Practice and Clinics
Getting your horse ready.
Follow this link for a great blog from Stacey Westfall on how to start a horse:
The following is not from Stacey but based on the experience of one of our own shooters.
Horses learn best when you can break a new task down so they only need to learn one thing at a time. This learning falls into two categories; learning to not be afraid, and developing conditioned responses to your cues. The higher the level of respect and trust the horse has of you, the easier it will be to teach. Training shooting horses works best when it is based on respect without fear and trust that you will not put them in a life threatening situation.
Things you can do at home (without shooting).
1. Learn to not be afraid of balloons. You should be able to bounce a balloon off your horse's face without him flinching.
2. Neck Reining - this is a critical conditioned response to your cue. You need to be able to ride one handed (left hand if you're right handed) through randomly placed cones, plastic fence posts, etc. Start at the walk and work up to a trot. If your horse doesn't already neck rein and you don't know how to teach him, find a trainer to teach you how to teach your horse. Eventually you will want your horse to be able to respond to your neck reining at a lope.
3. Desensitize your horse to other "things." i.e. Horse learning to not be afraid. You've watched the trainers on RFD-TV do this. The more your horse learns to get used to different scary things to the point where he will relax, the easier it will be to get your horse used to shooting.
Things better done at a practice.
Desensitizing your horse (learning to not be afraid) to actual shooting. I believe that it is far easier to train your horse to not be afraid of shooting if he rides next to an experienced shooting horse. Your horse will learn from the experienced horse that the noise, flash, and smoke are not be be feared. Also, when you start to shoot off your horse, you should start with primer only and light loads. We will have primer only and light loads...even lighter than half loads... to use which won't be as scary as full loads. Also, it is best to not shoot at balloons until your horse accepts the gunfire.
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