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Spooking and reversing

Hi Franklin

I have been reading through the Q&As on your site regarding spooking horses and hope you have some advice for me. I have been riding a 5yo TB cross chestnut mare for 1 year, she was never properly backed and had not been schooled until I took her on, just hacking and jumping. She had been off work due to a leg injury, for a year before I started to ride her and began with lots of hacking and now basic schooling.

She used to spook at everything but with patience and perseverance is now much better and can hack out alone. However, she occasionally objects to odd things (large rocks, sheep, litter on the road) but is totally sound with traffic and noises. She reacts by stopping and refusing to move forward, this often leads to reversing (which she can do quite fast) although she has never reared or threatened to rear. I can usually coax her into moving on with but have had to resort to the crop, my concern is that she backs into a car or ditch because she is so intent on what is in front of her.

This has happened alone and whilst hacking out with her companion horse who sometimes also stops and refuses to move on but spins round rather than reversing. Once or twice my friend has had to get off and lead past the offending item to get us both past it.

In the school she spooks and naps, falls in off the track, bucks in canter and to evade work. I realise the reason for these problems is that she is green and that the solution is more schooling. Her behaviour in the school is gradually improving but my main concern - the reversing whilst out on roads and tracks, continues.

Thanks you for your time
Any advice greatly appreciated


Morag MacMaster
Aberdeen, Scotland

Hello Morag,

When there is room behind you and your horse begins to back, keep her backing. She won't want to for long. When there is no room, immediately begin to ask for hind quarter yields, in both directions, for several rotations. Do this firmly but not forcefully. Get good at this move before you need it. It immediately puts the horse's attention back on you as opposed to something else. When you ask the horse to stop doing the hind end yielding, try moving forward without stopping. If the horse keeps backing, do the process again and again, as many times as needed. Try this over say a two week period and let me know how it goes.

Good Luck and keep me posted.

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