Saturday, April 7, 2012

Bea Yewtee & The Blue Tarp

Horses spook.   It's part of their nature and what helps this large prey species survive in a world full of horse eating predators.

Unfortunately, when we are riding the horse, they also tend to spook at things that really don't strike us humans as being worth giving a glance at, let alone turning tail and running away from!

Things that can fall into this "What!? Are you kidding me!?" category include scraps of paper, leaves floating in the wind, sparrows, shadows, and reflections.   More understandable spook causers are falling tree limbs, dark potentially deep puddles, mountain lions suddenly appearing out of nowhere (or, yes, a kitten), and blue tarps.

Yes.   Those very popular blue woven polyethylene coated all purpose lightweight tarps.   With their easy movement in the breeze, their crunchy noisy texture, and their bright blue sheen, they can truly make a horse very worried very quickly.

And so, accordingly, blue tarps make for really good training tools with horses both young and old.

This past week, while doing groundwork with one of our younger horses, we brought a blue tarp into the arena.   This was her first encounter with it.   And even though it was quite some distance away, she snorted and was on Ultra High Alert.   But with a little help and guidance, she soon discovered it was not going to kill her.

In some trail classes, blue tarps are part of the obstacle course.   I would speculate that a true good working horse on the range would be expected to be able to cope with tarps and so much more.   And of course police horses would be trained to tarps as well.   But a dressage horse?

By nature of her breeding (Da Vinci x Bustron) and her owner's ambitions, Bea's planned future is as a dressage horse.   So this young mare is not likely to have to perform over or even near blue tarps.   At least, that is what one would expect.   (Never say never.)

Tarp training goes beyond showing off, having a horse standing on or even UNDER a tarp.   It works on the general relationship of horse and handler.   It gets us closer to being able to tell the horse something is safe and having them believe us.   The tarp training helps the horse develop mentally while also encouraging their natural curiosity in a safe training environment.

And actually, it is good fun!   All good things.   :-)