Bomb proofing a horse

Last post 05-05-2008 5:38 PM by real horsepower. 15 replies.
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  • 03-06-2008 12:58 AM

    Bomb proofing a horse

    How is the safest way to bomb proof a horse? I am a first time horse owner and want to feel safe that my horse will not spook easley,

  • 03-06-2008 8:15 AM In reply to

    Re: Bomb proofing a horse

    There will be more experience behind those that follow this reply.  We're just starting to bomb proof our horses.  Oh, they are fine.  But they are horses, and by their very nature, will spook when surprised.  So, bomb proofing, to me, means familiarizing the horse with everything it would encounter (the permutations make that impossible).  What is soemwhat possible, is to have the horse trust you enough to spook in place when you loosen the reins.  We learned that from a John Lyons training video.  I'm sure Parelli and other trainers have similar approaches.  It is also possible to train yourself to have a good seat.

    Of course, if you spook, then the horse spooks.  In one of my posts, "Quails in the bush", I have described a "shower stall" idea for dealing with a horse and rider getting spooked by a bird suddenly flushed from a bush by your approach.  Hanging bells was one idea given in reply.  This warns the wildlife of your approach.  Unfortunately, some birds are procrastinators.  They know you're coming, I swear, and they'll still choose to scare you and your horse.

    Here are the last three things that spooked my horse:

    1. a pigeon in the arena coos (she did a small hop, the rider stayed on, and from the other end of the longe line I'm saying "Oh what was that!,  See, it's only a pigeon."  Later the pigeon did it again with similar reaction from my horse.  I shot the pigeons after my friend left with their daughter.

    2. We were on a trail ride and a neighbor's dogs bark excessively (she tensed up and stopped.  A pat, some reassuring words and forward we go.  Another horse in front of me had sort of a delayed reaction.  She did sort of a 1/4 rear, 1/4 buck and danced around the trail until her rider got her calmed down.  No, I did not shoot the dogs.  I did post a note of warning in the tack room for whoever might take that trail.

    3. For no apparent reason.  We figured it was something beyond our sight and hearing, maybe a motorcycle or an ATV (she's never liked motorcycles or ATV's and I can't seem to convince her otherwise.)

    4. Let me add a 4th embarrasing one, I farted and she spooked.  We had a big laugh and I think she did too.  Silly mare!

    She's 20 and still hasn't seen it all.  She comes close though.

    Oops that blew up ... go figure!!
  • 03-06-2008 9:40 AM In reply to

    Re: Bomb proofing a horse

    I have been riding for the Sheriff's dept for about 5 years.  Guess what? No horse is spook proof!  That said, there are countless things you can do to desensitize your horses to everyday nuisances.  Several books have also been written on the subject, notably, "Bombpoof your Horse,"  by Rick Pelicano.

    First, your riding skills have to be as good as you can get.  This means lots of practice, lots of time.  Everyone has room for improvement, and the more skilled you are, the better you can handle what life throws your way.  Second, you can study the method of "Advance and Retreat" which most clinicians practice.   This tends to remove the "scariness" of any particular object from the mind of the horse.  Tarps, ballooons, flags, cans, plastic bags, noise makers -- all these things are easily obtained and can be used with this method.  Dogs, trucks, trashcans can also be used to desensitize your horses before they get into a situation that neither of you can handle. 

    There is no overnight solution, but the more you work with your horse as a partner, the better you both will be.  In my pictures you can see some of the obstacles that we encounter in training and on patrol. 

    </ </


  • 03-06-2008 11:20 AM In reply to

    Re: Bomb proofing a horse

     Double hi-five that you can't 100% de-spook a horse. 

    IMO, and life-long experiences, the key de-spooking agent is EACH horse's inherent nature.  Just as some people dive under the covers during a lightening storm and others are on the porch taking picturesStick out tongue

    I have owned the horse in my avatar for 17 years.  I can ride him alone anywhere, including down a busy state hwy and he never spooks.

    My other two horses are another matter.  If they don't have the aforementioned alpha horse with them, they think the whole civilized world is out there to do nothing but eat them alive - lol lol

    That being said, all of these horses are used to me coming up to them on the John Deere with the front loader waving up and down at them.  My horse that spooks the absolute worst out on the road is the first to come running to the tractor, trying to get up on the seat for a treatTongue Tied

    While it helps to do all that flapping, yelling and riding dirt bikes beside them at home, there is still no replacement for actual events in the real world, a lot of "wet blankets" (meaning exposure, exposure, and more exposure), and the rider knowing how to stay seated when the spook does occur.

  • 03-06-2008 12:49 PM In reply to

    Re: Bomb proofing a horse

    My best tried and true de-spooking method is chickens.  Their unpredictable behaviour and penchant for horse poop, can really get a horse used to the unexpected.  The great thing is the horse learns on his own and the chickens help keep his stall clean.  Win - Win.

    Colty - Paint gelding
    Sadie - Pinto mare
    Stormy - Mustang/Appaloosa gelding
    Brandy - Paint mare
    Doc - Paint Shetland gelding
    Cash - Paint gelding
    Dixie - Pinto mare
    Val - Paint mare
    Jazz - Paint filly
    Vegas - Paint mare
    11 dogs
    1 cat
    lots of cattle and chickens
  • 03-06-2008 5:06 PM In reply to

    Re: Bomb proofing a horse

    the chickens help keep his stall clean.  Win - Win.


    Our rooster doesn't do that!  How many hens does one need to clean up a stall?

    Oops that blew up ... go figure!!
  • 03-06-2008 10:27 PM In reply to

    Re: Bomb proofing a horse

    And how many to change a light bulb?

    I have a hen who sits on horse poop as her nest.  She thinks they are her eggs.Big Smile

    </ </


  • 03-07-2008 9:50 AM In reply to

    Re: Bomb proofing a horse

    One of the best ways to de-spook a horse is to first de-spook yourself. They are very good at picking up your vibes.

    Like the other poster said, be sure you're ready when they do react.. Good seat, always be aware of them and your surroundings, remember your safety stop.

    There is always some horse-eating "thing" waiting to devour them. I was working my gelding in the arena, wearing a jacket Ihave worn everyday I've worked him. I reached out toward him and you'd have thought the creature in Alien had jumped out at him...he backed up FAST, pawed and snorted....the goof. Then he did it again. It was cold, but I took the jacket off let him smell it, mouth it, (he actually chomped it a little-the brat!) Rubbed him all over with it, put it back on and ended the lesson on something he was really good at.  Did it work-not sure yet, but now I know that I have the Alien in my jacket and I'll be ready.

  • 03-07-2008 11:03 AM In reply to

    Re: Bomb proofing a horse

    A friend told my wife that he always learned a person had a horse within the first two minutes of a conversation.  The return is to find other people who have or have had horses and listen to their horror stories.  

    Recalling the inherent dangers of horsemanship make them come alive.  Of course, that's not all.

    We have a rider who comes every couple of weeks.  Usually her e-mails to reserve ride time are prefaced with stressful and complicated events in her life.  She usually starts out in the arena then goes out into the field to canter.  If there is anyone that defines Benjamin Disraeli's quote "A canter is the cure to all evil.", our rider is the one.  I've noticed she's a bit scared, maybe, at the beginning of her ride.  By the time she leaves the arena after a few exercises, she looks ready to face the world.  It's also interesting how the Arabian gelding she prefers picks up on her emotional cues.  One time, she had to spend a half hour more to de-stress herself before she could get the horse to move faster than a walk.  That's why everyone loves that Arabian gelding, he takes care of  his rider.

    So, prepare your self, prepare your horse, be of one mind and purpose and you'll have more fun stories to tell than pointing to the mark of a fracture blister.  I usually don't mention that I've suffered a transverse fracture of my right humerous, but our friends will, as soon as my Sweetheart gets started on horses.

    Oops that blew up ... go figure!!
  • 03-09-2008 1:46 PM In reply to

    Re: Bomb proofing a horse

    From the kitchen window, I watched a lone Sunday rider on the equestrian park trail.  As the horse approached a tree on our side of the fence, it spooked big time.  Rider stayed on, but for a moment, my thought was to be ready to assist if she got dumped.  I kept an eye on the rider until she went out of view.

    We all know the inherent risks and wish all a safe ride.  Interesting that I find myself more willing to offer assistance to a fallen rider moreso than a stranded motorist.  The motorist may have AAA.  We only have fellow riders to look after each other.

     Have a safe ride everyone!

    Oops that blew up ... go figure!!
  • 03-19-2008 9:37 AM In reply to

    Re: Bomb proofing a horse

    Our horses have an unique way of bombproffing each other.  They drag tarps over to each other and then shake them at one another.  My sister's 3 year old gelding is especially good at this, he was "de-sensitising" my 8 year old mare a couple months ago by standing with her by the tarp then when she was solid with that he began lifting the tarp corner futherest from her then he patiently worked at lifting the tarp higher and more vigorously as she tolerated it.  When ever the mare did well he would give her a break and just stand with her, then he would begin again.  My sister and I about died laughing at this display of "natural horse horsemanship"  from a master.  The second night he "worked" with her she was much more relaxed.  Maybe all the money we, as "horsefolks", are spending on"people clinicians" should stay in our pockets and we should watch and listen to our horses more.

    Lucky S Farm

  • 04-18-2008 4:45 PM In reply to

    Re:m Bomb proofing a horse

    My friend had a horse that was spooky on the trail,  especially backpacks, 4wheelers,and bikes. She spent some time feeding him with each of these things. Now instead of being afraid, he is looking for food!!!!

  • 04-21-2008 2:48 PM In reply to

    Re: Re:m Bomb proofing a horse

    I agree, this is a situation that takes a lot of time and exposure. You can't possibly expose a horse to everything that he/she will experience.  Therefore, you need to build the type of relationship with your horse so that even if he does spook, you will be able to get his mind back on you without an intense spook.  (It does help to be good at staying on, and falling too). I have never had my horse spook.  I have had her stop and look, but I don't count that as spooking, they need to figure out what something is and if they turn their heads or move a little bit to get a better look that is fine.  However doing that at a full gallop doesn't work so bad.  Basically you want your horse to trust you that you won't put him through something that could hurt him.

    Are your horses kept outside? Ours are kept outside and in several different areas.  They have farm equipment working right next to them, vehicles and semis driving by, and dirtbikes flying past them. I think that any type of exposure you can give your horse while they are without a rider (just in the pasture) is a bonus.  If you find that your horse has problems with traffic for instance, see if you can keep him in a pasture that borders a road or something for a little while.

    When you are born, you cry and the world rejoices.
    Live your life in such a way that when you die,
    the world cries and you rejoice.
  • 04-21-2008 4:52 PM In reply to

    Re: Bomb proofing a horse

     My TB was very spooky. He will always be an easily unnerved horse but with time has built his confidence in me. What used to be a full blown fear response is now just a quick hop or head up. Then he checks in with me & as long as I'm not doing anything (I just sit and don't react-glance at object as if bored, then look away) he takes his cue from me & immediately settles. So I think some horses are just naturally more easily rattled, but as you build a trusting relationship, they are ok taking their cue from you as their trusted leader. He used to freak at a piece of paper on the ground, but just this weekend weathered a child opening and closing an umbrella right in front of him (he wasn't very happy about it but he stood and just kept looking back at me.) So I don't think you can change the fact that some horses are just reactive, but you can change the degree of his reaction. The plus is that a naturally reactive horse is an alert horse which makes training easy. Any time you spend with him is investing his trust in you, which will help you in scary unpredictable situations, whenever they arise.Smile

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  • 05-05-2008 7:16 AM In reply to

    Re: Bomb proofing a horse

    Several books have also been written on the subject, notably, "Bombpoof your Horse,"  by Rick Pelicano.

    You can order that book through, among other places.

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