De-sensitization... that's what it is called now. It's smarter. It has a reason. It is a process of teaching a horse that something that appears scary, really isn't. Now, you have to use some judgement. First what is the horse worried about? Let's say it's those crinkly, floaty bags you get from the grocery store. You could start by tying one to the fence wire then doing approach and retreat... always giving plenty of retreat and thinking time. Then start using the bag. I use it to carry treats to the pasture. After a few days of that then the horse will be chasing the things around the pasture. Then you are ready to tie the bags to your stick and rub the horse all over.
You take your time... you make the horse braver.
The old way of doing this had nothing to do with thinking. It was called sacking out. If your horse spooked over anything you tied them up tight to a post, snubbing their heads down good and beating them repeatedly with a saddle blanket. Apparently, this started out to get a horse over spooking about having the blanket and saddle thrown over their backs. I would see it used for everything. Your horse spooked over anything, back to the post and go at them with the saddle blanket.
I suppose it worked in that the horse was terrified of showing his fear. It didn't make him not have any fear. Inside they either went numb or crazy.
My mother is a practitioner. She is the queen of emotional sacking out. It used to be that she suffered so from the poverty of her youth. Then she suffered so taking care of Dad when he had congestive heart failure. Now we are being beat with "the Dr says she is going to die at any minute." Inside, I run away. Outside, I am just frozen and numb.
Last Sunday, as I mentioned before, she got the girls down here to talk about her dying. As she left, Kate, Evelyn and I walked her out to her car. Evelyn was running around, hopping like a grasshopper. Mom was still droning on about dying. As she got into the car, she said, "I don't want you girls to be sad. Evelyn, tell your mommy not to be sad." Evelyn turned and looked at Kate, who stood there with a big smile on her face. In a totally chirpy voice she responded, "Oh I'm not sad!"
Mom shut up.
In that moment, a beam of light streamed through the clouds in shades of pink and blue and gold. There were angelic voices of heaven. No doves, but that's okay, there's plenty of bird poop here already. As the beam of light receded, the chorus finished with a lengthy...AAAaaaa-men.
To this tired, beaten up horse, it was a beautiful thing.