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Can you desensitize a horse to the sound of gun shots?


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My husband and I are in negotiation for a home wayyy out in the country. We've talked about how we could build a small shooting range on the property, but I have a horse and I'd be afraid of constantly spooking him. Does anyone have experience with this? Could we desensitize him to it? Or would it forever be a stress on him?

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absolutely. Instead of going through the different methods here, perhaps you should first do a search on cowboy mounted shooting - lots of good info.

 

Cotton stuffed in nylon stockings make good earplugs.

 

I have one mare who doesn't even look up when I am shooting my .45 Colt blanks, and another who will flinch if she's across the arena and I dryfire. Everyone is different. I like the Parelli style of "baby steps" (http://www.parelli.com/) rather than the "total imersion" (read "total terror") that some teach.

 

 

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http://www.horsetrainingwiz.com/Trail%20Riding.html

 

This site suggests starting with a bb gun first then working your way up...

 

and this site suggests starting with popping balloons http://ricochetriders.com/training2.htm

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Both Gunplumber and Susie brought up a very good point- the nature of the horse is where you start.

 

MOST animals consider something new and react without thought in the following order-

 

Can it eat me? Yes- run. No- ignore it

 

Can I eat IT? Yes- eat it. No- ignore it

 

But individuals will naturally be more sensitive to different things, just like people.

 

I have a mare (yanno- one of those Crazy Arabians- the only horses I ever trusted my children on- they make excellent babysitters) who LOVES fireworks. When I first bought her, it was right before New Years Eve and I was nervously watching out in the horse pen for their reactions (I'd also bought a big ol' lazy App at the same time for my hubby to learn to ride on).

 

Well, the App ran into the woods to hide when the fireworks started, 'bout the same time all the dogs dove under the house, but Shar trotted out to the middle of the pen, tipped her ears forward, and spent the entire evening watching the pretty sparkles in the sky. rofl

 

I retired a big Arabian gelding to the local school for autistic children- they need very very calm horses for the therapy that includes the children pushing buttons, ringing bells, making floppy toys hung from the ceiling bounce by pulling on them- all the while the mounted children were making loud, sporadic noises. He loved it. The woman who runs it says most horses need training with volunteers for months, and then sometimes don't get used to it- Frisky had one day of volunteers, then they tossed a kid up there. He knew 'his' kids, and would watch them across the field on the playground.

 

Our regional airport has a big horse farm right up next to it, police use horses in NYC, parade, rodeo and circus horses all become adjusted to loud noises and really weird stuff.

 

I'm assuming your shooting range will not be right up next to the horse pen. MOST likely, the first time or two ya'll shoot, the horse will jump around some, looking for the monster. Once it's apparent that shooting does not = getting eaten, your horse will probably ignore it.

 

 

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I play around with mounted shooting, but I don't yet have the time or the skill to compete formally.

 

Personally, I wouldn't use any training techniques from the US Cav days. They had a philosophy that a horse was merely a piece of meat to be beaten and tortured into terrorized submission. Perhaps it was needed to get the most trained the fastest and then thrown into the breach as cannon-fodder.

 

We have better ways now. A horse is a living, breathing, thinking, semi-intelligent animal with very real genetic survival programming hardwired in. They have personalities and moods and tantrums. As mentioned above, they think in terms of "shall I run from it, eat it, or mate with it?" In that way they are a lot like the French.

 

Horses avoid discomfort and inconvenience. Some call this lazy. I guess "lazy" works. I train under the philosophy that horses want to return to the lazy state with minimal discomfort. They do not obey because they like you and want to please you. They obey to avoid the discomfort of not obeying.

 

A horse doesn't turn left because you calf-squeeze the right side. He turns left because you will STOP calf-squeezing him if he does. And he will avoid also the escalation to a heel, neck reign and then plow rein (which seems really annoying to them) if he chooses the lesser inconvenience of turning now.

 

I am not a brilliant equestrian. My understanding of the how and why far exceeds my coordination and skill at actually doing it. I had some very good teachers and after examining techniques and teaching styles of a number of the "big names" in the equestrian field, I find that taught by Pat Parelli to just make the most sense to me.

 

Now back to those real survival fears. I don't know where you are in your relationship with the animals, but it is my opinion that until your horses recognize you as the dominant mare, no training can take place. If you can't get instant yielding to your body-language pressure from the ground - then the horse does not recognize you as leader and will not trust YOUR calm during loud noises to mean there is no danger.

 

Horses easily surrender their instinct to a dominant. Foals run when mom runs. Mom runs when her leader runs. A young horse will see or hear something strange and look to their leader. If the leader isn't concerned, they are not concerned. If the leader is attentive, they are attentive. And if the leader freaks out and bolts, the followers follow.

 

What I do after establishing my leadership position, is to just do every day work with a horse while someone else introduces the new scary thing. And I just concentrate on grooming and not showing any body language that would suggest I even notice the new scary thing. If the horse recognizes you as a trusted leader, then they will cue off your calmness. But if the horse doesn't recognize you as leader, it has to revert to saving its own skin from the scary thing.

 

If you know someone else who has a horse already conditioned to gunshots, then having that horse tied near by also having no reaction will help.

 

Finally - baby steps. Don't expect one day to undo a thousand years of genetic memory and self-preservation instinct.

 

It took me several weeks to get my young gelding comfortable will a trailer. But now I just point and tell him to get on the trailer and he goes. Actually, I now need to work on "stay out of the trailer until I tell you to get in" and "do not chew all the electrical wiring of my neighbor's trailer"

 

 

 

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Originally Posted By: Gunplumber
absolutely. Instead of going through the different methods here, perhaps you should first do a search on cowboy mounted shooting - lots of good info.

Cotton stuffed in nylon stockings make good earplugs.

I have one mare who doesn't even look up when I am shooting my .45 Colt blanks, and another who will flinch if she's across the arena and I dryfire. Everyone is different. I like the Parelli style of "baby steps" (http://www.parelli.com/) rather than the "total imersion" (read "total terror") that some teach.



Very true about the cotton in the ears. My grandfather used to elk hunt from horseback when he went out west. He used to put tightly wadded cotton in her ears and he never had a major problem with her throwing him off or going nutso. I would think the idea of slowly orienting the animal to the sounds would be best if it is a young horse. Horses have lots of personalities. My grandfather used his mare Mindy for out west but never took Dusty with (the male). He had a problem with getting his hooves wet, of all things. If he came to a tiny creek in the trail, hang on, you're going for a wild ride. Mindy on the other hand we rode every day for years and was never spooked by anything, her personality was just too calm. Dogs nipping at her, nothing would make her lose it. Kids throwing rocks, no problem. Seems like gunplumber has some good knowledge here, go with it.
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I wonder if a tactic used to rehabilitate gun-shy hunting dogs would work on acclimating other critters to the sound of gunfire?

 

In a nutshell, it is simply a recording of gunshots. Expose the animal to the sounds several times a day, GRADUALLY adjusting the volume from faint to loud over a period of a week or two.

 

That's it! By the time full volume is gradually achieved, the critter is used to it.

 

Notice the keyword: GRADUALLY.

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Quote:
It took me several weeks to get my young gelding comfortable will a trailer. But now I just point and tell him to get on the trailer and he goes. Actually, I now need to work on "stay out of the trailer until I tell you to get in" and "do not chew all the electrical wiring of my neighbor's trailer"


LOL Gunplumber! That's a horse, alright. I always say," ya know...for such a bright intelligent large critter, they sure do act stoopid some times."


My horses ignore the many gunshots in our neck of the woods.



Do not get me started on a certain CONSTANTLY-LOOKING-FOR-AN-EXCUSE-TO-BARK dog and the aforementioned frequent gunshots...... rollingeyes



MtRider [more likely to be unseated by a deer popping out onto the road than any gunshots.... ]



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