Does your horse struggle with sudden sounds? Whether it’s a car horn on the roads or a lawn mower starting up during your hack, there are many sounds that our horses need to become accustomed to. Eloise Mayhead, stable manager at the City of London’s Mounted Branch, shares one exercise she uses to prepare police horses for patrol.

“We play noise using speakers in the yard to desensitise our horses to different sounds,” says Eloise. “When it comes to noise sensitivity, we encourage them to move towards the noise rather than away by enticing them with food first of all.”

The police desensitise their horses to loud sounds using instruments like drums, but you can just use bin lids. Have a friend or family member stand a few metres in front of your horse and make a soft sound on the lid to start with.

How to ride it

  1. Stand your horse in the middle of your arena.
  2. Keep your hands low, with a soft rein contact and your body relaxed in the saddle. Squeeze with your legs and walk towards the noise.
  3. Keep your leg pressure on your horse. If he shies away or hesitates, squeeze with your legs and use your voice to encourage him.
  4. Ask the person on the ground to increase the noise.
  5. Once he’s standing calmly as close to the noise as possible, give him plenty of praise.

You should keep doing this exercise until he’s making no attempt to move away. If your horse doesn’t want to move forwards you may need to ask your helper to stand with food to entice him. If he tries to back away from the noise, give him plenty of leg and circle him until he’s facing the noise again.

Meet the expert: Eloise Mayhead is the stable manager at the City of London’s Mounted Branch, where she selects and trains police horses. 

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