse through an obstacle course I had her only for two weeks, I came to a blue tarp on the ground my horse started to shake, I thought to myself this horse is not going over this tarp, I lent over rubbed her Shoulder and said I’ts ok she stopped shaking and walked straight over the tarp, from that day on I could take her anywhere do anything, reashorance is the best thing, and rider has to be relaxed as well, they feel what we feel, we must be confident in what we do.

  45. Explosive, unannounced ground fireworks got both me and my horse worked up a few weeks ago. There was no warning and it wasn’t on a date when these fireworks are legal so I had no expectation that this would or could happen. The sound is similar to that of a cannon being fired with lots of black smoke. My horse reacted as expected–one big jump, then on high alert status looking in the direction of the noise. I turned around immediately to head back to the barn but a 2nd explosion occurred while we were heading back. Same reaction from my horse but he’s really worked up now and a basket of nerves by the time we get back. Since then he’s been more nervous than usual out on the trails so I’m working to get him over the trauma of the unexpected noise. Any suggestions to break his memory of this unpleasant & spooking experience are appreciated.

    1. Hi Robin, first I would recommend giving him so time to get over that experience it could be quite traumatizing for him. I would recommend creating some positive associations with him and the route you were on where the fireworks occurred. Perhaps if it is available to you to let him hand graze in that area?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  46. I watched this video hoping to discover I’m doing the right things when riding by myself (everything is always a bit spookier to my boy when we are alone). Woo hoo! Moving laterally and making sure the moving object is in eyesight are situations we have on a dirt road with vehicles several times a month. Learning so much and having skills reinforced on this site! Thank you!

  47. I have an amazing 16 year old horse who is fantastic to hack in a group or company. We’ve managed most scary situations well with a combination of patience, encouragement and praise. However recently on our way back from a relaxing hack he spotted a large wooden bench in the long grass and without warning bolted. He kept running for what seemed like a very long time and I just managed to pull him up by the road. I was terrified. I’m now not going near the bench! Was his behaviour unreasonable. He has scared me. Your thoughts are appreciated. Many thanks

    1. Philippa, it is too difficult to speak as to what happened but if he was truly scared of something his behavior isn’t unreasonable. Have you had him awhile? Does he have a pattern of bolting?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  48. Hi, I had my horse out on the trail with another horse. The flies and mosquitoes were so bad we had to turn around and go back. Now when we go out both horses stop and know amount of trying can we get them past that spot even though the flies and not bad. My horse keeps backing up and tries to go back to barn. I end up giving in but not to barn we go into another field. I’m 70 years old and not the best rider . I feel safe with my horse but can’t get him to move forward. Any ideas?? I even got of and walked him and he was fine. I guess he has my number.

    1. Marsha, I was going to recommend trying to lead him past the difficult area but I would add onto it a bit further and think about making it past that point where he stops walking and perhaps letting him graze and take a rest – something to make it reinforcing for him to get past that area he has associated with stopping!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  49. Moved to a different part of the country and took my 14 yr Arab from his prairie herd to a busy country treed area with small paddocks. Found his personality completely changed to being very unpredictable and over-reactive. Over a number of months he became more worried and spooky and then made me worried too. I moved him to a different barn where he could physically touch other horses and now is also out in normal grazing group too. This has helped but not resolved. I was at my wit’s end as I have been around horses all my life and qualified as instructor in the UK, so not without knowledge or experience. I did loads of searches on the net, and slowly the penny dropped – huge environmental change for a “prey” animal without the support of the herd to look after him = fear ! I found a wonderful young trainer nearby who combines the principles and guidance of “Equitation Science” and a huge ability to observe and respond with good ideas to help him process the questions we post to him. So positive in our work to help him develop self-control and self-management. He has made huge gains – small baby steps each time – and I have made huge gains in knowledge, understanding and joy ! Every time I come back and say – WOW – HE DID SO WELL ! With a horse that was driving cross-country and an excellent trail mount – we went right back to the beginning and worked on ground work, patience and focus. Has taken time and been so much worth while. God Bless the GOOD Trainers. We are slowly working through the spooks that have developed.

  50. When we lived in Maryland, we often trailered our horses to Gettysburg Military National Park. We have a few horses; some did quite well, others were challenging. At the Gettysburg park, there are people everywhere, cars coming and going (from the front and from the back), loud buses, motorcycles, bicycles, dogs, wooden bridges….. Some idiots in passing cars would yell or honk at us (to see if our horses would act up). There are a variety of settings at the park, but there was always something that could create a spook. I stayed relaxed but alert. If my horse was anxious, I would stop and let the horse look at whatever caused the spook; eventually we would make our way past it. Our horses were always manageable, but with a horse prone to spooking, it would be a very challenging place to ride. We always enjoyed going there with our horses.

  51. Thank you for your video and advice. What would you make of a horse that spooked violently all of a sudden IN THE RING while being worked? He was calm and doing well, and we could not see anything that could have spooked him.

    1. Daniele, I think it is really important to remember that the sight and hearing of the horse is far superior to ours so just because we don’t see or hear something that could be causing a spook doesn’t mean that something isn’t there so I think it is important to allow the horse time to process something like that because asking them to do something in the midst of that stress can be very overwhelming to them.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  52. I used to ride bareback a lot, probably not a good idea on a trail since my horse seemed to spook quite a bit. One time a plastic bag blew in front of him and he jumped sideways about 5 feet. I have no idea how I didn’t fall off! I guess cus I was always ready for it. With him you never knew if he would spook at a plastic bag or eat it.

  53. I parked my trailer per usual, got my mare bridled and saddled and got on. I proceeded to the trail entrance we generally took a few feet from the trailer. My mare was telling me something was VERY wrong. It turned out some lovely soul had left their beer can on the fence post a few few from the trail entrance. Really, who is afraid of a beer can, right? I simply shook my head and said, “Really now, this is nothing to worry about. Let’s go forward.” with my body. She tried evading and I kept her looking at it, inching forward a little at a time. She finally made it the 6 feet to the trail head. I chose to take the same route back to the trailer to see what her reaction would be. I did NOT let her knock it off the post as she was prepared to do in her investigation of it. She was entranced with that stupid beer can. She usually bolts a short ways when large limbs fall from trees right next to her, or at least has on a couple of occasions. Sometimes they scare me, too. I just let her go a bit before I ask her to come back to a walk. She seems to figure out that she didn’t get hurt and continues on quietly. Dogs rushing at fences and barking can get to her. I usually hang out around them until she gets quiet.

  54. I was told not to use my voice, pat and say well done – at least for little things as this makes an issue out of something that is nothing. This goes back to an earlier video you posted when you where talking about rewarding behavior you what to avoid. I find this difficult as it seems very natural to use my voice for reassuring my horse. I ride a ex-trotter 11 years old and he spooks a little but is really quite scared of water, bridges and wet ground. I will use the tips you have in the video to see if he can get used to a small pond but I would like to know if I should be using my voice or not and also as someone mentioned earlier, whether I should try going there on foot and leading him or grazing in that area. Thanks Yvonne

    1. Yvonne, I think we have to be careful with praise of any kind while they are spooking or afraid of something but if your horse seems to relax with you gently speaking to him I think that your voice can be a great tool!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  55. Nice work Callie
    We ride off grid, often pack trips, in remote British Columbia and all of the “principles” you outlined apply in every ride! Your contributors also provided helpful solutions and suggestions, thank you all. I think of spooks as an opportunity to improve my partnership. Horses are built to spook, if they didn’t they would not be here for us to enjoy!

  56. After a trail riding clinic I attended earlier this year, I have had great luck with making small circles in times of tension. When my mare gets nervous out on the trail I put her on a circle around a tree (or an imaginary tree if we are in an open area) until she is bending, listening to me, and more relaxed. Usually, we are then able to regroup and move forward. Sometimes it only takes two or three small circles in each direction. Sometimes it takes a lot longer. The key is to wait until I know that she has come back down enough to be listening to me and less focused on whatever it is that is causing her anxiety before trying to press forward. I also keep my EYES UP, talk to her A LOT, give her plenty of pats and rubs, and make sure that I don’t tighten up the reins and grab her face – no matter how nervous I might become – because that only makes her more anxious. The circling combined with eyes up has seriously worked miracles for us.

    1. Glad to hear you’ve found something that was worked for you and your horse! Movement does have a calming effect – as long as you are being careful not to circle too small and throw her off balance!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  57. My horse and I made it past the goats who were sleeping in their pen on our left and then had to pass the chickens who were clucking and flying around in their pen on our right. My horse backed up in fear of the chickens and right then the farmer came to feed the goats who quickly woke up and started jumping around for their lunch. We were stuck between two very scary objects. I decided to get off and lead my horse past the chickens. Unfortunately, I did not think of staying between the chickens and ny horse but stayed on the opposite side so that the horse was between me and the chickens. Not good. won’t do that again! Finally made it.

  58. Great video! I suppose there’s no way to prepare your horse for the random deer or coyote that darts across the trail? That’s the only thing I’m nervous about because I imagine a sudden rear, even though my horse has never reared.

    1. Jennifer, there is unfortunately not a replacement for experience on the trail especially for those types of sudden occurrences. The best advice to stay safe for those types of unpredictable behaviors to develop a secure and balanced seat!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  59. The least safe place with my mare is on the road. And the roads around my house are rural dirt roads. If I go out, I wear my cross country vest. Most drivers are courteous and sensible, but one driver several years ago was aggressive, didn’t slow down, gunned the engine as he passed. Gravel went flying. Fortunately I was on my previous mare who could handle it. I mostly avoid the roads now- too risky with my current mare.
    Many weeks ago I came across the linked site and it’s fascinating. The videos are long but I found myself wanting more when I came to the end. After reading and watching, I’ve changed my way of thinking about my mare’s reactions (plenty of opportunity for spooks in places other than roads!). Thank you for highlighting this challenge.

  60. Thanks Callie. I like the idea of not pushing your horse too fast or too much to face their fears…in the past I have been encouraged not to let my horse look or fixate on the spooky object, rather to flex their focus away from it and move past keep my horses focus on me, not the spooky object. My horse can be spooky so I am learning to deal with these situations which kind of helps…reading his body language, getting a grip on my own reactions and spooks. Some of the more difficult spooks for us are the noises…I’m often caught off guard at these times. Really great topic….good to have lots of tools in the toolbox for spooks!

  61. I find that when my mare stops and gets focused on something, that if I just sit and let her keep focusing on that thing, she will become more fearful of it. If I get her to come back to me and focus on me, she will forget all about what she was focusing on up ahead and become more quiet and move on.

    1. It is interesting the different ways we are taught to handle a horse. I was told to keep the horse looking at the object, NOT to rush it, but to SLOWLY approach the object. If necessary, I would kind of zig zag slowly closer to the object, carefully waiting for the horse to relax as we inched closer. Eventually we would walk past it. This approach works for me, but it requires patience. 🙂

  62. What about when the horse you are riding is a little nervous about a horse in another paddock you are passing? That happened to me, so I just tried to stay on the far side of the trail and keep going.

    1. Ava, I think you handled this exactly the right way to keep you and your horse safe!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  63. Great video! My friends’ horse, who lives here with my horse and I, sometimes spooks on trail rides when it’s windy. Sometimes it’s at a flock of birds flying over, or a noisy tree, but sometimes we don’t know what it is. Her rider just lets her stand for a minute and listen, and when River (the horse) realises it’s nothing life-threatening, she will let out a big sigh and continue on walking. That’s always worked with her, she takes a second to asses the scary thing and then decides, ‘Oh, that’s not so bad.’ Different approaches for different horses, hey!

    1. I do both! Depending on the day, the amount of traffic, the road side conditions. And I always stop my horse when a vehicle is approaching, tap his shoulder and give him a thin slice of carrot. Works well so far!

      1. Hi. New member. just watched your trail video and disnt get any lessons from it. Did I miss something? You started by saying you’d show some arena work first, then you were out in the field. Other than stay in tbe saddle didnt see any tips or lessons on riding on trails….maybe theres a link or other video I missed? Thanks!

    2. I also do both. Depending on which side of the road has the widest shoulder and where I feel I have the most visibility- for the traffic to see me and me to see them.

    3. Depends on the rules of the road where you live/are riding. In Switzerland, where I live, horses are considered to be another “vehicle” and the law says that we must ride on the right hand side. Sometimes this feels quite dangerous to me (if the road is curved and there is no shoulder, for example) and I ride out towards the middle of the road so I can be seen from both directions, much as I would if I were walking, running or cycling. I try not to do too much riding on the roads, however!

    4. I like to ride facing the traffic. The horse can see what’s coming and it’s not like something sneaking up from behind , which I think is a kind of predator thing.

  64. Hi Callie,
    Recently while on vacation I booked a trail ride for myself and my family. I was out in front of the other riders and ahead of the guide ( he knew it was not my first time on a horse :p ) enjoying the scenery through the woods in Parrsboro Nova Scotia when I felt the beautiful Palimino I was riding stiffen beneath me. He came to a stop, head up, ears pricked forward. Given that this horse was pretty solid up to this point i assumed he was aware of something in the bush. I stayed relaxed and gave him a minute to figure things out when out of the bush a mid-sized black bear crossed over the trail in front of us and into the bush on the other side. Both myself and the horse watched him go, waited a few seconds and then calmly asked the horse to move forward and we carried on. It was awesome!
    Thank you for the great information in the video. I never thought about letting the horse move forward laterally. In a couple of weeks, I am going on a three-day trail riding adventure with some friends so I am happy to learn more tips on how to allow your horse to figure things out and prevent their fear from escalating.
    Love your videos and your way of teaching.
    Thanks again.

  65. Wind surfers scared the hell out of my boy. I ride on the beach sometimes. Once I actually got off and made the wind surfer bring the thing over and had my horse smell it and we watched it taking off together. He stopped spooking after the 4th try

  66. I would love for you to do the “next” video that advises us what to do when the horse has moved into flight mode, turned and runs. So how to go back and get past the issue. Is it different?
    I will share a nonsuccess story. Trotting alone on the trail, my horse suddenly spooked and let out the biggest buck ever, sending me to the ground with a break in my back. Fisher cat! I may have pulled back with the spook causing the buck, not sure.

  67. Wow, this sure got a ton of response! Pigs, horses DO NOT like the smell of pigs!! In order for my horse and I to get on the trail, we had to go past a small farmet with a family of pigs! Cantering backwords is not an FEI requirement for dressage horses, but that’s what I would get when asked to take one step closer to the origin of that smell. We would circle round and circle round moving a tiny bit closer with each circle until he realized what I was doing and backwords cantering we would go. My solution was to go out with a pig passing veteran! Ol Doc went through this some years back and was now the official pig passing trainer!!! It actually only took a couple of times and I got him to walk right up to the fence for a visit with theses smelly creatures and actually drop his head to eat with them…what do ya know! I told him that bacon was good with everything!!!! From then on no problems.

  68. I do a lot of trail riding and am very lucky to have a horse who loves to do the same.
    While the other horses in our group may be shying away from the new hunting blind that has been set up on the trail, Wildfire is heading straight for it to investigate. I think she is hoping someone will be inside with treats!
    I have a phrase I use when she is a little hesitant about something: “It’s okay, you’ve got this!” We have built a lot of trust with each other and she seems to understand when I say this that this is a time she can trust me.
    When she does spook it’s usually a sideways hop and she plants with 4 feet spread to look at whatever it was. The one thing she is consistently cautious of is piles of wood or large downed logs. I think a deer must have jumped over one in front of her at one point. But if I see it first and tell “It’s okay, you’ve got this” she will keep an eye on it, but just keep going.

  69. I was having a nice canter on a forestry road when two pheasants flew up suddenly approximately two feet in front to the side. My horse stopped dead in his tracks, I fell off then he spooked at me landing next to him then he almost dragged me into a ditch backwards. Once he stopped dancing about, I stood up and calmed him down. then got on him and continued on our ride. By the way, he ALWAYS drags me when I fall off because he gets such a fright at me landing like a bag of potatoes. Another time, going up the same road he refused to go any further. He could obviously see something I couldn’t but he was very scared (we had sightings of a puma and panther). He would not go forward. I let him have a look then tried again. That was another time he almost reversed into a ditch. I eventually managed to get him to take 2 steps forward then turned him to go home. That was the first and only time I have galloped on him. He was very scared! He was agitated the whole way home so I gave him lots of cuddles and he slowly relaxed. We still went riding on that road with no hiccups.

  70. My horse and I encountered a long moving freight train on a trail ride . My horse noticed the train and started to become nervous . I tried calming manoeuvres, lateral movement , small bending circles , jaw Flexion but had to step off at one point because horse was very worried now.
    I worked a bit on calming horse before aborting the situation , not in a run away style but tried calmly. I did small bending circles , Kettchen Hirse rest and Even offers a Brief grazing opportunity. But we were not able to continue riding along the trail while the long freightvtrain kept moving in the same direction .
    Eventually the horse became calm again and I stepped on and we continued on trail in some other direction.

  71. I really appreciated the advice in this video but I felt like it missed out when your horse suddenly spooks at something right next to them, something you really can’t prepare for cos you can’t see it coming. I can manage her spooks very well, like you say by controlling how she moves her body in response to spooks, but if I’m cantering along a trail and all of a sudden there’s a white dog poo bag strung up on a hedge that we couldn’t see and she jumps sideways to avoid it; well I’m well-practiced at sitting this event but I’d like other people to be able to ride her without needing such hardcore stickability skills! How do you manage those spooks?

    1. Katy, those types of spooks can be, although I hate to say it, unavoidable. The best we can do is make sure we have a secure, balanced seat so that if that does occur we stay safe in the saddle!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  72. Unfortunately I don’t have a very good handling scenario, but what do you do about a horse that is deathly terrified of everything “new” that jumps out, makes a noise, moves fast, etc? Mine is the type who likes to spin and bolt. If you let him look at it he just stands there quivering and sweating, and then tries to spin and take off. Bending wouldn’t be a good option for him because I’ve seen him run full speed sideways while being ridden by a trainer. Honestly, his spookiness is the only thing I can’t put up with because its always and overreaction/ extreme. I’ve seen very good riders fall off of him, and it’s just an accident waiting to happen. I don’t know what else to do, and am thinking I may have to give up on him and let him go to someone more experienced. Please help!

    1. Jacki, the more things horses like that are exposed to the better! Is it an option to walk him out on some trails?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  73. how do you have deal with horses that copying anothers reactions when hacking. Is riding out alone preferable to build their confidence?

    1. Geraldine, I think it depends on the copy you keep! Going out with another steadier horse that can be a great way to build confidence. But if your horse feeds off of the other horses than trying a hack solo might not be a bad option!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  74. Callie – My comments are directed to this video and the one about how to ride a spooky horse. Thanks for these videos! They have lots of great information that everyone needs to review.

    I had an experience with ATVs and dirt bikes while riding out. I had previously worked Zara with these things. Last year, she was golden. This year, due to a move to a new home, it’s back to square one. So I’m just starting over with ground work, etc. rather than trying to push her through things. As I encountered these kids on their bikes, I stopped and just let Zara have a minute. The kids were really good and waited for me as I moved her back a little way and did some reining exercises then brought her in where she first balked at the bikes. Here, I petted and praised her until she was calm. I repeated this process several times until she willingly went passed the kids on their bikes. Those kids were awesome! they waited the entire time before going on. We later met up again on another road. This time, after getting Zara to calm down, I ran Zara after the bikes. I found that when I make her chase things, it gives her confidence. In fact, I taught her to heard loose dogs away from her, and she’s not afraid of dogs. She’s startled if they bark, but it’s not a huge freak out.

    Another story…
    When I first started riding Zara, I was having a riding lesson at the fairgrounds (I used to board her there). It was busy (just after the 4th of July) and she was nervous about a lot of things. As my trainer was telling how I should handle her if she gets spooky, some kids on the stadium (aluminum bleachers, big echoes, etc.) set off some firecrackers. Zara wheeled around and took off at a dead run. I was thrown completely off balance and fell, breaking 3 ribs.It was a bummer, but I learned, never to let your guard down. Always expect something to happen and keep that balanced posture, even when you’re having a conversation with someone.

    1. Connie, I can relate to your story. I was standing and having a conversation with an instructor and the sprinklers in her area went off – my horse of course spooked and ran across the arena. It is a hard lesson to learn but a great reminder that we always need to be aware and paying attention to our horses!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  75. Hi ! My previous horse (Mr. Bo Jangles) was a rescue from the kill pen. I went on our first and last trail ride. He is now a pasture pet. He was pretty great for the 1st hour of the trail ride, with 3 other horses. We were going up a slight incline, I remember my riding helmet brushed against some tree limbs/leaves and all of a sudden, M.B.J. was freaking out, doing 360’s, then bolted straight ahead down a paved road with cars going past us. I held on for dear life. I could not circle him and we stayed on the road for what felt like FOREVER. I just thought he’d get hurt, and I’d probably get killed. He galloped on for a few minutes – maybe 5 ?? He finally stopped on his own, on someone’s lawn. I was in shock that we were alive. After that, I stayed on him for the ride back – he was fine. I’m 57, I never gained confidence to ride him again. I had fearless young women riding/working with him. He is a very nervous horse, until after about 30 minutes of working with him. I gave him away to my friend and he’s a pasture pet. I rescued another horse a year ago, named Jesse – who is a very mellow horse, another kill pen rescue. However, he will spook hard on trail rides. So now, I’m constantly TENSE on him. I can’t make myself relax, because I’m waiting for the hard spook. I have fallen off of him once, and was hurt badly. He spooked at god knows what – he darted to the right, I fell off to the left and hurt my lower back and side very badly. So now when I do ride him, I’m just waiting. How can I RELAX?? I’ve tried the breathing techniques, a Xanax 🙂 but when a fawn darts out of the brush – how do you NOT relax, knowing that will happen??? How do you remain calm, knowing something is going to jump out in the cornfields or anywhere?? THANK YOU FOR YOUR GUIDANCE!!

    1. Hi Lori,

      It is a really tough situation, because you can never truly predict what is going to happen – especially on a trail ride. I would highly recommend the free training from our Calm and Confident Rider program to help you better understand and work through these emotions you are feeling (and maybe even be able to ride again without the Xanax!)

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  76. Hello, I wondered what you should do if your horse takes off. My horse can be really spooky at times, when he is out on his own, but I am absolutely fine with that, on a road. However we have some lovely woods that I never go in on my own, as I have a fear that if he takes off I won’t be able to stop him and the ground is obviously uneven and quiet hilly. He has taken off with me once and no matter how hard i tried he would not stop until he was ready to (luckily I never came off) . Do you have any advise? with another horse he is fine. I think the problem to be honest is me and my ‘what if’ fear.

    1. Hi Yvonne! One of the things that Callie recommends for emergency situations is the pulley rein, it is a safe and effective way to slow down a horse that has a reaction like you are describing. Callie goes over this and other tips for staying safe and confident in the saddle in our Calm and Confident Rider program, you can click here to get the free training from this course.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

      1. May I also add that it helps to practice whatever method you use to get your horse under control in a safe place such as an arena before you try it in an incident. It helps you to get familiar with what you should do and it helps the horse to also understand. I have found that it fosters confidence in both you and your horse. My horse is also very spooky, so we go over all of our reining exercises and other basic and simple maneuvers for about 15 – 20 minutes in the arena before riding out. Best of luck to you!

  77. One of the first times I rode my horse we were riding around the property and a helicopter came rushing by pretty low to the ground. I heard it coming and really tensed up and was scared knowing she would spook and surely take off. Being an inexperienced rider, I was terrified. She did spook by cantering a few steps to the side and then a jump to the side. She then calmed down. I didn’t though and I dismounted and walked her back to the barn. I struggled to get on her again after that because I didn’t feel skilled enough to handle if anything happened again. I have spent much time with her on the ground and would really like to start riding again. This video reminds me that I need to work on some arena skills so I can maneuver my horse better.

    1. Hi Tonya, it sounds like you and your horse handled that situation well! The key is to master those skills and then take them out of the area 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

    2. While I haven’t had the joy of experiencing helicopters, I did wonder how the horses were going to react to the hang gliders coming toward us. As it turned out, they viewed them as big birds. My current horse was still quite green when she first saw a sail board down the beach a long ways. We were with some other riders so did not get near them at all. My girls was quite disappointed not to be able to go check them out. She did get to check out a parasail on the ground on the beach at one time. Made the owner quite nervous as it was flapping around and he feared for it’s safety.

  78. My one thoroughbred could be quite dangerous when spooked (especially if we came across a donkey or pig), and if he got like this, I would get off and lead him past the object/animal, and keep going for a while in hand until I could feel him settling down, then I would remount and carry on.

    My young horses, who are not so “trigger happy”, if they are scared of something, I stop, do some deep breathing, and then try to encourage them to slowly go up to the object and touch it with their nose.

    Different strokes for different horses.

    Thank you, it is very interesting reading through all the different ways that people deal with this, and I certainly like your idea of the bend, and possible lateral work.

  79. Horses that have had at least a few months or more – preferably one whole year to experience the full climatic range – living with older horses (maybe retired) in a rough bushland setting are much calmer on trails. It’s ideal for weaned foals as part of their training cycle.

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