I’ve been thinking about the Friendly game versus desensitizing a horse. I live in a place where the old cowboy way still prevails, though I must say most have tried to tone it down some. Probably because the cowboys aren’t as young as they used to be and being bucked off before every ride just isn’t in the cards anymore. But I digress….
If you’ve been around horses for any length of time you’ve probably witnessed a horse being desensitized. Sometimes people just bombard the horse with lots of different stimulants, saddle pads, tarps, plastic bags, saddles, themselves, all done in fairly quick succession not allowing the horse time to think. Sometimes they barely have time to react, though I’ve seen a few just simply fall to the ground in panic. Then they get their feet tied and they have to lay there and be desensitized. Or if they put up a fight they are thrown to the ground and then desensitized.
When people desensitize their horse they are simply teaching them to put up with rude behavior. Not only that but over stimulating in this way can make the horse dull – non responsive to it’s environment. You are part of this environment. So are grizzly bears.
The Friendly game is not desensitization and should not be confused with that.
When we play the Friendly game we are looking to help our horse to manage it’s emotions and think through things rather than just react. We are not trying to desensitize them to this commotion. We are looking to have our horses be responsive to us and to listen to us in times of stress. When the Friendly game is done right it can show your horse what a dependable leader you are, thereby encouraging your horse to look to you for support when it is scared. Looking to you for support and jumping on you when scared are two different things. Just sayin.
Do things with the horse and for the horse, but never TO the horse.
The Friendly game is the #1 game in the list of the 7 games for a reason. It’s the most important one to win. Winning the Friendly game is the key to teaching your horse to “do nothing” when he is scared, instead of spooking, bolting, jumping on you or fighting.
It’s never too late to spiff up your friendly game.