When I first start messing with my colts I like to really desensitize them to everything I can think of. Horses are prey animals and are always on alert that something may be coming to eat them. I want to expose my horses to as much as possible so they will be less likely to spook later on.
I like to start by desensitizing my colts to the everyday tools I will be using. I take the object I’m desensitizing my horse to and first let him sniff it. The first object I usually use is my lead rope. I rub him on the forehead with the rope, and once he relaxes and doesn’t seem to mind the rope touching his head, I rub the rope down his neck. I then proceed to rub the rope all over his body. If I come to a place that he is starting to act a little spooky, I just move back to a place where he was relaxed. Let’s say you are rubbing his neck with a rope, and he is nice and relaxed with that. Then when you start to move down his shoulder onto his leg he starts to move around. I simply go back to rubbing the rope on his neck and work my way back down to his shoulder then onto his leg. Again if he starts to act up go back to rubbing his neck. Eventually he will be okay with the rope touching his legs. You also need to make sure to desensitize you horse to everything on both sides. Something may be okay with your horse on one side and completely freak him out on the other. The following pictures are of me desensitizing Cobain to a rope. Notice how in the first couple pictures he looks a little unsure. Then in the bottom picture he seems completely relaxed. It is at this point I will either quit for the day or move on to another object to desensitize him to.
Every time I introduce my horse to something new I go through the same process. I let him sniff it. I rub his face with it. Then starting at the neck I rub it all over his body. I feel that desensitizing is a very important part of training and is a step that your horse can never get too much of.
Here I’m desensitizing Cobain to a brush. Because Cobain was born in the wild, everything he sees he thinks is a potential threat.
I can’t stress how important it is to desensitize young horses to as many different things as you can. While you can’t expose them to everything, the more you do expose them to the better horse you will have. Take your time in during the desensitizing process, the results will be well worth the effort you put into it.