Teaching A Horse To Put a Blanket Over His Head

horse blanketThe weather is cooling down and it’s time to start putting blankets on your horses. If your horse is having difficulties wearing or putting the blanket on, here are a few tips to help with even the most difficult horses. Don’t forget, we carry different sizes of blankets and styles here at Standley Feed and Seed.

To begin with, first train your horse to learn that he will be rewarded for doing the right thing. You can then link giving the reward—the primary reinforce—with what we call a secondary reinforcer, for example your voice saying “good” or a clicker. The horse learns that when you say “good” that means a reward is forthcoming and soon has the same meaning as a reward.

This is in preparation to shaping your desired behavior, that is, the horse standing relaxed while you put something over his head. Start with the least objectionable thing for the horse, which might be even just approaching with the blanket. Give your reinforcers. Now do each next very small step in getting the blanket toward, on, and over his head, giving the reinforcer(s) for each small step the horse allows.

Begin with the blanket somewhere unobjectionable to the horse, maybe at his shoulder. Just touch or rub him with it there, then in very small steps move to rubbing it up closer and closer to and over his head. When you get to a resentful spot, go back to where he was comfortable and start again.

Either of these methods should get you where you want to be. You might want to do the whole procedure first with something less bulky and awkward to handle than a blanket, such as a large towel. Both will work best if done in a safe environment with the least restraint possible. Added restraint sometimes makes a frightening procedure even more so. I would posit that the positive reinforcement will get you there quicker and provide a foundation for learning other procedures.

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