Hi all. I have a pretty spooky little mare (5 yrs old) and I've been trying to desensitize her to different things. I read somewhere that tying different things to the saddle and letting her run around in a round pen until she gets used to it is a good idea. So I tried this with a small, white, plastic bag. She certainly ran alright! It didn't seem like she was going to get used to it, even after 15 minutes she was still running hard, so I was able to reach out and grab it off of her. My question is this: could she have run herself to death?
I would certainly never do that to her ever again. The horse won't get used to something it thinks is chasing her. That's a rotten piece of advice.
But to answer your question, sure, a horse could run itself to death.
Do you know of any other ways to work with her with the plastic bag?
It is possible she could have a heart attack or injure herself trying to get away.
I have a 23 year old gelding who's former owner did the same thing to him about 15 years ago. To this day he still freaks about plastic bags.
Some people don't like snakes or spiders, my guy doesn't like plastic bags. I respect that. I know he may get worked up and I do my best to take care of him. He trusts me not to put him in harms way.
Well, I was just happy to have done it in a round pen - she couldn't get out or hurt others.
To be honest, I thought the theory was quite sound. After all, that's how she got used to her saddle; the first time she and all my other horses were saddled (even after excellent join-up in the round pen) they tried to buck it off and ran around for a while... and then came to me looking for comfort. So if they can get used to a saddle in that way, why not a plastic bag (or anything else)?
Some of my other horse buddies thought that I just didn't give her enough time because I was too emotionally affected.
Me and another girl at the stables desensitized our horses from plastic bags by tying them to the end of a crop. We put the horse in the round pen, shook the bag next to them, when they were afraid, we stopped shaking and comforted the horse. Shook, comforted. Shook, comforted. It took a little while but now neither of our horses are afraid of plastic bags AND if you shake the crop with the bag on it at them it has a calming affect. Horse psychology at its best hehe. :)
I have a mare that can be spooky at times and I wanted to see how she would react to the plastic shavings bag, however I tried a different approach. I held it up to her so that she could check it out (she's very curious by nature) and she was unsure, she snorted and sniffed. As she relaxed I gently held it near her neck for a few moments and when she relaxed with that I touched her neck with it. If she got nervous again I would bring it back to "near" her neck, wait until she relaxed and then touch again. Within 15-20 minutes I was gently rubbing her entire body with it and shaking it and flapping it (gently, not wild). I would scrunch it up while I was rubbing, I draped it over her neck and then her body, etc. etc.. She did great! I then put it on the ground for her to walk over it. She didn't get to the point of "couldn't care less" but she did do very, very well in all and I will try this again in the next few weeks.
For us patience was the key and taking baby steps so that Lily felt she could trust I was not going to harm her in any way.
It's a matter of how traumatic it is for the horse. A lot of times people will "sack a horse out" and really that's just a rude way to get a horse to tolorate something...but I don't want a horse to tolorate something, I want him confident and completely accepting of it.
A good way to get the horse used to the plastic bag would be to tie it to a whip (rip the bottom of the bag open) and use approach and retreat. Walk away from her and allow her to follow it. Horses gain confidence when they can follow something. If you go to touch her and she is tense and afraid do NOT stop. Horses learn by the release of pressure and if you stop when she is tense and afraid you will teach her to be tense and afraid. Only stop when she shows a sign of relaxation.
Definatly go slow with her. Keep the bag crumpled and let her sniff it. When she doesn't mind you rubbing her with it crumpled up the slowly open it. Do it in small baby steps and then it won't scare her so much. All the horses I've worked with I desensitize this way and have had amazing results. One 8 month old filly stands quietly without a halter or lead on and lets me drape HUGE sheets of plastic all over her and flap it right by her face. You jsut have to go slow and reward for the slightest improvement.
I do pretty much SpiritHorse said. My horse has been desensitized to pretty much everything by now using that method.
Meh, I rub the young ones down with a bag etc, ie. give them a massage with it. I let them sniff of it as well and know that it will not hurt them prior.
I mean do you just pin your horse down and put a rope on them or a halter? no way, you allow them time to adjust to the feeling and you attach good emotions with them, with the object.
Attach the thoughts of good things with the bag so that they have good experiences with them.
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