All Things Horse

Forty-seven Years Of Horse Experience – At Your Service!

Learning Natural Horseman Training

It’s a lot like nuts and bolts – if the rider’s nuts, the horse bolts!  ~Nicholas Evans

Tip # 11

When I was growing up, there was no “Natural Horseman” training for a young horse.  The training came from one of two methods – the quick “breaking” the horse and the slower “gentling” the horse.

All my horses have been bomb-proofed. Now that is a Godly statement! If my horses are bomb-proof, then why do they jump when something unexpected happens?

For example, I tossed the hay net a few feet in the air to blow the excess blades of hay  out.  When the net went above my shoulders, Frilly, who was standing maybe six feet away eating her meal, jumped and ran off.  The other two, Willow and Dream, were standing as close or closer, munching down, and they calmly watched as Frilly spiked off.

I fed the three horses all winter, for two winters, with that hay net. So what set my young mare off? I tossed the net up, sure but not up so high that it went near her.

Frilly watching the net but starting to accept it's presence

Frilly watching the net but starting to accept it's presence

I took the net into the paddock and I followed my Frilly around. I was more to her side then behind her, because I was closer to the center of the 40-foot paddock. I’d toss the net up in the air, not too high to freak her out but just enough that she would see it was loose in my hands. We did that for about five minutes, then she returned to the meal she had left. The others would eat her share and she knew it.

I followed her to the other horses and the hay and once again I tossed the net. Once again Frilly moved away, but she was doing so much slower and not going nearly so far. When she returned to the hay, again I tossed the net. She stayed in place watching me and munching on the few sprigs of hay that she quickly captured. I tossed the net on her back. She didn’t move, so I tossed it over her head. She dropped her head some, so I draped it over her ears, eyes, nose…, her entire head  and left it there a few seconds.

Frilly has fully accepted the net as part of her day

Frilly has fully accepted the net as part of her day

That was easy! But I got to thinking, there is no possible way that I’m am going to be able to de-sensitize my horses to every thing there is that they will come across in their lives. There is just too many new things!

‘Sacking out’ and ‘de-sensitization’ wasn’t going to be enough. I need my horses overcoming that which startles them, problem solving and deciding the best way it is to confront that which they see as a problem and calculating that it won’t hurt them…, then getting on with what is expected of them. So the next step will be to create different types of problems and situations where they will have to learn to overcome their fears, in order to accomplish a certain task, that THEY want to complete.

The term “Sacking out” comes from when people would tie feed sacks to the backs of their horses and allow their horses to take flight, fearfully trying to run away or kick this noisy thing off themselves. It seems to me that is rather extreme and although it probably accomplishes the lesson more quickly, it could potentially put the horse in a lot of danger. I have time and I won’t be “Sacking out” my horses.

The term “de-sensitization” seems some what more humane then sacking out but I want my horses sensitive to me and their surroundings. I want them to use their natural, instinctive, maternal attitude, where they will do what it takes to keep their people (children) safe. I don’t want them walking into danger.  I want they fully aware that there is danger out there and flight is not necessarily the right option to take.  I want my horses to make the right choice while considering their charges on their backs.

There will be more posts on this topic as I continue to work with the “beasties”, showing them that the bird flying up out of the ditch and hitting them is not a reason to take flight, but instead it is a reason to learn something new.


April 29, 2009 Posted by | Training | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment