Bombproofing Bahamut Part I
“See, it’s not so spooky.” My horse training tips and desensitizing exercises.
Some OTTB's, off the track Thoroughbreds, come off of the racetrack "green" or "spooky." One of the first fundamental techniques that's helpful in the training of your ex-racehorse is "bombproofing," or "sacking out," which is a series of desensitizing exercises. There are many different ways to safely do these activities your horse. The results are worthwhile, providing confidence in your horse, by you establishing leadership in your relationship. You will also gain the ability to handle sudden flight response situations, while under saddle.
by Raina Paucar
Raina and Bahamut in the outdoor arena ©Edgar Paucar
This week I worked with Bahamut, the ex-racehorse I've adopted, on overcoming some things that spooked him. I would often turn him loose in the outdoor arena when it was warm enough, so he could acclimate himself to the objects in there. Not much seemed to bother him, except, I noticed how he kept his distance far away from the white bridge. He looked certain it would eat him alive. So, I took this as a training opportunity.
I walked over the bridge several times, and started jumping up and down on it .Thankfully, I was alone at the barn that day, so nobody would think I’d gone mad. However, my horse stared at me with a confused expression.
Once he realized the bridge was an inanimate object that wouldn’t swallow him into oblivion, I took the next step. I hooked the lead rope onto his halter and began to take small steps towards the bridge. I didn’t pull at him and continued walking until I was at the end of the rope. I called for him to come closer to me (he’s been trained to respond to my calling him). He took a few steps and stopped. I praised him immensely and rewarded him with his favorite treat, peppermints.
Bahamut will do anything for mints, so I pulled one out of my pocket and held it in my hand. He followed my every move. I placed the treat on the bridge and he just stood there looking back from me to the bridge. Finally, he walked on a few more steps and was closer to the treat waiting for him on the bridge. He snorted for a moment and decided it was worth it to go for the treat. His neck was stretched to the maximum, (I didn’t know he was part giraffe). This was followed by more praise and pats.
Bahamut standing confidently on the bridge ©Edgar Paucar
I stood on the bridge with another mint in my hand and he placed his front hooves on the bridge. I stepped backwards off the bridge, and he followed by stepping-up his back legs onto the bridge. He stood squarely on top of the bridge, with complete confidence. He earned his mint and overcame his fear of the white bridge.
Be creative with what you use for your bombproofing exercises, there are many household or barn items that can be used:
- Feed bag or grocery store bags tied to whip
- Aluminum cans filled with rocks
- Yoga ball
- Rain jacket
- Car alarm
- Trash can
Here are some books I'm reading about the subject of "Bombproofing" horses:
Bombproof Your Horse by SGT. Rick Pelicano and Lauren Tjaden
Better Than Bombproof by SGT. Rick Pelicano and Eliza McGraw
These horseman have some great training techniques for horses and equestrians of any level:
Considering adopting your own ex-racehorse? Here are some great rescue organizations with horses looking for their new home:
About the Author: Raina Paucar is an adventure loving equestrian and female jockey. She likes to ride and compete in many disciplines, explore new places, read great books, gadget hoard, play games, take pictures and write. She currently exercises racehorses and works with her own off-the-track-Thoroughbred (OTTB). Her career in media focuses on equestrian lifestyle. You can add her to your Google+ circles, subscribe on Facebook and follow on Twitter.