Desensitising Your Horse – Part 2
An important thing that all trainers should note is that horses must constantly be kept untied, even while they are being led on and haltered. This practice ensures that your horse knows that it can always have the option of leaving if things get too scary for him. Your horse must follow you and trust you to feel safe. Although this might not happen in reality, such a psychological assurance is always good for your horse. Do not tie your horse up while introducing him to things that might frighten him.
Doing this will not help your horse get over its fear but only serve to teach it that it cannot escape even in these situations. The horse will often start getting panicky rather soon. As such, all horse owners and trainers should do well to note that tying a horse up and desensitising him are counterproductive. However, you should have your horse in a safe enclosure like a round yard. It should be big enough for your horse to be able to run away, but small enough for you to be able to round him up. A stable is not recommended as it is too small and you can get hurt. A 20 acre paddock is far too big for you to round your horse up. You will be running all day!
Instead, a good method to use is to start your desensitisation with the saddle pad. Try to let your horse see and smell it first before you start tossing it about. Most horses tend to feel far more relaxed after seeing or smelling the object first. However, there are rare cases where this can actually upset a horse even more. Always act according to the horse’s personality and gauge the right course of action to take.
Once the above is completed, you can comfortably start swinging the saddle pad all over the place. Your horse might very well side step in the beginning but that’s only natural and nothing to be alarmed about. An important point to note is that the pad should be moved around his body without touching it initially. Try to work where your horse can see the movement well. As he get more used to it, move the pad in closer to the body until you can rub the saddle pad all over him, from the necks, legs, belly, back end, chest to the head.
In addition, do ensure that you throw the saddle on the floor as well so your horse gets used to things being on the ground. Try it out for a few minutes then fling the saddle pad onto your horse’s back. His reaction upon this says a lot. If he takes a step back then stands relatively still, consider it a success. In the instance that he throws it off and goes into a fit, you might have to start from the very beginning again.
Getting your horse used to the saddle blanket is never an easy task. You will need to constantly work on it until your horse can readily and quietly accept the saddle blanket on its back. It is a great test of patience and determination so make it a point to ensure that you never quit even if they seem to get jumpy at the slightest touches. Work your way in and make the horse feel comfortable being around foreign objects. The end goal is to have the saddle pad on the horse and it standing obediently there awaiting your instructions.
It important to remember that your horse needs to feel safe with you. When he runs away, it means that he still doesn’t feel safe near you and you will need to go back to basics.
Never yell at your horse or hit him when he doesn’t do what you want. He sees the world differently than you and things are a lot scarier to him than you think. When he does the right thing, praise and reward him.