Site hosted by Build your free website today!


Thoughts About Spooking

I'm going to ramble a little bit here so git ready! I've always thought that the actual movement of a horse during a spook (which also translates to me as the scary part) is the natural instinct of the horse jumping away from what we as humans might term, the rational part of their brains. (Although running or jumping from scary things is completely rational for a horse!)

When my horse was young, and I'd see him run or jump away from something that scared him, I could visualize his brain hurrying after him and finally catching up-then he stops suddenly-as his brain returns to his body and seems to say-"settle down, it's only a bird that flew out of the barn!" And the body responds, "Oh yeah, I knew that!" and it's not so scary after all.

In the beginning, it seemed that the brain couldn't keep up with the speed of the body.

The more we worked on things, things that helped my horse to think (along with just maturing in age) the time it took the brain to catch up to the body was getting shorter and shorter. The body was as quick as ever, but the brain was getting pretty darned fast too. It was beginning to figure things out alot faster.

I've always felt that if I challenge that brain, he's just going to figure things out alot quicker in regards to spooks. Enter the clicker.

I told about this once before so delete if it's a repeat for you-but Dan used to be terrified of noises on the roof and sides of our metal barn. If a branch scraped it or snow fell off the roof, anything, he was out of there and his brain wouldn't catch up until he was all the way across the pasture.

I got knocked on my can a number of times and I thought, I've got to do something to change this!

I got my metal rake and I started scratching it on the barn wall softly. Dan was out of there like a shot-in a few minutes he'd come back. I clicked for his return.

Well, just to make a long story short we worked our way up to the point where Dan wouldn't move for the soft scratching noise-I c/t'd him all the way. Then I could up the anty-making louder noises (I still had to start over in regards to his wanting to leave the barn though) everytime the noise level was raised, we repeated our c/t pattern of desensitizing him. I eventually could wham the side of the barn as hard as I could and it was oh, so dull to him.

This carried over to noises on the trail, chainsaws, fireworks-he learned that noises could not hurt him. Sometimes he'll still jump, but he doesn't move-I can practically see his brain running neck and neck with his body. I see understanding quickly in his eyes.

This training did more too, he trusts me (which is wonderful), and has learned to control his emotions in many ways not just for noises, but actions and unfamiliar things too. It's as if he learned the power of thinking things through, before he acts. Can you imagine what a stress reliever this must be! I guess I could ramble on with examples of this-but geez, I got pretty long winded here!

Are ya still with me, or did I put ya to sleep?

I'm not very scientific-I work alot on hunches and what my insides tell me is true-so take this for what it's worth (or not worth!) Nancy

* * * * *

Several months ago I was riding Dan around the yard. It was a really windy day and if something wasn't tacked down-it was blowing down the road.

I had a black tarp in our little wood shed that was caught by the wind and was carried up into the air. As I was sitting on Dan I saw it sort of hovering in mid air and then WOMP! down it flew and plastered itself against Dan and I.

I had a momentary flash of "uh-oh, I'm in trouble now" but as it turned out I didn't have to worry. Dan didn't budge an inch. I guess that he had gotten so familiar with tarps that he knew for a fact that they were harmless, no matter how they came his way.

We've spent alot of time with tarps. We're even to a point where I can encase him in one and trot around the pasture without causing the slightest worry in him.

He was not always this way. It just got done little by little.

Spooking in place or getting used to tarps or whatever is just done a bit at a time-always progressing, always moving forward and always being aware of a horse's tolerance level. If I know that Dan started to back away from the tarp when he was two feet away from it, then I'll only ask him to go within two and a half feet of it until he can begin to handle getting closer then we make our adjustment, but only when he's ready. So I know the line in which his fear starts and I tone it down just a notch.

Size and sound seem to make a tarp scary. I decided to tone down both of them and before I started working with Dan on this I folded my tarp into as small a square as I could, tucked it under my arm and got down to work.

I did alot of my barn work with that tarp tagging along. Dan saw me working with it and when he was eating I set it down next to him. Little by little I could start unfolding the tarp. I walked around it and over it and pretty soon Dan started to too. In a very short time we had the whole tarp spread out with no problem.

Dan knows how to pick things up (thanks to the clicker) so we worked on picking the tarp up. He always likes to shake things so pretty soon he was shaking the tarp. I could grab one end and shake it with him. I could eventually shake it and make as much noise as I could and Dan

I could throw it over him and we pretended like we were in a tent and clicked and ate apples. I could use it like a superman cape and run circles around him. I hooked it over his barn door and he walked forwards and backwards through it many times. We dragged it with a rope. We trotted over it and jumped up and down on it. We gave that tarp a pretty hard time! I started hanging it in different places that it had never been before, like the gate or hanging from his feeder. Something that strayed from the usual. As soon as I could put the tarps in new locations and have him understand that they were harmless, I knew that our training was complete.

Anyway, little by little we progressed to big things. Everything has a starting point. As someone else expressed, clicker training causes the person to think thinks through and figure out what behaviors are made of.

When Judy asked the question-are they just tricks? My answer is no. Clicker training is a study in our ability to break things down into the most understandable and tolerable of parts. For example: what is the fear of a certain object made of? Is it the size? The noise it makes? The location of it? Is it too close? When does fear set in and how did I react? Was I able to help my horse out by keeping a casual aire?

It sure is interesting stuff, don't you think? Nancy

* * * * *

My 3 year old Azteca Stallion got an interesting experience on Sunday.

My husband (and his ever changing hobby syndrome) decided he wanted to launch some hobby size rockets in our backyard. He has done this before, with no problems with the horses. Well this time the Stallion was out by himself with no buddies for comfort. The first rocket went off with a loud wwhhooosshhhh and he came unglued. He darted for the closest fence and was about to try to go over. He was shaking uncontrollably and was inconsolable. Wanted nothing to do with me.

Well, what to do....... can't catch him, he's too scared to come to me. Can't go after him, I'm too scared of getting pinned in a corner (owwwieeee that hot wire hurts,it hits like a freight train) In comes the clicker. CLICK Horse looks up! At me even! But, he's still scared and won't come to me. In the meantime I had yelled bloody murder (doncha just love that term) at my husband and told him to knock off the rockets till I got the Stallion in the barn. Of course he's gotta shoot off just one more......... Can ya tell he's not a horsey person? Stallion starts trying to jump the fence! CLICK.... OH FOOD??? hummmmmm

Stallion comes to me ever so carefully, in case I was the one making that awful noise........ Got the halter on, c/t............ Started leading to the barn. He heard the kids yelling and saw them running around in his yard, and balks. I ask him to step forward c/t....... I finally got him in the barn and I thought I could relax.

No, he started to try to rear over the stall wall (6ft solid wall) Well, needless to say, I spent my whole afternoon in the barn next to his stall playing c/t games. It was the only way to keep his mind occupied so he wouldn't try to go over the wall. Toward the end of the marathon rocket launching session he stopped shaking, stopped trying to go over the wall, and only jumped a little when the whoosh of the rocket went off. He ignored the kids all together.

All I can say is Thanks for this list and clicker training. I could have handled the situation the old way, but this made it oh so much easier. Now the horse is fine, but I needed a drink! :o) Loree

Pages Provided By: