Desensitizing
 
 

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Desensitizing

This is a discussion on Desensitizing within the Horse Training forums, part of the Training Horses category
  • Horse even more spooky than before desensitizing
  • Desensitizing a horse around foaling

 
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    07-26-2011, 04:24 PM
  #1
Foal
Unhappy Desensitizing

Ok, so my horse is a total spook.
Not that long ago (I don't know how it happened) she got over her head shyness and bridling her isn't that big of a deal.
Now she spooks at just about everything, and I get scared even when we're saddling her because I figure I'll get thrown. I know its bad to think like that because it puts her on edge as well.
Does anyone have any good tips on desensitizing their horse? Anything they've used in the past?? I know it takes a while for them to not be spooky anymore, but I really want to try!
Thanks!!
     
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    07-26-2011, 05:21 PM
  #2
Showing
My horse is a spooky bucket too, and though he still spooks, he HAS gotten better.

You definitely have to watch your breathing.. make sure you are breathing! If they spook and you jump or hold your breath.. it makes it worse.

But back to desensitizing. One way to go about it is to take that scary thing, and make it a good thing. An example would be to give a flake or two of hay in a large plastic bag. You can set it in the arena and let your horse loose. Letting horses figure out that things aren't scary on their own, is best. Then you'd slowly incorporate it into your daily routine, but in different places. So you have your treats in a plastic bag, and you give your horse a treat while you are leading, but only if he is comfortable. If he is nervous, back off and let him relax.

It's all about giving pressure before they go overboard, and rewarding ANY attempt at not spooking, right away.

This is how I got my whip-abused horse to tolerate whips during training lessons or to not care if one is leaning against a fence, or that I'm holding it.

My horse used to be TERRIFIED of my phone, any noises it made, it's general appearance.. and when it rang he would run like tigers were after him. By using the methods above.. making it a good thing, letting him figure it out on his own, and making it a daily part of life.. it has helped him tremendously!

Now we're working on jackets :)
     
    07-26-2011, 07:39 PM
  #3
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skyseternalangel    
...letting him figure it out on his own, and making it a daily part of life..
This is the bottom line. Repetition, time, and making anything spooky 'no big deal' (i.e. Part of your daily life). There are (sadly) no shortcuts and some relax much more quickly than others. My best tip is to insure that you don't avoid doing things that you think may spook your horse. Sometimes you just need to let them learn on their own.
     
    07-26-2011, 08:46 PM
  #4
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skyseternalangel    
My horse is a spooky bucket too, and though he still spooks, he HAS gotten better.

You definitely have to watch your breathing.. make sure you are breathing! If they spook and you jump or hold your breath.. it makes it worse.

But back to desensitizing. One way to go about it is to take that scary thing, and make it a good thing. An example would be to give a flake or two of hay in a large plastic bag. You can set it in the arena and let your horse loose. Letting horses figure out that things aren't scary on their own, is best. Then you'd slowly incorporate it into your daily routine, but in different places. So you have your treats in a plastic bag, and you give your horse a treat while you are leading, but only if he is comfortable. If he is nervous, back off and let him relax.

It's all about giving pressure before they go overboard, and rewarding ANY attempt at not spooking, right away.

This is how I got my whip-abused horse to tolerate whips during training lessons or to not care if one is leaning against a fence, or that I'm holding it.

My horse used to be TERRIFIED of my phone, any noises it made, it's general appearance.. and when it rang he would run like tigers were after him. By using the methods above.. making it a good thing, letting him figure it out on his own, and making it a daily part of life.. it has helped him tremendously!

Now we're working on jackets :)
Thank you very much for the information! I'll try that next with her!
See she is the spooky one, her sister is not.
Would it be bad to possibly tie a plastic bag around the gait that they get out? Because we take them out every morning to a different pasture to graze, so maybe because they know its a good thing to go eat that the bag wouldn't seem so bad anymore??

Good luck with your horse :) He seems like he's coming along nicely!!
Again, thank you so much!! :)
     
    07-26-2011, 08:48 PM
  #5
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by PaintHorseMares    
This is the bottom line. Repetition, time, and making anything spooky 'no big deal' (i.e. Part of your daily life). There are (sadly) no shortcuts and some relax much more quickly than others. My best tip is to insure that you don't avoid doing things that you think may spook your horse. Sometimes you just need to let them learn on their own.
This one lady once told me that they would take pieces of bread and kind of flick it at the horse (I didn't know horses liked bread) and so if something would hit them or something, they would think "Oh food!" do you think something like that would work?
I will try my hardest with her! Thanks for the tips too!
     
    07-26-2011, 08:58 PM
  #6
Super Moderator
Don't *****foot around your horse. Get a little bit sloppy with your movements and if she reacts with a jump, other than you taking care not to get stepped on, ignore her and keep moving normally. After a bit she will stop jumping.
The more you try t protect her from things that spook her, the less able she is to handle such things when they DO come along, unplanned.

So, yes, occasionally put up things that might be scary, just don't try to force her to go up to it . Just walk her by it, far enough away that she can see it, but not so she is panicked. YOU walk as if you havn't eve seen the scary thing. Focus PAST it, not at it. This will help you to be confident and draw her past the scary thing. Nexdt time go past it closer, again, don't look at it, look past it. Eventually , stop and stand near it as if you need to pick some daisys or scratch your nose and are just passin' the time of day, oblivious to the scary thing, Then if she wants to go jput her nose to it, let her.
     
    07-26-2011, 09:11 PM
  #7
Showing
The best approach that worked for me was working horse hard and keeping her attention on me, not on surroundings. If she's loosing a focus I ask for something: circle, transition, etc. If they are busy they don't have time to look for scary things.
     
    07-26-2011, 09:14 PM
  #8
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cleffapuff    
This one lady once told me that they would take pieces of bread and kind of flick it at the horse (I didn't know horses liked bread) and so if something would hit them or something, they would think "Oh food!" do you think something like that would work?
I will try my hardest with her! Thanks for the tips too!
A lot depends on the personality of your horse.
Many horses are extremely food motivated and anything involving food can help.
Some horse are extremely curious and after an initial 'stop and look' will actually want to examine the 'spook'. We once tried the common exercise of putting a tarp on the ground and getting your horse to walk over it with our (very curious) mare Lady. She is the only horse that I've ever seen than didn't care about walking on the tarp....she lifted the tarp with her mouth and wanted to walk under it to see what was there.
Some are extremely trusting of their owners/riders and will tolerate just about any spook if they see you are confident, ignore it, and just 'push' them past it (our youngest mare is like this).
I suggest you try different methods to see what your horse responds best to. If you try something and see you're really fighting your horse, move on to something else....and always end on a good note.
     
    07-26-2011, 09:27 PM
  #9
Showing
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cleffapuff    
Thank you very much for the information! I'll try that next with her!
See she is the spooky one, her sister is not.
Would it be bad to possibly tie a plastic bag around the gait that they get out? Because we take them out every morning to a different pasture to graze, so maybe because they know its a good thing to go eat that the bag wouldn't seem so bad anymore??

Good luck with your horse :) He seems like he's coming along nicely!!
Again, thank you so much!! :)

You're welcome! But the main idea is that you are the herd leader. You keep them safe.. so you yourself need to be brave. If it's a spook under saddle.. just relax your body and breathe through it.

Well I wouldn't tie a bag around the gate until you've made that bag something to like, instead of something to be cautious about. The last thing you want to teach your horse is to run past it like all hell is loose and run you over, or have them hurt themselves. Horses are more "now" animals. They don't think "oh, a treat will come later if I pass this suspicious object" they think "OMG WILL IT EAT ME?! Is it friendly... should I just stare at it for a bit to see if it moves?"

So I'd maybe fill the bag full of treats (carrot pieces?) let it hang there, and when you go to catch them, take a treat from the bag, watch their body language.. if they are scared.. give them a minute. Soon they'll learn to love bags, and then you just UP the pressure. When they accept it being still, try tying it to a whip and gently waving it at a distance, moving closer, etc.

Sorry if that's long.. just there's a lot to it!

Yes, he definitely is! ^^ I wish you and your horses luck as well!!
     
    07-26-2011, 09:37 PM
  #10
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyliny    
Don't *****foot around your horse. Get a little bit sloppy with your movements and if she reacts with a jump, other than you taking care not to get stepped on, ignore her and keep moving normally. After a bit she will stop jumping.
The more you try t protect her from things that spook her, the less able she is to handle such things when they DO come along, unplanned.

So, yes, occasionally put up things that might be scary, just don't try to force her to go up to it . Just walk her by it, far enough away that she can see it, but not so she is panicked. YOU walk as if you havn't eve seen the scary thing. Focus PAST it, not at it. This will help you to be confident and draw her past the scary thing. Nexdt time go past it closer, again, don't look at it, look past it. Eventually , stop and stand near it as if you need to pick some daisys or scratch your nose and are just passin' the time of day, oblivious to the scary thing, Then if she wants to go jput her nose to it, let her.
Haha, yes! That's what got her out of her head shyness! I would rub her ears and move around her head, and it worked!
I will try!! Thank you!!
     

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