Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
Desensitizing is NOT about creating a laundry list of things a horse is used to. Done right, it is used to teach a spooky horse that A) fear doesn't mean you bolt, B) you can calm down quickly after getting scared, and C) if you are nervous, look to your rider. It should be about getting a horse who doesn't trust human judgment to start trusting human judgment.
Not all horses need it. If they have always had trustworthy humans around, they probably don't. But if they have had humans hurt them or act irrationally (from a horse's point of view) around them, then it can do wonders. It requires someone who is good at reading a horse, so it is not something you can learn by reading a book or watching a DVD,
My Appy had holes spurred thru his sides, and he still has a big scar on one side. He was afraid of people, very afraid of cowboy hats, and terrified of lariats - as it 'break thru a corral to get away' terrified. Densensitizing by a pro took 4 weeks, but turned returned him to the horse he was before being abused.
My problem with desensitizing is that, done wrong, it convinces a horse that humans are borderline psychotic and NOT to be trusted. And I think most books and DVDs set folks up to do it wrong. If you are sensitive enough to a horse's body language, you probably will be successful at gaining the horse's trust without watching a video. If you are not good at reading a horse, then following a 60 minute training video can lead to disaster.
Happily, most horses are forgiving souls. My Arabian mare is not so forgiving. She WANTS to trust humans, but she quickly decides who is trustworthy and who is not. If you are not, she will assume she needs to take control - and that is dangerous. As we work on trail riding without other horses, I have to be sensitive to her so I can push her beyond her comfort zone, but not so far that she becomes frightened. And with each successful outing, she places a little more trust in me and gives up a little more of her internal fears.
"People can teach us the rules, but only horses can teach us the art of riding."