getting the best from the horse
with what’s best for the horse
Often “modern” trainers talk about traditional training with a sense of moral high ground and perhaps a note of superiority creeping into the voice during
Once upon a time, a horse owner said to an alternative therapist: “Thanks very much for treating Billy last week. He was much more relaxed
How do I know that I am the person to work with a particular horse?
Working with equines is not about the individual trainer or owner, no matter how great their equine training skills, marketing or publicity may be. It is about the sheer brilliance and ability of the horse, donkey or mule to figure out what on earth we humans want, what they have to do to survive, to receive rewards and to avoid discomfort. An incredible amount of equine intelligence and behaviour goes into just dealing with humans.
I was asked recently whether I think that horses have the capacity to be naughty or if this is a label we give horses because we as humans think in those terms. My initial reaction was to write an article about this from the perspective of animal cognition: naughtiness implies that the animal understands what we want them to do but makes a conscious, deliberate decision not to do so, do horses have this capacity? However, taking a step back I realised that ‘naughty’ is a term that is overused for both animals and humans alike and this is where we should start.
How we think determines our success or failure with horses. Horses, will clearly let us know what they think of us. What they think of their work, stable companions, environment, feed and so on. Equine behaviour offers us information, it lets us know when we are getting something right or something wrong. However, very often we do not want to know what our horses are thinking or how they are feeling especially when it does not suit us. It is easier just to label the horse as having a problem than ask ourselves why.
Most of us learn to use positive reinforcement via clicker training. And when starting clicker training it is true that most of us start with simple targeting exercises that may be perceived as “just tricks” by the uninitiated. But targeting is considerably more than just a trick…