Fear Memory??? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 08-04-2009, 05:05 PM Thread Starter
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Question Fear Memory???

Ok, so my 6 year old Tennessee Walking Horse Spirit had a little incident near the arena. I've heard that if a horse like, experiences something really frightening (for example, if a horse is shocked by a water-heater when he goes to get a drink) that it can stay with them and they are scared to go anywhere near it (for example, when you fix the water-heater, the horse doesn't know that it won't hurt him anymore so he doesn't want to drink out of there anymore).

So . . . he's scared to go near the arena and I'm trying to teach him that nothing is going to hurt him there. I've been walking him by it calmly and letting him sniff around and giving him treats when he gets near it, and it seems to be working, but is there anything better? Anything else I can do?
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post #2 of 7 Old 08-04-2009, 05:10 PM
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That is about all you can do really. My 'bombproof' horse had a little accident near the arena with an electric fence ground wire that shocked him a few times. He thought for sure it was the opening inside the arena that there was a monster going to get him.

All I did to get him over it was to walk him around and around and around... never looking at the 'scary spot' and have a mission... walking by it like nothing is going on. After a few days I would give his 'mind' a break. Then go back to it.

Two weeks later he doesn't remember a thing.
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post #3 of 7 Old 08-04-2009, 05:13 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks! I was afraid he was gonna be afraid of the arena for a long time.
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post #4 of 7 Old 08-04-2009, 05:42 PM
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Yeah I was afraid too... and there still will be a little bit of 'something' there for quiet some time... but if you just ignore him and act like it was you making the dirt kick up there or something.. then that will make your horse trust you more.
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post #5 of 7 Old 08-10-2009, 11:14 AM
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Hi Spirit.
One thing that I have done with horses that have cetain objects or places that make them nervous, is to lounge them near the scary object.
For example. All the mounting blocks on the property where I board my horse are painted red. My horse would spook at them when he first arrived. The same thing would happen in the indoor areana when he would walk past the mirrors and see his reflection.
In order to combat this issue. I would take him near the object and get his feet moving...If he wanted to be fussy over it, I let him be fussy. Eventually he would start to relax, drop his head, and not want to go by the object in a hurry.
Then I would slow him down ask him to stop and let him walk up to the object.
This has worked well for him and he has overcome his Spookiness towards things.
One thing to remember is horses see differently then we do as their eyes are more on the sides of there head and have more of a periphial vision.
When a horse see's a "scary" object on the right side of him, you may be able to get him accustomed to this object when he see's it from that side, only to find that when you walk buy it and he see's it with his left side it becomes "spooky" again. You might think "well you just saaw that! Why is it scary all over again?" He has two sides of his brain so you have to show them the object is not scary by doing the excercise on both sides.
What is done on the right side needs to be repeated on the left. Clinton Anderson explains this very well.
Hope this helps some and that I explained it in a way that was easy to understand. Good luck
Half Pass.
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post #6 of 7 Old 08-10-2009, 11:53 AM
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I agree with a lot of what has been stated by eveyone so far, but would like to add that there is a fine line between a fear memory response, and just plain being a sh*t. I will allow them once or twice being scared after something like you'd described - the tank or arena - where I'll allow that they've been spooked. Anymore after that, and I think it's feeding their fear, and training them to go ahead and be scared of whatever it is.
For the most part, I am a firm believer in the theory that if you make a big deal about it, the horse will too, but if you act like there's nothing unusual about whatever it is, they won't pick up that they need to be wary. Your confidence goes a long way. I'd just walk them right into the arena like I'd done it a million times. First time they may be a little goofy, but they get over it pretty quick.

Ask Often, Demand Nothing, and Reward Generously.
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post #7 of 7 Old 08-10-2009, 02:11 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone :) It was weird, he wasn't scared at all after the first day.
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