If your horse is particularly spooky around traffic and you’re worried about taking him out on the roads at all you can begin the desensitisation process in the comfort of the yard. Here he’ll naturally be more relaxed so there’s less chance of him spooking.
Here, our expert trainer, Melanie Watson, explains how:
1) Start by walking your horse towards the yard entrance and reward him with a pat and a treat for standing quietly - if a car passes and he remains calm, reward him again.
2) Next up, lead him towards parked cars on the yard and reward him for touching the cars with his nose. This type of target training will ensure he associates cars with something positive.
3) Work your way up until you can walk him towards a parked car with its engine running.
4) With time and patience you should be able to walk him past a slow moving car on the yard.
5) Once he’s at ease with cars, let him have a good look at any other modes of transport you might have at the yard, such as tractors, bikes, farm machinery etc. Always put yourself between the object and your horse at first until he becomes brave enough to stand next to it himself.
6) Finally, if you can, park some of the farm vehicles in your arena or schooling area and work your horse around them so he gets used to having large objects close by and gets to see them for himself in a controlled environment.
When you’re ready to leave the yard
The next thing you can do with any horse, from youngsters to veterans is walk him in hand along a quieter road or on the yard at first, introducing him to other objects he might find on his hacks, such as wheelie bins, road signs etc. Encourage him to touch them with his nose and once he does, reward him with a pat and a treat. I often place carrots and treats on bins, signs and other scary objects so my horses can find them – it embraces their curiosity.
Remember, both you and your horse should always wear high-vis gear on the roads whether leading or riding – it’s vital you can be seen by other road users at the earliest possible opportunity.
More about our expert
Melanie Watson runs Instinctive Horsemanship in East Yorkshire and specialises in training problem horses, breaking in young horses and teaching others. For more information visit Melanie’s website. www.instinctivetraining.co.uk
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