Desensitizing Your Horse To Objects That Spook It
If you have been very long time horse person, you have experience with horses that spooked at something that they saw, heard or smelt. If you happen to have got a lot of young horses, you’ll have had this sort of experience more often than once. Some horses are really capable of facing just about any situation with equanimity, while other horses are so fragile they can get spooked by their own shadows. Some horses will take just a tiny bit of time out to check whatever spooked them and either become placid again or take off in a tearing hurry. I’ve been on horses that were so spooked I might have sworn I heard their heart beats through the saddle! Manifestly, that isn’t a encouraging thing to occur to a horse or human.
Some horses are vehement in their reactions to something that may be scary and unfamiliar. Others fight their fears and shortly put the whole thing out their minds. A history of getting preyed upon by predators has made horses highly susceptible to their surroundings. Obviously, we cannot change this in-built nature, because it is this nature that enabled survival down the ages.
But here is a fact: even the touchiest of horses can be aided to conquer its fears if the problem is approached with a well devised plan and a calm, unflappable manner.
You can make a pony learn easier if you are able to assure him that whatever you do with him isn’t going to put any person at peril. You can’t even begin to guess the many thousands of stimuli that may set off panic in horses; what can be done is to identify as many of them as you can and help your pony get numbed to them.
As with many other coaching techniques involving horses, it’s advisable to start from ground zero when you set about numbing your foal to objects that spook it. You are far safer off when you start this way, as this type of approach helps instil belief in your horses faster. You can swap to bolstering the lessons from on top of a saddle at a later stage.
You must be acquainted with advancing and retreating, because it is vital for effective desensitization of your mount. A horse starts panicking if he is unable to escape from something he considers seriously threatening. At some stage, the horse may just surrender and attempt to live with the threatening object, but he can never be confident around it, and that is no good for rider safety. I recollect once buying a young horse who had undergone some such experience in his life. He would stand rigidly still in the vicinity of moving objects like a swinging rope or possibly even a hand. He showed the of great fright: head held high up, eyes wide and unblinking, and a tendency to flinch if touched. Typically, horses will endure things so long as is possible for them and then explode into action; they may buck or they may bolt.
Advancing and retreating is a system of desensitizing a horse by introducing it to the object it fears in such a way the pony gets rewarded for standing still by immediate withdrawal of the object. The practice is repeated with the object staying just a bit longer every time, until the horse ultimately loses its fear of the object when referring to the realization that there was nothing to fear about the object to start with. At that stage, the horse relaxes absolutely.
Take the example of a horse that fears a big ball. Get that foal on a lead of between 12 and 22 feet long with the object in reach. Let the pony look at the object whenever it wants, and let it approach the object if it wants to. Don’t force it into doing anything whatsoever. Let it act on its own accord. If your horse shows intensive fright, turn and lead the horse away, with the ball in the center of you and the horse. Generally, horses are less apprehensive when they’re moving towards something, compared to that something moving towards them. Once your horse gets inured to that, turn again and walk backward with the ball between again. At the first stages, the pony will resist to the entire length of the lead rope, but as time passes, their curiosity will overcome their fear and they are going to come nearer to the ball, till eventually they recognise it as a totally harmless object. Remember that you can achieve all of this only if you never force the pony to do anything all through the process.
When the pony eventually has become curious enough to approach within sniffing distance of the ball, hold the ball still and let him sniff it a bit before removing the ball again to a distance. This way, you ensure your pony doesn’t fall back to a condition of unease. The time is coming soon enough when you can move the ball slowly towards the pony without causing any fear. But it will happen only if you don’t try to force things along, Once the foal is totally at home with the ball. On the ground, approach the horse with the ball held at shoulder height. As fast as you see any sign of anxiousness, retreat. You can try approaching from various angles, always making sure that you don’t cause the pony to get excessively frightened. At some particular stage, which should be determined by the horse itself, he’ll become so used to the ball you can bounce it off him and roll it under him and he won’t even notice it is there.
You can use the advance and retreat method with nearly any article. As time progresses, you will find it amazing that your horse has adapted to so much. It makes him much better to be around with.