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Desensitizing horses to gun shots?

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  • Desensitizing horses to gun shots?

    Any tips for getting a horse desensitized to gun shots? With the start of hunting season my horse (who has lived for years at a barn where people hunt next door) is jumping out of his skin. Is there any way to desensitize him?

    He's a 23yo TB- so I would think he would have learned to ignore them by now.

    It was funny he was turned out with two horses today- one very calm one and he was fine. The calm horse's owner came to get him and the other two just flew into a tizzy every time there was a shot and started galloping around the field. Yet he had grazed quietly for 20 minutes with the mellow horse there.

    I'd love any ideas!

  • #2
    Sounds like he depends on his herd mates to show him what he should do. We shot here and our neighbors do. Usually now mine are fine, but if one does get going they all will. Usually if they start we stop shooting and talk to them and they then will just stand and watch. If it's the neighbors usually they keep eating because it's a little farther away than us. I don't really know what you could do, but maybe just try to go out and chill them out yourself but idk. Sorry
    Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


    • #3
      A friend of mine who was thinking about trying mounted shooting, was advised by a seasoned mounted shooter to use the sound of balloons popping as a way to get her horse ready.
      Proud owner of a Slaughter-Bound TB from a feedlot, and her surprise baby...!


      • #4
        Those little poppers that they they sell at a party place, here is a example I found on a very quick search...


        Once they are ok w/those, you can pop balloons. Anything that makes a loud and sudden noises are good.

        My horse is solid, but we were playing around w/lots of things on a cold winter day. I had NO idea, but my horse was terrified of being hit by a balloon. After a few mins, he was fine, but wow, he was freaked out.

        This is good for all horses. Make the balloons different sizes and if you can, get the long thin ones. You can make the horses walk around them, have them thrown above and over, hit w/them, then of course, you can pop them.
        Riding is NOT meant as an inside sport, GET out of that arena!!!


        • #5
          You already have the "cure" in a quiet horse.

          When we broke ours for Cowboy Mounted Shooting that was the way we went (with the assistance of the TN Cowboy Mounted Shooters who put on a clinic at the barn and brought nine broke shooting horses). We were able to "green break for gunfire" about 8 horses in six hours. It takes 1000 rounds to make a reliable "shooting horse" but this was a very good start.

          There are other ways to "desensitize" a horse to gunfire, but some horses never will settle. I had a Walker gelding that was as steady as a rock until somebody pulled a pistol (or a camera). Then he was NOT. He absolutely would not tolerate sharp noises of any kind. No desensitization that we did worked. I sold him to a nice lady who tried everything, including taking him to a "police horse desensitizing clinic." He did everything except the gunfire.

          The best approach might be to bring in the sensitive horse(s) when the quiet one is removed.

          Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


          • #6
            The local deputy lived next door to my last boarding barn, and had built his own range on the property. The range was maybe... a tenth of a mile from our pastures? You could certainly hear it, even in the barn. He shot everything, even big .50 cal rounds for about an hour nearly every night. Who knows how he could afford it!

            It generally took new horses about a week to get used to it. I say generally, because my gleeful idiot perked his ears right up the first day there and went trotting over to the fence line to get a better look. No breaking in there.


            • #7
              Foxhunters shoot .22 rat shot at hounds to stop them from running deer.

              I always just got on the horse with my pistol and shot. No attempt to teach. Just do it.

              However for larger calibers, it is better to teach them.

              The old cavalry manual said feed the horse his grain and have target practice very close to the barn.

              After some period of time, he will associate the noise with feed.

              That said, I did have a half bred Irish horse once that would go absolutely nuts. If mounted, he would run through or over whatever was in front of him. In the barn, he would try to go up the wall.

              Got rid of him. Never did like him anyway.

              There are cowboy shooting events in about every area. Take your horse to one and stay all day.

              Let him snuggle up to a broke horse.


              • #8
                I was going to say to coincide with feeding time. If the neighbor starts up, go feed them something. If you do some balloon popping, throw out some hay first. Low impact desensitizing.

                The way to a horse's brain is through their stomach sometimes!
                “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


                • #9
                  We asked a guy ( he does CMS) about desensitizing the pony and he said to go to Wal mart, go in the pharmacy/cosmetics section to the natural products and get a sponge. Cut the thing into a long triangle and stuff his ears. Then the cheapest noisy stuff to get is the .22 loads for nail guns. At least I think that's what he said, he and DH were into model numbers and whatnot for the approved firearms.

                  He said that some horses never get used to it, he has a barrel mare that would be perfect only the minute she sees the pistol she checks out.

                  We have loads of random shots here and they aren't too reactive, but fireworks make them both nuts - I guess it's the volume.
                  Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                  Incredible Invisible


                  • #10
                    I ran across this video a few weeks ago. I was actually telling someone about it this morning b/c I think this cool cowboy is actually for real (as opposed to lots of fakers)


                    For noise, he uses a cracking whip all around horse, then on his back. I couldn't crack the whip on horseback w/out nailing the poor thing by accident. I need to work on my whip handling skills b/f trying this!


                    • #11
                      have had horses that did not mind the pistol but absolutely would not tolerate the sound of a hound whip.

                      My impression is that it is easier to break a horse to the pistol than to the whip.

                      So unless you are going to serve as a whipper-in in a hunt club, skip the whip cracking.


                      • #12
                        When you gun break a horse for CMS you have to deal with four fears:

                        1. Fear of the balloons. This can really be a big hurdle for horse and rider as move in the breeze. This random movement is a Big Deal to the horse.

                        2. Fear of the mechanical sound of the pistol. When the hammer is cocked the sound is sharp and distinct. Most horses seem to settle with this reasonably well, but it can come back as an issue later on when the horse associates the cocking noise with the coming shot.

                        3. Fear of the noise of the report. Different rounds make different sounds. Where you fire can made a difference (echos, reverberations, etc.).

                        4. Fear of the cloud of white smoke. This is not as common an "operational fear" as the first three but it is a barrier for some horses.

                        Just how you address each of these fears will vary from rider to rider. We like to use the "broke horse with green horse" method. It is the most cumbersome in some ways (you have to obtain a gun broke horse) but seems to provide the fastest and most consistent result.

                        Of course the above problems are those training for CMS. The Army didn't do CMS and their method worked for what they did. The M1911 used smokeless powder and has a different report than a .45 Colt SAA. You have to "rack the slide" on the M1911 but that's a "one time" event. With the SAA you have to cock the pistol before each shot; the horse figures that out pretty quickly and some will begin to react long before you pull the trigger. The Army also had to train the horse to a multiplicity of noise (vehicles from Jeeps to tanks; low flying aircraft; artillery fire, outgoing and incoming; automatic weapons fire; etc.). They used the "broke horse with green horse" method more than anything else. They had large quantities of both, with experienced riders, so it was not such a big deal with them.

                        For the horse in a field that reacts badly to gunfire a program of conditioning the horse to the noise is the optimal solution (if not the only one). A second choice would be the presence of the calm horse pasture mate. Choices after that get more labor intensive and less reliable.

                        Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão