Michigan 3 year old TWH with 90 days + professional training ridden in snaffle and wintec dressage in small outdoor arena, trails by advanced beginner

 Question: I own a 3 year old TWH.  This gelding is very friendly, with lovely gaits. My problem is when my horse spooks at new or unexpected things, he spooks violently.  I mean jumps over about 3 feet on the trail.  I've been able to keep my seat so far, but  had a bad experience the other day.  A man popped out from behind a bush in front of a house, my horse jumped about 3+ feet and  RAN!  I lost my seat and lost my horse.  He was scared to death  and ran for home.  The bad part is he had to cross a highway and  its a miracle he didn't get hurt. Can you help me help him? 

From Panelist Steve

This horse is a "panicaholic".  This type will make you a better rider :>).
Been there.

There are two ways of dealing with any horse phobia: avoidance or immersion.

Avoidance does not mean riding him in a stall. It means keeping him in situations where he doesn't get the adrenaline rush. This means riding with other calm horses as much as possible. If you want as relaxing a ride as possible, I suggest you do it with other calm horses around.

Immersion means just what it says. Constant and repeated exposure to scary sounds, sights and smells. A lot of this can be done from the ground in a roundpen or paddock. Use your imagination. Consider it a form of sacking out for the brain. Do this every day. You can't do it too often. In a relatively short while, the horse will get tired of being scared. Reward him with some grain or sugar. It really is that simple.

When riding alone expect, no, LOOK for things to frighten him. But do it in a safe fashion...not along a highway. If he does spook, do not scold him but instead, immediately and seriously  work him in figure eights, backing, turning until he is tired (this is a good way to work on backing and neck reining BTW). Then let him relax...ease the bit. Let him figure out that doing nothing has its benefits. You can't beat one on one riding for getting
a horse broke (this horse isn't broke BTW...just a green broke baby). That's how the cowboys did it. You must become leader of his herd. This is difficult to do if you ride once a week. Horses do not connect the human on the ground with the human on their back immediately. This takes time 

Your goal is not to make this horse into a kid safe dead broke camp horse. That would be unrealistic. Your goal is to get him to deal with the unknown in a semi-rational fashion that is safe for you.

Stephen B. Chasko

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