I have the privilege of haven a BLM. He's as faithful as a true freind. But every since i had a spill off my dads 1/4 horse and broke my leg, he backs away. I know his fear is the crutch's. Cause as long as i dont have the crutches close to me[like when im leaning against the gate] he comes right up to me. Put as soon as i move them close he backs off. And he dont turn around and runs, he backs up to his comfort zone. How do i show him they wont hurt him? Ruthann
Great Question Ruthann,
Let's understand some concepts first. Horses fear things that move and make noise, but they are curious my nature. Some horse have more of the flight response than others. Horses are also generally lazy and would rather just sit around be social and eat. Self preservation is at the heart of all horses. They are food not a pet, "in their eyes".
We can do two things with horse that have these types of fears, sensitize or desensitize. As you pointed out he is sensitized by the crutches because he moves his feet. What we want to do is desensitize him to what he fears by making him board with it. Understand that the crutches are the stimuli that motivates him to move. It really does not matter what the stimuli is. It could be a plastic bag, clippers, dogs, a rock, it is all the same. It is the stimuli that we need to say to him it is not the motivator.
Tough love! Have you ever heard someone say to a crying kid, "If you don't stop crying, I will give you something to cry about"? Same thing here. If he is worried about the crutches, then make him worried more about it not less. He needs to confront his fears. By making it more of an issue until he understands it is not going to eat him.
The trick is to release the stimuli when he is relaxed and board with it. You show it to him more and more. You also need to know the physical signs of when a horse is relaxed. Knowing when to quit is the key to success. If you quit him when he is worried about it, you have said to him, if you are nervous the stimuli will go away. What you want him to know is that the stimuli will only go away when you relax. Timing and feel is the key to success. Know when to quit. Once you start this process, you have to see it through to the end or you will confirm his fears.