One of the controversial activities at Wild Horse Workshop '98
was Dennis Bright gentling horses from horseback. Some of the natural
horsemanship purists felt that this approach put too much pressure on the
horse or diluted human-horse interaction.
Of course the products spoke for themselves. The horses gentled
"horse-on-horse" were well adjusted. In addition these animals probably
didn't later display some very dangerous characteristics that some wild
horses can exhibit - a sudden and uncontrollable fear of horses and riders.
If you've ever been on a green horse that suddenly became mindless when
a horse and rider suddenly approached, you can appreciate the need to imprint
green horses that horses with riders on them aren't monsters. Some wild horses'
experiences with horses packing riders have all been negative, from being chased
out on the range to being herded and moved in the holding pens. Thus it only makes
sense to desensitize these horses to the presence of a horse with a rider on top
and make encounters with equestrians into positive experiences.
If the horse can't handle a horse and rider in close proximity, we start out in a
more controlled environment such as the round pen or arena. Once the horse can
stand the presence of the horse and rider, we'll move to a location such as the
horse course where the horse has to think about obstacles and other stimulus
and being around a horse and rider becomes just part of the "normal" activities.
Once the horse will lead quietly, we will maneuver through simple obstacles of which
the horse is already familiar, advancing in difficulty as the subject horse gets the
hang of things.
Zottara seemed tranquil and well adjusted until one day when
a border was riding her Arabian nearby and Z panicked, literally
jumping out of her pen. This was a fear which had to be addressed by
a rider on horseback in a controlled environment.
The first step is to accept the
presence of the horse and rider
Next the horse has to accept
being "attached" to the horse and rider
with a lead line
Leading relaxed on a loose line