What is your horse afraid of?

Good thing I hadn’t planned on riding tonight anyway, because we had the return of the Jack Donkey from Hell.

There’s this little old horse dealer type guy who, for reasons known only to him, occasionally parks a trailer in the parking lot here overnight with his jack donkey in it. J.D. does not shut up the whole time. Bray, bray, stomp, stomp, bray, bray.

My VLC, who normally never spooks at anything, is terrified of this donkey. Or rather, I think he is probably afraid of the fact that there is a trailer that sounds like a very loud donkey. You can’t see the donkey, so you merely hear the braying and the stomping. We had to lead past it to turn out and come back in tonight. He was flipped out. Neck arched, snorting, trying to run around me in a circle, totally out of character for him. I put my elbow into his shoulder to keep him from crowding me and made him walk past, but he was not thrilled.

Of course, it occurs to me that we may encounter a donkey at some point in our future performance career, and it would be a good idea to desensitize him. This is easier said than done. Apparently the jack donkey is a breeding donkey and extremely aggressive, so the last thing I am going to do is put my horse anywhere near him. The VLC is not afraid of cattle or llamas, so maybe he won’t be afraid of a donkey that isn’t having a shit fit in a horse trailer, but I don’t want to find out the hard way. I think I need to find a friend with a gentle donkey I can introduce him to!

OK, what’s your horse’s biggest fear? Is it something you can mostly avoid or something you are going to have to get him or her desensitized to? What’s your plan for doing so? Do you think the horse is as scared of X at this point as you are of the horse’s possible/potential reaction to X? Are you spooking your horse? (Lots of us do this. You know, the horse has spooked at X three times before, so when we spot X, we literally spook in the saddle, whether or not the horse does a thing. I admit it! I’ve done it! Who else?)

On a related note: Can we desensitize ourselves to things we fear the same way we desensitize our horses? I think that we can. Let’s say we’re scared to jump an X. Won’t it help to trot over a ground pole 50 times and then the half-X 50 more times? Sure it will. It wears down the fear. You realize you probably really aren’t going to die. So what do you fear doing on horseback, and is it something you can desensitize yourself to by easing into it, one baby step at a time, with lots of repetition so that the positive experience gets drilled into your head?

Published in: on April 29, 2008 at 3:57 am  Leave a Comment  

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