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Aubenhausen Club Blog

Riding spooky horses at a show

A spooky horse is a challenge for every rider – especially when you are so busy calming down your horse at a show that you don’t actually get to ride and show your skills. This calls for good nerves, the ability to understand your horse … and a well thought-out approach. Raphael Netz rides many different horses every day. The U25 European Champion has a few tips for how to deal with spooky horses: “With a spooky horse, I train normally at home and I don’t avoid ‘situations’ if there is a chance – to make them totally normal and to build up trust. So, for example, a corner with a stool and blankets on it that the horse shies away from. The training effect is enormous. The only important thing is: don’t make a big issue out of it! We always try not to make it a big deal. I ride through that corner like any other corner of the arena.

If a horse refuses to go past a certain spot or constantly shies away for seemingly inexplicable reasons, the rider should not get too hung up on this. It helps if you consciously free yourself from thinking that something has to work on the spot. If there is no other way, we just ride a few rounds past the corner with a little more distance, start to work with the horse and at some point the corner is no longer a problem without us having made a big deal out of it. Another important aspect is the rider’s confidence. If you stay relaxed, you transfer that to the horse. That is certainly easier said than done. Because who doesn’t know the feeling of approaching a “scary corner” where you know in advance that your horse is going to be frightened, causing you to tense up even before getting to that corner. It’s important to consciously not do this, and instead to remain calm and relaxed. Good body awareness, confidence in your own ability and well thought-out training help you achieve that. Try to put your horse and yourself in many different situations that you can both handle well, in order to gain as many positive experiences as possible. This includes a varied training plan, which may include hacking out, galloping on a race track, going for a walk and so on. Even if you know that your horse is spooky or becomes insecure when confronted with something unknown. Especially then, it helps not to avoid ‘scary situations’ in everyday life, even if that means that sometimes you don’t make as much progress with your training as you would like and instead you take an opportunity (construction site, garbage collection, hustle and bustle at the yard) to work on relaxation and suppleness with your horse.

Going the extra mile

Another good option is to regularly go out to other training grounds and simulate a show or test situation – new surroundings, new impressions, new situations. “This way, horse and rider get a routine and the horse then knows that nothing bad will happen and can build up trust,” Raphael Netz emphasizes. And at the actual show, we also like to take every opportunity to make the horses familiar with the dressage arena in advance, for example during the warm-up or if the show organizers allow riders to use the grounds the day before. “With spooky horses, I have to go an extra mile – you could say that,” Raphael Netz sums it up. “It starts with taking good care of your horse, deepening the basis of trust and strengthening the connection between rider and horse. Then when you go away and come back together, that makes a whole lot of difference.

And when such a basis of trust has developed between horse and rider, and the horse can enjoy the hustle and bustle of the show and is proud of himself and moves confidently through the arena, there is almost no better feeling than having achieved exactly that together with your horse.

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