A SPECIAL POST BY ADIVA MURPHY
Question: I purchased a 4 year old mare with a questionable background. She is terrified of sprayers, whether it is on the hose or a spray bottle. If she hears the hiss of a hose–is backing up and snorting. Same thing with the spray bottle. Is it the hissing sound that’s frightening her? Or is it the water spraying itself?
Answer: My recommendation; and by the way this is a common problem – a lot more common that you might think!! It does not mean the mare was abused – she sounds sensitive and has a strong instinct to protect herself.
You don’t need a round pen – a large box stall or small square pen would work. Keep the mare online – but not forcing her to stand – tip her nose as you spray her to control the direction her feet move (in a circle) but make it hard for her to lunge so tipping the nose more and more (basically the HQ will start disengaging) The more you force an upset horse to stand still the less likely you will get them to stand. It needs to be her idea!!
DON’T LET YOUR HORSE TRAIN YOU
So – get a used bottle and fill it with just water. That way you wont care that you are wasting valuable product. I would make sure that this was not the first thing I worked on with the horse – do some ground work – at least lunge her so she is not totally fresh out of a box stall after a night of rest. Then rub her all over with the bottle (which you did – Great!) now spray – KEEP spraying till the SECOND she stops moving her feet. Then stop spraying – that is her reward for standing still – rub her. Start over. The time it takes for her to stand still and ‘deal’ with it will be less and less. You are handing the ‘control’ to the horse. She will think she is training you to stop spraying her. She will feel more confident. Work with this everyday until she is good. Make sure though that you stop when she stops – if you stop when she is moving you are SENSIITIZING not desensitising. You teach her to move from the stimulus if you stop when she moves – just like a lunge whip or leg aid – if she moves you stop – that is sensitizing.
For the hose sprayer – can you attach a nozzle and leave it spraying in her paddock maybe into the water trough? She will see it there all day/week and learn to ignore the sound. – she may not need that after you work with the spray bottle though.
Most horses I know think the hose is a snake and spraying hoses are out to get them. Mind you I grew up with Arabians…So remember she is a horse and all non animal like things could ‘eat’ her. Look at it from her perspective – don’t punish her but help her overcome her phobias.
Hope this helps