Help your horse deal with scary things
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Help your horse deal with scary things

August 25, 2019


In today video I will explain how to use counter
conditioning and systematic desensitisation to reduce your horse fear of a scary stimuli. In this example, Lyviera was threatening of
white and red tape that moved in the wind in the adjacent paddock. Her fear made it difficult for her to approach
the fence closest to the tape or to go and stay on the yard and stable area directly
opposite to the tape. This process is not about making the horse
stand in the stable or yard area with complete disregard for her emotional state. This process is about genuinely reducing the
horse fear and eventually having the horse stand in the yard and stable because she has
nothing to fear, not because she has to or else. To reduce her fear we use two techniques. Systematic desensitisation and counter conditioning. Systematic desensitisation is the practice
of reducing the strength of a stimulus by breaking it into smaller component, using
small steps to increase the animal tolerance to it. This may be done by making the feared stimulus,
quieter, further away, smaller etc. One way this technique is used in this video
is that instead of bringing the horse to the scary set up made of several flapping red
and white tape, I introduced her to a single piece of tape in a space she felt safe. I also initially showed it to her folded into
my hand, and unfolded it only once I knew she was comfortable with the folded version. I held the tape to start with and only tied
it up to a fence later on in the training session. It’s only after she was ok standing near
the flapping red and white tape in the safety of her own field that I lead her out on the
yard for more counter-conditioning. Because her fear had decreased at this point,
the rest of the training was safer and less stressful for the both of us. So the other technique used is counter-conditioning
it consist of changing the horse’s response to a stimuli by associating this stimuli with
one of opposite value. Throughout the video I offer food to my mare
so she can associate the scary tape with something pleasurable. When using counter-conditioning the horse
doesn’t have to perform any specific behaviour to earn the food, as it is the stimuli we
are counter-conditioning her to that makes the food appears. Systematic desensitisation and counter-conditioning
are very often used in combination with each other as it is very difficult to counter-condition
an animal to a stimuli she actively fears, in fact many horses will not take food when
they are too stressed. Hence why I only brought my mare to the yard/stable
area to feed her once I already reduced the fear in the field using both systematic desensitisation
and counter-conditioning. In all it took a 10minute session in the field,
a 10minute feeding session in the yard followed by a night in the field where she could get
habituated further to the set up in the adjacent paddock, for her to become completely comfortable
with it all. I hope you enjoyed this video and that it
taught you something on dealing with fearful horses. Do not forget to like and share this video
and to subscribe to our youtube channel for more. Check out the patreon link in the description
below, have a beautiful day and I see you in the next video.

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  1. The horse trusts you to go to the treats in the face of a perceived obstacle. Thank you for sharing these videos.
    P.S.Trees could be planted within small fenced areas to alleviate the saturated ground. Suggestion from a plant /environmental enthusiast in the U.S.

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