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Your horse can be a superhero, too!

Your horse can be a superhero, too!

No, it doesn’t mean your four-legged friend is indestructible, but it may make him a superhero! The bombproof horse is the one who safely packs around beginners and boyfriends and besties. He makes it easy on you at the end of the long, hard, work week, when you really and truly just want a quiet ride in the woods, sans fireworks. And while he may not win races or championships, he does a fair job winning our hearts.

Sgt. Rick Pelicano acquired his bombproofing skills as a mounted police officer with the Maryland National Park Police for over 25 years, and his two bestselling books BOMBPROOF YOUR HORSE and BETTER THAN BOMBPROOF translate the techniques he used in preparing police horses and officers into easy-to-use lessons from which anyone can benefit. Here are the Top 10 ways Sgt. Pelicano recommends bombproofing your horse:

1  Teach your horse to round-pen, longe, and long-line—a horse that is obedient and manageable to your directions from the ground is more predictable and enjoyable to ride.

2  Learn the 7 “magic” under-saddle skills that install the controls you need to (almost!) always get the desired response from your horse: leg-yield, shoulder-in, rein-back, turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches, side-pass, and neck-reining.

3  Minimize “scary” obstacles—starting with a less-imposing version can help persuade your horse it isn’t so bad after all.

4  Begin potentially anxiety-producing activities on the ground—introduce your horse to a new situation or object before you climb aboard.

5  Perform repetitions—walk by the frightening bush, stump, mail box, or bike (whatever it may be) over and over and over, until your horse thinks nothing of it. Then walk by it again.

6  Divert your horse’s attention—when the loudspeaker at the show or the rustling in the bushes on the trail up ahead gives your horse the shakes, immediately give him a task, such as trotting a figure eight, so he pays attention to you and not what’s going on around him.

Get your horse moving—provide an outlet for his nervous energy to avoid evasion and conflict.

8  Change direction—approaching an unfamiliar object from a different angle can give your horse a fresh perspective.

Tell your horse everything is going to be all right—sometimes a little reassurance goes a long way.

10  Consistently and creatively school your horse in the bombproofing skills he should possess—cross water, walk on unusual surfaces, stand through loud noises and unknown odors, and cope with sudden disturbances.

For step-by-step instruction on how to bombproof your horse, check out: BOMBPROOF YOUR HORSE and BETTER THAN BOMBPROOF by Sgt. Rick Pelicano, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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When "stretching" a horse's comfort zone, introduce new or scary objects gradually.

When “stretching” a horse’s comfort zone, introduce new or scary objects gradually.

When training your horse to become comfortable with new objects and in new places and situations, the goal, says Vanessa Bee, author of the bestselling books 3-MINUTE HORSEMANSHIP and THE HORSE AGILITY HANDBOOK, is to get him just outside his comfort zone when introducing slightly scary scenarios (note the emphasis on slightly!), but not so far out that he’d rather leave than stay with you.

“Once the horse is frightened to the point where he is leaping about, you’ve done too much,” Vanessa says. “Never push the horse to the point where he has to flee.”

Once the horse’s flight instinct is involved, all he can think about is survival, and he is no longer in a state where he can learn.

Never push the horse to the point at which he wants to flee rather than stay with you. Here, Secret trots through a maze of scary objects, remaining by Vanessa even without a lead rope.

Never push the horse to the point at which he wants to flee rather than stay with you. Here, Secret trots through a maze of scary objects, remaining by Vanessa even without a lead rope.

Vanessa explains that the psychology of this is easy to understand if you pretend you are a tourist on a trip to a foreign land. Here’s how she describes it using a human analogy in THE HORSE AGILITY HANDBOOK:

 

THE STORY OF A TOURIST IN A FOREIGN LAND

On Day One, the plane lands at the airport and you manage to get a taxi to your hotel (something you’ve done before on other trips); there a porter takes you to your room. Once in your room, you immediately create a “home away from home” by unpacking and putting your bits and pieces around. You feel safe in that space and it becomes part of your comfort zone; however, you will not learn anything about this place you have never been before from the safety of that room. You now need to leave it to learn.

So, after unpacking you head down to the bar and dining room for a bit of refreshment. You leave your new comfort zone and weave through the unknown corridors of the hotel—you are now in your learning zone but feel fairly confident because at any time you can return to your room.

After a good meal and maybe a glass of wine you soon feel relaxed in the dining room, too: You return to your room quite confident that venturing out to find breakfast in the morning will be easy. Your comfort zone has “stretched.”

After breakfast you decide to go for a swim. Again you leave the comfort zone to find the pool and figure out how it all works. (Do you need to put a towel on one of the lounge chairs at daybreak to reserve it?) By the end of Day Two you are totally at home within the hotel environs—your comfort zone has “stretched” to include the whole area.

But let’s say on Day Three you decide to catch a bus outside the hotel and go to the beach. After a while you become aware that you are not on the right bus and that it is heading for the “wrong” side of town. Perhaps there are some fairly tough-looking individuals on the bus. You are now not only out of your comfort zone, you’re also headed out of the learning zone and entering the fear zone. You do not learn anything when you are in the fear zone—you are in flight mode, and your sole aim is survival.

Where do you want to get back to? The comfort zone, of course, and once there you will quickly calm down and feel safe again. The further you perceive yourself to be from your comfort zone (in other words, the greater the pressure), the greater the wish to return to it. You may well reach a point of being ready to do just about anything to get back there.

Keep this story in mind when working with your horse and introducing him to new or challenging situations:

  • Make new introductions gradually—think taxi, to hotel room, to hotel restaurant, to hotel pool before catching public transportation and trying to find the beach.
  • And, if you do sense you and your horse are on the wrong bus and he is on his way to the fear zone, calmly and quickly get him back to where he’s comfortable. And take some downtime poolside before trying to get to the beach again!

Vanessa Bee’s books 3-MINUTE HORSEMANSHIP and THE HORSE AGILITY HANDBOOK, and her HORSE AGILITY DVD are available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO SHOP NOW

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