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Spooking warmblooded horse

I haven't quite seen my problem in your archive. I have a 5 1/2 year old dutch warmblood gelding that I've been training in dressage for 18 months. He has a tendency to pick out a certain part of the arena that he finds terrifying.

Lately it's generally where the barn manager parks the tractors, although he will choose other areas from time to time. When we approach that corner he either swerves away from the track or attempts to spin around and go the other way.

I've tried various things--sometimes riding in that corner until he calms down, walking first, then trotting. I sometimes flex him hard away from the corner and try to leg yield him into it, or at least try to stay on the circle, but he's very strong and determined to make that counterflexed jump away from the tractors. Today I got off and walked him up to the tractors until he stopped resisting, then lunged him in the corner until he trotted and cantered past the tractors without tensing up.

I can eventually get him to go into the area, but I need him to learn to keep his attention on me. I actually think it's more a diversion than that he's really afraid, and it's working as I have to go into self preservation mode just to stay on top of him when he does this.

Any tips on a training technique for this problem? My trainer says to bend him and leg yield--give him a job to think about and keep his mind off the scary things, but I think I need something more basic. I usually try to think of an alternative movement that would be more unpleasant than the offending behavior when I'm training, but I haven't come up with a good one for this problem yet.

Thanks for your help, Lori

Hi Lori,

While the advice of your trainer is sound, at 5 1/2 years of age, your warmblood is still immature actually and sounds a bit green still. These breeds frequently don't fully mature emotionally and mentally until 7 or 8 years of age. At least that is my experience with them. I spend a lot of time in the UK these days and this is very common with the warmbloods there (and here as well). They don't consider them fully mature until about 8 years of age. Also, make certain you are not asking too much too fast from this horse. Maybe he isn't quite ready for what you are asking him to learn. I think these are real possibilities for your horse. I don't think he is in 'avoidance' and providing a 'diversion' which might imply some premeditation. I just think he is immature still and needs more time to grow up and mature. This is my take on it. Good Luck.

Sincerely, Franklin

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