Horses are often described as a 'flight' or 'fight' animal. By asking our horses to be a part of our world, we are asking them to accept all the different sights, sounds, smells and even different creatures which are not natural to them. This means that their fear instincts are on red alert and are often activated more commonly known as 'spooking'. This can lead to a nerve-racking and potentially dangerous ride, knocking the confidence of horse and rider.

When it's blowing a gale outside it can be a pretty daunting thought taking your horse out for a hack or even for a schooling session in the arena. For many people, even on a warm, calm, sunny day, they'll avoid riding in certain places because they are worried they might come across someone with an umbrella, or the pigs they know their horse won't pass, or the stream they can't get their horse to walk through, or some other spooky problem that interferes with the enjoyment of being on your horse.Sue palmer_Oct_2013_pic_HOT 

Spook busting can be great fun, and a good way of improving the bond you have with your horse.  You don't generally need special equipment, maybe a feather duster, a stick, a plastic bag, a bunch of keys, a rosette, or a rustling raincoat.
The key is in remembering that it's the release of pressure that teaches the horse that he's done the right thing.  So introduce the spooky object to your horse at a distance that's enough to put him on edge but not enough to send him flying, wait until he relaxes, then take the object away. Yes, away!  The classic fault is in taking the object closer to him when he relaxes, which of course if you think about it teaches him not to relax!  Apply pressure and release, with your release at the right time, and you'll find that you can get gradually closer and closer with the object (or to the object) without any increase in your horse's stress levels.
Of course this is the simplified version and there's heaps more to spook busting, but it's a good place to start! If you're looking for help in the UK with your horse's behaviour, visit www.intelligenthorsemanship.co.uk to find your nearest Intelligent Horsemanship Recommended Associate.

Horse Massage for Horse Owners now available as a book, DVD, or 1-day course. For more information or to get your copy today visit
Sue PalmerChartered Veterinary Physiotherapist and Equine Behavioural Consultant
Tel: 07976 413488 Web: www.holistichorsehelp.com