Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Some points on Desensitizing

In the "Natural Horsemanship" world today, you hear a lot about desensitizing horses on TV shows, clinics and demonstrations. There was a great article in the Jan/Feb issue of Eclectic Horseman, which if you don't already get it, you ought to go to www.eclectichorseman.com and subscribe, about this very subject. It got me thinking about this and I just wanted to add my thoughts about the subject.

1) Anymore horse people do everything they can to desensitize their horse, you see them introduce thing after thing, increasing the pressures until the horse learns to desensitize from these elements and essentially dull down, taking away their self preservation which has been essential in their survival. Then that same person goes and has to use excessive pressure to get the horse go operate and they wonder why their horses are not responsive and soft. Well the short answer is they took all that softness and responsiveness out when they did all the desensitization with the horse. Now I agree a certain level of desensitization is needed to be safe, you need to get a saddle on the horse, so you must desensitize them to a saddle blanket and saddle, they must be desensitized enough to touch and groom, swing a rope on, this should be enough to get the horse comfortable and confident, but much more beyond that is too much. Many times when a horse has been over desensitized and becomes dull, if and when they ever do "wake up" it usually ends up a pretty bad deal, people kid themselves into thinking a dull horse is a safe horse, when in reality, a light responsive horse, one that you can direct their feet with ease, is truly a safe horse.

2) Horses are around today because of their heightened sensitivity to their surroundings, without this, we would not have horses today. Now who are we to take it away from them, as Martin Black states in this article "Personally, I don't like to think that we should be trying to desensitize on of God's creations that He has made so sensitive. Horses are very intelligent, naturally sensitive animals, and such high sensitivity is essential to their survival. It is not "Natural" for them to operate without it." We should keep that in mind when we are working with our horses, anymore the word "Natural" is thrown around and used by anyone with a rope halter and a snaffle bit, well when you are working with your horse, really think it through, what is "Natural" for the horse.

3) Now here is another quote from the article, but I have heard this or at least something similar at a Ray Hunt clinic, and a Buck clinic. Really think about this: "People like to think they are more intelligent than the horse. If this is true, they should be able to rise to the horse's level of sensitivity and intuition instead of "desensitizing" the horse to their level." As trainers, handlers, horseman, or just horse people, if we truly want what is good for the horse, we must rise to their level.

Well, I hope this gives you something to think about and hopefully helps you improve your horsemanship. Always Remember "Enjoy the Journey"


Amira said...

I just wrote a 15 page paper on the BLM's negligent Wild Horse and Burro Program. Not like the paper isn't already long enough, but I think it's true about over desensitizing and I wish I'd added a bit about it in my paper because it's something people should be more aware of.

Gail said...

Very good points, Nick. Thank you for taking the time to point out the flaws of teaching too much to a horse. A friend of mine trains TBs for the track and told me that she has to be very careful how much she teaches horses headed for racing. It is dangerous to train too much. They learn very few aids. Their job is to go forward.

Another friend clicker trains horses. When the horse sticks his nose on something evil and they get a click and a treat. The horses love this game. So the question is do you limit this game or play it because the horse is reponding to a request and solidifying your role as leader?


Denise said...

Nice job Nick! Very good article!