Okay, our first lesson is going to be desensitization to a plastic bag. There are two methods for this, I suggest using both.
Before we get started though, let’s look at why horses are so scared of bags:
- The horse’s instinct dictates that if something odd is coming towards him he either flees from it or fights it, then finds out what exactly it was afterwards. He prefers to flee, and tends only to fight if he is trapped. Don’t trap him, please!
- Again, if it makes a noise that is odd, it may be something that is going to eat him. However much he likes you, if something threatens his life he is going to get away from it first, and then figure out what it was. Life is his first priority.
Materials needed: A plastic bag, a safe place to work with lots of room for the horse to move around, and a halter with a long rope.
Ball up the bag so it is as small as it gets. Let the horse sniff it if he would like. Reach out and touch his neck with the bag and remove it immediately. This is very important. If you keep on doing this touch-and-go approach, especially on a horse deathly afraid of plastic bags, he will eventually realize, “Hey, that thing touched me, and… and it didn’t hurt!” Once he is comfortable with this (on both sides of the neck – horses’ brains are constructed such that something that is O.K. on one side is totally not O.K. on the other), you can either open up the bag to make it bigger and do the same thing, or you could begin touching him on other parts of his body. Cover him very thoroughly with that bag so that no matter how big the bag is and where it touches him, he doesn’t care.
Materials needed: A plastic bag, treats.
Simply store your treats in a plastic bag, and the horse will soon have a good connotation of bags. However, he may not be comfortable with it touching him, even if he doesn’t mind the sound, so make sure you do Method 1 as well.