When Other Horses Frighten Yours
When your frightened horse is scared of working with other equines, communal riding areas become cause for panic and competition day becomes a nightmare.
Especially if you’re an amateur riding facing this problem, here is the method I used for overcoming my horse’s fear of oncoming equines. It also works if your animal is afraid of horses coming up from behind or getting too close for comfort.
You will need: an enclosed riding arena and a couple of patient riding friends. When your horse is completely relaxed at his current step, move to the next one.
Step 1: with two other horses
- Lead your horse into the middle of the arena while your two friends ride around in walk.
- Stand there for a few minutes.
- Once your horse is calm, lead him around on the innermost track while the other two walk in both directions on the outside tracks.
- Continue walking while they trot and canter around him in both directions.
Step 2: with one other horse
- Have a friend ride in walk beside you in the same direction.
- Now walk in opposite directions.
- Switch between the outside and inside track. Some horses (like mine) are afraid of being ‘pinned’ between the outside rail and oncoming horses.
Step 3: with one other horse
- Trot in both directions (inside and outside tracks) while your friend stays in walk.
- Now have her trot in both directions, too.
- Her horse will sometimes be trotting to towards you, so use lots of shoulder-in to keep your horse focused on you. Stay calm and believe in yourself.
- When your horse can handle this, add canter.
Step 4: with two other horses
- Ride between the two horses, with all three traveling in the same direction at walk.
- Walk on the inside track, with the other horses walking in the other direction towards you on the outside tracks. This gives your horse ‘escape space’ in the middle of the arena.
- Now walk between the oncoming horses, while they give you a wide berth.
- When your horse is comfortable with this, have him trot between the two oncoming horses while they continue walking.
Step 5: with two other horses
- Trot between the two horses as they trot towards him and give him a wide berth.
- Drive your horse firmly forwards if he wavers and lead him to his ‘escape area’ just past them.
- Canter between the oncoming trotting horses.
Again, be firm in directing your horse forwards.
Finally, canter strongly forwards between the two oncoming cantering horses.
Each step may take several days or even weeks. Patience is key.
My own horse was so scared of oncoming animals in the warm-up he’d try to rear. After going through the above program he now works in the warm-up arena at competitions like a real pro!
If your horse is worried about being ridden with others, you can use the above plan to show him you are the leader on whom he can rely. Eventually he’ll realize he has nothing to be afraid of with you there to guide him.