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This is a reply to another post on here where people were giving their opinion's on wither or not bomb-proofing was worth it or not. But since the post was older, I was unable to reply to it there. So here is how I view it.

My view on "bomb-proofing" and desensitizing a horse is that it can only be done to an extent. I have read other people's views on the topic and I agree with most people to some degree. I've seen horses who don't care about things that are normally "scary" to a horse (like an umbrella or a tarp) but are terrified of a plastic cup. Horses are unique and unpredictable animals, and while there is no such thing as a 100% bombproof horse (in my opinion) I do not find bomb-proofing harmful. Done the right way, it can be fun and trust building for you and your horse. Plus it gives you something to do if you have a young horse that is not broke to ride or a horse that is on down time from the saddle. The only harm done in bomb-proofing is if you do it in ways that only install more fear of you than the item the horse is afraid of...which can also cause physical harm to both you or the horse. I do bomb-proofing work with my horses all the time, and I've seen my horse do fine with something at home and freak out about the same thing in any other location...but there is no harm in knowing that a plastic bag on the trail is only scary to your horse while on the trail (for whatever reason)

The things to remember are:
1. Horses have a mind of their own and their own ideas of what is scary and what isn't.
2. Bomb-proofing work, as well as any other work with horses, should always be fun and safe for everyone involved.
And
3. Some of the best "bombproof" horses still spook at random things...but if the rider or handler can remain in control of the situation and safely guide their horse past the item, then it doesn't matter. My view is bomb-proofing is done as a fun exercise that CAN help, but shouldn't be stopped when it doesn't help. The more experiences your horse has the better acting it will be in new situations, and as long as everyone is safe and had fun at the end of the day...that's all that matters to me.

So yeah. A few things to know about me, is that I love to share my views on things. I completely understand that everyone has their own opinion, and I respect their opinions...I just like to give mine (in a non-insulting or belittling way) to try and open other people to whatever topic is at hand. I don't try to change your views, I just let you know that I have my own ways of viewing things.

If you agree, or even disagree with my views on Bomb-proofing, I encourage you to reply...since I also love feedback. Please be nice in your reply, lets try and keep things as a friendly discussion of opposing viewpoints.
 

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I do not believe in bomb-proofing in the traditional sense. Exposure helps, sure, but you can never ever expose a horse to everything they are going to be afraid of. 35 year old horses still spook, and they have seen a lot.

The important thing is to know your horse, and to train the horse to follow you. I believe strongly in the herd mindset. Horses, when they believe you are their leader, act way differently when spooked than those who believe they are on top. If you know how your horse will respond, how they react when they are terrified, and what to expect, that's half the battle. The other part, after you've gotten your horse to respect you, is to teach them to ignore that spooky thing. I do this by acknowledging the horse's fear, calming them down, and then continuing with whatever I was doing. I do not attempt desensitization except for in the case of objects carried while riding (saddle, flag, saddle bags, etc). Other than that, I teach the horse to focus on me when they are afraid, guide them around that fear,and then continue with the task at hand.
 
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A true bomb-proof horse is almost non-existant. Yeah you can introduce your horse to everything under the sun, doesn't mean they are bomb-proof. It just means they've been exposed to a lot. In my expierience, a true bomb-proof horse is to old, tired, probably deaf, and close to blind to react to anything, LOL
 

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A true bomb-proof horse is almost non-existant. Yeah you can introduce your horse to everything under the sun, doesn't mean they are bomb-proof. It just means they've been exposed to a lot. In my expierience, a true bomb-proof horse is to old, tired, probably deaf, and close to blind to react to anything, LOL
Or they are dead :shock:
Don't believe in fully bombproof either.
 

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A pile of gravel freaked out my daughter's horse when we went riding. All of a sudden she just jumped sideways and looked at the rock like it was a giant lion about to eat her. Horses have vivid imaginations, apparently.
 
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No such thing as bombproof. You can't tell people to not be scared of spiders or snakes or the dark. You work with them as best you can.

I don't go for all of that baloney. I handle my horses from foals on up the same way. I appreciate that one might not like the dead logs along side the trail and another might not take kindly to barking dogs. I care as long as they respond to the human at the other end of the lead rope or reins.
 

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I'm all for desensitizing and exposing a horse to new things at every opportunity, but you're never going to get a truly 100% bombproof animal.

For me, the value is not in ticking individual items off the "Great List of Scary Things," but in building and reinforcing a pattern of behavior, a new set of habits in the horse. It's not about the plastic bag (or umbrella, or cap gun, or chainsaw...) I'm waving until he stands still, it's about him learning that running away from the scary thing does not make it go away. Standing still and relaxing does. Do that enough, and with enough scary objects, and the habit of stop and relax rather than head for the hills transfers to new situations. The point is to build a "good habit" over top of the flight reaction. Of course, that flight reaction is old as time, and is always going to reassert itself in times of "extreme crisis," but it can be buried pretty deep in most horses.

The other side of the coin is just as important -- keeping the horse's feet moving and his attention on you in a frightening situation. Again, all about promoting and rewarding a pattern of behavior in which the horse checks in with you when he's concerned about something in the environment, instead of checking out the back door.
 

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Agree with Scoutrider. I want my horse desensitized to stuff, but what is truly important is knowing that if something does scare my horse that he/she has the sense to listen to me, their rider, and I can get the horse under control within a couple of steps or so.
 

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My understanding is that the point of 'bombproofing' is NOT to desensitize them to everything, but to learn how to respond to stress by looking to their rider. What causes the stress is irrelevant. What is important is that they learn to calm down quickly, and hopefully learn that standing still is better than running in blind terror.

Think about a wild horse living in the desert or mountains. If it responds to every fear with blind panic, it will die early. Even if it runs away, it needs to pay enough attention and have enough control to watch its footing and not break a leg.

That is what I want in a 'bombproof' horse. He can startle, jump sideways, or even run 50 yards and THEN look - I don't mind. Ideally, though, and what the trainer I hired and I are trying to teach my spooky mare, is that standing still is her safe zone. And it seems to be getting thru. The last few times she has been scared of something, she turned to face the danger and stood still. Or backed up under my guidance, until she felt we were at a safer distance. That beats the tar out of spinning, bolting in blind panic, doing a few 360s, bolting some more, etc...
 

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I had what I would call a "bombproof" horse. Sure, she looked at stuff but when or if (rarely) something startled her, she just stood in place & froze, waiting for reassurance from her protector (rider). No, she wasn't the perfect horse, she was mareish witchy mare, but she never did anything unexpected when startled or scared, just stood.
 

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Great thread and agreed. Pheasant can be a problem here. Luckily my horse slides his back legs under him when he spooks. It's great. He actually sets me deeper in the saddle when he does it. But I don't think he'll ever get used to the crAzy wind here. And neither will I :)
 

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There is no such thing as a bombproof horse…only bombproof riders.


Great thread and agreed. Pheasant can be a problem here. Luckily my horse slides his back legs under him when he spooks. It's great. He actually sets me deeper in the saddle when he does it. But I don't think he'll ever get used to the crAzy wind here. And neither will I :)
The wind bothers a lot of horses…I think it's because they are wired mentally to pay attention to movement, and when it's windy, everything is moving…it's distracting/irritating. They also don't like the sound of the wind in their ears, it's distracting/irritating as well.
 
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I have come to the view that horses have to face their fears throughout their lives. So much depends on how they grew up.

The most stable of the nine horses which I have been close to, was brought up in a school. He was a union shop steward by mentality and he refused to ever put himself at risk. He was a dull but very safe ride. I bought him to teach my brother. He'd been with a young woman and had taught her to ride. She had bought him from a riding school. I think he tolerated humans because he knew he had to. I never really developed an affection for him, but I did trust him. Later I sold him to a friend whom he taught to ride.

My cob Joe had a similar cussed streak in him. He'd spent his life in a trekking centre until they let him go. If he didn't like the rider, then he'd go down on his knees and threaten to roll on them. He never did roll, but the incompetent rider had got the message.

With hindsight, he fought with me partly because I put him with a classical riding instructor who tried to put him 'on the bit'. When, after a few sessions with her, he started to rear I told her to go away - but he never forgave me. He was pretty bombproof in so many ways. Little actually frightened him.

But then he discovered his ultimate weapon against all humans:- he would stop, balk, then whirl through 180 degrees to the left and take off at the gallop. When he discovered how to to it downhill, on a hard surface I had to give in. He was virtually lawless.

I sent him back to the woman who had known him all his life to re educate him - she was a professional rider (not a trainer). One day I watched her riding him, he respected her and he obeyed her without resistance. As a rider she had no style: she slouched, she smoked, she rode with loose, sloppy reins. One day I watched her ride him off into a looming hail storm. Later I watched him with her 4 year old son - whom he meekly took around the paddock sitting on his back. She used to ride one hore and lead her young son, sat on Joe.

Joe had formed a bond with that woman and there was no way by which I could replace her in his mind. Through a combination of circumstances I gave him back to her. He was, I thought, safe with her.

Six months later, he went lame again from a weakened check ligament and partly for financial reasons, she put him down. I don't know the details, I suspect she had let some stranger ride him
He had fought me almost to the extent of being lawless, yet he had worshipped her, who killed him.

You'll not make a bomb proof horse, it is either in them to be one or it isn't.
The rider can only bring the trait out.
 

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We had a Bar Flower mare that carried my daughter to AQHA shows from the time she was 5 years old until the time she was 13. She was an unflappable mare that would jog right on by litteraly anything going on. When my daughter first started riding her (when she was a wee one) if she began to even move in the saddle like she was loosing her balance that mare would stop, wait for her to get straightened around and then move on like nothing happened. As my daughter got older and started loping, (she would go out and put a bridle on the mare and ride her bareback in the padock) once in a while she would fall off(usually if the mare stopped to hard for her LOL) and that mare would put on the brakes and stand there right beside my daughter so she could crawl back up on her.
She was a truly awesome mare, that for several years was a trusted and faithful babysitter for my daughter from the backyard at home to the Major Shows in Canada such as Quarterama back in the 70s.
Horses like her are hard to find and never can be replaced. The mare I believe was born with a very kind and calm heart and mind, trained by people who reinforced and nurtured her personality and finally when she came to us as a partner for our daughter had already had seven years of experience.
The mares life was almost orchestrated from the day she was born by mother nature and great training, to become who she became. Had one thing been different in her life I think she would have been a different personality.
So I believe Bomb Proof horses are born of great blood lines, and nurtured by great trainers. If both ingredients are not there it wont and cant happen even to the best bloodlines.
 

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QUOTE:
Horses like her are hard to find and never(RARELY) can be replaced. The mare I believe was born with a very kind and calm heart and mind, trained by people who reinforced and nurtured her personality and finally when she came to us as a partner for our daughter had already had seven years of experience.
The mares life was almost orchestrated from the day she was born by mother nature and great training, to become who she became. Had one thing been different in her life I think she would have been a different personality.
So I believe Bomb Proof horses are born of great blood lines, and nurtured by great trainers. If both ingredients are not there it wont and can't happen even to the best bloodlines. UNQUOTE

Annie, well said.

You can't read up on how to do it - either you do what you believe to be right for the horse - or it doesn't work.
and
until horses learn to talk, that's the way it will always be.
 

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My horse has been trained to be a bombproof trail horse. He's been exposed to any scary object you could think of, will ride blindfolded, in pitch black darkness, is not afraid of tarps, umbrellas, sudden noises, wild animals...anything at all. Yet he is a horse with normal horse instincts, so he, naturally, spooks from time to time. And here comes the training - he then just freezes and waits for my instructions. If something really, really scary happens, he might take a step or two back, but otherwise he will keep his ground. That, for me, is a truly bombproof horse.
 

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There’s no such thing as a really bomb proof horse that is still walking about. So much depends upon the interplay between horse and rider. If a bomb did go off, then so would any horse.

I know of a delightful and very capable mare who is looking for a new home. She is at her prime time of life and doing well in dressage. The reasoning for her owners looking for a new home for her are not of the horse’s making and is nothing to do with economics. To the right home she’ll almost be given away. But the right home is so hard to find.

There is a problem with her - she is sensitive. She’ll skip about for no good reason if the mood suits her, but she is never dangerous - just a little lively. However if you want a horse that is forward going and sensitive to the touch then that is what you must expect. Also she is an individual, you’ll not find another mare quite like her. She has a sense of right and wrong.

Knowing her situation I have spoken with a couple of horsey people about her. I ask what they are looking for in a horse and nine times out of ten they will say ‘a bomb proof horse’. Immediately I’ll switch off and change the subject. After all, a stable sensitive horse is half of the combo of horse and rider and nothing will go right when the horse is calm and the rider is neurotic.

Remember when it comes to schooling, the horse goes round the edge of the arena and the handler stands in the middle. It doesn’t work the other way around.
 
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