Horses Who Shy
Mother Nature built in this response as a defense mechanism
Humans see it as a vice
Teach your horse to perceive you as his 'alpha'
and he won't be afraid of anything

SUMMARY: In a herd environment, the alpha or most dominant, horse is the leader and all the other horses in the herd take their cue from him. If your horse was following his favorite alpha horse down the trail, he would be confident and he wouldn't have to watch out for danger. The key to solving shying is for you to become the alpha for your horse. People often make the mistake of blaming, or punishing the horse for his shying - this causes the horse to become worse,, or not evercome their fears.  People have to remember to keep their focus.


Imagine you are walking through a graveyard after midnight. You're only nine years old and you are holding your father's hand.

Suddenly something rustles in the bushes. Your father jumps 10 feet, turns to look, heart pounding, hand tight on yours, shaking with fright. Then he realizes that it was just a rabbit and seeing that you are still scared, he tries to take you up to the bushes to prove there is nothing to he afraid of. How would you feel?

Now consider an alternative: The bush rustles, your father hardly flinches, he never loses the rhythm of his stride or takes his eyes off the path, or tightens on your hand. Calmly he says, "Those darn rabbits."

Which father would you rather have as your leader taking you through this scary place?
In a herd environment, the alpha  horse is the leader and all the other horses follow on from him. If your horse was following his favorite alpha horse down the trail his confidence level would be at its highest. He would feel safe and sure about the decisions being made for him, and he also wouldn't have to stay on the alert for danger. All horses know that's the alpha horse's job. A major key in so1ving the problem of shying is for you to be perceived as alpha by your horse.

The most common mistakes that people make with horses that shy are:

a) Blaming or punishing the horse for shying

b) Losing their focus.

The best two words I can give you to explore are: Savvy and Focus.

SAVVY: Seeing It From The Horse's Perspective

Horses, because they are prey animals, are actually big chickens. Don't expect them to be the brave one! Try to think like a horse rather than a human. Punishment does not work for prey animals. They don't understand it. If they are acting out of fear when they shy and suddenly the predator on their back comes to life it really compounds the problem and then shying will usually become worse. The answer therefore lies more in preparation than it does in the moment.

In preparing a horse to be ridden, most people lunge them in mindless circles until they are tired enough to behave. What alpha horses do is use a series of games (Pat has identified these games and called them the "Seven Games") to prove that they are really the leader.

Causing the less dominant horse to circle is only one of those games. The other six games include

The alpha horse uses these games to establish a one-time respect program  that causes the other horses to follow his suggestions without question.
If I am calm, you be calm.
If I become alert, prepare to flee.
From this perspective, your emotional state and non-reactiveness is critical to your horses confidence.

So, in preparing your horse to accept you as alpha, do this on the ground first. Play these same seven games (available on video) in order to gain your horse’s respect and trust. The better you get at playing them with your horse, the better the overall result.

Once you have his respect on the ground, have challenged him by sending (not leading!) him through, over or under questionable objects such as jumps, logs, tarps, under trees, into trailers, past plastic bags hanging on things, then you can transfer that leader-follower confidence to his back.

The Power of Focus

Focus is the most powerful tool you can have while riding. When your horse is shying he is using his power of focus against you because he feels vulnerable without his alpha horse.
The technique Pat uses while riding is to be aware of the things that your horse is apt to shy from and focus beyond that point at least 100 yards. This gives your horse the feeling that you, his new alpha, are not concerned so why should he be? Remember the example of the father and child. 
The most common mistake that riders make in this area is to focus on the problem. They try to ride up to the scary thing to show the horse this is not going to hurt him (human reasoning!) or they get surprised from the shying. Both of these approaches cause the horse to feel that you, his alpha, are very concerned about this "thing." 

We all want our horses to be calmer, smarter, braver and more athletic but they can't be until we are. This is why it's so important to work on yourself... and then to play with your horse.

For further information, and the completed article on shying plus other fantastic PNH articles,


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