Bombproof & Desensitize Your Horse

American West
Techniques for Bombpoofing

Now, in this case “bombproof” does not describe artillery; although the Cavalry does still do that today (in demonstrations and reenactments). Reckless (who transported artillery alone across battlefields) was certainly bombproof. We generally don’t need to go quite that far today; but there are a couple of other techniques I used. I used to start mares, so I will tell you what I did with the mares I used to start.

First, I would be sure I could touch the horse’s ears. I would massage the skin behind her ear on the ground first and then touch the ears while mounted. I would also be sure I could touch the horse’s rump and croup both while on the ground and when mounted.

Second, be certain you can pick up your horse’s feet. This is not just about handling the feet. I would hold it up until she became uncomfortable (which is usually pretty quick with a young horse), and continue holding the foot in the air until the horse stops struggling. Then I set the foot down as a reward. This is very important for the farrier.

Third, be certain the horse will stand while being mounted. Yes, in the beginning you need someone to hold the horse, but don’t stay with that for long. If you do, she will never stand without someone on the ground. Early in training, pull her head to one side while you get on & wait to mount until she stands still. Lean over her back and if the she moves, continue leaning over her back and pull her in a small circle until she stops. Once she has stopped, then you can get on. The horse will learn that moving has no benefits and that’s it’s easier just to stand still.

Fourth, stay calm. Your horse can sense your emotions, even if you are successful in hiding them from everyone else. If you are nervous, she will trust you and think there is a reason to be scared. If you are nervous or having a bad day, she will absolutely reflect your emotions in her behavior.

Training from early in life can reflect a horse’s behavior later in life. You have to nip misbehavior in the bud. If a horse learns confident respect early in life; she will continue that long term and be ready for someone with less experience.

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