This article was written by Lindsey Forkun, Equine and Natural Horsemanship Expert, and author of the book Natural Horsemanship Answering the What, Why, and How for ALL Disciplines.
Bree and Chica have the goal of becoming quiet and safe trail horses. There are many things that horses have to become desensitized to as a trail horse. One of those scary things is a bicycle.
Over the weekend I had Bree and Chica in the ring for training and James was riding his bike nearby. It spooked both of the girls. We decided to let the girls loose in the ring, and have James ride his bike around the ring. James was careful to ride his bike in a non-threatening way – not going directly at the horses.
Letting the horses loose in the ring allowed them a chance to develop some confidence on their own, but it also allowed me to learn more about each of these horses and how they react.
At first both horses were pretty excited and nervous about the bike, running away from it and keeping at a distance. In a matter of minutes they became curious though. They started watching the bike and James as it was ridden around the ring.
The next part was quite interesting. Chica decided the bike wasn’t a threat and just started to eat grass, but Bree decided the bike was interesting and she started following the bike around the ring. She followed for a little while before deciding to eat grass too.
Watching the girls respond to something new and scary let learn a little about how they react in extremely scary situations. To my delight, these horses settled really quickly. This is great news for becoming a trail horse!
We finished up our training session me riding each of the girls at walk, halt, and back up. Erin was there to hold a lead rope in case the horse got confused or lacked confidence. It was getting darker and windier so I didn’t want to take any chances with them getting nervous. It was my first time board Chica and Bree this weekend so I wanted to make it a really positive experience.
Both girls were excellent. Chica was a bit more relaxed than Bree, but both of them relaxed and understood the cues.
Key Message This Week: Desensitizing horses is important, but it doesn’t have to be traumatizing and directed at the horse. In this case we allowed the horses to be free in the ring and rode the bike around the ring, not directed at the horses. It allows the horse to show you when they are relaxed.