Developing Your Horse's Emotional Control Vs. Desensitizing
   

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Developing Your Horse's Emotional Control Vs. Desensitizing

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    03-01-2013, 11:55 PM
  #1
Weanling
Developing Your Horse's Emotional Control Vs. Desensitizing

Recently I've been following the latest "Pat vs. Clint" thread:

Pat or Clint

In it, a number of members commented that they would prefer a horse to have "emotional control" in challenging situations, as opposed to trying to desensitize them to things they are expected to encounter. I think this is a very interesting concept, one that certainly deviates from the "norm" in my area, and so it got me thinking:

How does one effectively develop "emotional control" in their horse? What are the implications of doing so, for the horse's performance as well as the relationship between horse and rider? Conversely, what are the benefits and drawbacks of relying solely on desensitization in a horse's training?
     
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    03-02-2013, 12:30 AM
  #2
Yearling
Quote:
Originally Posted by JaphyJaphy    
Recently I've been following the latest "Pat vs. Clint" thread:

Pat or Clint

In it, a number of members commented that they would prefer a horse to have "emotional control" in challenging situations, as opposed to trying to desensitize them to things they are expected to encounter. I think this is a very interesting concept, one that certainly deviates from the "norm" in my area, and so it got me thinking:

How does one effectively develop "emotional control" in their horse? What are the implications of doing so, for the horse's performance as well as the relationship between horse and rider? Conversely, what are the benefits and drawbacks of relying solely on desensitization in a horse's training?
Personally I think desensitizing is emotional control.....you are teaching the horse to use his thinking side of his brain and not panick.....
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    03-02-2013, 09:16 AM
  #3
Banned
In my opinion, "emotional control" comes from miles. I can desensitize all day in a round pen or pasture for months and STILL not have a horse that has control. However I firmly believe that it starts there.

I do what I can to introduce things that are a bit scary. Once the scary part is over and the horse is accepting and realizes this scary thing isn't so scary, I build from that. But I cannot prepare a trail horse in a pasture. It just doesn't work. They need to be out of that environment, experiencing miles in unfamiliar territory. A plastic bag is much different in a horses home pasture than it is flying about in a wooded area he's never been to.

Example: we have wild hogs down here. They roam pretty freely in the trails in the forests where you can ride. I don't have wild hogs in my pasture. They can be dangerous and down right nasty. The only way I can get my horse not to get emotional about them is to deal with it while on the trail. By building a trusting relationship in the pen/pasture, hopefully that will transfer onto the trail when we run into situations like this.

This all just in my opinion of course.
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    03-02-2013, 10:54 AM
  #4
Green Broke
The more I think about the two - desensitizing and emotional control - the more they sound different in my head.

Desensitizing to me comes off as exposure to many things so that when (for example) a horse sees a plastic bag flutter by he doesn't go OMG WHAT in the holy heck is THAT?! He just goes "I've seen that before"

Emotional control comes off as more literally, emotions control. That means the horse has the meltdown but only in his head - you can feel the sheer terror but you're still mostly or totally controlling the feet.

I didn't read all of the Pat vs Clint thread so I don't know if the but name trainers have their own definitions but this is what makes sense to me. I think a horse should have both!
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    03-02-2013, 05:27 PM
  #5
Foal
I'm with DancingArabian.

Desensitizing teaches a horse to react to familiar things by not reacting. Even if you desensitize your horse to green and yellow buckets, it's still going to freak out when it sees a blue one. It's not possible to familiarize your horse with every single thing in the world. If he naturally reacts strongly, it's going to get dangerous to you both sooner or later.

Developing horse's emotional control makes your horse to approach anything you throw at him with a level head. There's no strong reactions anymore. Less reaction, less danger.

A level horse is easier to train. For example my mare's dam at one point didn't have enough emotional control. She would throw a fit when you would touch her sides with your legs at the same time or let a rein touch her neck. If went with the desensitizing route, you would have to tackle this issues one-by-one and first desensitize and then re-sensitize to get her moving off the leg or to neckrein. When she learnt emotional control, these problems (as well as many others!) gradually got better at the same time. She learnt to react without over-reacting.

Desensitizing means teaching a horse to react to a specific thing by no reacting.
Emotional control means a horse reacts to everything by thinking.

I personally would never trust a horse with little or no emotional control. Everything you encounter could be a reason for a meltdown. How to develop emotional control then? Well, I don't know! It happens gradually, by getting your horse to think and trust. By giving him a safe place inside the limits you set. By keeping him safe even when weird things happen. By encouraging his curiosity and introducing him to new things. Letting him know it's okay to look at stuff and even be a little scared, but not okay to go past things not thinking. Teaching him to spook in place, to know that you will protect him. Desensitizing has its place too, but it cannot be the be-all, end-all.

(sorry for not-so-stellar post, I totally lost my train of though having written this once already and then losing it...)
     
    03-02-2013, 06:06 PM
  #6
Super Moderator
I think desensitizing should BE emotional control.

A horse's natural instinct to scary things is to run away a safe distance and then turn and face it to see what it is. The point of desensitizing should be to get the horse to realize that it can look at the thing without first running away.
The horse will run first, before thinking, because instinct says, "Run now before you are unable to run"

It WILL twitch, or jump. That cannot be helped. It's hardwired into any startle reflex. Obviously you can't desensitize to every thing they encounter. You desensitize completely to things that they wear on their bodies, like tack. And to the feel of the rider's legs, and the bit, and the noise of things around the stable.

Horses that are taught to stand there and accept scary things at a dead stand still are often just stuffing down their fear, locking up. As long as they stand still, they can endure. But the minute they start to move, the need to flee comes out and they explode. The have no emotional control because the fear is kept supressed, builds up and then comes out in a rush.

Allowing them to move forward, indeed, insisting that they are able to move forward while feeling fear, will help build emotional control . It helps becuase they have an outlet (their hindquarters), and they do not feel that they will be punished for simply moving when scared. Instead, they learn that it's ok to move, but not necessary to all out flee possible entrapment. They learn to move a bit, then they are still mentally available to the rider, so the rider can plug in and help them deal with the scary thing. It builds a willingness to look to the rider for leadership. A horse that stuffs it down at a rigid standstill, then when you put a leg on explodes is no longer mentally available to the rider. He is emotionally GONE.

But, for new things, if you can teach the horse that scary things can be dealt with at a walk, then he is less likely to have the reaction of panic dashing.
So, if you do desensitize to tarps and thing, it's important that the horse is not just standing there accepting this becuase he HAS to, but that he feels ok to stand, OR move forward. Horse
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    03-02-2013, 09:58 PM
  #7
Started
Emotional control seems to be re-wiring your horse's brain on how it reacts to "scary" things. Like how I'm trying to teach my filly what when (not if) she spooks, how she is supposed to handle herself appropriately. She is allowed to spook, but she must stay out of my space. If she spooks in place, that's fine, we hip-around and get the attention back. Easy. If she bolts, then she accepts the consequences of me pushing her through it until she is paying more attention to me than the object. That way if she ever becomes scared, she is allowed to react, but it should be instinctual to her that she A) minds my personal space, and B) looks to me for help, release, etc.

Vs. Desensitizing is where I am trying to get her used to the freaking clippers, and she needs to get dead-headed to it before I kill her myself. :P
Arab Mama likes this.
     
    03-02-2013, 10:09 PM
  #8
Trained
To me desensitizing is for things that it is highly likely they will see under controlled and predictable situations (e.g., flags waving, even cars as they are predictably on roads). On the trail, where things are not predictable, it is mostly the two way trust between horse and human - and emotional control that comes w maturity and "trust building" miles. For example, last year an atv come zooming up and stop right behind me and my mare and didn't cut their engine on a dirt road (it turned out to be a young kid that didn't know better). My mare did as well as anyone could expect for never having seen one before, heck it scared me wondering "wtf, are they intentionally trying to scare her, and run us down?". But, if I had "left her" emotionally myself and made her feel all alone while being seemingly hunted down by a fast moving ear blowing machine, I am guessing the outcome would have been very different. It would be difficult and cost prohibitive for the average person to desensitize to all things - and the investment in building trust and confidence in their human is far less costly, IMO. But, hey, I use to ride a retired police horse for a friend...what a dream, no worries there!!
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    03-02-2013, 10:27 PM
  #9
Foal
Yeah, the clipper thing is a big issue here as well - at least where the ears are concerned. If anyone has an answer to how to get them to stand still when having the fuzzy inside of the ears clipped for showing, please share!
     
    03-02-2013, 10:48 PM
  #10
Started
Quote:
Originally Posted by Arab Mama    
Yeah, the clipper thing is a big issue here as well - at least where the ears are concerned. If anyone has an answer to how to get them to stand still when having the fuzzy inside of the ears clipped for showing, please share!
Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of touch and release. For months.

I can rub the whole thing, buzzing, all over my horse's face. But the minute it clips one single hair off her nose she thinks she's going to die.

So touch and release for more months to come. Yeeeeeeeeey. X.x
     

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