OF BLUE TARP TERROR
Back when I was
still training for the public, I had a wonderful family as clients.
Their daughter, 13 at the time, had an adorable little Arab gelding
named Max. He'd do anything she wanted, and her wish was to show him
in trail classes. In all other respects, he was a sweetheart, but
was terrified of the Scary Blue Tarp....and that's pretty much de
rigeur in a trail class. Come to find out, another "trainer"
decided the best way to get him over it was to tie the tarp to his
saddle and turn him loose in the arena. Yeah, that's gonna help. NOT.
So, as you may imagine, he was not just scared, he was totally terrified.
They kept this horse at home, but I had others of theirs in training
at the time. They wanted to know how to fix the problem, and I suggested
the food on the tarp on their dry lot.
A week went by
and the poor
little guy had eaten nothing. The dad told me they were going to give
up and not show him in trail...and then he said the fatal words to
me: "Nobody will ever get this horse to walk over a tarp. It's
not possible, and can't be done." Talk about waving a red flag
in front of a bull ;-)...I love a good challenge.
So I said I'd
like to give it a try. We agreed on a time, and they brought little
Max over to my barn. Tim, the father, loved to make bets and he said
"Let's make it interesting. I won't even make this a bet....I'll
*give* you $100 if you can get him to walk across a tarp". I
said "you're on...are there any rules?" His response: "You
have half an hour and you can't sedate him."
Enter Max. I needed
to find out if his fear was visual or noise related or both. Turned
out it was mostly noise...the visual concerned him, but hearing the
tarp crackle sent him over the edge into total panic. I tucked him
out of sight in a stall and laid the tarp out flat in the arena. Grabbed
a barn towel, got Max back out and folded the towel over his eyes
and tucked it under the edges of the halter.
I walked him and
being the trusting little soul he was, he followed nicely even though
he was blindfolded. I walked close to the tarp and stepped on a corner
of it. He flicked an ear but had no real concern. We walked around
the corners a couple of times, with me moving further in toward the
center and Max stepping on the corners. Then I walked him onto the
middle of it, backed him up, jumped up and down, walked him on and
off it a few times, then walked to the center of it and slowly removed
I let him stand
there and look, and I moved just enough to let him hear
the sound. He arched his neck, sniffed it, and I asked him to move
one step forward. He did, and seemed concerned but not fearful. We
walked on and off it a few times and he relaxed more each time. The
whole process took about fifteen minutes. I turned to Tim and grinned
and said "Will that be cash or check?"
do not try this without professional help!"