Desensitizing your horse to target stands, barrels and balloons

In mounted shooting we ride our horses in various patterns of target stands, barrels and balloons. As horses go, each of these new things is a horse eating monster until we expose and desensitize our horse to this new equipment.

The best way to do this is to introduce the equipment into your horses environment wherever they are most comfortable. Let them see and touch this equipment. Start slowly and progress based on your horses acceptance.

Traffic cone

Bring a traffic cone into their paddock, arena or stall. Let them see, smell, touch and taste it. Let them knock it over. Pick it up. Let them look it over again. When you have gained your horses acceptance, introduce something new.

Target rod

Add a target rod into the traffic cone. Let them see, smell, touch and taste it. Let them knock it over. Pick it up. Let them look it over again. When you have gained your horses acceptance, introduce something new.

Balloons

Start by tieing balloons in your horse area. Attach to feeders, fence rails, stalls. Let them see, smell, touch and taste it. Let them see it move in the wind. Let them pop a balloon on their own accord. Let them look it over again. When you have gained your horses acceptance, introduce something new.

Barrels

Bring a barrel into their paddock, arena or stall. Let them see, smell, touch and taste it. Let them knock it over. Pick it up. Let them look it over again. When you have gained your horses acceptance, introduce something new.

Patterns

In your pasture or arena, set up mounted shooting patterns using your traffic cones, target rods, barrels and balloons. Start with ground work and walk your horse through the pattern. Progress to riding your horse in and around all the equipment used in mounted shooting patterns. When your horse is comfortable riding patterns and in and around the equipment, incorporate dry fire shooting practice.

Dry fire practice (permitted in approved arena locations only, not at home)

The BEST way to train and desensitize your horse to mounted shooting is dry fire practice. Dry fire practice will improve both your skills and your horses skills. Practice makes perfect and dry fire practice is the best and safest way to practice both your horsemanship and firearm handling skills. Never stop dry fire practicing. It is good for your horse to learn that not always do guns go bang and balloons pop. This stops your horse from anticipating the bang and pop and makes them pay more attention to you, the rider.