Welcome to Fern Valley
Here in central Alberta prime farm country,my husband Martin and I work together raising beef cattle and Appaloosa horses. Fern valley appaloosas have long been known for their quality of temperament conformation and color.I have recently rediscovered a love of writing and have published 2 collections of poetry. "Telling Tails" and Tails Trails and Campfire stories" . I look forward to a future spreading my wings as an author and as a horse woman .
Monday, 21 January 2013
Sense and desensitize
Thinking post again gang , and all of this is simply my opinion and my experiences. I am not here to tell you I am the next best thing in training . I am just here to share my thoughts and insights, take it,leave it as you wish .
I have been thinking about this for quite some time. The idea of "desensitizing" horses to certain items. Temple Grandin touched on this briefly in her talk to say ,(more or less) that a blue tarp at home on the barn may become familiar and safe to a horse, but that an Orange tarp flapping off the pack on the trail is a whole different thing .Another prime example is here, my horses are raise around and even at times in with cattle Beef cattle so all should be well right? Well try the neighbors yearling holstein getting loose a few years ago and wandering onto the farm a little rattled and" heads up" You would have thought the Circus had come to town . Jazz and co took out 2 fences in their panic! Even Unflappable Johnnie ,steady Eddie Blue and Stryker were a bit bug eyed!
So if that is the case why do we desensitize? If it is impossible to think of every possible thing that may or may not spook a horse . And I know from experience,NOTHING prepares you for a frying pan bouncing along beside a panicked horse in a shale wash in the mountains !!!
So what is this about ?I see and read a lot of folks talking about "desensitizing" to this and that , and they seem to have the how down , but I am not sure if they have the why. And without the why ,in my opinion the how doesn't really work or matter . As I said above you are never going to think of every possible scenario, so the why is paramount !I believe a limited amount of desensitizing is a good thing in that it is a TOOL to teach your horse , teach them what?Quite simply to FOCUS on you . So that when your horse is startled , spooked,panics which they all invariably will do at some point the skills you have built into their training will help you to focus them on you and less on the object of fear. The one rein stop does what? slows them, brings their attention back to you , as do several other tools .
So when I am working a horse, same as halter breaking ,I use small steps and don't hold the horse hard and fast rather I let them move but I move with them in a circle , so that I am encouraging them to stop.when they do I stop, and then start again until they are calmly accepting whatever I am doing .Now during this process I do ask a little harder each time for them to stop or to at least face up, because running in circles doesn't actually accomplish much unless there is an end point , once they focus on me even briefly I ease the pressure , then add a little and so on . Does it matter what I desensitize to? well yes and no, a rope around a leg can and does happen so I guess you could do that, and the girth /cinch is a good thing to introduce (I actually prefer that than desensitize ) same as eventually pad saddle etc but mostly what I am about when I am introducing things is getting them to react to it and bring back focus to me.And I am not saying never practice new things, if you are going on a trails ride and your horse has never seen water? show it to him if you can . And practice trail obstacle etc , I am just saying , you can show a horse 50 flags and one day it will be a different color and size and it wont be a flag to them , so what do you do then if you cannot get him to focus on you ? That is paramount to safety, the horse should be focused on you , or able to be brought back to focus easily. And that is what I think "desensitizing" exercises are about .which when taken that way its not at all about desensitizing , it actually makes your horse more sensitive and therefore more responsive.And that horse "when the Circus comes to town" , will keep you safe .
Clear as mud? As I said in the beginning it is my opinion and based on my experience . All are welcome to their own opinion. A desensitized horse to me is a slab sided deadhead who wouldn't know a circus from a circle .
So maybe its is about terminology and I am totally off base or ...
Anyhow stay safe my friends