How to Sack Out a Horse

"Sacking out" is a term to explain the process of desensitizing a horse to scary items. This is something every horse owner should do, as it builds a good relationship with your horse and sets them up for success should they encounter something frightening later on. Hopefully, this quick how-to will help you to help your horse overcome many different fears.


  1. 1
    Know your horse's current limits. Observe what they seem to be frightened of and how they react to it. Is he scared of the hose? Or is it the saddle? Or maybe he just seems spooky out on the trails? Does your horse blow up and bolt when they see these things? Or something not quite as drastic?
    • If your horse seems to be afraid of YOU, there is a whole lot of trust building that needs to be worked on before you even attempt to solve other fears. If there isn't any trust in your relationship, sacking out will not turn out well for you or your horse.
  2. 2
    Prepare yourself. Horses pick up on emotions very well. Stay calm and fluid. Don't be sneaky and timid, but not aggressive and loud either. Try to have a calm and fluid demeanor. This will build the horse's confidence in both you and the scary object.
  3. 3
    Start small. Take your horse out to an open field where he won't feel trapped. For starters, don't tie him up. If he decided what you are doing is scary to him, when he bolts or pulls he won't get hurt. Next, take out your item and make it as non- threatening as possible. For example, if your horse is scared of a plastic bag, fold it in halves until it's no bigger than your hand. Let your horse smell and mouth it.
    • Don't rush this. Your horse will let you know when he's comfortable with this stage by starting to eat, turning his attention away from the item, or looking disinterested.
    • After a while, begin to rub the item on your horse's body. Remember to give release and remove it to reward him for standing still.
      • DO NOT withdraw the item if your horse flinches, attempts to run, or moves away. This only teaches him that if he moves, the pressure goes away.
  4. 4
    Increase the pressure. If your horse accepts this, increase the size of the item or begin to shake it gently. If you're sacking out with a plastic bag, unfold it once and begin to shake it on the side of you farthest from the horse.
    • Over time, stop shaking the bag every few seconds to fluidly rub it on the horse's shoulder or neck. Keep this going, as horses like repetition and patterns.
    • After your horse becomes comfortable with this, shake the item right next to him or in front of him.
  5. 5
    When it's time to leave for the day, tie the bag onto a fence post in the pasture. The wind will blow it around, and your horse will eventually get used to the fact that bags make noise and make weird shapes when wind gets in it. However, don't do this until your horse is more comfortable.
  6. 6
    Take the time it takes. Practice with the bag, saddle, or whip every day, even when your horse seems comfortable with whatever you do with it. Don't be discouraged if your progress is slow, but make sure that there is still SOME progress every session. Eventually, the item should be no threat to your horse at all, no matter if it shakes, makes noise, or is rubbed on him.
  7. 7
    Use your horse's new-found courage in everyday life. That saddle that he was scared to death of? Now you can use it every time you ride. That tarp that you could never walk by without your horse trying to bolt? Now try walking him over it.
    • Remember to refresh your horse's mind every once in a while. Don't work on his fear of water for three weeks and then never go back to it again.


  • Trailers are a big problem that most owners have with their horses. Getting your horse in one is just another way of sacking out, so handle this much the same.
  • If you sack out right, there will never be a situation where your horse will freak out and try to break down a fence or pull violently in an effort to escape, so don't tie with twine or anything else that will let your horse get away easily.
  • Fears that are stationary and can't be handled by you (such as water) can obviously not be folded or shook, so start small by leading your horse up to the threat and get bigger by splashing some on him or leading him into it.


  • If you made a mistake and your horse starts to pull violently on his tie point, immediately stop all pressure by backing away. By backing up, you are giving release, which is a form of praise to your animal. This will also prevent you or your horse from getting hurt.

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Categories: Horses