a year ago i moved my horse to a back yard barnabout three minutes down the street from where i live. i moved my horse from a hunter/jumper show barn mainly because he developed navicular and i figured since i no longer needed the arena or training for my horse i would move him to a barn that was $250 less. so, i was the first boarder there and for a whole month my horse (junior) was the only horse there. at this barn you are responsible for everything, they only provide water. so, at 16 i worked my butt off to pay for my horse, his vet bills and his medication. about a month after my horse moved in another horse (anakin) moved in. anakin came as a five year old. at fist he did not want to trust me or junior. after a while he warmed up. when anakin came he was not broken to ride. i decided... i wanna ride that horse! well one day myself and anakin's owner decided to try to mount him. she held him while i leaned over his back ( dont worry he has had the saddle on and bridle on before and was lounged in it and everything) and he didnt seem to mind. so i got up on his back... bad idea. he took off bucking. i fell off and i landed on anakin's owner. she had broken her shoulder from the horse running her over and me falling on her. 911 was called. so from then on the both of us were a bit nervous around him.once the winter passed and the spring came i tried to put fly spray on anakin.... another bad idea. he freaked out and thought it was going to kill him. i made it my goal to let him understand that the spray bottle was not going to kill him. after about a week of having him drag me around the field while i sprayed him with water. something clicked and he was no longer afraid.
i felt so accomplished after that. i decided to try to ride him again. so me and a friend would just lay over his back (bareback) and lead eachother around. we went bareback so we had a quicker get away if anakin flipped out. but he never seemed to mind. so we did that for about a week and finally one day i just swung my leg over. it was no big deal to him. so at first we ponied him with my horse. just at a walk. still no big deal. then he got the the point of just following my horse. my little sister would trot my horse and anakin would follow my horse trotting too! i was still bareback even then. so i tried riding with a saddle. he trotted on his own around the field, we learned how to stop, go left, right and back up.
so next i tried to get him to canter. he got it right away, but, he would never pick up the correct lead.... but today when i was riding i finally managed to get him to pick up the correct lead both directions. i am so so proud of him and of myself.
haha and oh i got him to trot over ground poles and small x rails too! he is learning so fast and i cant believe i did it all by myself!
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
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.
reading this all sounded so familiar from watching clinton! but im going to definatley do all of this on the weekend. thanks so much for your advice it really helps alot. he is a spooky horse. but he is a fast learner and retains his knowledge quite well. infact im impressed by how much he remembers. im starting to get really attatched to this horse. we are creating a great bond. and i was so happy his owner got on him and walked around on him. she was just tickled pink that she could finally get on her horse!
He was looking good yesterday! I was glad Debbie got on him for a few minutes!
thanks megan! maybe this weekend you can get on him! he needs to get alot of riders on him cause he is only listening to me. and that can be a problem. i cant wait for the spring cause im going to show him.
For sure more people need to get on him! He is just used to you and don't care about the other. Once he picked up his correct lead he got it everytime after that! I Proably can do sunday. I'll text you.
okay that would be awesome. he just needs a lot of miles under the saddle. and he is starting to get buff. i cant wait he is going to be so pretty. you should take pics of us too so i can put them up on this thread!
I'll be the amazing photographer as always and take some niffty pictures!
i know i cant wait it will be so fun
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