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Desensitizing a horse:

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  • How should one handle a spooky weanling
  • Desensitizing a horse

 
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    07-04-2011, 12:58 PM
  #11
Yearling
Ooh Ooh. Slapping him on the butt, I've known people go to slap a horsefly off their horse, and the horse bolted. Bouncing balls off his back, rolling them under his belly. Rolling a tyre round him, opening an umbrella in front of him. There are loadsss of videos on youtube for desensitizing/sacking out a horse :)
     
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    07-08-2011, 07:37 PM
  #12
Weanling
If you're going to do trail rides, you might consider desensitizing to tents and people wearing backpacks (big hiking backpacks). I recently put on a desensitizing clinic at our barn, and had tons of "scary" things for the horses to deal with. Here is are some:

Flags
Giant stuffed animals
Strollers
Tent
Deer decoy
Roping dummy
Pool noodles attached to jump standards to walk through (scariest obstacle by a long shot)
Tarps
Pop cans and milk jugs all tied together, then flung over/under horse
Giant Christmas blow up decorations

Tons of other stuff that I can't remember. It amazed me what the horses spooked at, and what they handled well. By the end of the clinic, everyone was riding through these obstacles.
     
    07-08-2011, 07:51 PM
  #13
Trained
This is a great thread, and I love the list, but I would caution you about a couple of things. Please do not rush it and overwhelm this baby. Some will take one after the other in stride, while others may take a week or more on each. While this is great and helps, remember there is no such thing as totally desensitizing. There will always be something that can/will scare them, be it real or imagined. The trust you develop by not pushing it is a good thing. Building a relationship is just as important as any obstacle.
     
    07-08-2011, 08:02 PM
  #14
Weanling
Quote:
Originally Posted by franknbeans    
This is a great thread, and I love the list, but I would caution you about a couple of things. Please do not rush it and overwhelm this baby. Some will take one after the other in stride, while others may take a week or more on each. While this is great and helps, remember there is no such thing as totally desensitizing. There will always be something that can/will scare them, be it real or imagined. The trust you develop by not pushing it is a good thing. Building a relationship is just as important as any obstacle.
Good point. With a young horse I would tackle one or two obstacles at a time. When I put the clinic on, it was for broke horses, most of which had many trail miles under their cinches, and a lot of experience. Also, all of the handlers had completely finished the Foundations, and at least half of the intermediate programs for C.A. We also had a 100x200 arena with this stuff spread out so when they walked in the weren't too overwhelmed.

With a new horse, or very reactive horse I would definitely be slow and cautious.
     
    07-08-2011, 10:28 PM
  #15
Weanling
Quote:
Originally Posted by franknbeans    
This is a great thread, and I love the list, but I would caution you about a couple of things. Please do not rush it and overwhelm this baby. Some will take one after the other in stride, while others may take a week or more on each. While this is great and helps, remember there is no such thing as totally desensitizing. There will always be something that can/will scare them, be it real or imagined. The trust you develop by not pushing it is a good thing. Building a relationship is just as important as any obstacle.
No, there will definitely be no rushing. I don't believe in it. My plan is to spend the first few weeks just brushing the colt and letting him get used to a new place. I want to take him on some walks around the property too.

When we start round pen work, my plan is to teach him to lunge first of all (at a walk and then a trot). When he seems to catch onto that, I might carry in a plastic bag with me and tie it to a pole in the round pen. I'll let him look and then we'll continue with our quick lunging lesson. A few days after that, I might place a small tarp on the ground instead of the bag. I'll stand on it, let him figure out for himself that it's not a horse eating monster and then ignore it for the rest of the 10-20 minute lesson. I know yearlings have the attention span of a hummingbird and I want to end each and every lesson on a good note. As long as we make some progress in each lesson (even if it's as simple as standing still while having his hooves picked), I'm happy. I have no deadlines for this horse at all and I want to keep everything fun and relaxed. I would like him to be able to reason through the scary things for himself and if he wants to spend some time spooking over it, then so be it.

Basically, my goal is to work with him enough that he will be safe around common things like bikes, children and loud noises. I know it'll never be completely fool proof, but if I can help him learn to accept even 95% of the scary things with grace, then I've done my job. I want to bond with him enough that he understands that I'll never lead him into some scary or dangerous, and to trust me enough to know that I won't let the evil, scary balloon get him.
     
    07-08-2011, 11:45 PM
  #16
Weanling
The biggest thing that I don't think has been said yet is phantom spooking. My yearling QH doesnt spook at anything.... it is always nothing, lol. All the stuff mentioned is hunky dory to her but outta nowhere she will spook. Just remembr to stay calm & reassuring no matter what they might get upset at.
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    07-08-2011, 11:52 PM
  #17
Weanling
Phantom spooking! So irritating. You feel like you prepare for everything but still end up with spooks over nothing. The advantage of desensitizing to lots of things at home is that new things away from home. The more your horse gets used to, the less they can spook at (notice I didn't say they wouldn't spook!)
     
    07-09-2011, 12:46 AM
  #18
Weanling
I LOVE phantom spooking, to be honest. I find it absolutely hilarious. When I used to work with racehorses, we had one that would spook at air, or so it seemed. Every time she did, we'd make up some scenario about WHY she spooked and then start talking to her about random things to reassure her. Being a little bit silly helps me stay calm, which keeps the horse from spooking further.
     
    07-09-2011, 11:04 PM
  #19
Weanling
The key thing to remember is that the obstacle/object you use doesn't matter at all. It all comes down to timing and the horses reaction to the obstacle/object.
     
    08-03-2011, 09:00 AM
  #20
Foal
Fantastic suggestions think I might try a few myself, I've got a mare who is gradually learning to accept a hosepipe, I'm also trying to get her used to spray bottles and whole host of other things that are 'at home' she's very good with the big wild world but wasn't handled much round the yard so buckets being dropped etc can sometimes be an issue, a false hand (a glove stuffed and attached to a stick ) all over can also be useful if a youngster is likely to panic and lash out, once they're used to the hand you can attach scary things to it.
Hope it all goes well and don't forget to post amn update from time to time.
Probably already covered but make sure he's ok with sheath cleaning etc.
     

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