Spooky Season: Why Horses Spook

It’s starting to look like spooky season!

Often a horse's natural reaction to something that it doesn't understand is to spook or shy. A spook is usually a startled jump sideways, or a quick change of direction with the intention to flee. In the wild, this quick reaction is a response that would allow a horse to flee a predator very quickly.


While spooking is a natural reaction to being startled, some horses that are high energy will spook to burn off steam. A horse that is uncomfortable with a badly fitting saddle, too tight girth or other physical pain such as chiropractic issues may be 'spooky' in response. Spooking can also be an indication of vision problems.

It's almost impossible to avoid every spook, but some horses are more likely to be reactive than others. The quietest of horse can still react to something that surprises it. In the wild, this quick reaction response was what kept horses from the jaws of predators. Even though horses have been domesticated for a few thousand years, they still retain this very natural tendency. Sometimes there are situations where you encounter something there's simply no way to prepare for.


If your previously quiet horse has become progressively spookier, you first need to look at any possible physical problems—chiropractic, painful tooth issues, saddle fit or vision problems. If you're feeling nervous, a good coach or instructor can help you work past confidence issues. If your horse is afraid of specific things—like mailboxes, pots of flowers, or puddles of water, your coach can help you desensitize your horse. A beginner shouldn't try desensitizing a horse on their own because done incorrectly it is possible to make the problem worse.

The better schooled your horse is, the more you will be able to control his reactions when he or she spooks. By applying leg aids, you may prevent a spook from turning into a 180-degree spin. However, first, your horse has to be taught to respond to them. This again is where good coaching can help you learn to have effective seat and leg aids. Many horses will spook in one direction. So, it's important not to zone out completely when you ride. The better rider you become, the less likely your horse will spook.

Check out the page below for another great article about Horse Spooking and how to handle it:

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Megan Overfelt