Blog Groundwork Tips Remedial Tips - Handling Young Horses

Desensitising and Making a Movie Star out of JJ!

Now, this video may be a bit of fun, but it actually has some serious training behind it! I have had JJ for quite a while now and I am training him to sell as a dressage horse, but he can a bit of a stress-head about some things. I have had to do a lot of desensitising work with him, both on the ground and under saddle, and using the leaf blower was just another thing that I could find to get him used to. If you have a nervous, or spooky horse, lots of desensitising work will help prepare him for the big, wide, world.

When I first try to start the leaf-blower, JJ’s first reaction was to run away. However, I know the training that I have done in the past is working as when he hits the end of the rope, he disengages the hind end and then steps forward again. Getting that step forward is so important as it shows that his trust in me is greater than his fear. It doesn’t take him too long before he is standing still, albeit it still wary, whilst I struggle to get the leaf blower going. Once I have got the blower started, the first thing I do is walk in front of JJ, with him following. As I explain in the video, this takes away the fear of it being a “predator”, as predators stalk and chase from behind.

At the end of the video, there are some signs that JJ hasn’t fully accepted the leaf blower. Can you spot them?

Here is what I have noted:

  • His tail is clamped down – this shows that he has tension in his body
  • His head is still high – a relaxed horse will have a lowered head
  • His ears are fixed on the blower and twitching – he hasn’t yet “switched off” to the blower

Having said that, I was really pleased with his reactions, and it will only take one or two more sessions with the leaf blower for him to be totally relaxed with it. And that is what we are looking in our desensitising work; little and often and making sure we always have a positive outcome.