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Horse is fine in the arena but scared when hacking out

Hi Franklin,

I have a 12 year old Irish Draught which I bought as a 5 year old untouched. He has always been nervous. I had him backed at 6 years old and he is quiet and sensible to ride in the school, but he has always been very nervous out of the stable and when hacking out. His head rises, starts snorting as we get closer to whatever is worrying him, and I can feel his nervousness. He does go past reasonably sensibly, just a few side steps normally and then calms down and walks nicely until he finds the next thing that scares him. On the average 1/2 hour hack he will spook probably 10 times and its always the same things, a pile of logs, bushes, people, if he can't see around the bend in front. No matter how many times we go past them he finds them scary. Even with a confident horse in front he is nervous and worried. He is a genuine horse and not just misbehaving, he really is scared, he's exactly the same when I'm leading him as well.

Is there any way to give him confidence? Or is it too late seeing he is 12 now and has been doing it for years? My husband wants me to sell him because he says its dangerous, but I keep hoping he'll get braver. Any advice please???

Many thanks,

Hi Louise,

Well, the good news is your horse is certainly not too old to gain some confidence. Additionally, he does not try to buck you off or spook and bolt horribly. These are all things to appreciate about your horse. Don't pay any attention to hubby wanting you to sell the horse at this time.

To give the horse confidence begin to play on the ground with this horse and do it more than riding him for a good while (several months). Keep it fun and easy. Do a lot of desensitizing to scary things like big plastic tarps, umbrellas, rain coats, hikers with backpacks, dogs and all things that you can intentionally provide that your horse would find scary. Its called bomb-proofing in some places. I do these programs occasionally and have done them for mounted police patrols. You want your horse to be mellow and confident in face of all things scary. This is first accomplished on the ground and then when riding. If you unsure of the methods we can have a phone coaching session where I can spell out the technique to you. One session should do it as you seem to have some horse sense already. Let me know if this interests and if you have any questions. Keep me posted please.

Sincerest regards, Franklin

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