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XbaRR3lchickX 08-17-2011 11:50 AM

Getting horse used to guns?
I really want to do mounted shooting with my 4 year old mare, but she is still fairly spooky and I am not sure how to introduce a gun to her. There is nobody near where I live that does mounted shooting or that has introduced their horses to guns, so nobody is really sure what to do.

My plan was to put her in the round pen and give her a scoop of food in a bucket, so that she will associate the sound with a good thing-food. Then everybody step out of the round pen so that if she does freak out nobody will get hurt. Fire the gun- and see what happens. We will be using blanks, so they won't be as loud as normal.

Does anybody have any better suggestions? I don't think tying her up will be a good idea, in the round pen she will have some space to run or whatever she chooses to do.

Alwaysbehind 08-17-2011 11:52 AM

I think you introduce the gun noise to your horse the same way you introduce anything else new to your horse.

Do you have anything that makes a similar but not quite so loud noise?

XbaRR3lchickX 08-17-2011 11:56 AM

I have a bullwhip that I just mess around and pop sometimes, but they can be just as loud I think.

Corporal 08-17-2011 12:11 PM

DH and I have introduced gunfire to round about 15 horses over the years. The VERY BEST way is to have a totally broken-to-gunfire horse to accompany your mare and give her confidence, and this is what the US Cavalry did, post CW. (In fact, I always try to train an inexperienced horse with an experienced one, because they train in faster.)
Understanding your situation, I would advise the following. Get a cap gun. Your horse will master a smaller sound AND, unlike a whip, she will associate a visual gun with the sound and learn to accept that they are related. Be consistent, but begin by having her in turnout on the OTHER side of a fence, eating her grain--it needs to be grain/treats and NOT hay. Walk away, maybe 15-20 ft. to start with, keep walking, say, "Ready, Aim, Fire" --I'm not joking, and the Infantry DID use those terms--then fire one shot. It's like a pre-cue, and will give her an opportunity to DECIDE to be brave. Stand, repeat the phrase and fire, then do it a 3rd time. She will respond best with YOU between the loud noise and her. If she startles, she won't be a small confined space like her stall, and she WILL want to return to eat.
Gradually reduce to distance until you are firing away from her but situated right over the fence.
After that, you can closer and work with her and the capgun in a round pen, until you are shooting it right next to her, and you are satisfied that she is desensitized to the capgun. IF you are able to use live rounds, you need to start all over, because horses feel the reverbation of heavy gunfire through their hooves, but it will translate.
Just like anything else that is frightening, she will take several months of this to be, as you might say, "bullet-proof." Don't scimp on the time spent. It is well worth it.
As an example, when my Arab and my QH were about 20 years old, and had been reenacting for about 14 years, some bozo decided to double-load a cannon for a demonstration. My horses were about 30 feet from that cannon. I'm sure he wanted them to react for the crowd, so he fired it, double-loaded numerous times. My 2 guys totally ignored it, and ate through his demonstration.
Please let us know your progress. =D

XbaRR3lchickX 08-17-2011 12:20 PM

Ok thanks so much! I will see if I can dig out my old cap guns from the garage :wink: She is pretty good about noises, it's usually fast movement that makes her jump. Last night I layed a tarp out and she walked over it without even hesitating. I got her to stand on it, back up over it, trot over- no problem! It was definitely not the reaction I was expecting. I will keep you updated and see if I can start on that tonight! :D

Corporal 08-17-2011 12:21 PM

I had a finger-Freudian slip. I MEANT for you to use the blanks. I'm training my young horses to gunfire now, and I'll be using live rounds eventually. SORRY!!
BTW, in reenacting we all use a little over half full of regular Cream of Wheat, then less than 1/2 full of gunpowder. It produces a good flash, a good bang and a good smoke, without being dangerous. HOWEVER,
it can still put out somebody's eye at a distance of about 8 feet, so we are careful to shoot away from our horse and until the ground. Just and FYI. :D

XbaRR3lchickX 08-17-2011 12:25 PM

So blanks, not cap guns?

Corporal 08-17-2011 12:39 PM

Guess I'm confusing everybody. I suggest starting training with a cap gun and caps, because your horse will be able to master that the easiest. THEN, switch to BLANKS!!
We've used black powder&Cream of Wheat over the years in our hobby. However, we started with totally broken riding horses in their early 'teens. Most often, after that, we were breaking in one horse at a time who was accompanied by 3 of his stablemates who were already broken to gunfire. I even trained in an 8 yo OTTB to gunfire at an event. It took one weekend to do it. Despite his friends, I had to keep him in perpetual motion--circles, figure-8's, changes of leads, etc. on Saturday. By Sunday he was totally exhausted and could only walk. He decided that it wasn't scary after all, and had no real trouble with guns after that. Yet, one time later that summer at an event, when he wasn't expected it, somebody fired while we were standing in back of the Infantry. I swear he performed a perfect Courbette, before Passaging his way out the to the battle.

XbaRR3lchickX 08-17-2011 12:52 PM

Ok I got in now!

Faustinblack 08-21-2011 12:17 AM

Thanks for this. I've been thinking about adding mounted shooting to my mounted archery, and now I know how to get my boy started :)
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