What is a SIGNAL or CUE?
This is anything that puts pressure on the horse. A signal is a stimulus. Surprisingly a signal does not have to be physical. You can have your horse respond to a stimulus without ever touching him/her. A signal can be applied to your horse by eye contact the form of your body position or physical pressure.For example : With your hand or your lead rope.
What is Desensitizing?
This is when you continually apply a stimulus until all response is eliminated. You are desensitizing your horse every time you repeatedly apply a stimulus. This stimulus can be your hand patting his/her neck, a brush on his/her belly, a halter on his/her face, a tall wrap on his/her tail, a saddle on his/her back, even your voice and body language . You have taught him/her that when you touch him/her with any of these things, he/she should give you NO response. You have desensitized him/her to those things.
How do you properly Desensitize a horse?
1. Create a stimulus.
2. Wait for NO response.
3. Release the stimulus and praise horse.
4. Wait 2 - 3 seconds and start at No:1 again.
Important points when Desensitizing:
When creating a stimulus such as stroking or rubbing using your hand you must continue with the stimulus consistently until the horse gives you NO response. If you remove the stimulus before the horse stops responding you will be sensitizing him/her (this is how bad habits form).
He/she will believe that whatever action he/she was taking (whether it was a swish of his/her tail or a stomp of his foot ... or anything) is was the correct action But what you wanted was NO action, NO responses.
Here's an Example:
You want to teach a foal to accept various types of brushes and to allow you to groom him/her. You start with a soft, easily accepted brush such as a Horse - Hair brush. You begin stroking him/her with the soft brush even if he walks around or twitches his/her skin. Once he/she stands still and gives NO response you remove the stimulus (The Brushing).
What is Sensitizing?
This is when you continually apply a stimulus until you get a response. If you sensitize a horse correctly he will respond immediately and %100 of the time he will never not listen to the cue.
Many people sensitize their horse "on accident" ... this is how horses learn bad habits. Read below to learn how to desensitize and sensitize your horse properly so that you won't ever "accidentally" teach him/her bad habits.
How do you properly SENSITIZE a horse to a specific cue?
1. Create a Stimulus.
2. Wait for the correct response.
3. Immediately release the stimulus.
4. Wait 2-3 seconds and start at No:1 again.
Important points when Sensitizing:
When creating a stimulus such as pressure from your hand you must continue with that stimulus consistently until the horse gives you the correct response. If you remove the stimulus before the horse responds correctly you will be desensitizing him/her (this is how bad habits form).
He/She will believe that he/she doesn't have to respond to that stimulus since he/she got rewarded (release of pressure is the best reward) when he/she did nothing.
Here's an example:
You put pressure on his/her ribs with your fingers. He/She feels this and notices that after a few seconds or few minutes it becomes annoying or irritating . He/She then tries everything that horse can to get you to take your finger away from his/her ribs. He/She may shake his/her head or swish his/her tail or move towards you (as if to push you out of the way) and finally the horse moves away. Once horse moves away you release the stimulus immediately. Horse will soon realizes that you will stop pushing on his/her ribs when he/she steps away from you or from your finger pushing on the ribs.
Why and How these Methods work well on every Horse?
This works extremely well because horses use these methods on each other.
A mare will teach her foal to stay close by calling the foal vocally.
Once the foal moves closer to her Mother she will immediately stop calling her foal.
How are most "Bad Habits" formed?
Bad habits are formed by the Rider/Owner confusing Desensitizing with Sensitizing.
These two lines above are so important and crucial for the Horse,Trainer,Rider, Owner and anyone who has got anything to do with these creatures (HORSES) please keep this like a board in front of your eyes, PLEASE.
Example of a rider confusing SENSITIZING with DESENSITIZING:
"It happens all the time and most of the problems starts here"
The rider puts pressure on the horse's mouth asking the horse to slow down. When the horse slows down slightly the rider does not release the pressure on the horse's mouth and decides to turn instead. What's the problem? Well the horse never gets his release, therefore the horse becomes confused as to whether or not slowing down is the correct action to take when pressure is put on his/her mouth.
Not to mention the horse went from one signal to the next without a release ... when the rider doesn't REWARD the horse in the form of a release the horse becomes confused and /or begins to ignore the signal (resulting in a HARD MOUTH) .
Now honestly how many times have you done this? I used to do this all the time (and wondered why the horses would stop listening to me) before I learned the simple methods I am going to outline here,
By using proper DESENSITIZING and SENSITIZING methods consistently while working around or riding your horse . Horses will become unbelievably responsive to every cue you give them. When you apply a stimulus all the horse wants out of life at that very moment is for you to release the stimulus. This is why treats are not necessary when training a horse.
How many of us have seen wrong body positioning one the seat of the saddle?
Instead of Desensitizing the Ear we Sensitize it and in the end we say the Training did not work properly but we don't say we did not do it right.
With all respect to Robert Miller D.V.M