My views on Bombproofing - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 03-20-2012, 02:19 PM Thread Starter
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My views on Bombproofing

This is a reply to another post on here where people were giving their opinion's on wither or not bomb-proofing was worth it or not. But since the post was older, I was unable to reply to it there. So here is how I view it.

My view on "bomb-proofing" and desensitizing a horse is that it can only be done to an extent. I have read other people's views on the topic and I agree with most people to some degree. I've seen horses who don't care about things that are normally "scary" to a horse (like an umbrella or a tarp) but are terrified of a plastic cup. Horses are unique and unpredictable animals, and while there is no such thing as a 100% bombproof horse (in my opinion) I do not find bomb-proofing harmful. Done the right way, it can be fun and trust building for you and your horse. Plus it gives you something to do if you have a young horse that is not broke to ride or a horse that is on down time from the saddle. The only harm done in bomb-proofing is if you do it in ways that only install more fear of you than the item the horse is afraid of...which can also cause physical harm to both you or the horse. I do bomb-proofing work with my horses all the time, and I've seen my horse do fine with something at home and freak out about the same thing in any other location...but there is no harm in knowing that a plastic bag on the trail is only scary to your horse while on the trail (for whatever reason)

The things to remember are:
1. Horses have a mind of their own and their own ideas of what is scary and what isn't.
2. Bomb-proofing work, as well as any other work with horses, should always be fun and safe for everyone involved.
3. Some of the best "bombproof" horses still spook at random things...but if the rider or handler can remain in control of the situation and safely guide their horse past the item, then it doesn't matter. My view is bomb-proofing is done as a fun exercise that CAN help, but shouldn't be stopped when it doesn't help. The more experiences your horse has the better acting it will be in new situations, and as long as everyone is safe and had fun at the end of the day...that's all that matters to me.

So yeah. A few things to know about me, is that I love to share my views on things. I completely understand that everyone has their own opinion, and I respect their opinions...I just like to give mine (in a non-insulting or belittling way) to try and open other people to whatever topic is at hand. I don't try to change your views, I just let you know that I have my own ways of viewing things.

If you agree, or even disagree with my views on Bomb-proofing, I encourage you to reply...since I also love feedback. Please be nice in your reply, lets try and keep things as a friendly discussion of opposing viewpoints.

"Horses are the best medicine for the soul"

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post #2 of 21 Old 03-20-2012, 03:06 PM
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I do not believe in bomb-proofing in the traditional sense. Exposure helps, sure, but you can never ever expose a horse to everything they are going to be afraid of. 35 year old horses still spook, and they have seen a lot.

The important thing is to know your horse, and to train the horse to follow you. I believe strongly in the herd mindset. Horses, when they believe you are their leader, act way differently when spooked than those who believe they are on top. If you know how your horse will respond, how they react when they are terrified, and what to expect, that's half the battle. The other part, after you've gotten your horse to respect you, is to teach them to ignore that spooky thing. I do this by acknowledging the horse's fear, calming them down, and then continuing with whatever I was doing. I do not attempt desensitization except for in the case of objects carried while riding (saddle, flag, saddle bags, etc). Other than that, I teach the horse to focus on me when they are afraid, guide them around that fear,and then continue with the task at hand.
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post #3 of 21 Old 03-20-2012, 03:44 PM
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A true bomb-proof horse is almost non-existant. Yeah you can introduce your horse to everything under the sun, doesn't mean they are bomb-proof. It just means they've been exposed to a lot. In my expierience, a true bomb-proof horse is to old, tired, probably deaf, and close to blind to react to anything, LOL

"Just because I don't do things your way, doesn't mean I don't have a clue"
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post #4 of 21 Old 03-20-2012, 04:48 PM
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Originally Posted by busysmurf View Post
A true bomb-proof horse is almost non-existant. Yeah you can introduce your horse to everything under the sun, doesn't mean they are bomb-proof. It just means they've been exposed to a lot. In my expierience, a true bomb-proof horse is to old, tired, probably deaf, and close to blind to react to anything, LOL
Or they are dead
Don't believe in fully bombproof either.
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post #5 of 21 Old 03-20-2012, 04:50 PM
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The only bombproof horse is a dead one.

There will always be something a horse has that sets them off, you or I will probably never know it. Until we're bolting around the country side.
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post #6 of 21 Old 03-20-2012, 04:55 PM
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A pile of gravel freaked out my daughter's horse when we went riding. All of a sudden she just jumped sideways and looked at the rock like it was a giant lion about to eat her. Horses have vivid imaginations, apparently.
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post #7 of 21 Old 03-20-2012, 04:56 PM
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No such thing as bombproof. You can't tell people to not be scared of spiders or snakes or the dark. You work with them as best you can.

I don't go for all of that baloney. I handle my horses from foals on up the same way. I appreciate that one might not like the dead logs along side the trail and another might not take kindly to barking dogs. I care as long as they respond to the human at the other end of the lead rope or reins.
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post #8 of 21 Old 03-20-2012, 05:34 PM
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I'm all for desensitizing and exposing a horse to new things at every opportunity, but you're never going to get a truly 100% bombproof animal.

For me, the value is not in ticking individual items off the "Great List of Scary Things," but in building and reinforcing a pattern of behavior, a new set of habits in the horse. It's not about the plastic bag (or umbrella, or cap gun, or chainsaw...) I'm waving until he stands still, it's about him learning that running away from the scary thing does not make it go away. Standing still and relaxing does. Do that enough, and with enough scary objects, and the habit of stop and relax rather than head for the hills transfers to new situations. The point is to build a "good habit" over top of the flight reaction. Of course, that flight reaction is old as time, and is always going to reassert itself in times of "extreme crisis," but it can be buried pretty deep in most horses.

The other side of the coin is just as important -- keeping the horse's feet moving and his attention on you in a frightening situation. Again, all about promoting and rewarding a pattern of behavior in which the horse checks in with you when he's concerned about something in the environment, instead of checking out the back door.
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A stubborn horse walks behind you, an impatient one in front of you, but a noble companion walks beside you ~ Unknown
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post #9 of 21 Old 03-20-2012, 05:40 PM
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Agree with Scoutrider. I want my horse desensitized to stuff, but what is truly important is knowing that if something does scare my horse that he/she has the sense to listen to me, their rider, and I can get the horse under control within a couple of steps or so.
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post #10 of 21 Old 03-20-2012, 07:12 PM
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My understanding is that the point of 'bombproofing' is NOT to desensitize them to everything, but to learn how to respond to stress by looking to their rider. What causes the stress is irrelevant. What is important is that they learn to calm down quickly, and hopefully learn that standing still is better than running in blind terror.

Think about a wild horse living in the desert or mountains. If it responds to every fear with blind panic, it will die early. Even if it runs away, it needs to pay enough attention and have enough control to watch its footing and not break a leg.

That is what I want in a 'bombproof' horse. He can startle, jump sideways, or even run 50 yards and THEN look - I don't mind. Ideally, though, and what the trainer I hired and I are trying to teach my spooky mare, is that standing still is her safe zone. And it seems to be getting thru. The last few times she has been scared of something, she turned to face the danger and stood still. Or backed up under my guidance, until she felt we were at a safer distance. That beats the tar out of spinning, bolting in blind panic, doing a few 360s, bolting some more, etc...

"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."
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bomb-proofing , discussion , opposing viewpoints

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