How to desensitise a carriage driving horse to unusual or loud noise | Training method for horses
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How to desensitise a carriage driving horse to unusual or loud noise | Training method for horses

August 14, 2019


At Horse Drawn Promotions we believe in training horses to be safe, confident and
happy in any sphere of harness work. Part of our training therefore involves
teaching horses to cope with potentially frightening situations, to show that with confidence in
themselves and their driver they will remain calm even when faced with
things such as large lorries or unusual noises. This film shows one of
the ways in which we train horses to cope with noise and explains how this relates to their reactions to any other noise they may encounter, and why we feel it is an important part of every harness horse’s education. When an accident occurs it is often an
unusual noise, sensation or sight that frightens the
horse, who then utilizes his flight instinct to get away from it. Carriages themselves can make a lot of
noise which the horse gets used to and is happy with but if it makes an
unusual or unexpected noise, for example something breaks or gets
caught up and dragged along, this can unnerve even an experienced
driving horse. Doing things like running our car along
the hedge behind the horse during training also relates to real life situations – for
example here when a passing lorry overtakes, brushing the hedge. No brake, slack rein. Clinking this chain as we go along can help ensure the horse doesn’t panic when driving over a discarded can in the verge for example. Going to put this right in front of the wheel; the idea is she walks over it. The aim is not to do this with the horse
and control him by pulling on his mouth with a severe bit, to force him to accept the noise, but
rather to introduce the noise to him and build
his confidence using a soft bit to show that he is accepting things
because he is happy to and because he trusts us. Here we are using a metal plate
suspended on a rope which we lower behind the horse so that it drags and bounces on the road. Having it hang down in the middle allows us to run it closer or further away from the horse without the risk of it getting caught around the wheels, snagging on the hedge or interfering with
passing traffic. We can also leave it down to make a scraping noise, or lift and drop it at will to make a more random bouncing noise. This can help prepare the horse for things that could happen, such as the shafts detaching from the vehicle. Notice how Barry is holding the horse on a loose rein to show that he is not being held back
to prevent him from running away from the noise. In our opinion, there is no point doing this if you need a severe bit to control the horse and prevent him from running away. The horse must cope with the noise calmly and happily in a soft bit, which shows that he is listening to the driver and is confident in what is going on around him. Having the metal plate on a rope enables
us to lift it up and make everything go quiet again, before dropping it down randomly. This can also be unnerving for a horse because the noise is not constant however you can see he is still going on a loose rein and not shooting forwards when he hears the sudden banging and clanking behind him. We also use the sheet from the car which helps them get used to different noises from vehicles passing them, as you saw earlier on the film with the big lorry passing. This is the first time we have done this particular exercise with this horse. You can see that although he has heard the noise, he is unsure about the sight of me holding the metal sheet out the window of the car. Notice however that he still listens to Sam and will go past the car when asked without napping or shooting forwards. He is only being driven in a soft rubber bit and doing this will build his confidence in himself and in us, which prepares him better for the future.

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  1. wonderful video ..great ideas!! I will once again be bringing my Fjord into driving …I'm wondering if you can help me with something. The harness I have her has a quick hitch (which is very handy) ..but should I also make some type of tree to attach onto the cart from the traces?. It's only a small sulky (1/2seater)

  2. Barry, is it possible to desensitize a carriage driving horse/pony to insect stings? I've heard of accidents that have been initiated by the horse reacting to a bee sting.   I have a driving mare who is well desensitized to many things but she gets unnerved by large insects landing on her.   Any thoughts?

  3. Decided to add my comment to this presentation. You guys do wonderful work, and I'll bet the horses in training sleep REAL GOOD at night after each day in your training program. LOL. Keep up the great work! If I could snap my fingers, I'd have you here at my place in TEXAS to help me with my boy.

  4. Mr Barryhook u are amazing and wonderful with horses=) what a lovely horse too! i wish we had someone like u here in Canada to help train my horse to the cart ..love all ur videos=)

  5. I love your video's and how you give trust to all the horses and pony's you train! But… how???? how do you do this?

    My pony is a disaster with noise and whatever I try, I won't get any better…… And alot of other common problems you describe in your video's, my pony does them all…

    Kicking when he has to stand stil and doesn't want to, kicking when he's fresh and wants to go faster, realllye scared of everything we encouter, I'm on the edge of really lose all hope in this pony. Had him gelded to make him easier but it only made things worse 🙁

    I only wish i could train him like you would…. 🙁 Or that you would live in the netherlands to help haha.

  6. Barry do you have any videos or tips on helping horses with regards to the shafts touching the sides ??? thanks

  7. A Fat Amish wife with Sever flatulence caused a buggy horse to bolt in my area. She was thrown from the buggy into the ditch by her husband. To this day that horse will not go  down that stretch of gravel road

  8. I had a runaway first drive with my mule who was purchased as a driving mule. I have been trying to work with him but dont really know what to do to desensitize him. Do you have any recommendations for video or books to help? How long can this process take, months? Many thanks , you do amazing work with driving horses.

  9. Thanks Mr Hook. I'm looking forward to your videos . I totally agree that every animal needs specialized training. It''s slow and steady with my mule, you just make it look so easy. I can only imagine the hours of work you and staff put in.

  10. 3 min in and I am learning so much! I grew up at a barn watching my trainer and her dad teach horses to drive, but it was very scary and unprofessional in my kid point of view. I hated to be asked to get in the sleigh for a practice run. My trainer was great at dressage, but I did NOT feel they were good at teaching the driving thing. I am so amazed none of us kids got hurt during all that back then. I love watching and hearing this lesson. I have gained some confidence in a sport that is beautiful, but should only be done by people who are safe, careful and professional. If you ever gave a clinic lesson in Kentucky, I'm there!!! Thank you so much for posting! (If you can, what type of horse/large pony is that? Gray Haflinger, Percheron???) Beautiful!!! Thank you!

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