What Roger's Clinic are Aboutby K.C. Parkins-Kyle on 05/05/12
So what makes these clinics different? Well, to begin with many folks seem to be looking for ‘de-spooking’ and/or ‘de-sensitizing’ clinics. Unfortunately these terms seem to be still pretty popular and not what a horse needs. ‘Bombproofing’ is another way lots of people refer to what they think their horse would prosper from.
As with all things horse, opinion is what most of us have to offer. In my opinion, to say that somebody can either ‘de-spook’ or ‘bombproof’ a horse is simply not possible - not without breaking some portion of a horse’s spirit. It may be a little or a lot depending on the individual horse. Now, that doesn’t mean that a well ridden and well taught horse can’t become nearly ‘bombproof’, or perhaps better thought of as being unflappable. But that unflappable quality in a horse isn’t just developed in the course of a one, two, or even a few days of a clinic. In order to come close to truly ‘de-spooking’ or ‘de-sensitizing’ then you’ll end up using almost merciless repetition and/or flooding techniques. What you end up with is likely to be a horse that will put up with a lot until it doesn’t. At that point the horse’s reaction to some eventual stimulus, environment or event will be way over the top and based on nothing but pure instinct. That’s because we’ve done nothing to build in to that horse a reason to trust our control over their feet and, to the horse, its life!
That’s got to be the deal we offer our horses. If they’ll be willing to listen to us and follow our lead then we must be consistently trustworthy and caring and concerned with our horse’s needs. These needs, ultimately, deal in one way or another with the animals’ sense of self-preservation.
So, what these clinics are all about is setting up situations that bother a horse’s sense of self-preservation. Just enough to allow the handler/rider to provide quality leadership that allows the horse to learn just how trustworthy that human is when it comes to always helping the horse ’survive’ the pressures and stimuli that the environment offers. When you think about it, horses really aren’t unpredictable - the environment is.
Lastly, if a horse encounters anything that causes concern, that horse knows what it can and/or may do to survive. It has itself to rely on. Once a human enters the picture in some controlling fashion (of course this control may or may not exist) the horse has to consider if the human will be a negative, benign or positive influence on chances of survival. It’s at this point when I’d sure rather have the horse trust my influence because of a well-developed partnership rather than hoping the horse was repetitively sacked out and hazed sufficiently to have dumbed the horse down to not react instinctively to perceived danger.