/ The Dreaded Spooky Spot /
Whatever type of riding you do, you’ve no doubt encountered that mysteri-
ously scary spot, whether it’s a spooky arena corner, haunted bend in the trail,
or scary judge’s box.
Tucker explains that for many horses, working through the scary spot is a
sound approach that gets the horse through the problem area fine, but this
technique is often not successful with sensitive horses: Riding more strongly
only adds to the self-imposed pressure the horse already feels, inducing even
more tension in the tricky spot. Riders naturally also tend to be more tense
riding a horse on high alert, which serves to amplify the problem.
Tucker advises upping the horse’s workload when he’s away from the
spooky spot, while easing up on your demands while in the scary area. By giv-
ing the horse a break in the spot he fears, he’ll begin to find the spooky spot a
rather pleasant place to be.
If your horse slows down and takes smaller steps when approaching the
area he’s afraid of, don’t inadvertently chide him by adding leg and seat aids,
urging him to keep the tempo up, advises Tucker. When the horse steps to-
Managing each horse as an
individual is a crucial piece of the
whole-horse puzzle. Turnout is key
to well-being; every horse needs a
place to safely play, roll and relax.
“Horses like to have the opportunity to graze, socialize and be themselves,” says Robin Koehler, assistant professor of equine studies the
University of Findlay in Ohio. “From
my experience, a sensitive horse
may lack the confidence to stay calm
in a paddock by himself, but may do
well turned out with companionship.
A horse with hot tendencies may
warrant being worked prior to turnout
to minimize the risk of injury.”
Hacking out, in addition to regular
work or on rest days, also benefits
both body and mind.
Consider, too, your horse’s
nutrition. Forage is the cornerstone
of every horse’s diet; access to
quality hay and pasture not only
keeps the digestive tract flowing,
but also keeps stress and ulcers
at bay. If your hot, spooky horse
needs a concentrate feed in addition
to forage in order to maintain his
weight, opt for “cool calories,” such
as a fat and fiber feed. In general,
steer away from concentrates heavy
in sugar and starch from ingredients
like corn and molasses.
“I see a lot of horses that spend
the majority of their time standing in
a stall, consuming a high percentage
of their calories as starch,” says
Koehler. “Many of these horses
would benefit from more work and/
or turnout and a diet with plenty of
good-quality forage and a ration
balancer product. This type of diet
is all that is often needed to give
the horse the chewing time and gut
fill he needs, and also to keep the
digestive tract in good working order.
Both behavior and body condition
are influenced by diet.”