Overcoming Fear In Horse Training

After the colt has had his first drive, and before you hitch him up for the second, it is necessary to get him used to objects and noises that will probably frighten him on the road.

During the first drive, his mind was taken up with the touch of the shafts and the vehicle behind him, that he gave no attention to objects along the road, which later may probably frighten him

It is best to give this lesson in the enclosure with nothing but the harness, lines, and surcingle on the colt. You now have no use for the rein, for you want the colt to have free use of its head so that it may see, hear and touch objects freely. Lead the colt to the center of the enclosure.

Take help from your assistant

Have your assistant take the lines in his hands. He should merely keep the slack out of them. He must prevent the colt from starting if it shows an inclination to do so. If the horse feels the slightest pressure on the lines, he would be very much inclined to start, thinking that was what was wanted of him.

When you let loose of the colt’s head, step back carefully along his side, walk backward and keep looking him in the eye. If you see that he is thinking of following you, stop a second or two, until the thought is gone, then go quickly backward.

It is usually best to step back along the right side as this will attract the colt’s attention less than if you are on the left side, mainly if the assistant makes it a point just then, to be standing a little to the left so that he can attract the colt’s attention from you.

Whoa, the magic word

After passing the assistant and going about twenty feet behind the colt, start walking back and forth a few turns, keeping twenty feet away all the time and continually saying, “` Whoa,” “Whoa,” every step you take. Every time you go to the right or left, go a little farther each time until you finally make a complete circle around the colt, then you go in one direction keeping twenty feet away all the time.

Overcoming Fear In Horse Training
Colt Horses

By saying “Whoa” every step and doing your work as fast as possible, the colt will become accustomed to hearing the command from every angle, and it will also tend to cause the horse to stand still in his tracks. Your assistant should do nothing unless the colt shows signs of starting, then he should set it back with the lines, immediately following the command “Whoa.”

After the colt gets so he will standstill, which will be only a few moments, usually less time than it takes to tell all this, you can take tin pans or anything with which you can make a noise and while making the circle and when directly in front of the colt, start the racket, but not too loud at first. Be very careful at first, so as not to startle the horse. If you see that the racket is more than he can stand, ease up and start it over again until he becomes used to the noise.

Be careful while you’re at the backside

As you get directly back of the colt, go carefully. You are now at the place when a few more steps bring you at an angle where the horse will see you with his other eye and hear you with his other ear. It is usually best to stop the racket entirely at this point, for two or three rounds, gradually increasing the noise as you approach the front.

After you have made a turn or two, you can make all the noise possible, in front, at the sides, and the rear without exciting the colt in the least. All of this work should be done quickly. It is better to make these circles in a run rather than in a walk after you get started. It is very seldom that the assistant is called upon to do anything with the lines. He should be prepared, however, to USE them quickly and effectively if the occasion should require.

After you have made three or four rounds, the assistant can back away from the lines, being sure not to attract the attention of the colt at the time, and leave him standing alone in the center of the enclosure, with you running around him making all kinds of noise. The assistant can even help you make the noise if you so desire.

All the time you have been doing this, keep saying “Whoa” over and over again, so the colt will get the idea that “Whoa” means to stand still no matter what happens. This training of the horse to noises can be done in two or three minutes if done as instructed. As soon as the colt pays no attention to noise, quit.

Now train the colt!

You are now ready to train the colt not to fear the sight of different objects. Have your assistant take a couple of dozen newspapers, spread out, so they will make a large bunch in each hand. He should stand facing the colt, about a rod in front of it with his arms uplifted, waving the papers if necessary to attract the colt’s attention. Have the assistant move backward, and you drive the horse directly toward him.

This may be a little hard to do, for the colt may try to spring sideways or run backward or whirl entirely around with you. Use your voice as you force the horse forward. Keep saying, “Take care, Sir.” “` Walk right up to it. It won’t hurt you.”

Say this over and over again. The sound of your voice encourages the colt and even attracts his attention from the papers for the time being. Say the words distinctly and in a commanding voice. You must remember to keep your lines equally tight and, whatever you do, don’t allow the colt to turn either to the right or left, but compel him to go forward.

Use the whip around the hind legs, if necessary. Keep a firm grip on the lines. Extend your arms far enough forward so that you can have a long, full armed pull on the lines, if necessary, at any time, in controlling the colt.

Overcoming Fear In Horse Training for good
Horses

Drive the colt forward so that his head comes directly between the outstretched arms of the moving assistant, who slowly closes in with both arms so that he touches both sides of the colt’s neck at the same time, just back of the head.

Stop the colt with the command, “Whoa,” and have the assistant stop and rub the papers all about the colt’s head and neck and down the front legs, to convince him that the papers are harmless. Now have your assistant walk backward and, at the same time, give the colt the command “Get Up.”

Have your assistant drop the papers one at a time, immediately under the colt’s neck, so he will have to walk directly over them. Let the colt stop and touch them if he wishes to do so. If he stops, the assistant should stop also. Then when the colt is ready to start, the assistant should again move backward away from the horse. Now pile the papers in a large pile and drive the colt over them again and again until he is utterly indifferent to them.

The process of getting the colt used to flags and umbrellas is the same as for papers, excepting, of course, you do not have him walk over the umbrellas, but your assistant may have a black cloth in his hand that he may drop under the colt’s feet. This is more fully explained in Book 6 under the heading, “Afraid of Umbrellas.”

Hang a robe on the fence and drive him up to it. Let him take his time in going up, encouraging him by saying, “Be careful; walk right up to it,” etc., until he walks up and touches it. Have the assistant to shake the robe gently to show that it is harmless even in motion.

Repeat the process with a sheet or anything that will attract the colt’s attention. By this time, he ought to be convinced you will not compel him to go any place where he will be harmed. You are now ready to hitch up and give the second drive. It is better to use no rein in this drive so your colt may have free use of its head and neck.

Drive him up to anything that frightens him in the least and allow him to touch it. Never let him hurry past objects that scare him. Time spent in these early drives is not, by any means, lost as it may save time and dollars later.

If you’re interested do read our article on the American Quarter horse.

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