I had a unique experience to participate in a trainers challenge. What happened were that there were over 20 horses to be trained. Each trainer was assigned a horse to train and had about 140 days to do so.
Well the big day came and the people there were really quite into the western riding style so I of course was not a crowd favorite as a dressage rider. But the experience was fun none the less.
I have called this blog the friendly game gone bad but it could also be called desensitizing your horse gone bad. The winners of this challenge were of the reining persuasion with a bit of natural horsemanship thrown in. Let me say that I think the reserve champion should have won and I am going to tell you why.
The winner did a basic reining freestyle with a his horse getting on a pedestal at the end. His horse fell off from the pedestal and he basically fell off his horse at the same time. He pulled out a bull whip and cracked it repeatedly with rage. His horse cowered but stood still. I was pretty shocked and so were many of the women who witnessed this. This is by the very definition - not a good thing.
I do believe that helping your horse deal with random noises and random things does help them become more solid and not take things so personally. They start to understand that not everything is meant for them. If you have a particularly sensitive horse, you must start this desensitizing quietly and build trust and confidence from there. Once this is established you can increase to a more extreme type of desensitization for your horse. You know if you have over faced your horse if his eyes go dead or if he cowers. But for me I watch for sweating or increased heart rate and never go past that point. This is the fastest way to teach and build trust at the same time. Teaching must come before enforcement. If the trainer enforces before the teaching is complete - you decrease the trust which is something you really do not want to do.
I say this as the rider who placed first in the trail class at the trainers challenge. My horse trusted me completely. My techniques are a mix of natural horsemanship and Dressage (heavy on the dressage).