*Whoa*—A Brand New Take on ‘Desensitizing’

Clinician and performance horseman Warwick Schiller says training is all about the conversation between you and your horse. Photo by Victoria Westphal

Do you honor your horse’s spirit?

The late Tom Dorrance, revered as the horseman’s horseman, definitely did. He talked to me about it in 1997—at age 87— when I interviewed him for his Horse&Rider profile.

“As I think back through the years,” he mused, “I realize I’ve felt the horse’s spirit all my life, but didn’t have a name for it.

“I’m beginning to believe it may be the most important factor—that the rider recognize the horse’s need for self-preservation in mind, body, and spirit,” he added.

Tom Dorrance believed in honoring a horse’s spirit. Photo by Cappy Jackson

I thought of this the other day, while collaborating with clinician Warwick Schiller to produce the latest segment of his Problem Solved series for us. That article, which I’d thought was going to be about desensitizing your horse to a tarp, turned out to be way, way more than that.

As Warwick put it, his new approach to desensitizing (and training in general) is all about the conversation between handler and horse.

“You’re less concerned about what you can get him to do,” he explains, “and more concerned with how he’s feeling about it.”

Check out the piece and you’ll see what I mean.

And if you also check out the Tom profile, be sure to read the bit at the very end, where I describe how he “toddler whispered” my then 2½-year-old daughter.

It. Was. Amazing.

How he knew just when to take “pressure” off to keep from spooking a little kid (or a nervous horse) is exactly what Warwick describes so well in his new article.

I know Tom would be pleased.