Here is a photo series of Nola and Rachel teaching a young horse to be shot off of.
The 3 year QH gelding, Bo, will eventually be used by his owner for hunting, and for competing in Cowboy Mounted Action Shooting, so getting accustomed to gunfire is an integral part of his training. Bo was first acclimated to the sound of gunfire by being penned near ( but not to near) a firing range used for target practice. This is a good way to get horses used to the noise. It allows them to react however they need to, they can move away, stop and stare, bolt, whatever they feel they need to do. It is very important when first getting horses used to the loud noise of gunfire to not force them to stand and take it, as this can cause fear problems later. This is true when first shooting off of them as well, they need to know that they can move away if that is what they feel they need to do.
Please keep in mind while reading this that while we have been quite descriptive in the different stages involved, this can be very dangerous if you are not extremely careful and knowledgeable about handguns and horses.
In the first two photos, Nola has prepared Bo for his first shooting session. Soft ear plugs made from nylons have been tied to the bridle and inserted in Bo’s ears. These can be home-made or purchased. Nola lunges the horse first to get him warmed up, then, using a verbal cue that can be used for the duration of the horses training ( we loudly say Now! ) she shoots the gun.( The 45 caliber revolver is loaded with blanks black powder and a paper wad is all that is in the cartridge.) The verbal cue used before each shot is simply a way to help teach the horse to be ready for the noise. The horse is allowed to react however he needs to. We do not rein them in if they startle from the noise, just slowly let them settle back down before firing again. The horse needs to have this stage repeated ( in small sessions of only 5-6 shots to start with) until they are comfortable with it.
In this photo, Nola rides Bo while Rachel fires off a shot. Nola still says the word Now!, cuing the horse to be prepared for the noise, and cuing Rachel to fire the gun. Bo had been put into a trot before firing, so as to avoid startling from a standstill. Being in the trot already has him working and forward. Notethe loose rein, allowing him to move out at whatever speed he needs to. In the photo to the right, Nola is petting Bo while the gun is being fired, reassuring him that he is responding properly. Still in a trot, still with a loose rein.
Now Bo is ready to have his rider fire the gun! This should be an “anti-climactic” event if all the preparation has been done properly. First he is warmed up by having a person on the ground fire off a round or two. ( Always have ear plugs in on the horse!) Before firing off of Bo, Nola rode up next to Rachel as she fires, so that Bo is very close to the gun going off. In the photo on the left, Nola is trotting Bo with the gun extended out and away from Bo’s head, but within his vision. Right, Nola trots out, loudly says Now! and fires the gun! Bo simply trots on, no reaction. This is what we have worked for. Nola continues to trot on, firing the gun, always using the verbal cue first ( once the horse is well acclimated to this, the verbal cue is only used for the first shot or two)
Left, Bo standing quietly while the cartridges are unloaded. Right, Nola re-loads the gun. Note the inserted earplugs. The ends have been tied to the bridle, so that if the horse shakes them loose ( as many horses will until they are used to the earplugs) they will be right there on the bridle for the rider to re-insert without having to dismount. It is important to always keep an eye on the ear plugs to make sure they are always in place before you fire.
Bo cantering quietly while Nola reaches out, firing the revolver.
Coming soon, we will show a series of getting Bo used to riding a pattern while Nola rides a CMSA pattern, shooting balloons.