‘Bombproof’ the Mounted Patrol Way

Last Updated on August 21, 2023 by Allison Price

This article will help you, a trail-horse owners, to recognize the benefits and integrate elements into your own training program. This article will provide you with the basics of training and a step by step method.

Ann, his wife, is twirling her Morgan horse, Bez, around a circle. Jeb Moyer lights two Roman candles and sets them off while Ann rides Bez. Sparks fly and fireballs explode. But Bez is barely conscious. Ann smiles. Bez was not always so calm.

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Ann Moyer is among 27 members of the Jackson Hills Police Citizens’ Mounted U (CMU), volunteers who protect downtown streets and other special events. Ann has been training Bez for two years to adapt to the sounds, crowds and movements of the city. Unintended consequences of the training have also led to Bez becoming a more proficient trail horse.

A staggering 97 percent of Wyoming’s country is federally rideable. CMU members spend more time on trails than patrolling the Snake River, Wind River and Gros Ventre mountain ranges and Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks.

Members have observed a striking contrast in the performance of their horses while trail riding with those who are trained for mounted patrol. Many members have since adopted the CMU methods to train their horses.

It has been transformational. Heidi Hansen took her 4-year-old Quarter Horse filly, a Quarter Horse filly, through the mounted police training program. The filly is now more confident and has fewer spooks.

Tressa Allen (17-hand Dutch Warmblood Sheldon) are the unit’s strongest pair. Sheldon is a tough pair. Sheldon can handle anything, including M-80s and jackhammers. Sheldon also handles screaming crowds. Allen attributes seven years of training as a mounted police officer to his success.

This article will help you, a trail-horse owners, to recognize the benefits and integrate elements into your own training program. This article will provide you with the basics of training and a step by step method.

Your trail horse will be able to control his emotions through mounted police desensitization. He will also gain trust and confidence. He will be less likely to react negatively when he is confronted with a frightening situation. The scariness of mounted police desensitization is generally more frightening than anything you or your horse will encounter on the trail.

Register for a clinic with a mounted police officer in your area or contact a private trainer to learn more. Watch your trail horse change!

[READ: Building Connections with Your Horse]

Ground Rules
These ground rules should be understood before you start any desensitization training.

Safety first. Dismount if you feel in danger. You should work your horse until he is comfortable. Some exercises and disciplines are best taught by a professional mounted trainer.
Watch your speed. Limit your horse’s ability to handle it. Don’t push your horse beyond his capabilities. You should keep your horse moving at a pace that will help him succeed.
Never train alone. Even if you’re watching from a distance, make sure someone is there.
* Repetition IS everything. Mounted Patrol training is an ongoing, not one-off event.

Choose your skills carefully. You can choose to learn or not to mount patrol skills.

Basic Training
These are the basics of training horses.

* Your mind is a tool. You can use your thoughts to help your horse. More than any other technique or tool, your mindset, outlook, energy and anxiety will affect your horse. Corporal Russ Ruschill is a sworn officer with the Jackson Hole unit. He believes that 80 percent the horse problems encountered in training can be attributed to the rider.

Be mindful of your energy. Your energy is the most influential factor in your horse’s behavior. You may expect your horse to react negatively when you confront frightening noises or obstacles. This expectation can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your horse absorbs your energy just like a sponge. Your horse will follow your example and ride through any obstacles as if nothing is important.

Breathe deeply and let go of tension if you feel anxious in any situation. Relax and say aloud “No big deal” or “No problem.” Once you are convinced, your horse will believe in you and be willing to give it another shot.

Your horse will be affected by the energy of other horses, especially those closest to you. Horses can be calmed by being near experienced horses whose energy is contagious and whose confidence is contagious.

* Keep your eyes on the destination. Your horse will follow you when you’re in a saddle. Hunter/jumper riders should look in the direction that they want before jumping. Instead of focusing on the trail obstacle and establishing it at the endpoint, pretend it doesn’t exist. Keep your head up and focus on your destination. Focus on the object that is closest to your destination, such as a sign or a tree.

CMU members constantly remind one another to “Look up” and “Look where you want.” It may feel awkward at first but it will become easier with practice. Once you have established your intention and gaze forward, you are ready to use physical cues.

Use pressure and release. This principle applies to all forms of horse training. Keep pressure in place (e.g., keep the lead rope taut and apply pressure to the bit or a leg cue), until your horse does what you ask. Release the pressure and give your horse a rub.

* Stop for the moment of learning. You can’t apply pressure to your horse while they are learning. When you let go of the pressure when your horse responds, learning happens. It’s like your horse is saying, “Oh, it’s okay.” She wants me to do that. It’s important to pause for the lesson to sink into your horse during this critical learning moment. You should allow your horse to absorb every second you spend applying pressure. He will become frustrated if he doesn’t wait long enough to learn the lesson.

Use your horse’s senses of smell. Horses’ senses of smell are often underestimated. Your horse might pause to take in the surroundings before approaching an obstacle. This is not a tactic to delay or refuse; it’s part and parcel of the acceptance process. If he smells an object, it means he is willing to think about how to deal with it. Once he appears satisfied, ask him if he’d like to go on.

Step-by-Step Technique
Here’s how you can begin desensitization with your trail horse.

Step 1. Step 1. Warming up is crucial for any training program. While most mounted patrol programs have specific warm-up exercises, you should still use the ones you already know.

Step 2. Step 2. Rub your horse’s entire body with various objects and let him hear the sounds. Begin with an inflatable toy and then move on to grocery bags, trash bags, and tarps. Make a paper map, then shake it.

Step 3. Step 3. Smoke is a powerful tool that teaches horses to trust you and can penetrate walls he cannot see. Two smoke bombs are lit. Place them apart and send your horse to the ground. Then, ride with a group of horses between the smoke bombs. Once the horses are relaxed, you can move the smoke bombs closer together and make multiple passes.

Horses can be prepared for unexpected and loud sounds by using fireworks. Start by exploding a single firecracker 100 yards away. Gradually, over days or even weeks you will get closer until your horse is able to explode a firecracker just a few feet away.

Then, move back 100 meters and light a string of three to four firecrackers. Your horse will become desensitized as you move closer. Continue the process until you are comfortable with bottle rockets and M-80s. Once your horse is comfortable handling the explosions, you can ride in a circle around an arena and ask one person for fireworks. Slowly narrow the circle so that everyone is within a few feet of the explosions as the horses begin to accept them. Add smoke grenades or scarier fireworks to the mix.

[READ ABOUT: Mounted Shooting]

Step 4. Step 4. It’s okay if it takes your horse 45 minutes to place one foot on a mat or take one step towards a gate. You can help him win. You must be confident and firm but not forceful or pressure him. He will associate tension with the obstacle if you press him. Learning is proportional to adrenaline: Adrenaline increases, learning decreases. Adrenaline down, learning up.

There are many ways you can get your horse through or over an obstacle. Sergeant Alan John is the founder of Jackson Hole CMU. He instructs his students that they should first move their horses slowly, luring them off the ground. This skill is essential to master before students introduce obstacles. You should never ride your horse across an obstacle without first dragging him from the ground.

Step 5. Step 5. Start slow and gradually increase the difficulty. Follow a more experienced horse if your horse refuses to accept an obstacle. Play a game if your horse gets too fussy about the obstacles. Play football on horseback, toss the ball back and forth between riders, or sweep a soccer ball around with brooms.

Step 6. Step 6. A New York City police officer horse might run at the sound or smell of a bear, even though it is an experienced one. Trail miles are the best thing for a trail horse. Mounted patrol desensitization can help horses remain calm in scary situations on the trail.

Step 7. Step 7. You only need a little imagination and creativity, along with items from your local dollar store or hardware store, to build obstacles. You can either copy these images or create your own. Your horse will enjoy training if you are having fun and treating it as a game.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!