Desensitizing - How do you do it? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 50 Old 05-03-2019, 09:39 PM Thread Starter
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Desensitizing - How do you do it?

I'll give you two scenarios. I'd be curious how you feel about either in the context of desensitizing.

The first scenario is classic Clinton Anderson: You grab the horse by the lead rope, and you start to put on some pressure - say you wiggle a stick with a flag or plastic bag. As the horse moves away, you follow, neither increasing nor decreasing the pressure. As the horse understands it's not dangerous, it'll stop and chill, at which point you release the pressure.

Contrast this with the following:

When I go to my lesson at the Arabian farm, I take my motorcycle. The first few weeks, the three horses living next to the driveway high-tailed it (get it? Arabians...) to the opposite, far fence of the pasture. Since I have no business with them and just passing through, that also gave them release as I passed their pasture and parked my bike. Last Wednesday, they were standing in the close half of the pasture as I passed, and only one of them looked at me as I passed - the others kept on enjoying their grass. None moved.

Would this indicate that carefully timed release isn't super critical when desensitizing, and that continual exposure to a stimulus does the trick equally? After all, a big tractor is a scary thing, but after a while they really look forward to that monster approaching their pasture around breakfast/dinner time...
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post #2 of 50 Old 05-03-2019, 09:56 PM
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This is how I believe in doing it:

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post #3 of 50 Old 05-03-2019, 10:09 PM
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IMO the first option (CA type forcing a horse to accept scary stuff) can really traumatize some horses and have seen many times this backfire on the "trainer" when the horse does a fast spin/rear/bolt and breaks loose from the human.


The second method IMO is much preferred because the horse feels free to react as they deem appropriate for the situation. They teach themselves what is really threatening.


But to bump it up a bit, and have the horses eagerly look forward to what once was scary, one can look to Pavlov's Dogs for guidance.


If for instance, one rode a motorcycle along the pasture, stopped halfway along and tossed some really good hay over the fence, then continued on without ever once even looking at the horses; the horses would quickly learn that the motorcycle was A Good Thing and eagerly great it at the stopping point.


Self taught behaviors, IMO are the most effective, and last much longer.
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post #4 of 50 Old 05-03-2019, 10:27 PM
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I think either is effective, and I use both to my advantage. I read an article, I think from Bobby Kerr, although I’m not certain, where he said he ties tarps in the corral. This in turn limits the necessary desensitization.

So, I went and took a tarp from the dumpster and cut it down into two sections (throwing the rest away), and tied one next to the feed bunk and another over by the milk cow’s corral. The tarp makes a lot of noise and movement when the wind blows.

The horses quickly got over their fear of the tarp. Zeus, who never was scared, climbed under the tarp as I tied it on to scare the others. Lol. Now they play with it. I also tied up a milk jug with rocks in it, and Zeus (of course) goes and shakes it regularly, but the other horses no longer mind that either.

I believe it helped them out without any work on my part. They could run from it, and pretty soon it was no biggie. The tractors driving by desensitize them to equipment, and I have the girls fly their kites right next to the pen. Anything helps... however, I still have to desensitize in the first method for things like ropes because my horses are expected to handle being roped off of.
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post #5 of 50 Old 05-03-2019, 11:47 PM
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My Paso reacted very poorly with any type of desensitization. My other horses all respond well to Clinton Anderson but they probably aren't truly scared. The paso was abused. The others all have trust in people and view desensitization as more of a game. Harmony thought plastic bags and pool noodles were the coolest toys ever. "Oh you brought me toys!"

I completely skipped desensitization with my Paso. Any attempt to show him objects only traumatized him further. The problem with him is objects are only scary if you are holding them. If it's on the ground, it is ignored. I will probably offer treats while holding the scary object.

I think simply walking past the paso and ignoring him, is the best way to introduce scary objects to him. His problem is he panics first, thinks later. Once he panics, he no longer thinks and you can't train him because he isn't thinking. He won't retain anything.
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post #6 of 50 Old 05-04-2019, 01:35 AM
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Originally Posted by 4horses View Post
My Paso reacted very poorly with any type of desensitization. My other horses all respond well to Clinton Anderson but they probably aren't truly scared. The paso was abused. The others all have trust in people and view desensitization as more of a game. Harmony thought plastic bags and pool noodles were the coolest toys ever. "Oh you brought me toys!"

I completely skipped desensitization with my Paso. Any attempt to show him objects only traumatized him further. The problem with him is objects are only scary if you are holding them. If it's on the ground, it is ignored. I will probably offer treats while holding the scary object.

I think simply walking past the paso and ignoring him, is the best way to introduce scary objects to him. His problem is he panics first, thinks later. Once he panics, he no longer thinks and you can't train him because he isn't thinking. He won't retain anything.
Desensitization is the act of changing a response to rational or irrational fears.

If the horse(s) are not fearful of the objects, then they couldn't have been desensitized unless the objects first were turned into objects of fear.

A horse in a state of panic can't learn. Extremely fearful horses need to be gently taught how to respond IMO
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post #7 of 50 Old 05-04-2019, 02:11 AM
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I never set about desensitising a horse by waving a plastic bag at them. I just get on and do things without a care in the world!

Horses will spook at an empty feed bag laying on the ground but leave them with that bag and they will destroy it in seconds.

I never sheltered my horses from anything, when the youngsters were in the loose shed and big tractors were delivering the hay or removing the muck heap, they might move away to start and then stand with their noses practically touching the monster.

The ATV was meals on wheels, children on bicycles, skateboards and mini ATV were an entertainment to them.

I would stand horses I was clipping in the aisle and the youngsters would come to sniff and watch over the barrier between them. Any of them that stood there had the clippers lifted to their faces, they rarely moved. They also watched the farrier working showing the working horses and when their turn came, never gave a hoot about it.

We even had a helicopter land in the field and the horses in the adjoining field immediately rushed to the fence to look see.

I was never 'nice' when it came to them learning to accept things, if they spooked and moved away, I continued. The dogs helped by always running around them. Me, kicking a ball in the loose shed, was accepted as the norm.

When something new occurred they would blame me for it, often look at each other as if the say "What the heck is she up to now?"

It worked for me.

Often when a horse has the chance and something happens they will use that something as an excuse to have a charge around, not really being frightened of it, just having fun.
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post #8 of 50 Old 05-04-2019, 02:41 AM
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These two are totally nuts - the things they get up to yet I would bet they never desensitised a horse in their lives!

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post #9 of 50 Old 05-04-2019, 03:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mmshiro View Post
The first scenario is classic Clinton Anderson: You grab the horse by the lead rope, and you start to put on some pressure - say you wiggle a stick with a flag or plastic bag. As the horse moves away, you follow, neither increasing nor decreasing the pressure. As the horse understands it's not dangerous, it'll stop and chill, at which point you release the pressure.

IF
you introduce the 'scary' stimulus at a level that is NOT seriously frightening to the horse (ie not 'classic CA style'), then I don't have a problem with that method. The trouble with 'flooding'(behavioural term I reckon you're familiar with) when you 'overface' the horse - just do whatever until the horse quits reacting is that it may well *appear to* 'chill' NOT because it understands anything, but because it is 'shell shocked', given up, 'broken'. I've heard CA say 'the more you frighten him, the quieter he will get'. But it's not the kind of 'quiet' I want. It also causes mistrust/fear of the handler, with a 'learned helplessness' that can also cause horses who are generally quiet but 'suddenly, without warning, out of the blue' explode with over the top reactions to little things.

Quote:
Last Wednesday, they were standing in the close half of the pasture as I passed, and only one of them looked at me as I passed - the others kept on enjoying their grass. None moved.
The horses got to 'high tail' away & then get used to your bike from a distance that didn't blow their minds, so they could *think* about it & get over it. [quote]

Quote:
Would this indicate that carefully timed release isn't super critical when desensitizing,
Hmm, haven't actually thought of it in that regard. But... Yes, I think it's more about them getting used to things coming & going without consequence. So... rather than 'negatively reinforce' them for doing 'something'(standing still), where you do indeed have to be good with timing for it to be understood, my tactic for desensitising is just 'coming & going' repeatedly, regardless(often ignoring the horse) how they behave, at a low enough level to not freak them out & provoke big reactions.

Some info I've found helpful; [COLOR=Lime][B]www.horseforum.com/horse-health/hoof-lameness-info-horse-owners-89836/
For taking critique pics; [COLOR=Lime][B]https://www.horseforum.com/members/41...res-128437.jpg
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post #10 of 50 Old 05-04-2019, 03:25 AM
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That 'woller blading' vid... I used to ride my horse while my 'woller blading' mate hung onto my horse's tail when we went up hills. I don't recall ever desensitising... was my first horse & I wasn't cluey about training. Just assumed he'd be ok with it.

And when I first got him, a guy I knew who was short, big beer belly & old(well, he was in his 40's when I thought that was way over the hill...) could vault onto his horse over the horse's rump! I thought if he could do that, I definitely needed to be able to! So I did. Took a lot of practice to not end up just... faceplanting my horse's rump, if I recall! And probably just lucky I didn't get kicked in the guts, but my horse put up with me without desensitisation. He also coped with my kelpie jumping on his back for a ride when we were older... and all manner of other stuff. He was a bit special too, that horse.

Some info I've found helpful; [COLOR=Lime][B]www.horseforum.com/horse-health/hoof-lameness-info-horse-owners-89836/
For taking critique pics; [COLOR=Lime][B]https://www.horseforum.com/members/41...res-128437.jpg
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