Horses are prey animals and are therefore very wary of anything new that comes into their environment. This keeps them safe from predators in the wild but can cause major problems in domesticated life. Nobody likes to ride a horse that jumps at every strange sound and object!
Some simple ways to begin desensitizing your horse is by placing scary objects around your horse’s living environment so she gets used to seeing them on a daily basis. Once a horse establishes something as “normal” and “not scary” they are less likely to spook at it in the outside world. Make sure you don’t overwhelm your horse with too many scary objects at home all at once! Start with one. Be sure to be patient with your horse. Some horses take longer than others to get accustomed to spooky stuff.
You can also introduce scary objects/situations during your groundwork with your horse. Make sure you know how to keep yourself safe and that your horse is respectful of your space. This is accomplished by already having a solid foundation in groundwork before introducing desensitizing exercises.
Once you feel confident that your horse is beginning to understand that she needn’t spook at everything when she’s with you, you can start introducing potential spooky situations like going to a show or trail riding or even going through an obstacle course at home. Make sure you have a buddy with you and are a skilled enough rider to know how to ride a spook and calm your horse down. Remember, the calmer you are the calmer your horse will be. It’s also important to remember that when a horse spooks they are not being malicious. It is a purely instinctual reaction and usually the horse means no harm to you by it, so don’t take it personally. It never helps to get mad at a spooky horse as this will just escalate the problem.
The more spooky situations and objects you can introduce your horse to, the better. But remember, it takes time so be patient!
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~ Saddle Up