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May 02, 2023 2 Comments
How to train an over-sensitive horse.
NUMBER 1: Don't be sensitive about their sensitivity. When you react to their reaction, you demonstrate you cannot be trusted.
This is the most important piece. Your negative response or any signs of frustration toward the over-sensitive horse is defined in human terms, as gaslighting. It only proves to them you can't be trusted.
NUMBER 2. Act normal, just add a positive note at the end.
Don't try to avoid the triggers that make the horse go there. Don't walk on eggshells. When the over-sensitivity shows up, don't change how you communicate to avoid causing a scene. Instead, immediately, and visibly, follow up your normal communication patterns, just like with any non-sensitive horse, with added praise and love. It's the "added" praise and love that counts.
Here are two examples to illustrate... in our human world if my friend says something harsh to me, even in a teasing, playful way, I could be over-sensitive about it. But... if she immediately expresses sincere, non frustrated tones and words that show love, I instantly realize she means no harm and there's no need to be offended. This means she can say whatever she wants in a normal fashion but always, simply, follow up with immediate loving comments to reassure me. It has to be immediate. The delay between harsh comments, even in jest, and compliments or reassurance that she's kidding, causes mistrust. If there is no delay, the trust remains.
In the horse world, if I tell my horse to move back to give me some space and instead he gets offended and races around at the canter. That doesn't mean I shouldn't have told him to get back. I don't have to walk on eggshells with my requests. But... I do need to immediately stop him and soothe him. Tell him it's okay. If the delay between demands and rewards is too big, the horse begins to believe the demands are harsh and he will either resent you later or be over-sensitive now. There is no world where you can be harsh and blunt, even in a playful way, without following up with kindness and love. That is... if you want an over-sensitive person or horse to trust you.
If you do this right, you will guide your partner to have a thicker skin. To be less reactive and more trusting. If you get the timing wrong or the balance of negative and positive wrong, you will cause more harm than good. And if you show frustration, you're doomed. You have to be at peace about their experience, regardless of their levels of sensitivity. Only from that emotionally mature and stable place, can you support their growth. I think somewhere in the Bible, someone talked about not trying to remove a small splinter in someone else when you've got a massive wood beam stuck in you. Or something like that, you get the point. You can't be reactive if you want them to trust you and grow into a less reactive being themselves.
In summary, if you want to help your horse be less reactive to your signals, tools, or environmental pressures, or just your day to day personality quirks, you don't have to change. Be you, be normal, don't walk on eggshells, but... never show frustration and... always show praise and love and reassurance immediately after things that surprise or upset them regarding your normal patterns. With this, they learn you're safe. Over time the sensitivity diminishes and the natural, pleasant, back and forth communication resumes.
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