Saturday, August 30, 2008

What's the Deal with Horses and Plastic Bags?

Some people have asked why I put so much time in desensitizing my horses to white plastic bags. It seems that everywhere I go, I see white plastic bags blowing around. Our house is along the route to the local dump, and trash often blows out of the back of people's trucks and trailers as they pass my house. The most common trash to fly out is plastic bags. They are like kites when they catch the wind.

Years ago I was working at a horse show, and while walking through a warm-up arena I heard several riders yelling, "Get that bag!"

I looked down and saw a white plastic bag blowing through the arena. Horses were spooking left and right. I hustled over to it, snatched it up and wadded it into my fist. Several relieved riders thanked me profusely.

Yesterday a man was killed by a police horse that spooked when a plastic bag flew up into its face and got caught in its bridle. Police horses are put through rigorous training, including desensitization to plastic bags. However, when a freak accident occurs, such as having the bag get caught in the halter, all that training can go right out the window. Read about it here.


Grey Horse Matters said...

It's terrible what happened to that man, but it was a freak accident. I'm hoping they don't do anything to the horse, it really wasn't his fault.

Jenn said...

Horses are so unpredictable, no matter how desensitized they are. Have you ever seen the training/desensitization they put those police horses through? It's pretty amazing stuff!

That poor man, what a tragic accident. I can only imagine what the horse was thinking when the bag kept coming after him no matter what way he moved. I can completely understand why he panicked, even with all the training.

How is Bombay doing with the desensitization? Is he more accepting of the bags or are they still giving him horsey heart attacks?

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

grey horse - Yikes! I didn't even consider that anyone would hold the horse responsible. Nor the rider. If anything, they can spend some time training the horse to get past the trauma.

jenn - I actually haven't worked with Bombay since my last post about it. I've been spending more time with Gabbrielle on this task. They are both at the same point where they don't like it, but will walk up to it and sniff it if I insist. I can't wave it around in the air near their bodies yet, which is the next step before touching them with it.

Callie said...

Geeze! Good grief! That is aweful what happened.

Andrea said...

Yep, it's a good idea to desencitize your horse to everything. That is so crazy about that police horse.

lytha said...

i always carry treats in plastic bags, so the horses like the them. (but blowing around, that is something else.) what happens when a horse likes the bag too much and eats it along with the carrots? i know one who had no trouble at all, 2 weeks later we got the bag back. i just wrote my own plastic bag blog entry 2 days ago: ) (i think this horse was lucky though.)

~beth in germany

Twinville said...

You know, I've been desensitizing my horse with tarps by using a tarp bag to carry her flakes of hay in. She will even try to stick her head into the bag and has no trouble with it rubbing against her or blowing in the wind when I hang the bag on a tree branch.

But I have to believe that if the same tarp bag blew up into her face and got attached to her halter or bridle, that her tolerance would be over and terror will still set-in.

Yes, that was just a freak accident and I also don't think even the best trained and desensitized horse could have sat still and calm if the same thing had happened to it as with this police horse.

How awful for that man's family, though.

Amy Brand said...

I also do the plastic bag thing. I also do this with tarps, whips, etc...