Desensitizing - How do you do it? - Page 5 - The Horse Forum
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post #41 of 50 Old 05-20-2019, 11:47 AM
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Probably my favourite desensitizing video of all time:

Schiller has actually changed his method quite a bit since making this, and takes a more gradual approach where he deals with the horse's baseline anxieties first... but... as far as desensitizing to a specific stimulus... this is fantastic!!
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post #42 of 50 Old 05-20-2019, 12:59 PM
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Another extremely simple Schiller one that WORKS -- I've done it (and actually, I've done the bag one too) -- but a surprising number of people don't ever get their horses "okay" with fly spray.

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post #43 of 50 Old 05-20-2019, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by SteadyOn View Post
Probably my favourite desensitizing video of all time:

Schiller has actually changed his method quite a bit since making this, and takes a more gradual approach where he deals with the horse's baseline anxieties first... but... as far as desensitizing to a specific stimulus... this is fantastic!!

I think it's interesting how even a well established trainer continues to evolve and change his approach. I have seen some of his recent videos, and he has moved much more toward , as you said, a way that incorporates the horse's emotional state and needs.

Also, not mentioned, is that the smacking of the bag is done in a rhythmic fashion. This helps it to become background stimulus. If he were randomly smacking or waving the bag, it would be harder for the horse to accept.
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post #44 of 50 Old 05-20-2019, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by mmshiro View Post
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...

I will say that your two scenarios are not equal. A person holding a "horse-eating-stick-with-a-bag-on-it" only 4 feet away from the horse is different than someone driving by on a motorcycle 100 feet away.

Plus it took 3 weeks to get the horses used to the motorcycle (hypothetically without proper timing), when it probably would only take 3 minutes to get them used to the bag-with-a-stick (with proper timing).

Plus .... a motorcycle is WAY scarier than a bag-on-a-stick.

As with anything, there is a correct way to do things and a wrong way to do things. It all comes down to presentation, timing, and reading the horse in front of you.

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post #45 of 50 Old 05-20-2019, 03:18 PM
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I think it depends on the horse, honestly. Some are worried more easily than others. It can take awhile for some to adjust to things.

For example, my young mare isn't spooked easily. Not a lot bothers her. At my old barn, they had put up about 45 new outdoor lawn chairs near the arena. At first, she was a bit hesitant to go up to them. But I walked her up calmly, and let her snort/sniff them. After that, she had no issues with them. I praised her heavily for it.

I know some other horses are 'easily' spooked, and some take longer to desensitize than others. Which is OK. Some horses just aren't as bold, or they need more confidence.

I am not a fan of CA.

But my horse is what I'd like to call 'easy' to desensitize. I expose her to what bothers her, then she's fine. Really, she just snorts a bit, sniffs then it's no big deal after that. I just expose her to whatever I can. I remember taking her on her first trail ride - she sniffed water, then went right over it, no big deal. My friend's horse was out about 10x total, and was still wary near the water. Depends on the horse. It took her about a few more times out to get him over it and OK with it.
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post #46 of 50 Old 05-21-2019, 05:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Joel Reiter View Post
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.
Maybe I too have 'tuned out' to that, as I don't remember hearing him say that, let alone constantly. But then, doesn't really matter IMO. I naturally analyse what is being said & done in a vid, and yes, if it's not an accurate 'view' of his philosophy/practice, then how stupid, to put that out there. I've seen him get after horses that were terrified, keep at them despite their terror, I've heard him say things like 'the more you frighten them the quieter they get... and quite frankly, it doesn't matter whether he only does it on Youtube or not, but that's what he puts out there.

Some info I've found helpful; [COLOR=Lime][B]
For taking critique pics; [COLOR=Lime][B]
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post #47 of 50 Old 05-21-2019, 09:55 AM
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I think both can be useful. I've always used the CA way, keep the pressure the same until the horse is done reacting.

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post #48 of 50 Old 05-21-2019, 01:40 PM
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the idea of desensitizing should be to face the horse with the 'scary thing only so much that he doesn't totally shut down mentally and go into utter panic mode. You want the horse to have enough mental presence to be able to look for , to think about, a 'way out' of his predicament. In fact, what you really want is for him to look to YOU for a way out. The more the horse is trained to look to you for his 'way out' of something that troubles him, the more likely he will do this , even when faced with some pressure that you are not putting on him yourself.

If a trainer puts on so much pressure that the horse leaves the thinking part of his brain and goes into total panic, then the horse no longer even 'sees' the human .
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post #49 of 50 Old 05-21-2019, 09:47 PM
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Some years back, my Arabian mare Mia spooked hard going down a trail we had been down a couple hundred times. The only thing I could figure triggered it was a Palo Verde tree had blossomed, covering it in yellow flowers that hadn't been there before. Internet picture of a Palo Verde in blossom:

Sure enough, two weeks later, she spooked again. The yellow blossoms had fallen off!

Aliens! What else could explain it? does one desensitize a horse to trees that blossom? Particularly when there are trees just like it next to her corral, and had been for years! And a year later, she did it again. Same type of tree. Different location.

"what you really want is for him to look to YOU for a way out" - @tinyliny


The only way I know to do it is to ride them out, face some tough spots, hang on, try to listen to the horse BEFORE the explosion - and eventually teach them your ideas on what to do when something scary happens are ideas that work well.

A few years ago, I was riding Cowboy when some idiots started testing their pistols without bothering to use a backstop or even looking to see if there was a trail going away just behind their target. Bullets started whipping around us. The other guy said he could see the bullets cutting vegetation next to Cowboy's legs. With no practical way to turn around and get out of the field of fire, we decided to race TOWARD the guns. Trooper and Cowboy, both experienced horses, were afraid. They had no idea what to do, but they were willing to listen to OUR idea. Which worked.

There is no sane way to prepare a horse for that specific scenario. But if they have learned you have good ideas, then they may startle hard...but then they will listen. Because they WANT to know what you think, and they WANT to obey you!
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post #50 of 50 Old 05-29-2019, 11:00 PM
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I like to desensitize by attrition. I currently have a 2 year old filly I am slowly bringing on to be ready for backing and riding next year. I expose her to the things I want her to become familiar with in a yard and she can run and snort and fart to her hearts content but very quickly her natural curiosity and desire to be with me kicks in and then things quickly become toys. A classic example was the first time I went out to her paddock to pick up her poo using a 25lt plastic feed bag. What a kerfuffle as I dragged the bag around the paddock! Now it's all I can do to get poo in the bag as every day is tug of war day and the best day ever is the one where she can get it off me altogether and throw it around the paddock.

I honestly believe that regardless of how well intentioned we are regarding desensitization - it is our own feelings and attitudes that will ultimately decide what a horse can and can't accept. It is very easy to teach a horse that something is frightening just through our own belief that a horse will find something difficult to cope with.

A great example of this was shown to me a few years back. A friend and I were both riding green young horses - not together - just working along a similar timeline if you know what I mean. Anyway, we both went about dealing with road traffic in our own ways. The road we lived on was actually perfect – some traffic, mainly farm vehicles – and 90% of it, people that we knew. My approach with my young horse when a vehicle approached was to keep him in the middle of the road and not react at all, on-coming traffic had no choice but to slow down as I wasn’t moving out of the way until they did so. The driver and I would then usually have a brief chat (or a good gossip). This gave my horse time to analyse what was coming his way and I never made a fuss, just kept him moving forward and past the now stationary vehicle – I know it sounds very arrogant and cheeky but I couldn’t give a crap and will do it again with the next one.

In the meantime my friend would get her horse as far off the road as possible, as quickly as possible, making him “face up” to the danger, while hanging on to him as tightly as possible to curb any reactions and constantly reassuring him in the face of imminent threat.

Interestingly my horse never had issues with traffic at all (as far as he was concerned he was the god of cars and could make them stop at his will) and her horse became so neurotic around traffic that he became dangerous. The more she tried to reassure him the worse he got. I honestly believe that her belief that her horse would find traffic scary created a problem, whereas my lack of reaction around traffic allowed my horse to draw his own conclusions.

Horses are so damned smart and sensitive to our nuances. If you believe that something is going to be scary for the horse that horse will believe it too. If you can remain indifferent and non-emotive as you bring something new into the horse’s environment they will take their cue from you. Either method of desensitization works when your horse can understand your body language and we can communicate with the horse clearly using our body language when our intentions are very clear.

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.D Adams

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