Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Desensitizing Dante to Traffic

Desensitizing Dante to Traffic

Dante isn’t good with traffic. If a car passes him on the left, he is fine. If a car passes him on the right, he consistently gets reactive. That is how Ellen broke her ankle last fall. Circumstances dictated leading him on the wrong side of the street, and Dante spooked at a car and knocked her over somehow. Ellen hasn’t led him in traffic, since. Mostly, she hasn’t led him because she was recovering from a broken ankle, and then we had the longest winter, ever.

I decided I would help by spending my free time desensitizing Dante to traffic. The other evening, I got to the barn before Kevin. I filled up my pockets with little pieces of carrots and walked Dante down the driveway. Once we were in front to the barn, Kevin drove up—perfect timing. I stopped Dante and motioned to Kevin to drive towards us. He slowly approached, and I clicked and treated for standing. Kevin shut his car off, and I clicked and clicked. When Dante seemed settled, we started walking around his car—always with the car on the right—the scary side. The clicks and carrots kept coming. On one side, he had to thread through a 10-foot space between Kevin’s car and my car. I could see he felt claustrophobic about it, so I asked him for “head down” and clicked him.

I don’t know how many times we circled Kevin’s car, but at one point, I saw another car pulling into the driveway. Dante did, too, and he spooked—even though the car was very far away. I had him halt and the car passed him. More clicks. As it pulled into a parking spot, we followed it. More clicks. I have always found that if a horse can follow a monster, they will treat it as less of a monster.

I was running low on carrots, so I told Kevin to go park. He did something better. He started his car (spook) and then kept going forward and backwards while Dante watched—on the right side—and finished off the carrots. It was a good session.

The next day, Ellen was there. She rode him in the arena, and then I thought we could do a little bit of driveway work. I took over. I led him down the driveway, and then chaos erupted. I just wanted him to watch them at a distance from the street, and there were plenty of cars out there, but then we had some pull in the driveway and some pull out of the driveway. A car went into the driveway right next door. A couple minutes later, they left. A noisy truck came down the street. Seeing us, the driver pulled into the driveway across the street and came over to ask us if we had a dozen empty stalls at our barn. We directed him down the street—so he started up his very noisy truck and drove away. More cars came by. We decided to bring him home, and another car pulled up to us. The woman driving knew about the desensitization program, so she kept her car still and allowed Dante to approach. She then left.

Through all of this, he only gave one small spook and that is when he heard a farrier open up her truck bed. We were amazed and very pleased. Of course, all the carrots and clicks made it a very positive experience for him. Ellen was simply awestruck.

To be continued…


achieve1dream said...

Dante is doing great! It won't take long at all before he's ignoring vehicles. The fun part is going to be desensitizing him to all shapes, sizes and colors lol.

Can you get a vehicle into his pasture? I've left vehicles parked in pastures before or driven around in them. Of course I didn't do it for desensitizing purposes, but it works hehe. I'm lucky when Chrome was a weanling he was in a paddock with roads on two sides so he's great with vehicles hehe.

Keep up the great work with him!

aurora said...

Nice work desensitizing Dante!