just thought i would share my story with everyone. if anyone has any training tips. especially for a spooky horse please let me know. also if you disagree with the way i am training this horse please keep it to yourself. i tried really hard to get the where i am now. thanks for your consideration
I think that's an awesome story and way to go to you for having guts to try and get back on! Here's some desensitizing tips-
With whatever you're using to desensitize (plastic bag, hula hoop, tarp, etc) start small and always make it no big deal. Make sure your body language says, "I'm relaxed and not worried about this [object]." Eventually the horse will pick up on your body language. Lets say you are using a plastic bag- tie it to the end of a dressage whip/similar length and start with it on the ground. Hold the horse, but don't react to his reactions. Stay relaxed, but know where your horse is at all time. Hold onto his lead with one hand and with the other rub the bag/whip combo on the ground. If he's freaking out right off the bat, you're probably too close. Don't be afraid to start farther away and work your way on getting closer to him. Make sure to do whatever you do on one side always on the other side. If he's more scared on one side then the other, then desensitize him on the scarier side longer. It is okay if he tries to run some circles around you, but judge him on what zone he's in.
Horses have 3 zones:
1. Comfort zone
2. Unsure zone
3. Life threatening zone
When desensitizing, you want to push him into his unsure zone, but never to the life threatening zone because when he is in the zone, he is so scared, all he wants to do is live through the event. He will not learn if he's that scared. So when you're desensitizing him, if he's snorting or has his ears pricked and staring at the object or even trotting/canter circles around you that is okay. An Arabian gelding I am training cantered circles around me when I first exposed him to the bag. You will know if the horse is just unsure or if he really, really feels he's in danger. If he's in his life threatening zone, just back off and do whatever you're doing from a farther distance, even if it means putting him on a lunge line.
What's important to remember is that when desensitizing him, if he spooks or tries to run away, pay no attention to him. Completely immerse yourself in being relaxed. Be aware of where he is so you don't get hurt, but don't look at him, don't talk to him...nothing. Don't say "whoa" when he moves or "It's okay" to soothe him...he will learn to soothe himself when he realizes that the [object] is not really a threat. Let him move, it's no big deal...because eventually they all will stop moving. When he does stop moving, keep rubbing the bag on the ground or him (whatever stage you're at in the game) until he does one of two things: shows you a sign of relaxation (ex: licking his lips, lowering his head, blinking, taking a deep breath, cocking a hind foot, etc) OR he stands still for 15 seconds----whatever comes first. When he does either one, praise him like crazy. Make a big deal about how good he was no matter how much of an idiot you sound like. Praising him for his actions will help him understand the method behind the madness, haha.
I use this method with all of my horses and at first they do act like idiots, but eventually they are half asleep during desensitizing.
Oh one more tip---when you are desensitizing, and your body language is passive and you're ignoring him and not worried, etc...you are basically asking the horse to stand still and ignore whatever it is that you're doing.
Depending on the horse, you may need to do more desensitizing if he is a spooky, flighty kind of guy or more sensitizing if he is a lazy sort of horse, which he doesn't sound to be. But if he were, sensitizing would be more asking him to move, "NOW". It would be turns on the forehand, hindquarters, backing, transitions, etc. Anything that would require him to move when your body language says so.
I learned all of this by following Downunder Horsemanship and I love it. It produces some amazing results for me.