To make the ponies secure and brave in all kinds of situations, I’ve started training them to get used to things coming up in front, behind, from left and right, underneath and above. When a horse catches something unexpected in the corner of the eye, the natural instinct will set in and the horse will react. The most natural reaction is of course to run, sometimes with really bad consequence for both horse and rider. Therefore, it´s important that they will be able to calm down, get soft and listen very quickly. The little filly Puck is now able to stay soft and relaxed when the big ball is bounced all around her.
I’m not training her to not be afraid of balls or tarp (presenning), I teach her how we would like her to react when she’s exposed to things she hasn’t seen before or don’t understand.
To flex the head is one way I can use to create softness. The ponies are not used to that, so I start with just asking for a little flexion and a slight contact with the eye. As soon as she give me a good try, I will release the pressure and reward her. Further on I will ask for more – a quicker response when I ask them, more flexion, and an honest giving.