Blog .:. September 2012 1 Entries

Desensitization: It’s not just for horses

6 September 2012 Comments

I have spent a lot of time working with Ro to teach her how to cope with unexpected scary things.

Bouncy castles? Giant water slides? Above-ground pools with inflatable balls bobbing around in them?

Check, check, check.

Shiny streamers tied to a fence?

Check (reluctantly).

Llamas?

Ok, she never really did get over the llamas. -1.

The thing is, I’m not really interested in the bouncy castles or pool toys in and of themselves. I just want to know that no matter what odd things I throw at her, Ro will keep her marbles together. I also don’t really care if she gets snorty and gives me a “WTF are you doing? It’s going to eat us” look as we walk up to or by the thing—she can have an opinion, as long as she’s moving forward at my preferred gait/speed while she has it.

All of this may pay off one day in a big way, when something truely scary happens while we ride.

But more likely, it’s just going to pay off in the small things.

Like last week. Ro and I are both a little bit more into a routine and are starting to go back to real work—getting a rhythm back, getting balance, getting off the forehand, riding something that resembles a circle more than an lopsided polygon…

And just when the ride was starting to show promise, Ro got smacked in the side of the head by a giant insect. It didn’t look like a horse fly, but it was big enough that I could hear it hit her head.

She was not amused, but other than tossing her head and hesitating for a stride, she went straight back to work.

Then the sucker did a U-turn and hit her from the other direction.

At that point, Ro was pissed.

And that’s the point where all the “you don’t have to like it, you just have to go forward” part of the desensitization training paid off. She was very unhappy, but she went forward and settled back down.

She got her revenge last night, though. We were riding in the dark, under lights, when suddenly something dive-bombed us from a tree. The thing was screaming like a dying banshee. I’m guessing it was a cicada, although I’ve never heard a cicada that sounded like that thing.

Instead of hitting Ro, it landed on me. I don’t like bugs—at all—so there were a few interesting moments before I managed to get the thing off my leg and stare in horror as it went bounding through the arena sand.

I swear Ro was laughing at me the entire time. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right?

Unfortunately, I’m not interested in having bugs fall on me repeatedly until I get over that ZOMG feeling, so I’m not sure I’m going to get over that particular issue any time soon. On the other hand… Ro is still afraid of llamas. We’re square, I think.

(In Dexter news, he got his wolf teeth taken out last week. The vet said they were the biggest wolf teeth he’s ever seen. One day, I will have a vet appointment that doesn’t involve the vet saying “That’s the [something]-est thing I’ve ever seen.” One day.)

Tagged: Groundwork, Horse Care, Horses, Horses - Dexter, Horses - Ro, Insects, Llamas, Riding, Riding - Dressage

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