My horse is a 3 year old with only about 30 days under saddle. I've started working with her myself now and she is generally doing great, however, whenever we are riding (especially alone) and she sees or hears anything that frightens her she spins abruptly away. I often don't see the object of her fears and have been unprepared for the sudden turn on several occasions. How can I teach my horse to respond to her fear in a safer manner?
When a horse gets spooked (frightened) by something his natural instinct is to run away from from the object of his fear. This can be a hazardous situation wheather we are riding or handling them on the ground. Spooking is an issue that has to be dealt with gently, but firmly. First, you must be confident in your riding ability, that no matter what your horse does, you will not lose control of him. Your horse looks to you as his leader and if you aren't confident he most certainly will not be either. You must ride with a deep seat, this can be accomplished by always riding with your heels down. Do not blame it on your horse when he becomes frightened, you are the leader and you must remain calm. If this is an issue for you, then you need to send your horse to a professional for additional training.
Work with your horse in a controlled enviornment, such as a round pen or and arena. Find some scary objects such as a tarp, spare tires, a waving flag, anything your horse may see as a threat, and introduce your horse to them one at a time. Ride toward the scary object, do not let him turn away. If he stops, let 'em. Let them look all they want, we are working on not running away, so looking is exactly what we want them to do. If your horse tries to turn away, do not let him do so, use your reins to keep your horse pointed directly at the scary object. When he relaxes, ask him to take a step towards the object. Keep doing this until your horse is no longer worried about the object of his fear, then ride circles around it and move on to another obstacle. Do these exercises until both you and your horse know to deal with his fear. It will build confidence in both of you.
You will learn how to control your horse if he does get scared and he will learn to trust in you as his leader.
Thank you and happy trails!