How to Bombproof and Desensitize a Horse

Yes! You can also turn your spooky four-legged friend into a superhero. All you need is to teach them a few things that make them realize that they do not need to be afraid of everything. Horses naturally are shy or afraid of other animals, sounds, and even sometimes colors of people’s clothing. Hence they prefer to run away from objects that spook them instead of keeping an eye on them.

This sensitive behavior of horses often makes owners and especially riders frustrated as riders need partners that they can trust and the ones who can tackle dangerous situations efficiently and bravely.

Well, you might have heard the term bombproof or desensitization training before. Today, we will share with you some tips to help your horse be relaxed and brave. So let’s get started.

Tips to Bombproof and Desensitize a Horse

Here are several ways you can bombproof and desensitize your horse to stop him from being scared of sounds of a plastic bag, birds chirping, or another suspicious sound or object.

Things That Touch Horses’ Body

Often horses are hypersensitive to the objects that touch their body, such as whips, reins, and even hands. Using a plastic bag and a tarpaulin is the one way to teach your horse to stop overreacting to touch.

The first step is to take a plastic bag and start rubbing it over your horse’s body. You will see your horse will try to move away from the bag, but don’t stop. Follow your horse’s steps and keep rubbing the plastic bag until they stop running away. Once they destress, stop rubbing the bag and offer them treats.

After some time, take the desensitizing training to the next level to make the plastic bag more intimidating to your horse. Simply take a whip and attach the plastic bag to its tip and touch your horse with this whip. Try to touch the most sensitive and vulnerable areas of the horse’s body, such as the belly, hindquarters, and legs.

Desensitize Your Horse to Certain Sounds

There are some sounds that can upset and spook your horse. For instance, a sudden sound from a loudspeaker or a sound of applause in an event. Such sounds can frighten your horse, and they may try to flee.

To train your horse to be relaxed around noise-induced scenarios without getting agitated, regularly play some startling sounds. To get your horse used to these sounds, you can play it outside the stable, in the paddock, during the rides, and in other places where your horse spends most of its time. With the passage of time, the horse will become bombproof to these sounds.

Objects That Creep Them Out

Horses are often afraid of objects they are not familiar with or haven’t seen before. Either it could be another horse cart or a new mane detangler lying on the ground of the cleaning station. You will notice that if your horse gets scared of any specific object, all of its attention will quickly shift to that object, and it will trigger its flight instinct, and ultimately they will run for safety.

And in case the horse finds nowhere to run, it will start jumping and become restless or even violent. But not to worry, you can desensitize your horse completely by doing a few things. First, to help horses overcome their fear of the item, take them to the item they are scared of. However, your horse will still be afraid and may stop looking at the object. And if they don’t want to go near the item, do not pressurize them. Instead, take them to an area further away from the scary object.

After a while, again take your horse to the object and treat them whenever they start focusing on you instead of the scary object. On the same day, repeat the exercise several times, but keep each training session as short as you can. Over time your horse will no longer be scared of the object and eventually stop paying attention to it.

Tight Areas

If your horse is extremely afraid and fails to remain calm in tight areas, then now is the time to work on this problem. This fear of your horse might be linked to situations like getting stuck with your horse in tight spaces. These situations are going to be extremely dangerous for you and your horse. As horses are 10 times stronger than humans, they can bring out greater injury without even realizing it.

If the horse is frightened of tight areas, it would be difficult for you to load them on a trailer, or they may try to avoid narrow gateways and cause a ruckus when you put them in a stall. Moreover, being afraid of tight areas makes your horse more depressed and may cause them many mental or physical health problems.

Desensitize Your Horse to Activity

Most horses become alert when you increase their activity time. Because increasing activities make horses look for possible danger. By the word activity, we don’t mean horse competitions; some equines can easily react to going on rides with a bigger group of equines than usual.

When you involve your horse in a lot of activities, including a lot of people and other horses in close proximity to you and your horse, the horse may start panicking in these scenarios. It most likely starts running away, thus increasing the risk of injury to itself or others around them. Therefore, desensitizing the horse to the increased activities lessens the risk of injury and increases the safety of your horse, you, and other people.

People Also Asked

Let’s look at some questions and answers related to horse bombproof and desensitization.

Why should you desensitize your horse?

There are various reasons for desensitizing your horse, and some are as follow:
– Bomb proofing your horse will help you control the horses better, and they perform better in competitions and get awarded higher marks.
– A calmer horse is more easy and safe to handle than a scared one.
– Also, being around a non-spooky horse really increases rider and handler confidence.

How to identify what your horse is scared of?

Horses naturally prefer to run away from danger which means they look out for danger all the time and flee if anything seems to be a threat. Some horses are more spooky than others, and some objects that might appear scarier to one may not be scary at all to another.
That’s why it is essential to know what sound or object spooks your horse before starting a desensitizing process. We have listed below some of the common fear-inducing objects:
– Narrow gateways
– Whips
– Foreign objects like the judge’s box, dressage letters, flowers, etc.
– Flapping plastic bags or advertising banners
– Clippers
– Unexpected noises, such as sneezing while mounted or even unzipping your jacket
– Other species, especially pigs, cows, and donkeys
– Water
– Motor vehicles on the road or parked in the arena
– Bicycles
– Small children running around nearby the arena
So, hold a pen and paper, note down what things that scare your horse, and start working on it.

What does desensitize a horse mean?

Desensitizing or bomb proofing your horse means to help your horse be less sensitive to sounds, events, and objects that frighten or scare him. The desensitizing process is just a way to help your horse understand that he does not need to be scared of everything.

How long does it take to bombproof a horse?

This is a very common question “how long would it take to desensitize your horse”? There is no exact answer to this question as every horse is different from the other and reacts in a different way to strange things.
As far as how long the whole desensitizing process takes, it depends on your horse. Some horses require only a few sessions and relax very quickly, whereas others may need forty to fifty sessions.
Also, if you set a time limit on how long your horse should take to become fully bombproof, you are putting unnecessary stress on you and your horse. The best way is to work on one session at a time and notice how good your horse is doing.


If a horse is super sensitive to situations, it can be difficult to handle it and may put the rider in danger. However, desensitizing or bomb proofing a horse is an easy exercise that can be done even by a beginner who has no prior experience in riding.

All you need is to remain calm during the desensitizing sessions and give your horse enough time to get familiarized with the scary object or sound. Above all, train your horses regularly and do not rush your horse as this will increase its fear of the offending object or sound.