Horses are really quick learners and allowing your horse to learn things on their own without your pressure can be really beneficial. By allowing your horse to use their natural curiosity and explore their world on their terms, they will naturally desensitize themselves. This can even save you training time in the long run.
You may be thinking what is this person even talking about. Well, I’m going to give you some examples and from there you can use your own imagination to come up with even more things.
*Please be advised it is best to keep an eye on your horse when they are around any of these objects or during these exercises. You don’t know what they will do with objects that could potentially harm them. Never leave objects in your pen permanently, harmless as they may seem.
Food on a tarp
Tarps have become a popular training tool. You can have horse walk over them, carry them, or even drag them. But they can be a pretty scary object to a horse in the beginning. One way to introduce a tarp is to put your horse’s food on it. The horse will figure out pretty quickly the tarp isn’t too scary.
Now I’m not saying this completely desensitizes your horse to tarps, so they are ready to carry it around or drag it, but it’s a nice place to start.
Remove the tarp after they are done eating, so it doesn’t blow away.
Tying Your Horse
Do you ever tie your horse for extended periods of time? It’s a skill that your horse should have. And when you come back to them, there shouldn’t be a hole from pawing either. Tying builds patience.
To begin, tie your horse near the other horses. At least in sight of them. As your horse progresses with this, move them away from the herd. I wouldn’t leave them tied more than an hour the first few times. And always keep an eye on them during this period to ensure safety. Don’t tie them so loose they can get a leg caught, either. And lastly, make sure your horse is tied somewhere comfortable, such as in a shaded spot if it is hot.
If your horse is in a small pen, you could tie some plastic bags along the fence. They will blow in the wind and your horse will naturally grow accustom to them. Or you could hang a few around your barn or shed that your horse has to be around.
Obstacles are so fun and are really great at building confidence in your horse, but have you ever considered putting some in your pen or paddock? Perhaps a curtain that they must walk under or some pool noodles they either have to step over or through. I purchased some caution tape for $5. As you can see, Mathias was naturally curious of it as soon as I hung it.
Is there something your horse is afraid of? Have you considered placing that object in their pen so they can investigate it on their own terms? When training a colt, you could put him in a round pen with the saddle on the ground for him to sniff and investigate. Take this concept and apply it with just about anything, but keep an eye on your horse while you do this.
Teaching your horse to be hobbled can be invaluable. It teaches them to stay calm when they can’t run or if their foot is caught in something. But this can be dangerous for different reasons, so I won’t give advice on how to train a horse to hobbling, but I’ll add a video to watch below. I worked with Poncho in a round pen. The first time I only left the hobbles on a minute before taking them off. He did really well with it and felt it was enough for the first time. It’s something I will gradually introduce. I highly recommend the technique below with the cotton rope and the quick-release knot to start. At least, I felt more comfortable with it.
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