How to relax a spooky horse


Have you ever been in a situation where you are riding your horse and they suddenly become fixated on something other than you?  Here is a great exercise for getting their focus back on what you want while retraining them to relax in the spooky situation.

In this video I am working with Sage, who is terrified of the cutting flag!  She is so scared of it that if she has seen it move within the last few times she was ridden, you just about can not ride her in there again after that, even if several days have passed.

Here is the exercise I used: Wandering with Purpose

  1. Allow your horse to walk or trot on as loose of a rein as you can safely ride on
  2. Let your horse choose a direction
  3. Make a 90° change of direction (the opposite way your horse was wanting to go)
  4. Drop the rein and let them choose a direction again
  5. Repeat

If your horse is wanting to get too fast, make your turns more frequently.  This exercise does not work well at a lope because of the constant change of direction.


In this video sage was wanting to constantly turn away from the flag.  I consistently turned her back towards it 90° and she consistently veered away from it completing a 180° turn instead.  Whenever she would try to stop and look at it in a relaxed way I would stop and allow her to do that.  For her, to be simply in the arena and relaxed with the flag is a huge step of progress, so I would pause any time I felt her relax.


We also talk about how to get her comfortable “working” the flag.  At this point I’m much more interested in how she feels than her position on the flag, what her turn looks like etc.  Those things will be easy to clean up once she relaxes enough to respond to my cues.

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