My horse had a traumatic experience in a trailer. Now each time he gets saddled at the tie rack or trailer he just crumples to the ground. He does not do it if saddled in the open or in the arena so it appears to be associative thinking. How do I use SURE FOOT to overcome associative memories with my horse?
Associate memories in horses are just like in people. You experience something in a particular location. Every time you are reminded of that event you experience pleasure or anxiety depending on what happened.
SURE FOOT can be an excellent tool in overcoming these types of associative behaviors. First, start with the pads in a location where your horse is relaxed to acclimate him to the pads. After several sessions, where it is obvious, he goes into a parasympathetic response, deep breathing, lowering his head, softening his eyes, take the pads to the environment where he typically gets anxious.
Begin again offering the pads and do not expect him to respond as he does where he isn’t anxious. You may need to repeat this over several sessions. However, gradually the calmness always wins and, using the pads, you can switch his nervous system from “fight and flight” to “grazing” mode.
Then gradually introduce another element of the anxiety pattern repeating the pads as necessary to “switch” him from anxiety to calmness. Horses are quicker to let go of old patterns than people when you offer them a way to calm themselves and let go of old behaviors.