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Ideas for training horse to deal with seeing things in the distance

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  • Ideas for training horse to deal with seeing things in the distance

    I have my horses at home and haul out for lessons and local shows. My green guy is improving but his issue is being nervous/alert/distracted by “stuff” in the distance - horses and trailers, schooling areas, other arenas, people walking the XC course, etc. He’s reasonable about the stuff near him, and I can easily train him to cope with that in my backyard. To deal with the fear of things “on the horizon,” I recently hung pool noodles in the trees outside my arena, and plan to drape things around, etc. Just wondering if there are cool ideas I’ve not thought of - which is to keep going to shows and try to scare him occasionally at home and use positive reinforcement to improve his coping skills.

  • #2
    Does he have a jaded older buddy?

    My favorite way to teach a young horse that the world will not eat him is to let him master progressively more challenging environments in the company of horses who have seen it all and worn out the T-shirt. Bonus points if their “babysitter” will react to spooking with the equivalent of “kid, you’re acting like a fool.”

    The pool noodle idea is clever but depending on your horse and his ability to generalize, you might be teaching him “pool noodles grow on trees at my house” rather than “stuff happens in the distance and it hasn’t eaten me yet.”
    "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

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    • #3
      Rather disagree with Renn/aissance -- instead of working to progressively desensitize a horse to endless scary things, I work to train the horse to trust me and respond to my cues --use his energy to complete the (simple) tasks I give him and take the focus off the scary whatever. Let's say there's a giant flapping piece of plastic on the fence where we are riding in the pasture. Horse sees it and stops. I did not ask for a stop. I quietly turn him in a circle and ask for a trotted figure 8. Horse cannot focus on the plastic and do a trotted figure 8. We continue with the trotted figure 8s with loops coming closer to the scary plastic. At some point near the plastic I stop. Horse can rest unless he reacts to the the plastic --then back to trotted figure 8s, or circles or whatever moves his feet. The only time horse can rest is when he is close to the scary object. Very quickly, and quicker every time, my horses learn that scary things are GOOD unless they react incorrectly to. If we are quietly walking and horse takes a casual look-see at a flapping piece of plastic --(correct response), he's allowed to rest a few minutes and check it out. If he shies, tries to bolt, over reacts in any way, it's immediate work for not responding correctly.

      When you have your horse moving his feet how you want him to --he doesn't have room in his brain to think about anything else. Call it focus if you want to. So when your horse "sees something in the distance," ok --but let's keep working until he stops noticing and only notices you. Eventually, your horse will stop noticing even the most unusual things in the distance and concentrate on what you want him to accomplish.

      Does it work ? Yep ---just took my horse to do a demonstration in a noisy, crowed indoor with vendors, milling people, yelling, other horses, over head fans making weird shadows in the arena. He was all looky-loo until I mounted and we began our figure 8s --then head dropped, took a breath, moved his feet and performed flawlessly. Wonder how exactly anyone would "gradually introduce" that much confusion . . .and since horse performs solo, no way a buddy could be in the ring to calm him.

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      • #4
        I have a horse with a similar issue, very concerned about horses/people moving in the distance. No cool ideas from me unfortunately. It just took a lot of going to shows and hanging around watching until he relaxed. Sometimes it took an hour of standing in one spot waiting for him to chill before we moved on. Exhausting, but much improved by the end of that summer.
        Manage your horse information with the Horsekeeping App www.horsebytes.ca

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        • #5
          Wet saddle pads, shoulder fore, lots of neck rubbings and spiraling circles. He needs connection through your riding to engage his mind.

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          • #6
            Come to my County Fair.
            Arena classes take place with very high noisy metal bleachers along one long side. And lights at night, very bright lights.
            Add kids jumping on said bleachers, other side has more (wood) bleachers & vendors making smoke & noise & smells.
            Midway is in sight, with flashing lights, screaming passengers on rides, plus the added attraction of Demolition Derby & Truck Pulls happening in the nearby Grandstands.

            Gate is crowded with watchers shouting advice to their favorites & (small) warmup is just beyond the gate filled with milling riders and/or drivers prepping for the next class.
            Warmup itself has fairgoers by the hundreds meandering past, kids in strollers, leaning on the fence and blocking your entrance or exit - these are folks to whom "Heads Up" means Zero.
            Oh, if you are there for the Draft Show you can add the thrill of having a 6-Horse hitch come up behind your horse, your blinkered Driving horse, and see how that works

            Even the barns are no refuge.
            I tell people the Moron Bus unloads just outside, then they wander the aisles petting all the horses (despite the very large sign just outside advising against this) holding babies up to horses' faces {shudder} more strollers invading the aislespace.....

            My point is if your horse can survive this Trial By Fire, you can show ANYWHERE & it will seem positively tranquil.
            *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
            Steppin' Out 1988-2004
            Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
            Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015

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            • #7
              what distance is considered distant? When I was in Kentucky ten feet was about the max you could look into the distance due to trees, here we are on the eastern edge of the high plains... 21 miles is the distance.

              Like 2Dogs county fairs can desensitize a horse. We kept one horse in Kentucky specifically to be shown the county fairs since the horse was to be our kid's .... those fairs often if not always had all the amusement rides setup next to or near the show rings ....after a few years of that nothing ever bothered her
              .
              Not responsible for typographical errors.

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              • #8
                As Foxglove & TMares have suggested: Get Busy! Quit being a passenger. He needs a job, and he needs to understand that you are there helping him. If he's not yet solid at shoulder-in, a little shoulder-fore. If he's not solid at his leg yield, do a turn on the forehand, take a few steps (i.e. give him a chance to be good), then another turn on the forehand. With consistency, he'll eventually throw in the towel. ("Oh Lord, here comes WORK--I'll be good, I'll be calm")

                View Klimke's Olympic victory lap on Ahlerich. Klimke was not doing those one tempis to show off. He was keeping an explosive horse busy in the most challenging of circumstances.

                Allowing a horse shore leave at the green stage can backfire badly, and cause him to lose confidence in his rider, and thus his focus. ("Nobody's home, so I guess I'll have to protect myself and flee.")

                You have all the tools to get him rock solid at home, which will at least make him say 80% away from home. He is not allowed to be a tourist. He can be a tourist when he's had a few years of solid behavior. Hat, Hawaiian shirt, the works.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Brown Derby View Post
                  As Foxglove & TMares have suggested: Get Busy! Quit being a passenger. He needs a job, and he needs to understand that you are there helping him. If he's not yet solid at shoulder-in, a little shoulder-fore. If he's not solid at his leg yield, do a turn on the forehand, take a few steps (i.e. give him a chance to be good), then another turn on the forehand. With consistency, he'll eventually throw in the towel. ("Oh Lord, here comes WORK--I'll be good, I'll be calm")

                  View Klimke's Olympic victory lap on Ahlerich. Klimke was not doing those one tempis to show off. He was keeping an explosive horse busy in the most challenging of circumstances.

                  Allowing a horse shore leave at the green stage can backfire badly, and cause him to lose confidence in his rider, and thus his focus. ("Nobody's home, so I guess I'll have to protect myself and flee.")

                  You have all the tools to get him rock solid at home, which will at least make him say 80% away from home. He is not allowed to be a tourist. He can be a tourist when he's had a few years of solid behavior. Hat, Hawaiian shirt, the works.
                  My DH has a lovely, lovely, lovely little horse who is a complete chicken. We mostly trail ride. He'll be fussing about the gelding being out to lunch, not paying attention, etc- and w/o looking I know the horse has ample slack in the reins and DH's legs are on the dash. I will tell him 'pick the phone and call him, he doesn't know where you are!!' - and instantly DH takes up the slack and applies his legs lightly against his sides and TADA the horse is on the line going HELLO? HELLO? OH GOOD THERE YOU ARE...."

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                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Great inputs but more looking for ways to replicate chaos in the distance at home, not just the training techniques. I do ride him forward into work, although I did dismount at this last show because the footing was dew-soaked grass, so I got off and did work in hand to disengage the hindquarters, as I worried he’d slip in the footing. I plan to continue showing and coping, but like to throw in “scary” stuff at home, so any ideas to accelerate the process other than tarps or pool noodles in trees? Or did you mainly just deal with this by hauling out to active new sites? I need to rent one of those weed-clearing goat herds😂

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                    • #11
                      You can make the familiar unfamiliar and he'll be put off and learn to deal. Then you'll take him somewhere else and get to deal with all the weird crap there.

                      You have to go and see. Again and again. My youngsters go everywhere. They hang out and eat hay and get ponied and led around. When it's time to go somewhere u/s , they (largely) don't care.

                      How do you learn to travel internationally? First, you go somewhere and figure it out
                      Last edited by TMares; Aug. 12, 2019, 11:19 PM.

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                      • #12
                        You dont train the horse, you train yourself to get the horse more solidly and consistently on the aids.

                        If he is on your aids the way a third or fourth level dressage rider puts a horse on the aids, he is much less likely to be ogling things in the distance. Adjust accordingly up or down for the levels.
                        The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
                        Jinxyhttp://tiny.cc/PIC798&http://tiny.cc/jinx364
                        Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
                        The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY

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                        • #13
                          some are just suspicious

                          We had a mare who was the herd leader, she always checked out everything to make sure it was safe (and she always thought I was lost when out on a trail as she knew where the trailer was parked but I kept riding away from it)

                          Really a courageous horse who felt it had a responsibility and took her job seriously

                          She would relax but would still be guarded... there were times that were more funny than not such as we were entering an open meadow out of tree line and step for step a deer was with us about fifty feet to the right ... we got out about twenty feet when the mare realized that wasn't her buddy over there.

                          Not responsible for typographical errors.

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                          • #14
                            Get him binoculars. 😊
                            Frost Bite Falls

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                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Binoculars😂😂😂. I’ve contacted some of the local schooling shows left this year to see if we can go as a non-compete. He’s not the world’s worst - I haven’t even lunged at our last outings, and no drugs. But he’s an OTTSTB, and when he gets tense, he paces. Since he’s in Intro dressage or 18”/crossrails jumping, his classes are first at most shows, so there’s no time with the activity going for him to observe and settle before he competes. So, in addition to finding goats to hide in the trees at home or renting a crowd to walk around, I think going as a non-compete is our best option. We can hand walk and ride around without having to get in the ring before he can settle. No rush or agenda, thankfully.

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                              • #16
                                Leg yield chevrons...that gently replaces the pace with relaxed trot or walk.

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