Don't be shy.  Time to talk about handling your horse's shying.

Don't be shy. Time to talk about handling your horse's shying.

February 15, 2023

When looking to buy a horse, the number of people who would put a horse that didn't shy to the top of their wish list would be pretty high.

In no particular order ,some of what bothers us about shying is that we've not always ready for it, it interrupts our rhythm, our focus (or our daydreaming) and can jar your back, put you off balance and upset your partnership with your horse.

We’ve all had a horse shying – perhaps first lifting his head to enquire what’s ahead, or bulging his body away from a strange object or even rearing, spinning leaping or running away - or a combination of these!

A Click & Connect Neck Strap can help in these situations because if you remain connected with him - mentally and physically.

That you can both keep your balance together, suddenly the spook doesn't need to destroy your ride, your confidence or your partnership.  In fact, that you've got through it together can help build your partnership. 

But how could you address these different situations?  Here's some ideas.  

He snorts.  if he’s bold and attacking you can be bold and attacking too.  Hold onto the neck strap (connectors to the girth) go into forward seat and trot past it (in his elevated trot you'll be glad of feeling secure in your forward seat by holding the neck strap).  If you don't feel ready for forward seat, have the connectors to the D rings at the pommel of the saddle and as you encourage him past, hang on to the connectors, you'll keep your balance better and there's less risk of you catching your horse in the mouth or landing heavily on his back.  Plus whether in forward seat or not, if you don't like him rushing past, you can use the neck strap to help him brake, without using the rein that might stop him going past the very thing you want him to go past!



He freezes.  First off, don't put pressure on him.  Try to reassure him and turn his head to you, not to the spook.  It's no worries if he does then spin, hold onto the neck strap, and let the connectors to the girth help balance his shoulders.  If he doesn’t drop a shoulder there’s less chance you’ll fall off when he spins.  Pat him, turn him back, pat him for being brave enough to 'face' the spook again, and try again.   Be sure not to let him 'look' at the spook, he needs to have his attention on you. Try to keep his attention on you by treats, talking, patting, and hold onto the neck strap for your own security.  Each time he spins, it's less of an ordeal than without the Click & Connect Neck Strap, as neither of you will lose your balance.  The connectors help break the cycle of anxiety that can otherwise occur - where a horse will have a hissy fit at having lost his balance, at you having lost your balance, and they'll be more cross with life than they ever were with the spook in the first place.  Eventually likely go past the spook as long as you don't make him look at it, keep his attention on you, and for some horses that may mean he actually is better reversing past it! 


He rears.  Hold the neck strap for security.  He wants to defend his position from the spook, not attack it.  Let him go further away from the spook and make him think going past it isn't going into it.  I’m scared of spiders and putting one up close to me isn’t going to cure me.  Letting me know I’m in a safe place away from it, is fine with me and I’ll trust you more than if you tried to put one in my hand.  Be aware he's not in this alone.  We used to only have the option of riding defensively, leaning back and pushing a horse past a spook.  But if he rears, you want to be in forward seat to keep your balance, and he'll also feel much more like you are coming with him if you are in forward seat than putting him ahead of you.  You can employ him looking away from the spook, shoulder in or leg yield to help him go past the spook, not head right for it!


He turns and runs.  Don’t panic.  You don’t want him to feel trapped.  He’ll feel safer going past a spook if he knows he can get away from the spook, however ridiculous it might seem to be.  Pull him up with your neck strap as much as possible.  Then try and approach from a different direction – some horses like to look, sniff, or even touch what they are scared of, others would rather look away and have nothing to do with it.  


He judders.  Something makes him spook and he collapses in on himself.  Jarring for your back, and his back too.  As he judders, put your hand forward and down, and lo and behold, there's the neck strap ready for you.  As you've not lost your balance, and he's not therefore lost his, you'll be able to continue on, but if he's scared at all, you're already in a good place to encourage him forward with you.  Just give him a pat and tell him he's clever, you are in this together.


He leaps.  A drain, a road sign, a twig.  Whatever might cause him to suddenly leap out of his skin, there's little warning.  As he leaps, his neck comes up and wow, his neck strap almost falls into your hand.  Grab onto it.  Now you've a better chance of landing still with him, so just be ready, close your legs on and keep an eye on his ears to best keep in line with him.  Then head into forward seat to give him a pat and move positively on. 


Making any shy as short-lived a part of your ride as possible is important.  If you're stuck for ages trying to get past something, do consider your best options - is there a walker, a car, another horse that can give you a lead?  You can also jump off and walk ahead.



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