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Spooked By Sprays?

So the fly season is upon us and you want to be able to spray your horse with a repellent but he freaks out at the sight of the bottle and the scary noise..

Here are some tips to have your horse begging to be sprayed!!

Things you will need

Fill a couple of bottles of water..big bottles and fill a spray bottle. You will need lots of water so have your stock ready for a 20 min training session.

If you have a rope halter great if not a head collar will do.

Then you will need a good length of rope around 14ft. Lunge lines are too long, they just get in the way and you will get distracted messing around with the line, so 14ft is good.

Treat bag with loads and loads of treats, perhaps a mix of treats and chopped carrots, but loads, you don't want to run out.

Wear gloves to avoid any rope burns on your hands and wear a helmet

An arena or a safe place where the horse can run around.. i.e do not attempt this whilst the horse is tied up, it defeats the idea of letting the horse accept it on his terms.

So now you have your spare water bottles for refilling handy, all the gear and a nice quiet place to start.

It would be fun to video too if you can, this way you can critique yourself and the horse and look back on all you have both achieved.

To begin

So I use my tongue as a clicker, the clicker bridges the gap between the horse doing the desired behaviour and being treated. So click and treat.

Each stage can be repeated over and over again until you think your horse is absolutely comfortable with each stage before moving onto the next. If you go too quickly and your horse is over reacting then go back a stage or 2.

Get each stage solid. This is incremental training and each stage builds confidence and acceptance, so no skipping.

The reason for the long line is that you will not be correcting your horse at any stage for any reaction, your horse is free to move away, run in circles or whatever, no correction, pulling on or trying to stop the horse.

Step 1.

Introduce your horses to the bottle, just put it on the floor away from him and let him approach sniff it..then treat, repeat, repeat, repeat until your horse actively seeks out the bottle and gets a treat for being calm and investigating... here we are instilling confidence and trust.

Step 2.

Walk around the arena with the bottle, with your horse relaxed and following behind with slack in the rope. As you walk and keep walking you will be spraying away from the horse so in front or to the side of yourself. If the horse reacts you just keep walking, no turning and correcting the horse, just keep walking and spraying until your shows the first sign of accepting this, then click and treat.

You will keep doing this over and over until your horses really does not care anymore and starts to look a bit bored...The key here is to keep spraying no matter what your horse does until he relaxes. So lots of sprays and lots of treats for the desired behaviour

Step 3.

At a stand still, so with you at the side of your horse some distance away... the more sensitive the horse the bigger distance. With slack in the rope spray the air away from the horse..spray, spray spray, no matter what the horse does just keep spraying until your horse does not react and stands still.. click and treat.. do it over and over. So now your horse is learning to understand that A. Its nothing to be scared of really and B. If I just stand still I know I am doing the right thing because it stops and I get a treat.

Judging the safe distance away from your horse is key here, so enough to have his attention but not too much to cause panic.. everything calm with baby steps.

Step 4.

Step 4 is doing the same thing but getting a little closer to your horse.. small steps remember, we want to avoid over-facing the horse or speeding up the session too quickly, we want to avoid any adverse reactions and we want to keep everything calm, so build up to this slowly and you will get there quicker.

Step 5.

Ok now you should be at the stage where you can spray the ground and the air next to your horse without reaction, if not then go back a step and take longer doing it.

Here at step 5 we are now going to spray the horse. So spray the ground (don't forget to click and treat lots and lots when the horse relaxes or shows no sign of being scared)

While you are spraying the ground accidently spray a hoof and go back to the ground and then the hoof and so on until you are just spraying the hoof.. your horse may react and want to run or move, but that's ok, let him move with no corrections, your only job is to keep spraying until he relaxes so follow and spray, keep spraying the air the ground and hoof whatever you can until the horse stops and then immediately click and treat, big praises!!

Step 6. Once you can spray the hoof lots with no problems then its time to move up the leg, to the shoulders, to the neck, top line and finally the rump using the same technique.

Random tips and things to remember

  • Stay safe

  • Keep your distance

  • Have a safe place

  • Perhaps someone there to refill your bottles

  • If your horse keeps moving you keep spraying.. that's the deal! No matter what your horse does, keep spraying!

  • Be sharp with your reward timings so he understands what you want and when he has done something desirable.

  • Spray lots and lots, you could use a few litres in one session!

  • Click and treat for the tiniest sign of relaxation over and over

  • Never try to correct your horse, let him feel he can run (within limits of course)

  • Encourage investigation

  • Keep your energy low

  • Try to avoid staring your horse in the face

  • Go back some stages if needed. Each stage should bring you closer to your goal.

  • Complete this training in one session.


Remember fly sprays have a fragrance, sometimes sweet, sometimes rather foul so your horse may be desensitized to water but smells add another dimension, so keep this in mind when you first use fly spray and try to do it without the horse being tied up for the first few times so they don't feel claustrophobic and undo all your good work.

Hope this helps. I hope to add a video here in the next few weeks because I know visual things are much better to learn from.

Best Wishes

Debbie and Dell xxx

Please note this can be copied and pasted for your own personal use but please respect my work and efforts and

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