DIY Desensitizing - Pt. 1
Desensitizing your horse to a variety of experiences is vital to shaping a well-versed mount that will be dependable under the potential of duress. Especially for those who enjoy trail riding, expect to get into quite a few excitingly unexpected and precarious positions. Having the opportunity to expose your horse to a plethora of controlled training scenarios is an invaluable asset to your horse’s long-term riding career. The following tips are building blocks for those interested in constructing their own, simple, yet effective, system for desensitizing their horse in a variety of ways.
Various DIY projects can be both easily thrown together as well as somewhat complicated to a certain degree of carpentry skill. Knowing your riding aspirations will help you select the right obstacles to help you reach your goals. As best as possible, the following ideas have been broken down into separate divisions, ones in which define the amount of involvement/time required to create them. The Simple group is comprised of exactly as it sounds: quick and easy ideas that can be thrown together on a whim for days when you want to polish special one or two areas. The Eat A Day group will be those that take most of the day/night to create, whether it be in setting materials or cement. Finally, the Weekend K.O. group will be the few left that may take up a day or two of your time but that which you invest into it will last you longer than you can imagine. Plus, the wealth of experience your horse(s) will gain from it will make the investment of time more than worth it.
SIMPLE DIY PROJECTS
Hula Hoop – Purchased at general convenience stores (Walgreens, Walmart, etc.) These alone make excellent training tools. However, when decked out with streamers, lights and other bells and whistles, the possibilities are endless.
Drag Bag – I would recommend the use of any sturdy bag such as a burlap sack or feed sack. Fill your drag bag with noisy objects: aluminum cans filled with a few marbles in each, soup cans, etc. (NO GLASS!) Tie off your bag securely before attaching it to a drag rope of preferred length (suggest at least six feet
Tire Run – This is relatively quick to whip up once you’ve acquired the preferred amount of tires. Minimum recommendation is 16 then lash each together in rows of 4. Useful for footwork and raising awareness.
Water Hazard – One 10 – 12’ tarp and four wooden beams of equal length that will set on/anchor the tarp. Ideal to place over concave area. Fill with water hose.
Noise and Visual Makers - Any dollar/99 cent store is chock full of great training aids ranging from pin wheels, pop guns, streamers, fans, umbrellas, balloons, etc. One can get lost wandering the aisles for what could be scary and 'horse eating' and come out with quite the armload for not much cost. From there, it's up to your creativity on use and placement of these items.
Naturally, safety is of the utmost priority in any equine venture, especially that which involves training measures. Always introduce new obstacles on the ground before attempting them in the saddle. Set yourself up for success. When we expose our animals to new situations, we put ourselves at risk for whatever decision that animal may make. Being that horses are built for Fight or Flight, it is important to acknowledge our limitations, both that of ourselves and those of our horse. If he is one that is putting up quite the fight in objection to a specific stimulus such as water, then I would suggest you immediately stop working on that until you can rein in the fresh set of eyes from a professional trainer.
In the next posting, DIY Desensitizing Objects & Equipment (Pt. 2), the focus will be elaborating on the prepping and building of Eat A Day Projects and Weekend K.O. Projects which will be further in depth and more concise. Many thanks for reading and I hope these quick tips have sparked ideas for your own training arsenal.