Training with your horse is a great way to stimulate their mind and body and build a strong bond between the two of you. One thing that is important to remember when training your horse though, is that they tend to spook easily. That’s why you must take them through the process of desensitization, i.e., acclimating them to feared stimuli until they become non-reactive.
Here are a few of the best techniques to make desensitization successful for you and your horse!
Counter conditioning is a technique that aims to change a horse’s negative association with a feared stimulus into a positive association. To start with this method, introduce the feared stimulus to your horse at a low level of exposure. At the same time, present something positive, such as treats or perhaps a favorite blanket. The idea is that over time, your horse will begin to associate the feared stimulus with the reward, and their fear will dissipate.
This method of desensitization is similar to counter conditioning. The difference is that instead of offering a reward, you present your horse with a distraction when exposed to the feared stimulus. The goal with positive overshadowing is to draw your horse’s attention away from what they fear by giving them a task, such as asking them to back up or complete an exercise they like. Like with counter conditioning, your horse will learn to associate the stimulus with the positive feeling of accomplishment or having fun, eventually overshadowing their fear.
The approach conditioning method appeals to the natural curiosity of your horse. With this desensitization technique, you present the feared stimulus to your horse at a distance. Then, encourage them to approach it, drawing them closer with a reward that they receive when they move forward and remain calm. When they’ve moved toward it without showing signs of fear, move the stimulus further away from them. Your horse will be naturally inclined to follow it, and their fear will be replaced with interest. Keep in mind that it may take a few rounds of positive reinforcement until your horse approaches the feared stimulus on their own.
After a long day of training, your horse will need somewhere to relax and reenergize for your next session. With a portable horse barn from Deer Creek Structures, they’ll have a comfortable place to call home at the end of the day. Made in the heart of Texas, our shelters are expertly-built to withstand the test of time and keep your horses safe and secure.
Contact us today to learn more about the different size and customization options for our top-quality buildings!