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.