Desensitising and bombproofing your horse

Can your horse be spooky and dangerous to ride? Have you considered bombproofing your horse…

Whenever we read an advertisement for a horse, and we see the word “bombproof” we know that this kind of horse is worth his weight in gold! A bombproof horse is not only hugely beneficial for your child but also for yourself- as everyone gets to that age where falling loses its appeal!

Bombproofing” is the process of desensitising your horse to get used to different circumstances, noises and “scary” objects. Essentially we are” dimming” down the horses natural instincts and reflexes to fit better into our world. A more relaxed horse means for a happier horse…and rider.

You are riding along happily on the trail, and next thing you know you are sitting on the floor wondering what on earth happened…with a cow staring down at  you and your horse nowhere to be seen!

Bombproofing your horse has other benefits too…

In the process of bombproofing your horse, you show your horse that you can be trusted and that he can rely on you to get him through “dangerous” situations! You work on your horsemanship skills – to bombproof your horse effectively your timing  and feel must be good! You will also learn to read your horse better and know how he is feeling at all times.

I’ve seen so many people who start to enjoy their horse to their full potential after they’ve spent a bit of time desensitizing their horses. Whether you are trail riding, at a competition or using your horse for kids lessons there is a freedom in having a” bombproofed” horse.

The freedom to go where you want to go and do what you want to do – without the fear of a spook, buck or bolt.

Some key points to follow when desensitizing your horse:

  • Don’t overwhelm your horse or freak him out. Ideally you want to stay on the threshold of him leaving his comfort zone and learning…but not being so afraid that he panics and can’t learn anything!
  • Start with the scary object a few meters away and gradually get closer and touch him as he gets more comfortable- you will repeat the exercise many times until your horse thinks nothing of it.
  • Don’t rush your horse, be patient and remember that even though YOU might know the object won’t harm him, HE thinks it might kill him!
  • Allow for lots of rest periods in-between the desensitizing and don’t flood your horse ( Flooding is a process in which the horse is completely and utterly exposed to a stimulus that causes him fear from which he is prevented from escaping due to physical restraint or confinement, he gets no relief or rest periods to absorb the information.)
  • Understand the difference between your horse being genuinely ok with the object or freezing in fear.

Desensitising your horse can be a fun and creative process. Here are some ideas that work a treat:

For noise

  • Fill a plastic bottle with a few small stones to shake around your horse
  • Attach a packet to a stick
  • Squeaky toys and other kids toys

For on the road or trail

  • Lead your horse past bins, trees , bushes and bang them with a stick
  • Lead your horse past busy roads, tractors and other “scary” machinery
  • Ask you horse to walk through narrow gaps, muddy patches and walk over many different surfaces and terrain.

 For random objects 

  • Walking over a tarp or large bag
  • Mops, brooms and umbrellas
  • Balloons
  • Throwing a soft ball on and over your horse


For step-by-step instruction on how to bombproof your horse, click here to check out this great book by Sgt. Rick Pelicano.He acquired his bomb proofing skills as a mounted police officer with the Maryland National Park Police for over 25 years, and these two bestselling books translate the techniques he used in preparing police horses and officers into easy-to-use lessons from which anyone can benefit.


Other articles you may be interested in from our site-

Groundwork with your horse for a solid foundation

Gaining trust though consistency, compassion, and credibility

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