Desensitising horses is a very popular approach these days and on the face of it I can see why people think it is a good idea. However, when I discussed it with Pip when I first came to Pippsway, she didn’t agree. Her argument is that you cannot possibly desensitise a horse to every likely eventuality and what are you going to do then? Also it can serve to ‘shut the horse down’ and Pip likes her horses to be very much alert and present to everything that is happening. So instead of desensitising her horses, she focuses on building two way communication and a trusting relationship.
I’ve been working on my relationship with my horse for over a year now and we’ve come such a long way. So when I arrived up at the top field grass arena and realised I’d forgotten my stirrups (a lady had borrowed my saddle at the Horse Connection Clinic and wanted to use her own stirrups), I decided to do some work without any. Well so what? The thing was there was a very noisy helicopter hovering nearby. He would hover for a time then fly about a bit and then hover once more. In the past I would have been too scared to ride at all with a helicopter flying about. I would have expected it to scare my horse and I’d have been right as my horse would have been taking his cue from me and if I thought it was frightening he would certainly agree with me! Instead? Well instead I knew it wouldn’t be a problem. We set off to do our schooling, work on our communication and I was concentrating very much on improving my seat. Neither of us took any notice at all of the helicopter!
I’ve been out on hacks with Pip where we have passed a van with a trailer full of Christmas trees, road works, tractors, temporary signs, cones, other horses, bins and goodness knows what else without the horses batting an eyelid. I’ve been out on a hack since with my horse where he shied at every drain, bush and things that didn’t even exist! Why? Because my focus was off and so he didn’t have any confidence in me. Once I realised this and sorted it out we were back to happily going forwards without any issues on the very same hack. The wonderful thing about knowing I am most likely the cause of any problems with my horse is that it means I am also the solution. When things are going wrong for Bronson and me I know to always check myself instead of blaming him. When your relationship is right then there’s no need to worry about helicopters, bins or anything else!