Horsemanship — 4 Part Harmony for De-spooking
1 part emotional control + 1 part trust + 1 part wisdom/understanding + 1 part “time”
The above equation is an easy way of remembering everything we need for helping our horse get over fear of something. We do not need special equipment.
First we need emotional control. It is NEVER NEVER NEVER the horse’s fault therefore we cannot get mad at the horse. Most horses when confronted with a “spooky” object will have a raised emotional level and be excited. We as the rider need to accept that this will happen and then we proceed with the training and never blame the horse. Never blame the breed, sex, or age of the horse. We stay calm and we stay focused on achieving our objective—to de-sensitize our horse to the “spooky” object.
Secondly, we need to establish a relationship of trust with our horse. If our horse has trust in us then de-spooking will be much easier to accomplish. I said easier — not simple and with no work. How do we develop trust? We work with our horse and teach our horse to look to us as the leader.
The third part is wisdom and understanding. We as the rider need to develop a knowledge base and learn how to de-spook a horse, how to interpret a horse’s actions, how to plan a series of activities and exercises that will help us “de-spook” our horse. We need to understand that a horse is a fight or flight animal and >90% will choose to run away if given the opportunity. Understand this and work with your horse. Have the understanding and wisdom that 1 day of work will not solve all your problems and give you a perfectly de-spooked horse. We also need ot understand that horse vision is not like human vision. Horse’s do not see the same way so we need to better understand how a horse sees objects.
Finally, but most importantly, this process takes time. If you want that horse that does not run away from new objects then you need to spend the time to work with your horse. How long will it take—this depends on each rider and each horse because both are unique. Some may be de-spooked in 5 minutes; others might need 5 months.
If we work on not getting agitated and maintain our emotions, then we can develop a trusting relationship with our horse. Add in some wisdom and understanding and lots of time and you are on the road to success.
Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician and author of multiple books and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com). This is reprinted from Dr. Mike’s Horsemanship “On The Trail Guide” available for free at www.dunmovinranch.com.