At every level of training, every horse has a threshold where his flight or fight response overrules his logical thinking process. Your horse may jump when he hears a noise or he may shy when he sees something. A badly handled horse will rush away at the slightest distraction and be constantly nervous and worried. A well trained horse will do as you ask, even when there are all sorts of outside distractions.
Every horse has a different level where their flight or fight response cuts in. This flight or fight response is innate in all horses and you can’t eliminate it. What you can do however, is increase the threshold where your horse’s flight or fight response cuts in. You can teach your horse to accept new things without evoking his flight or fight response.
From a horse’s point of view, he’s under pressure every time something new is introduced. Unless the horse understands how to relieve this pressure, his flight or fight response will cut in and he’ll rush away or buck or fight. Horses must never be left to ‘work it out for themselves’. In every training situation, there must be a simple way for every horse to relieve pressure. The simplest way is to teach every horse to stand whenever he’s worried.
Here’s an example:
When a saddle blanket is first introduced, the horse is under pressure because the saddle blanket worries him. The trainer must remove the saddle blanket before the horse becomes frightened and moves away. If the trainer is consistent, the horse learns that standing removes the pressure of the saddle blanket.
When the trainer approaches again, the horse will accept the saddle blanket in the same position. Next, the trainer can move the saddle blanket a little further onto the horse before again relieving the pressure by taking it away.
By using this approach, it’s not long before the horse accepts the saddle blanket on his back. Each approach increases the threshold of where the horse’s flight or fight response takes over. Instead of rushing away, the horse relaxes because he hasn’t been frightened by the saddle blanket.
The horse hasn’t been desensitised and he’s not ‘used to’ the saddle blanket. The trainer has simply introduced the saddle blanket in a way that the horse can understand and accept. The horse’s flight or fight threshold has been raised and the horse stays confident and relaxed.
This approach can be used to introduce every new item to every horse. By working in small increments, you can build up to the point where your horse accepts a saddle blanket, girth, rider, stockwhip or anything else.
Always remember, there’s never any need to frighten any horse at any stage of his training.
Read more on this subject here: www.fearfreehorsetraining.com/blog/every-foal-must-be-handled-asap