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Hi Cowboy Bob.

Hi, I am 14 years old and I have trouble controlling my horse. We get to a bridge or something and he doesn't want to go. I turn around and stop riding 'cause I am scared to get bucked off. So what do I do to over come these fears? Thanks.

- M.B.


Howdy, M. B.!

Bridges can be a real problem, and a mis-step on one can kill you real quick. I'd say you were smart to back off rather than forcing your horse onto the bridge. In general, I'll dismount and lead my horse across most bridges. In fact, do you know why the covered bridge was invented? A covered bridge was a high-maintenance contraption that required workers to actually shovel snow inside so sleighs could travel through them in winter. The reason they were created was that they resembled barns, so horses were less afraid to travel through them; and if a horse did happen to spook, it couldn't throw the rider into the river. Unfortunately, there aren't many covered bridges these days.

If you have to cross bridges, begin the training in a controlled setting like an arena. Make a wooden mini-bridge just a foot or so high in the middle, so your horse can get used to the hollow sound underfoot. Also, teach him to calmly walk across different surfaces, such as a canvas tarp, a plastic drop cloth, etc. Begin by leading him onto those surfaces until he learns that they won't hurt him. Only take him over them mounted after he has totally accepted them while dismounted. Once your horse has been conditioned to stay calm in a variety of situations, you'll be ready to take on a bridge. (Although I'd still probably dismount and lead him across.)

If you haven't already done so, take a look at Q&A #9 "Can you help me not be afraid of my horse?" ( -- especially the story at the end about how I handled Willy in another spooky situation.

I hope this helps. Keep riding smart and staying safe.

God bless!

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