Desensitization....essential or abuse? - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 35 Old 09-01-2010, 06:46 PM
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I'm not sure exactly how one would go about training a horse without desensitizing to some degree and in some manner...

I agree with the others. Done correctly and balanced with correct "sensitizing" exercises, no problem. I have seen horses who have been over-desensitized and were the most dull things that you can imagine... no forward at all, refused to move off of the leg, etc.

I aim for no spook, but awareness and a light willingness to respond to my aids on the ground and under saddle. Desensitization has served me well.

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post #12 of 35 Old 09-01-2010, 07:09 PM
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I dont htink that trainer really understand desensitizing. or maybe she just thinks it something different.
I think its amazing, i use it to help my horse trust me, and understand that anything i am near is nothing to be scared of and she should trust that if i put something near her, or ask her to go near something, it will not hurt her.
I use it to build on my horses relationship with me, showing her i am the leader and i will keep her safe from anything she thinks is scary... the result? when she sees something new that most other horses are spooking at? she snorts and arches her neck, but follows me towards it.
I also thinks its good if you tap the horse with the whip, and they start getting over-scared of it, then you just rub it all over them and make them realize just because it touches them, it doesnt hurt.
If all you try to do when you desensitze is to keep the horse from being scared of a tarp or something... theres so much more you both could get out of it. (I dont mean anyone in specific when i say 'you')

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post #13 of 35 Old 09-01-2010, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by bearsareneat View Post
I'm posing this question because all my life, I assumed that desensitizing or "sacking out" was an acceptable facet of training. This summer I apprenticed under a trainer that said that desensitization was unacceptable. She told me that when you sack out a horse you are actually numbing them out. They do not learn to trust you and they fade back into their "survival brain." Sacking out can actually harm your relationship with your horse. She believes that your horse should trust you enough to where you can do literally ANYTHING to and around your horse, and their trust will override their wary instincts. She also says you can't desensitize your horse to EVERYTHING they could EVER encounter that would be scary, so its pretty much a waste of time to begin with.

I respect this point of view, but I still see the merit in desensitization training if done properly.

My question is: do you believe that sacking out is an acceptable outlet for getting your horse used to new and scary situations/objects/whatever?
The point of sacking out a horse is to make them less dangerous. If a piece of paper blows across the trail, I would much rather be on a horse that will spook in place, rather than another that does a 180 and gallops full speed back to the trailer.

And yes, there is no way that you could desesitize your horse to every horse eating monster out there, but the more they are used to, the less likely you will find yourself in a sticky situation.

Every horse owner has their opinion on every training technique in the book, hers just happens to be negative twoards sacking out.
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post #14 of 35 Old 09-01-2010, 07:30 PM
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Desensitizing is only a bad thing when it is not followed with sensitizing. That is when you get the zombie horses that someone else refered to. That is what leads to horses not following leg queues and being lazy over all. You don't want horses so desensitized to your training tools that they totally begin to ignore them. You want them to stand quietly when your body language tells them to, and to move when your body language tells them to. They should learn the difference of when you want them to stand and when you want them to move off pressure. That is the key to sensitize/desensitize, both are necessary and they even each other out.
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post #15 of 35 Old 09-07-2010, 05:13 PM Thread Starter
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Wow. Thanks for all the responses you guys! The trainer had attempted to drill the belief that "desensitization is abuse" from the beginning of the summer. I'm glad that I can cling to my beliefs knowing that there is no harm when practicing it responsibly. Given, the entire apprenticeship was more of a spirit breaker than an enriching learning experience sooo.....
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post #16 of 35 Old 09-07-2010, 05:16 PM
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Wow, are you still there? If not, I'm glad. If so, you might want to look for a different trainer to work with. Don't let it get you down though, sounds to me like you already have more sense than the 'trainer'.
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post #17 of 35 Old 09-07-2010, 11:18 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you Smrobs :). I'm no longer working for that farm anymore. It was more of a resume builder and an excuse to get out of town for a few months, ha.
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post #18 of 35 Old 09-08-2010, 12:19 AM
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I like to introduce my horses to as many things as possible. Not so much to desensitize them to things but just get them to know that different things are not going to eat them. The more they realize this the less it takes next time.

I do not spend a lot of time doing it for the simple fact that there is no way to do everything. I just do enough to get the idea into their heads. Here is an example that no matter how much you think you have covered things it can and does still come back to bit you at times. I have a mare who has been hauled extensively. She is shown in a lot of different placed. When we show her in NRCHA shows they will put tarps up to keep the cattle from jumping through the fence. She has no problems with the tarps flapping in the wind on the fence. Now take that same trap and lay it flat on the ground. Now it becomes a horse eating trap. I just took a trap put it on the ground and put her hay on it. If she wanted her hay she had to walk on the trap. Took about 30 min she was fine after that. Then she discovered horse eating carts. She really did not like those things. Took about 3 shows and she got over it. The more things that scare her and she gets over the faster she gets over something the next time. Cattle in the pen next to her scary cattle in the same pen with her not scary. GO figure.

It is really funny what will and will not scare them. There is no way to get them over everything.

I have one mare who is not scared of anything which I can say is not a good thing either.

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post #19 of 35 Old 09-08-2010, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by PaintedFury View Post
Desensitizing is only a bad thing when it is not followed with sensitizing. That is the key to sensitize/desensitize, both are necessary and they even each other out.
Excellent, clear answer right here!
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post #20 of 35 Old 09-08-2010, 11:39 AM
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I've done desensitizing in the traditional ways. But I talked with a trainer one day who told me I was going about it all wrong. And when he explained, it made perfect sense. He said not to introduce things to your horse, but to be introduced together as a team.
For example, instead of taking a plastic bag to the horse, before hand, you would tie the plastic bag somewhere and walk your horse up to it so you are both trusting each other to proceed. That way, it isn't YOU that is introducing all the scary, annoying stuff that makes them uncomfortable. Instead, you become the comforter and the trusted leader. No bad associations.

"All I pay my psychiatrist is the cost of feed and hay, and she'll listen to me allll day."
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