"Desensitizing": Apathetic or Composed?

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"Desensitizing": Apathetic or Composed?

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    05-29-2012, 10:25 PM
"Desensitizing": Apathetic or Composed?

After some thinking (oh no!) recently and viewing/posting on some various threads, I got to wondering about "desensitizing." As the word stands, to me, I understand it to mean teaching a horse not to react to "scary" outside stimuli. However, are we teaching our horses not to even care about outside stimulu, or are we presenting situations for our horses to become increasingly aware of surroundings and CONFIDENT in their abilities to discriminate dangerous situations from plastic bags?

What is your opinion on the outcome of desensitizing? Should a horse learn to ignore spooky things? Should a horse learn to acknowledge spooky things and then move on quietly? Or do you have another goal?

Personally, I am an advocate for removing the "reactionary impulses" from domesticated brains, in animals and people alike ;) I favour a thinking brain over a reacting brain, and both over an apathetic brain.

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    05-29-2012, 10:26 PM
Aaannddddd.... Subbing :)
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    05-29-2012, 11:48 PM
I would like to think we teach them to react appropriately. A walmart sack isn't going to eat you, but a mountain lion will, get my drift? They have every right to be scared of things, but I would rather me be able to control the escape rather than dumped on my bottom and left to be eaten.
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    05-29-2012, 11:51 PM
So how does a person go about training a horse to use discretion? Or, would some say it is a natural trait of a "good horse." (ie born not made into a "thinker")?
    05-29-2012, 11:54 PM
I think the goal is to have a horse who doesn't get excited unless his rider does. I want my horse to trust my judgment. If I say go, she should feel OK with going. If I say stop, with stopping. If she wants to stare at a 'threat', that is OK - if she then follows my guidance on what to do next.

I want her desensitized, not lobotomized.
huntergrl, Wallaby, Endiku and 2 others like this.
    05-29-2012, 11:57 PM
I don't know the answer to that honestly. If they are scared of something that they shouldn't be, I work past it. There are things that you can't train for. If that happens, I would like yo think the horse trust me enough to make a decision before they react.
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    05-30-2012, 12:03 AM
I'm not sure if I'm going to answer your question right..

But for me, it's to allow my horse to gain confidence by deciding how to cope with scary situations or noises or things.

The initial reaction he has is to run.. run like his pants are on fire. So I let him react how he chooses to react.

The second time I present it to him, I step in a little and show him that it does not bother the herd leader. So he starts to begin to think "Hm.. if it does not bother my herd leader.. should it bother me?"

Then I give him something else to focus on, which helps him a lot since he will worry himself silly (we're alike in that regard)

I don't want a robot horse. I want a horse that thinks and has opinions, but trusts ME enough to handle them but not completely rely on me. I want him to have confidence.

Even when faced with a mountain lion, I need him to cope and not fall apart.

For example little dogs at the barn. They used to run around and get into the arena and scare my horse half to death, while I was mounted. So I would first let him get a good look but while he was looking I would just act like it was nothing. If he reacted we kept going and I made him focus on me by doing circles and attempting leg yields and switching direction or climbing up or down a gait.

The next time, a lady was holding her little yippe dog and asked me a question while I was mounted. I rode over there, Sky was hesitant but he listened and there weren't any problems.

Is he a robot? No. Did he trust me and deal? Yes.

Some people want a switched off horse.. I want one that thinks and makes good decisions and gains confidence.
Wallaby and GracielaGata like this.
    05-30-2012, 12:51 AM
Desensitizing is mostly about trust. You should be able to go anywhere and trust that your horse trusts you enough to know that you won't get him in a dangerous situation. My horse was not a thinker until I started gaining his trust. Now all it takes is for me to encourage him to get over his fear and he will trust me enough to move on.
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    05-30-2012, 12:56 AM
I like "desensitized, not lobotomized!"

So for those who want a trusting horse, how do you go about getting that trust (in a desensitizing situation, to remain on topic). Sky had an interesting method, in my opinion. Does anyone else have other methods?

For example, desensitizing a horse to a plastic bag waving about its head and touching its body: how would you go about that, so that your horse is calm but not snoozing? A metaphor that I think relates is that of a WP horse who moves in that slow way, but is still composed and alert, not in robot mode.

Does anyone prefer a "switched off" horse who just goes? For example, a child's horse, ridden in enclosed, supervised areas. Any other examples?
    05-30-2012, 01:47 AM

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