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Building Confidence in Your Horse

Many people believe in the practice of desensitizing a horse through a process known as “sacking out,” which involves the repeated or continual application of a pressure, usually until the horse stops overtly reacting to the pressure and often even beyond that point. While the goal is to teach the horse to be less reactive, this form of desensitizing puts the horse in a state animal behaviourists call “learned helplessness.” What this means is that an animal forced to endure a stressor essentially gives up after a while, then doesn’t try to flee or fight a similar pressure in the future because they have learned that they have no control over what happens to them. While you can certainly teach a horse to put up with many forms of pressure through such techniques, I find that horses trained this way will often either shut down mentally or maintain a degree…

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