Desensitizing - How do you do it? - Page 4 - The Horse Forum
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post #31 of 50 Old 05-05-2019, 04:15 PM
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Would be interesting to use a heart monitor on a horse going thru the CA style training; might show how they are reacting to the stress
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post #32 of 50 Old 05-05-2019, 05:50 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by bsms View Post
But when I asked for help on dealing with her spookiness, what I heard over and over and over again was that she was spooky BECAUSE I was nervous. Yet I couldn't help notice many of her worst spooks came when I was totally confident. If she was spooking BECAUSE I was nervous, why were the majority of spooks coming when I was totally confident?
Ha, ha! I know those. Those are the, "Whoa! What did I miss???" spooks... If the rider isn't even aware of anything potentially spooky, there is no way the rider's nervousness could have induced the spook.
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post #33 of 50 Old 05-05-2019, 06:11 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by loosie View Post
I dont know I've seen any specific desensitising vids of his.
Here's one specifically dedicated to desensitizing. I'd be interested in opinions...

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post #34 of 50 Old 05-05-2019, 06:20 PM
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Some horses are just naturally more reactive than others; yes, the rider can at times make it better or worse, but a rider isn't the whole problem!

After a time, with lots of shared experiences, a horse and rider team do get better at predicting each other's actions.

For instance, I know when we go to a ride I have to lead my gelding around the grounds first. It is the way we both find out what he finds tolerable and what he finds terrifying and everything in between.

Recently at the Witchdance we discovered that pink flagging is terrifying when blowing in the wind, whereas he has gone past white flagging blowing without a second look...once out on actual trails, he settles in fine. It's the getting there that is sometimes quite challenging
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post #35 of 50 Old 05-05-2019, 08:21 PM
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mmshiro, yes, that horse wasn't very reactive at all, and I do agree that it depends on how the horse reacts as to what you'd do, and with THIS horse, I'd probably do very similar... If there's not much fear in the horse, they're not very reactive, then keeping something up and then negatively reinforcing for 'right' behaviour is fine IME.

This is NOT classic 'approach & retreat' as I understand it. Albeit it is what a lot of 'natural horsemen' call it. It is approach approach approach approach, until the horse stops reacting. Aka 'flooding'. He explains that if she were to get frightened & reactive, he'd just keep it up for as long as it took for her to stop moving.

Regardless of whether it's too much for the horse, it does tend to get them *quiet* about stuff. But IME this may be very different from *confident & relaxed*. Trouble is, when a horse is too frightened, it can be a 'shell shocked' or a 'shut down' kind of quiet, a terrible experience that impacts on everything else you do with the horse. A horse who is 'broken in'... of spirit. I don't know if you noticed, but that horse did not look very relaxed to me, she was still on edge(when he was explaining that she was relaxed because she was showing The Signs - I didn't watch for too long). Attention to a horse's *attitude* about stuff is as important to me as their behaviour - their outward response to those attitudes. Using more of an 'approach & retreat' method, IME, tends to get the horse *truly* relaxed with stuff, often quicker too, as there is no big fear & adrenaline rush to get over as well.

Approach & retreat as I understand it, is like your motorbike eg - you come & go, come & go, regardless of the horse's behaviour - tho you were, and I think this is very important, not being too much in your 'approaches' that you caused any real panic - the horses were able to keep at a distance they didn't feel too threatened. So you essentially were able to 'retreat' *before* any real terror/reactions from them.

Some info I've found helpful; [COLOR=Lime][B]
For taking critique pics; [COLOR=Lime][B]

Last edited by loosie; 05-05-2019 at 08:29 PM.
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post #36 of 50 Old 05-05-2019, 09:01 PM
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Originally Posted by boots View Post
When I started modeling the actions of horsemen that treated things more matter of fact, I stopped having spooky horses.

Now I get horses in with a laundry list of "he won't" or "he's afraid of" and generally it's because of a timid rider, or tentative handling.
Take someone like @PhantomHorse who rides many different horses in many different environments...she has video of herself riding through all kinds of spooky things like covered echoing bridges and among jumping Armadillos. Her horses Phin and Raven are not spooky because she is inexperienced, tentative, or etc.

Nor is my mare Amore spooky because of that kind of thing. This is a horse that could race around in a stall for ten minutes because I picked a square of fabric up off the ground and stood there holding it. Even @Foxhunter who speaks of making no concessions for the horse has talked about running across horses that spooked often on every ride. She was just a bold enough rider to keep riding the horse, even if she came off sometimes.

Although I agree some people do treat these horses tentatively, and that can make things worse, I've seen enough of them that are owned by experienced and confident people to know that some horses are like this and it's not the handling. Some of us don't just have a spooky horse, but have lots of experience with other horses that were green, fearful or spooky and we brought them along easily to a level of confidence.
My OTTB is fairly hot and had some huge spooks at times this last year as I started out with him, but these are diminishing rapidly as he gains confidence. My mare Amore never had that ability to adapt.

Sometimes it can't be the diet either...some of us like @PhantomHorse and Acadianartist with her horse Kodak have done everything possible to make sure it wasn't a deficiency or diet issue. You can still see a spooky horse with 24/7 turnout, a stable buddy system, a forage only diet, and balanced vitamins/minerals, magnesium added, and even "extras" tried such as raspberry leaf, chromium, valerian, chamomile etc.

For some horses, this is how their brain works.
I don't see why it would be a problem to just teach the horse to adapt their responses to things if they are unable to get over their fear, as Phantomhorse has done with Phin. This is a workable solution for those who want to use the horse even if the horse does not get better about being frequently frightened. But I also think we have to accept that these horses might not be appropriate for certain owners with confidence issues or who want to do certain things like eventing that the horse might never adapt to.

That is my main point, that people should understand that sometimes fearfulness is a personality trait rather than something that can be trained away or that is due to abuse, management, or rider/handler error. It is something that sometimes needs to be accepted as part of who the horse is.
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post #37 of 50 Old 05-05-2019, 10:28 PM Thread Starter
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I took out Hamlet for some grazing today, just outside the farm. There is a bit of wetland where the grass has been growing insanely lately, so it's like taking him for pizza and ice cream. Up on a hill, about half a kilometer away, is a house just visible from where we stood. Three cars were leaving the house, only their top halves visible. Hamlet noticed them with his face in the grass, looked up, and watched the cars go by until they disappeared from sight.

The good news is: He doesn't need glasses. The bad news: He's ready to react, and potentially spook, at anything up to the horizon...
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post #38 of 50 Old 05-08-2019, 07:23 PM
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Love your analogy BSMS!!
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post #39 of 50 Old 05-08-2019, 10:08 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for all your input. If you are interested, I can now issue the final verdict on Hamlet.

I took him for a little ride today. It was 80% terrain he has become familiar with, 20% new. (There is a farm we pass that belongs to weekenders. I don't like to infringe on their privacy, so I usually stay out of sight when riding on the weekend. Today, I decided to go past the house and down their driveway towards the road that leads back to the farm.)

He was extremely relaxed on the familiar path and, just like last ride with the tractor and the semi flatbead, he got nervous in the unfamiliar surroundings. Being titrated on Valerian supplement, he showed some concern and started to trot, just like the last time. And just like the last time, he reverted to a walk as soon as he recognized where he was, again without my doing anything but encouraging him to keep at a sane pace at the trot.

He's not buddy sour (even though the minis were yelling for him), and he is not barn sour (because he was content to stroll home even though he was at the trot just before). He gets nervous with unfamiliar environments, and I think the supplement takes the edge off to a degree that my letting him "run off" his nervous energy won't be dangerous to me. Also, the more we ride at the new barn, the less often we'll encounter parts of the area he doesn't know about, so in time this will all sort itself out. Hopefully we won't have occasion to move barns again.

Because he didn't short circuit under stress, today was the second ride in a row where I exercised minimal control over him - I basically pointed his nose in the direction I wanted, that's it. When I went out to the farm in the evening (with my wife, after her work), he stood with me in the pasture for a good ten minutes while I was sitting on the pasture fence. (My wife and the minis were hanging out elsewhere.)

Thinking back, unfortunately I did have to lean on him hard when he went all crazy on me, but with a little help from the supplement industry this turned into a win-win for both of us: He's not unsafe for me to ride into surprises, but he's not so zonked out that he loses all situational awareness. He still pays attention. I wouldn't want it any other way. I need a horse that doesn't run on autopilot - neither on "fight or flight" autopilot, nor "dead inside" autopilot.
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post #40 of 50 Old 05-20-2019, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by loosie View Post
This is NOT classic 'approach & retreat' as I understand it. Albeit it is what a lot of 'natural horsemen' call it. It is approach approach approach approach, until the horse stops reacting. Aka 'flooding'. He explains that if she were to get frightened & reactive, he'd just keep it up for as long as it took for her to stop moving.

Hi Loosie. Just one comment about desensitizing as it is done by Clinton Anderson. The biggest mistake people make trying to follow his examples from these stupid advertising videos is to think they can take something that absolutely terrifies a horse and just continue to menace the horse with it until the horse stops reacting. If you actually did that, you would have a better chance of giving the horse a heart attack and getting yourself killed than doing any desensitizing.

If you watched an actual Clinton Anderson training video on something like desensitizing to having the horse's ears clipped, you would see that he starts with clippers that are not running, starts with them nowhere near the horse's ears and very gradually works up to being comfortable around the ears, moves on to running clippers, again starting away from the horse's head and working back up to the head with clippers on their side so the horse gets used to the vibration and sound without the cutting head, then moves on to actually doing any clipping. A video of the whole thing would very long and deadly boring.

Clinton likes to put instant fixes in his advertising videos, and people just tune out his constant reminders that he is showing an abbreviated version of his normal approach. You can say it's his own fault that people misunderstand his approach, and to some extent I agree, but like I've said a dozen time on this forum, what he does in an hour on his advertising videos would takes weeks in his actual program.
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