NATURAL HORSE - Natural Horsemanship Equipment and Equine Relationship Training


The discovery of neuropeptides in mammalian brain chemistry is founded on groundbreaking research in physiology, endocrinology, and biochemistry during the last century
Many years ago, like many of you, I also use to follow advice given from various clinicians and trainers etc...on how to make the right thing easy for the horse, and the undesired action of any behaviour in training to be hard work for the horse.

And for a while I tried to buy into this as a way to work with horses ......and for training activities such as float training for example, we were all encouraged to play it out like this or similar......

So when the horse takes interest in the float-the message was to relax and give the horse some quiet rest time, which is often referred to as to give "the release". Now whether that was for the horse in question to be looking in the general direction of the float, as in the early first steps of training, or for him to move up to making an effort to sniff or touch it, right through to putting hooves on the ramp to actually loading-for each phase of progress it was given to provide a release, and for me the release is still a big part of my toolbox surrounding horses.

However here's the rub for me- if the horse didn't show any interest in the float, or resisted in anyway, then we were (and still are) all encouraged to apply both implied and physical pressure towards that horse through swinging ropes and sticks to actually tapping and some even said to smack the horse with the stick or rope as part of that "pressure" in order to have the poor horse running around like a blue arsed fly to make him work hard so that he supposedly realised the right thing was easier. Hence this age old saying of making the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy.......

However right from the start for me I always questioned this methodology, because as a behavioural animal scientist previously working with wolves and dogs, I was already aware of what stress hormones can do to animals in general, which gave me cause for concern. So when I returned to horses again, after a break to have my daughter, this new approach just didn't ever seem to sit right for me. It just made me wonder why anyone would want to wind a horse up into a state of mental trauma and stress in order to teach him what we wanted him to do for us in our human world.

Firstly just from an equine behaviour point of view-although I agree that it's true that a higher ranking herd member can be seen to apply pressure to a subordinate horse in his band to get the beta horse to comply with the alpha horses request , such as driving and moving gesturing, and the alpha may even increase these threat gestures to an actual kick or bite.....but rarely does that last for more than a split second, so no matter what trainers claim to justify this heavy pressure approach, it is not in keeping with actual equine behaviour to behave like this towards a horse.

And secondary, the discovery of neuropeptides in mammalian brain chemistry is founded on groundbreaking research in physiology, endocrinology, and biochemistry during the last century, so what actually happens to the horse's brain when they release stress hormones from all that pressure and being forced to run around, is not in anyway going to help you get any horse on that float, well more importantly not in a calm and learning frame of mind anyway, which is the only way to do it to actually create a solid and consistently reliable happy floater....or for any other training event to use a better non stressful approach.

I mean can you honestly relate to this approach when we compare it to human learning-as for me it seems to be a lot like why criminal suspects confess to murders they didn't commit because they just want the stress of the interrogation to stop.

Another way to look at it is to just imagine little johhny human on his first day at pre school being forced to do this -can you imagine saying to him "write your name of run around like a blue bottomed fly"-do you think he would learn anything at all apart from stress.

Gandalf shown happily and calmly self loading with the rope over his back-and in he goesSo the way I see success with all the horses I work with, is to help them understand the lesson, by keeping them calm, and applying as little as stress as possible, which keeps their brain chemistry on my side, helping them to not only to learn a new skill but to absorb the lesson for future events by way of positive association.

For a breakdown on how to use this approach to float train please see this link