Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
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Thursday, September 2, 2010


I am desensitizing a training horse. She is afraid of her own shadow. She is afraid of loud noises. She is afraid of the un-expectant noises and quick movements.

I basically did the same as I did the day before. I free lunged her. I do this to set up dominance. I am her herd mare. She needs to look to me for leadership. I use my 60x120 indoor arena (most people do this in the round pen). I like to use the larger area of my arena as it will put less stress on the horse’s legs going around in circles. In a traditional 50’ or 60’ round pen, the horse is circling tight, and that puts strain on the inside on the front legs.

Then I worked her around the pen to get her to bond with me. I wanted her to walk up to me. I did have her approach me, but she never did come right up to me. The owner has told me that she takes awhile to warm up to people. I always will walk up to the horse, hold out my hand for the horse to sniff, and then rub the horse between and around her eyes. The mare became comfortable enough to follow me as I walk around and serpentine the arena. This is a good sign of acceptance of my leadership.

After she was comfortable walking with me, I started making noise with the bag. The day before didn’t go well when the bag was too close to her. I stayed further away from her as I was crinkling the bag. This took about 1/2 hour to free lunge her as I was making noises with the bag and for her not to be excited about hearing the bag.

I have an old whip that I have a very used plastic bag attached to the end. I swish that lunge whip around her until she stands still while I touch her with it and the baggie. I flick it around her legs and over her head. I lay it on the ground and drag it around her.

Then I attached the new bag to the old bag on the lunge whip. This made a big difference in noise as the bag was fluffier and filled with air. She went to her corner of the arena that she has used as her safety net. I stayed on the other end of the arena, swishing the bag on the ground and twirling it in the air. When she seemed at ease, I walked towards the middle of the arena, staying there when she became noticeably uneasy.

When she began to run down the long side of the arena, I stopped moving the bag and walked away from, her. When she went back up the arena to the far end, I began making noise with the bag again. As I got closer to her end, she started moving across that end of the arena, I kept changing her direction and kept her on the far end of the arena. When she quit moving back and forth, I started walking closer to her. I ended up being able to swirl the bag and slapping the ground about 30’ from her.

When she seemed to relax and lick her lips and chew, I moved to about 20 feet from her. I was able to move the bag on the ground about 10' from her head. Then I walked away with the bag dragging on the ground.

She would follow me, by she cocked her head at the bag, keeping one eye on that white bag.

But she followed me and that ended the day on a very good note.

She is still not relaxed but I ended up making enough noise with the bag that she is slowly become desensitize to that stimuli. Then I will move on the shaking a water bottle with rocks in it, holding a flag and flapping it around, and any other noise I can think of.

This horse’s first instinct is to run, and I want her to stop and think and wait on my for cues. We can not blame her for running as this is her natural instinct. I am hoping to build some confidence in her that she will not be so scared the next time something un-expectant startles her.

More on desensitizing next week.

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