Updated: Dec 21, 2022
Hoses are by nature flight animals. They run off first and ask later, something that can be both frustrating and scary. However, doing some simple exercises shown in this vlog helps horses become braver and less spooky when trained and also on their spare time, because it changes their reaction when exposed to sounds, movement and unfamiliar ground layer from fear to relaxation.
In my opinion, the best way to help horses become braver, is to expose them to stuff that might scare them - while helping them find relaxation. This will change the horses behaviour from fear to relaxation Also called desensitizing. There are a couple things to be aware of before desensitizing a horse.
Teach your horse to respond to signals first
I only work on desensitizing after I have taught the horse to respond to body language from a distance, particularly being able to move the hind end and front end away from me. Desensitizing horses, without having this in place can be very dangerous.
1. If the horse spooks we have no tools to get the horse out of our space or to help the horse calm down.
2. If all we do is desensitizing a horse, it is going to be very hard to get said horse to respond to signals.
Desensitizing has many benefits
I think one of the best things about desensitizing horses is that we, as humans, learn a lot. What happens in terms of horses seeking relaxation and us rewarding it by releasing and taking the stimulus away, applies to many, if not all, aspects of horse-handling. Whether we are deworming, saddling, riding, or trailer loading. Also, by studying our horse`s body language, which is a big part of being able to desensitize without creating mayhem or a shut-down horse, we learn a lot about how horses communicate through posture and expressions.
Learn how you can help your horse become braver towards sounds, movement and unfamiliar ground layer by watching this video:
Common mistakes when doing this
When desensitizing, it’s very important we place ourselves correctly. Not holding them tightly, but rather give plenty of slack in the lead rope and space for the horse to move away or spook. It`s dangerous to be close to the horse, because if they spook, they might jump on us.
If we hold the horse on a tight lead while desensitizing, tie the horse up or in other ways make them stand still, chances are, we flood them. The horse will then stand still but without finding relaxation and go into what I call “statue mode.”
The problem with statue mode is that the horse isn`t as relaxed as he or she appears, the reaction goes inwards not outwards. If you suspect that your horse is standing still while holding tension, fix it by doing the exercise shown in this vlog: www.ridelikeaviking.com/post/relaxed-and-confident