How to De-Spook Your Horse with a Tarp: A Gentle, Positive and Effective Approach

Thanks to evolution, horses are fearful creatures and spooking and anxiety is the most common challenge for horses and their humans. How do we help them to be more relaxed and confident in our world?
Successful positive de-spooking relies on knowing effective techniques, understanding threshold and making the process fun for you both. Another key element is that you’re working together and remain connected and able to communicate even when faced with a potentially scary situation. 
This is how you safely and calmly navigate scary situations you might meet out hacking, or to increase your horse’s confidence when leaving home alone or even when dealing with a spooky handling situation, such as applying fly spray or being handled by a new vet.
It’s all about creating the expectation of a positive outcome when faced with a challenge, as well as rewarding your horse for staying connect with you and figuring out together rather than just reacting and spooking away (this is impulse control – fighting the impulse to spook and, instead, thinking through the situation).
Getting to this place requires practice and this is where de-spooking exercises are absolutely invaluable! You can set up the situation at the right level for your horse and take the time necessary to work through it positively and progressively. Take it slowly, build the skills together with your horse and this will all build to make you both more resilient and confident to tackle any challenges that come your way.
I love this work as it’s so rewarding to see horses overcome their fear and actually enjoy it. I’ve noticed again and again that horses seem to really love behaviours that were previously challenging, but now are not. The trick is to take it really slowly so that your horse is genuinely confident and joyful before moving on – it makes the overall progress much faster!
In this video you will learn:
> How to read your horse for signs of anxiety and begin where your horse is under threshold and able to learn
> How to use a simple tarp to begin to build your horse’s confidence and curiosity when faced with novel or spooky objects
> How you can improve your communication and trust between you so that you can stay connected and safe when your horse gets spooked in the real world
> How to make this training FUN so that both you and your horse want enjoy it – the best way to increase connection, confidence and calmness.


If you’ve got any questions or thoughts, be sure to let us know in the comments!

If you enjoyed this, you’ll love the CT Club – there you’ll find a whole Home Study Course on how to gently, positively and effectively De-spook your horse. You can see the full sessions with Khalil and Rowan, where you’ll learn when to progress, when to take breaks, how long the sessions should last for and more advanced despooking exercises with the tarp. You’ll also learn from many other horses and exercises about the theory behind reducing your horse’s fear and staying cool, calm and connected both on the ground and in the saddle, in the arena and out and about. Find out more here – I’d love to see you there 🙂

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2 thoughts on “How to De-Spook Your Horse with a Tarp: A Gentle, Positive and Effective Approach”

  1. Hi love the videos
    Curious what you are giving your horse as a reward (treats)?

    Also what is the target you are holding?

    1. Hi Lisa, thank you 🙂 I mostly use treats from Simple System horse feeds. My faves are organic Lucie Pellets (smaller), or Lucie Nuts (larger). Both are just dried, compressed lucerne (aka alfalfa) so are just a forage treat. This means I don’t have to worry about how much I feed and they’re not too exciting for the horses, either – just enough for motivation while keeping them focused and relaxed.

      The target in this video is one from Shawna Karrasch. They’re great targets and Shawna sells them so you can check those out! However, I often just make my own targets – a plastic bottle taped to a stick works perfectly! My current favourite is a selfie stick with a toilet float screwed on the end, which is cheap, easy and robust. You can see that and learn more about the targets I use in the next video coming out tomorrow – it’s all about targeting!

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