I was out playing with Heildorf the other day when the UPS guy showed up. He came flying past to deliver a package to the back door, instead of the easier to reach front door. But, whatever. I like our usual lady better.
Those trucks are scary! The make all sorts of racket. I wouldn’t blame any horse for being scared.
And Heildorf was.
We practiced a few of our basic responses though. The same ones I use anytime we encounter something that scares my horses. Riding or on foot.
I let him move his feet.
Horses have a terrible time holding still when they are scared. The more we can let them move the easier they will be able to deal with their emotions. Avoiding being run away with is always important! We can let them circle though, or walk a little. On the ground we can let them move as much as they would like while staying safe. Keep a hold of the lead rope, or, if you are in an enclosed area, let them go!
Here Heildorf hit the end of the lead and that was enough for him. He was able to start coming back to me.
Reward, reward, reward!
Don’t think that if you reward your horse once they’ve finished spooking that you are going to train them to spook. Instead you are training them to come back to you. To look to you for comfort once they get past the initial fear.
Then you are building positive associations. They will start to think of the scary thing as bringing good things, food.
Time and patience.
It doesn’t do any more good to force a horse to confront what they fear than it would do for us. If every time we saw a spider in the house we were forced to go up to it and touch it, we wouldn’t start not being afraid of spiders!
Instead we would dread finding them more and more. We would start searching them out ahead of time so we wouldn’t be forced to go through with the confronting part!
If instead, every time we saw that spider, someone comforted us. Told us about the spider, how they can’t really hurt you. They will take care of the spider for you so you don’t have to face it. Then maybe gave you a piece of chocolate 😉 Son you would not only stop dreading the spider but turning faithfully to the one who helped you deal with it. Trusting them to help you out.
That’s what we want from our horses. To turn to us without hesitation any time they are afraid and to trust us to make it alright.
- Brave Harvey
- For The Horse Whorl Forum Page