Whether you realise it or not, every interaction you have with your horse teaches him something new. Every time you lead or ride your horse, you’re teaching him. Every time you feed him or clean his stable, you’re teaching him. Every time you brush him or hose him or clean out his feet, you’re teaching him.
Every interaction you have with your horse, adds to his knowledge. And no matter who you are, you can’t remove anything from any horse’s knowledge. You can’t take away anything that a horse has learned.
If a horse has been taught to fight and resist, it can’t be removed from his knowledge. You can’t tell him to forget about fighting and resisting.
However, you can add to his knowledge by teaching him that it’s easier to do as you ask, than to fight and resist. You can teach him to relax and to move forward and co-operate. When you do this, you add another layer of knowledge in the horse’s mind. By careful, consistent training, you can add more layers of knowledge and eventually the horse will be reasonably reliable. However, the first layer of knowledge –where he was taught to fight and resist –is still there. It can’t be erased.
Such a horse may be reliable most of the time. Though you can continue to add layers of knowledge, the horse’s old memories will re-surface when you least expect it. Under duress or when he’s stressed or confused, the horse will revert back to his first layer of knowledge. He’ll fight and resist because that’s the first thing he learned.
Every experience adds a layer to your horse’s knowledge and this includes every frightening experience. You must remember that frightening experiences are burned forever into your horse’s mind. They can’t be removed.
A young horse that’s chased and bucked around the yard will always have that frightening experience as a layer of his knowledge.
A foal that’s tied up to pull back and fight will always have that frightening experience as a layer of his knowledge.
A horse that’s had his legs roped or strapped up will always have that frightening experience as a layer of his knowledge.
A horse that’s been harassed with tarps and flags and ropes will always have that frightening experience as a layer of his knowledge.
Horses can’t unlearn things. You can’t take anything out of a horse’s mind. Frightened horses can’t be “de-sensitized” or “de-bucked” or “de-spooked”. Nobody can “de-” anything a horse. All we can do is add more layers to our horse’s knowledge by careful, consistent training.
You can teach every horse to accept new experiences without frightening him. And when you do this, you add to his knowledge. You add to your horse’s knowledge when you teach him that it’s always nice and easy and pleasant to be with you. You add to his knowledge when you teach him to accept new things by building up in small steps that he understands and accepts. When you add to your horse’s knowledge without frightening him, your horse will always be confident with you because he’ll relate you to pleasant experiences.
Your horse is not a computer where you can load a new program or delete the hard drive and start again. One fight or frightening experience is always one too many.
READ MORE ON THIS SUBJECT HERE: www.fearfreehorsetraining.com/blog/respect-and-desensitisation