Acknowledging the Good

In case you hadn’t noticed, we currently have a spooking and setting back problem. I can’t trust my horse to be cross-tied or tied to anything right now, because he keeps spooking and stepping back and then as soon as he feels pressure he runs backward until he pulls the clip off of the cross-tie or undoes the knot where it’s attached to the wall. You can’t unclip him after he’s started to spook because he runs back when you reach for his face from any direction, and there’s no knowing what he’s going to spook at. Last week it was the plastic purple tote in the aisle, and the week before it was the shovel leaning on the wall. Also leaves on the tin roof of the barn where he’s lived for four years.

Sometimes he also gets spooked when the ice cells I’m unwrapping slide down his legs and hit the ground, or because someone walked up the aisle and popped up out of nowhere.

It’s super frustrating. Partly because I don’t know what’s causing it or how to fix it, but also just because he’s a grown up horse and I expect better from him.


It’s really easy to get fixated on this and other issues like it. After a long day, I don’t feel like handling my horse like he’s 3 and has never seen the world. I’ve possibly been heard telling him his cute factor is the only thing keeping him out of the glue factory.

But joking aside, he actually does have a lot of good features that far outweigh his vices. And it’s good for me to stop and remember those.

For example:

  • He generally stands politely while I wrap his legs with polos, ice cells/standing wraps, quilted wraps, poultice, etc.
  • I may not be able to cross-tie him, but he stands quietly in the cross-ties without a ton of supervision even without being attached to anything.
  • He’s not fussy about whatever boots I put on him, front or hind.
  • He’s very sweet and easy to handle. When people bring children to the barn he loves to sniff and nuzzle them, and I can trust him not to nibble or hurt them. I even send J off with him to graze all the time while I clean up, take photos, etc.
  • While he might end up wild under saddle, anyone can handle him on the ground with no chain even after months of stall rest
  • He’s very stoic and won’t fuss when he’s getting shots, having blood drawn, or getting any sort of drugs.
  • He’s easy to clip (well with small clippers; we won’t talk about body clipping) and he stands still with his head low so I can reach everything.
  • Sometimes it takes him just a second to open his mouth, but he’s easy to bridle.
  • He’s never girthy, and he’s never threatened to bite or kick me for any reason other than when he gets too playful in his pasture.
  • He climbs onto any trailer, big or small, ramp or step-up, without issue and will wait politely for you to get him back off

And those are just examples of the positives of his ground manners.


So, yeah, I am kind of frustrated with this issue, and I’ve got a few things planned to see if I can’t figure out what is going on. But in the grand scheme of things, this horse isn’t actually so bad to deal with on the ground. And I think it’s really important for me to keep that in mind when I’m getting mad at him for what I think is a stupid habit. Even though plenty of horses stand just fine in the cross ties, there are lots of horses who won’t wear certain boots, or who can’t be trusted with children and SOs. It’s hard to find a horse that’s foot perfect about everything on the ground, and the really talented ones always seem like they come with weird quirks.

So next time he spooks at his own boot sitting on the ground, I’m going to try to laugh and move on, and consciously acknowledge the good.

10 thoughts on “Acknowledging the Good

  1. Oh boy. Not gonna lie, pulling back is probably one of my biggest pet peeves. As I’m sure it’s quickly becoming one of yours… I’m curious what your ideas are on fixing it! A million things popped into my head, but I won’t bombard you with them because that’s just annoying.

    One thing I have to brag about the western world, is that our horses stand tied SO WELL. Not that all english horses don’t… But, in general, western riding events require horses to wait at the trailer or along the rail to be ridden and they will stand relaxed for hours, if need be. Just go to a roping, and all you see are horse butts waiting patiently. Just had to brag!

    I really really hope it gets better for you before he breaks things or hurts himself!

    1. Oh yeah. It’s driving me a little nuts. I’d love to hear your ideas if you want to shot me an email! I’m also looking into the possibility of ulcers since he’s kind of a good candidate, and the spookiness is out of nowhere. And I do have some ideas for teaching him to give to pressure but I’m always open to other ideas!

  2. I have zero aid on this one. B used to pull back in the wash rack, but usually that was from him trying to wipe his face off and getting caught on the tie THEN freaking out. Solved that by not tying him and just flopping the rope over the post. No clue how to fix crosstying :/

    Best thing ever though is to focus on the positives like you did!! I keep a running list in my head of things my horses DOES more than he WONT do, and it always helps my frustration.

    Don’t ever take trailering for granted is all I can say, haha! Fingers crossed for ya

    1. Oh yeah I’ve had some that were a nightmare about trailering. It’s one of the few things he picked up on the track that I’m always grateful for.

  3. This is so frustrating! I hope it disappears as quickly as it showed up.

    Gina has always been an unreliable-at-best tie-er. She’ll occasionally spook for reasons that are not apparent to me when she’s in cross ties and when she’s straight-tied. A rope halter REALLY helped with the straight-tying; I remember thinking she would break her neck the first time she pulled back and hit the end of it, but it was like she realized she couldn’t get free and totally stopped trying. She’s much better now- the incidents are far less frequent.

    Good for you for reminding yourself of Val’s positive qualities! He’s basically a good boy, and I’m sure he’ll get past this. 🙂

    1. I was tempted to try that, and then he got stuck where neither the halter or cross-ties would break and was completely panicked until we finally got him unhooked. Poor guy was trembling through his whole body. I might try a rope halter while I’m working on teaching him not to pull back though and to give instead. As long as I’m holding the other end and I can give he’d probably be ok.

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