Asking a horse to drop their head with a soft and immediate response is one of the best things you will ever train into your horse. When a horse is stressed and cortisol is running freely, the head will be high and stiff, somewhat like a periscope in some horses! In this state there is little you can do with your horse until the cortisol levels have dropped. Horses do not learn anything at all when they are in a state of stress. Also there are obvious safety concerns for the
Recently I experienced a high level of grief in my life. After three weeks away I returned home a different version of my former self. I arrived home in the evening so didn’t see my horses until the next day. I went out to the paddock in the clear fresh morning and greeted each in turn. Then I moved to sit on the ground under a tree, one of the horses ‘camps’. As I sat there the enormity of what I had just experienced overwhelmed me. The brumby Rumpy came over first to say hi
In the horse world, there are two main types of people, horse riders and horse trainers. While trainers are an excellent option for starting young horses, they’re not always the best solution for problems with older horses. This article will discuss some of the reasons why this is so, and suggest that a more effective path may be to train them yourself. Riders have lessons focusing on their riding position and application of the aids. If a rider has a problem with their horse
Recently a student pointed out that my work is defined by how I listen to horses. The traditional way of interacting with horses is to tell them what to do, its unidirectional communication. The human tells the horse what to do and the horse must do it. If the horse protests, then the human gets stronger and ‘shows the horse who is the boss’ until the horse does it.
This is how I was taught and this is what I did for many years. I was good at it and most horses did what I a
In the Spanish language, horses are caballos. Recently I was staying with a Colombian family who had a large farm in the Andes that had been in the family for generations. It was accessible only on horseback; people and supplies have to be taken up and down the mountain using horses. The horses are mountain bred, they live and work there. They are strong, intelligent and willing, with the ability to climb up and down mountains effortlessly. They’re all bone, muscle and sinew,
Many people use positive reinforcement with horses, instead of or as well as other forms of training (negative reinforcement, habituation, desensitisation, shaping, classical conditioning). As with all horse training it helps to understand the theory behind the method.
Research indicates that positive reinforcement may be more effective than negative reinforcement, and holds many benefits for equine well-being. Horses learn quicker, retain the learned tasks longer, experien
Anthropomorphism is defined as the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-humans and is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology. It’s possible that it leads people to like animals more when they have apparent human qualities. It may also create a greater willingness to help them in situations of distress, result in less willingness to eat them and an increase in the moral concern of them. We have all been trained in childhood by films full
So what is desensitisation? Well the opposite of sensitisation! And that’s the tricky bit, you must be very clear of what you’re doing as you might accidentally do the opposite of what you want and sensitise your horse! To desensitise your horse to a stimulus means to reduce its response. Horses are flight animals and can be very reactive to things in the environment. This is necessary when they’re roaming around in the wild, but can cause problems if you happen to be sitting
For most of the history of horse domestication, we've tended to have communications between humans and horses that are unidirectional. Humans order, horses obey. But now many people are realising that communication could be a two-way street. Horses do communicate with humans, and more and more people are learning to listen.
If the cognitive abilities of horses are misunderstood their treatment may be inappropriate. Equine welfare is dependent not only on physical comfort bu
Whenever your horse does something that you've asked for it's imperative that you give a reward. This reward lets the horse know that they gave the correct response and 'marks' the spot where the behaviour occured, making it more likely that the horse will offer this response the next time you ask. Most people know how to train a dog. You ask the dog to do something, the dog does it and you give a treat. That’s called positive reinforcement, you reinforce the behaviour with s
When I meet a new horse we often go through what I call ‘the conversation’. This is where we check each other out and decide how we’re going to progress from that point. To someone looking on not a lot is happening but between the horse and myself there’s HEAPS going on. The best way to explain it is by describing an encounter I had a few days ago.
I met a lovely filly for the first time after being called in to assist her new owner. I asked if I could hold her while we sto
Sentience is the ability to perceive one’s environment and experience sensations such as pain, suffering, pleasure or comfort. An animal that is sentient receives internal sensation and information from their environment, and interprets this as an emotion. The sensation may make them feel good, bad, or indifferent. The animal will determine how best to act based on this, and use responses in their body, or a behaviour, in order to fulfil their needs. In 1997 the European Unio
The theory of learned helplessness was originally devised by Martin Seligman in 1967. It is a psychological condition where individuals learn they have no control over painful or aversive conditions, that their actions are futile and that they are helpless to change the situation. When events are uncontrollable the individual learns that its behaviour and outcomes are independent. In humans this may result in clinical depression and related mental illness. The state may also