Originally Posted by Pastures Green
Hi all you great and knowledgable people out there :)
I have a wee problem with an unexpected reaction. My girl is 6 years old and is pretty steady, can be obstinate etc but doesn't tend to scare easily. However one of our dogs has had to have an Elizabethan collar put on to stop her from pulling out a drain in her chest. My horse totally freaked when she saw her. Tail raised, snorting, galloping around, coming back to fence and starting all over again. Her nostrils are as big as saucers and she is way out of her comfort zone. This morning I took our dog past her paddock as I feel she needs to get used to this (what would happen if I was riding her on the road and a dog popped up with one of these on) but being new to the horse world not sure how fast I should move with this. This morning she was just the same. What is the best way to train and familiarise your horse with something that obviously scares the half to death ? My thoughts were to simply keep taking the dog by the paddock until she realises there is no threat, but what if she doesn't? Any and all advice would be appreciated :)
I guess I'll be the odd man out
with a slightly different approach.
Since you say your horse is stable and not prone to spooking readily I would suggest having the dog (in collar) freely walking around outside a paddock. You be with the horse (halter and lead). Feeding times are good since the horse will be focused on getting fed instead of just the dog (and as suggested, actually feeding can be useful with this too). Talk with the horse to calm it (it's not what you say, unless you've taught it words for being calm - they can be taught words-, as much as it's your tone). When it settles down in the presence of the dog give it praise (you can even wait until it shows even a slight calming response before feeding...they'll equate that to a reward). You're also there with the horse being calm and not focused on the dog (which translates to the dog not being a problem and not mattering). Be the "lead". If the leader doesn't worry about it then the herd tends not to either.
Doesn't always work easily with all horses though. Sometimes the horse sees themselves as the lead or at least on par with you. Then they are less concerned with how you react and more focused on what they feel the risk is. In those cases you're being calm does not always translate as not being a threat to them.
At any rate. Whether you're with the horse or the dog, as has already been pointed out, exposure and time should help the situation.