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Counter-Conditioning | #7

Is your horse spooky in a certain corner of the riding arena?

Then you might be dealing with 'conditioned fear'.

With 'true fear', the horse might have never been in that corner in his whole life and a good horseman let this horse investigate the 'scary' corner and then the horse will learn that it's not scary at all.

But with 'conditioned fear', the horse might have been hesitated to go through a corner in the past and he might have then be pushed by the rider when he was not mentally ready. Then he associates the corner with 'unpleasant'. And when he's always pushed when approaching new things, at some point the horse starts to expect 'stressors' every time a new thing pops up. Then with every new thing he faces in life he starts to get less or more into a state of flight or fight. Then his fear is conditioned.

Now when you've baught a horse with conditioned fear, it's hard to explain to the horse that punishment and ‘stressors’ are not going to come out anyore when he approaches a new thing. Then you need to do some counter-conditioning, and this is how you do it:

When a horse is always spooky in a certain part of the riding arena, start to make this a pleasurable area by giving the horse a 'release, reward and relax' moment in this particular area of the riding arena. After a while the horse starts to associate the ‘spooky spot’ as a ‘sweet spot’ and that’s the power of counter-conditioning. With counter-conditioning you can ‘overwrite’ your horse’s feelings concerning the corner and your horse will start to look forward to being in that corner.

Check out the video to see how to do it in practice: