Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Desensitization in the Young Horse

I mentioned recently that Francie is very spooky.  She freaks out of birds flying by, the sound of my voice, cars turning in the driveway.  You name it - it might be spaz-worthy.

I decided some desensitization was in order.  I remember doing similar activities with Phoenix when I was training him twenty years ago.  I do this a little more gradually than some of the horse trainers, but I do feel gentle exposure to intimidating things is helpful later on.  Also, just going through the process of facing the monsters with a horse helps to strengthen the trust bond. 
 
I created some 'scary' obstacles in the arena.  Francie didn't have much trouble with my first creations, so I decided to up the scare factor.  I went out and bought....a scary blue tarp.  You can see - just riding by the blue tarp was terrifying. 

One thing especially horrifying about the blue tarp is that when you step on it, it makes crunchy noises.

Horses don't like the noise.  Or the color.  I just keep reassuring her.  This helps strengthen the trust bond between us.  Francie learns that I'm hear to support her when life gets scary.  She knows I am by her side to offer kind encouragement.

Francie wants to rush across everytime.   
On this day, it was raining, and the light drizzle made more noises on the tarp.

My brave girl.
After a few days of repeated blue tarp exposure, Francie finally let me ride her over the tarp.
Gentle, repeated exposure to intimidating things really does work.
You don't have to force them.
Just reassure, and keep trying.
A little each day is fine, in my experience.
What a good girl.
Next up?
A scary pool noodle contraption.
Fun times!


21 comments:

TexWisGirl said...

such a good girl!

Sunnybrook Farm said...

Dusty can be scared of the strangest things an yet pays no attention to others. We don't want to talk about the dreaded piece of black plastic blowing on a weed, that evil thing that was the size of a cat looked just like a horse killing beast.

Blackberry Lane said...

She is beautiful and very lucky to have you. Good job.

mail4rosey said...

I'm glad she let you ride her across the tarp. Her heart must be getting healed w/you in her life. That's a very touching thing. :)

Steve Surratt said...

I see your shirt and pants had the same color. Was that on purpose to associate those colors with something she already trusted?

Harry Flashman said...

Cavalry horses used to be trained in similar fashion. They had to be broken in to gunfire, small doses at a time.

Ginny said...

You are a real horse expert! I don't know how you come up with these things. It is scary to me, because she could have dumped you off in her fear. Please be real careful, Lisa.

Ginny said...

I can't help it, I am the mom of all bloggers!

Enie Dub said...

How interesting!

Looks like you have a good bond with the horse.

Out on the prairie said...

You have some patience to work with this

Tweedles -- that's me said...

Good job!
love
tweedles

Beth, ...".E." Lizard Breath Speaks said...

i am curious - have you had much horse training. sorry i don't know if you have spoken about this before or not? have you been raised around them? i have always wanted to learn more about them & even to learn to ride. ( :

Tina Fariss Barbour said...

You are such a good therapist! I like your gentle approach in building trust. I think this would work on people too. :-)

I didn't know that certain colors bothered horses. I am learning!

BTW, I like those boots you're wearing.

Lexie Loo, Lily, Liam, and Dylan Too! said...

She's beautiful! My horse was like that when I first got him. He spooked at everything! I really do miss riding. I just don't have the time anymore and my horse is an old man.

A Quiet Corner said...

So god that you have the time to devote to her, Baby Girl!...:)JP

Michael Manning said...

Lisa: This post brought me back to presentations I've seen with the desensitization program that the Scottsdale Police Mounted Horse Unit uses. I wondered if you witnessed that here in town? Similar to what you're doing.

Sally Crowe said...

You're doing so wonderfully with her!

And, girl I didn't realize how tiny you are! :)

Betsy Adams said...

Hi There, We are home from several days in Texas visiting family/friends. If you haven't seen my blog post today, check it out.. We had a wonderful time--but came home very TIRED.... ha

Looks like you are training Francie well. She's gorgeous...

Hugs,
Betsy

Lynn said...

bravo to the two of you :-) she is so beautiful.

Roan said...

She is a beautiful horse. She's doing great!

Lin said...

Wow. Amazing work...and that she is really coming around.