Horse Desensitizing Using a Lead Rope or Flag

By Greatmats Staff Created: October, 2018 - Modified: July, 2021

By Kelly Alley

When you're desensitizing a colt, you want to get them used to things that might happen in the everyday world that you really can't control, such as someone flinging a lead rope over their back or neck or swinging the rope around while talking - sounds, motions, etc.

The more contact you can make with your young horses the better. Get them used to everything.

We use flags a lot for lunging and desensitizing. It gives them something to look at. The most important thing when you're desensitizing a young horse is to be that comfort for them. Horses are herd animals. They look for somebody to follow. They look for their leader. They look for somebody to take care of them.

Your job is not to scare them when you're desensitizing them. It's to show them that things won't hurt them, that it's not scary. If they are scared of it, that's fine. Let her smell it. Let her look at it. Put it on her know that it is not going to hurt her.

Flags are good because they blow around a little and make some noise.

Horses can see to the side, but not directly in front of them unless they turn their heads. Make sure you are in a good position. You don't want to get hurt or cause a scene. You don't want anything dramatic to happen. Always strive for positive experiences with young horses.

When you have a bad experience, you have to backtrack and reassure them again.

If you get to a place she doesn't like or isn't sure about, slow down.

Don't expect them to be perfect. They're animals. They're babies. They're young. They don't know. They're going to move around. That's ok. If she's trying to paw or kick you, that's definitely not what you want.

You want her to watch and pay attention. That's a good thing. You don't want a horse that's so broke that it doesn't pay attention, but you also don't want it to be scared.
Cow bred, cutting bred horses are meant to move around and work cows and even a flag.

Know what you're looking for - a horse that's paying attention to you and is not scared. When you get that, stop.
Kelly Murphy-Alley
Striking KMA Performance Horses
Wilmore KY
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