Young horse afraid

I’m sorry I cant find the correct place to post this. My 3 year old warmblood x is normally great to handle, mannerly and generally calm but today during groundwork, the farmers in the field opposit were hearding their sheep on quad bikes, beeping and hollering and making alot of noise. They have to do this (not often) to round their animals up of course, (though they saw what was happening) but my horse was terrified and took off, me having to let go with rope burn. His buddies in the field next door took off at the commotion too which he saw and wanted to follow. I have tried to build his trust in me most days since I got him but I’m struggling to think of the best way forward. Hes generally not spooky for a three year old. I wouldnt want that to happen under saddle when hes backed should he see that again, and my confidence is abit knocked in our progress, any tips appreciated, thanks in advance x

Some thoughts…

  1. Is it possible to introduce your horse to their quads? Give him the chance to check it it out for himself.
  2. Always keep him moving toward the frightening object. A horse is more likely to bolt if turned away. He should remain calmer if he can see what’s scaring him and that you’re remaining calm.
  3. Anticipate his spooks by being aware of his eyes and ears. This is the time to stay relaxed, not grab the reins or lead, and walk with purpose.
  4. I always lead (walk) ahead of my horse by maybe five feet. It teaches my horse that he’s ok on his own.

It’s always something with horses!


I would do some Warrick Schiller just standing with the horse next time they are out quadding. Let him see, when he wants to move away frightened, just redirect his attention back to you like on his videos…very easy to do & can be done with a nearly panicked horse. Just stand there or walk around to a few new places for up to an hour. Wait till he lowers his head & licks and chews. This is an opportunity!! not a problem in my view… an opportunity to train for your future safety… best wishes!


Thank you!, ohh I love Warwick Schiller hes amazing. Great advice I will try this, I have followed quite a few of his techniques but not this yet. I like your thinking- “this is an opportunity not a problem” do you follow Sam Vanfleet too? I wish I lived in the US so I could go to one of her clinics x

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Thank you, great advice, I will try and see if I can introduce him to their quads good idea!, oh yes it really does make them feel safer when your infront doesn’t it, definitely noticed that. Thanks again x

There is always the possibility that your horse is going to react as yours did when you come upon a situation that is extremely stimulating ( like sheep running and beeping quad bikes). There are no truly bombproof horses. You can work at desensitizing and it can help both you and the horse greatly but there will be a time where it is possible the horse will come upon a situation where they just lose it.

In those cases it is in your best interests to know how to react so it doesn’t turn into an injury for you both. It doesn’t mean you need to be afraid of every new thing, but I am sure he gave you some really easy clues that a meltdown was coming. When my mare is in meltdown mode ( happens now and again) I can literally feel her expanding under me and I take action immediately. We have a great bond and it isn’t damaged because of it. She is just being a horse and sometimes they just react to what they see.

I would just encourage you to really get to know the signs of when something is bothering him. Exposure to as much as possible is good, but you need to know how to best read him and react when the big spooks happen. With most horses they do.


I trained my horse to a bicycle in the arena. I was riding it, so nothing unknown from that point of view. Ever after he got so excited when he saw bikes and would rush to follow them. Not quite what I intended, but he was definitely not scared of them.

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Spooky Object training means a horse stands still after it gets a fright. It is different from desensitization as the horse is allowed to get a fright, it is a horse after all, and in times you need the horse to have a fright to save you.

Like the time a car came from the other side of the road to hit us. I actually didn’t react as I thought it was someone trying to scare us. The little quarter horse I was riding tore a muscle in his rump jumping out of the way. The tb behind did not react and the woman behind the wheel saw us jump and tried to swerve, fishtailed and hit the tb in the back leg behind us.

The latest was a kangaroo crossing the trail in front of us and I am just presuming that it was the same kangaroo that must have done a u-turn and jumped out of the Bush straight into Sim’s side.

Of course Sim went sideways. We were lucky that it was a small female and not a large red male. Hubby came half off and lost a stirrup, with the leap sideways. We are in dressage saddles.

Then Sim stood still, hubby managed to get back in the saddle and we continued on.

The easiest way to get him over his fear is to ride behind the quad bikes and chase them. Some with the sheep if he is broken in.

John Chatterton is who I learned Spooky Object Training from.


Great advice, thank you. Yes its helped alot desensitising him to spooky things by having him ‘follow them’ definitely gives him confidence when I walk ahead, thank you for your reply x

Thank you for your reply, true and great advice. The bikes returned a week later and I redirected his feet left then right at the end of the rope instead of trying to stop him running, hind quarters yields too etc and it helped alot he calmed right down, your right I absolutely need to learn when somethings bothering him before he explodes. When your mare goes into melt down mode what do you tend to do? I hope I’m doing the right things, Thanksx

Glad you were able to get control of the situation the next time. Another thing to remember is not to make a federal case or huge production out of it. Act like you are bored and don’t care (except when he decides to jump up and down on you or take off) and he will take your cue. Also, do not reassure him. Patting him and praising him to calm him makes him think that the bad behavior is what is wanted when it is not. Praise him for his focus on you and what you ask of him. Make sessions short and when he does it right, put him away or let him do something he likes. This reinforces the good behavior. All other advice here is most excellent. Good luck with your youngster!

Usually I redirect her attention immediately. We always ride out so I am not in a confined area and have no desire to part company:)

Once we were riding, came over the hill and in the distance she could see my husband and 2 sons chopping big weeds in the soybean field. I don’t know what she thought they were, but It was the worst , she just lost her mind. It was like someone was inflating her whole body and I got off and had to walk her all the way home and she was just a mental mess.

Once home I was able to remount and rode her for a bit like nothing had happened. Next time we rode by the bean field ( no weed chopping) I could feel her tense a bit but I just redirected her attention and we came at the field from another way and she has never had another issue.

I think anytime you come out unhurt you are doing the right thing.