What exactly makes this alternative paradigm to our present equine training and manipulation so ‘different?’ Well actually, everything! Different philosophy. Different perception. Different values. Different association and interactives. Different goals. Different relationship!
Logically, that would equate to different (and better) results. In fact the only thing the alternative paradigm in this new world of horsemanship has in common with ANY ‘training format’ in the world is that we have a horse and a human interacting together for a common purpose.
And perhaps that different ‘purpose’ is a good place to start.
No matter what we do (or don’t do) with our horses, we inevitably are forming some type of relationship each time we interact with them.
There are two basic relationships (other than stallion/mare and mare foal) that horses may experience in their natural environment. One is the normal harem intra-herd relationship.
Equine ethologists and research scientists refer to the other type of relationship as affiliated pairing, nonsexual bonding, mutually beneficial coalitions, preferred associates and/or Peer Attachment.
In the normal intra-herd relationship, herd rank is an extremely important aspect of herd dynamics. Intimidation, pressure, discomfort and if needed, physical punishment is used to establish and maintain the highest herd rank possible (not unlike many of our modern day’natural horsemanship’ training formats). Especially in unrelated, short term association domesticated herds, this type of relationship can be extremely adversarial and confrontational (not unlike our present day ‘natural horsemanship’ training formats). Each horse will react differently to a challenge to their herd rank (which is why no one ‘cookie-cutter’ training format ‘works with all horses’).
But in the Peer Attachment relationship, two horses form a very intimate, bonded friendship.
Each horse unconditionally accepts the other horse’s herd rank. It is an extremely non adversarial, non-confrontational, harmonious, ‘herd of two within the herd,’ intimate relationship that has no need for intimidation, pressure, discomfort or physical punishment.
Crossing all boundaries of breed, age and gender, this intimate, inter-reliant relationship is found in herds all over the world (and universally share very similar steps to reach those levels of trust and intimacy).
Logic would dictate that if a human could establish the Peer Attachment relationship with a horse instead of the adversarial intra-herd relationship, it would be a much more harmonious relationship than the one that results from our present day ‘training formats.’ That is one reason why the ‘alternative paradigm’ in this new world of horsemanship is completely different from any other ‘training format’ ever known.
For thousands of years, we seem to have overlooked the ‘horse buddy’ relationship. Equine Ethologists and research scientists refer to that relationship as affiliated pairing, nonsexual bonding, peer attachment, mutually beneficial coalitions and preferred associates. Friendship Training utilizes this specific type of relationship. This relationship is observable in any herd of horses, anywhere in the world. Any horse owner can share this relationship with a horse of any age, gender, breed, or previous life experiences.
Our first step away from our present day traditional ‘training merry-go-round’ is understanding the tremendous difference between the normal intra-herd relationship and the Peer Attachment relationship.
The normal intra-herd relationship utilizes intimidation, pressure, comfort/discomfort and/or physical punishment to establish and maintain an individual’s herd rank, (very similar to Natural Horsemanship training). Establishing and maintaining herd rank, (especially in an unrelated domesticated herd) is an adversarial/confrontational, competitive relationship tempered only by the ‘coexistent need for family/herd harmony’ and a sense of security/belonging.
Although their logic and thinking may be a bit linear compared to our own, the horse is not by any means a ‘stupid animal.’ If we utilize the same interactions that horses use to establish a higher herd rank, they can only reciprocate in kind. Each horse will react differently to a challenge of his present herd rank. That is why there is no successful ‘one size fits all’ training format that will function equally well with all horses.
In the Peer Attachment relationship, there is no need for intimidation, pressure, discomfort or physical punishment as both horses completely accept the other’s herd rank. Contrary to the normal intra-herd relationship, the Peer Attachment relationship is extremely harmonious. Intense levels of reciprocal intimacy and trust reach seemingly intuitive levels of communication that form an inter-reliant co-dependency of two. They literally become a ‘herd of two within the herd’ so-to-speak.
All horses, regardless of age, gender or breed utilize the same basic steps of acceptance to establish and share the Peer Attachment relationship.
Contrary to popular beliefs held by those who use present day training formats, there is one method, one singular format, one specific sequence of interactions that consistently does ‘work with all horses.’ While the
Horse can instantly recognize the ‘challenge of herd rank,’ he can just as easily recognize the offering and acceptance of true friendship, IF we use THEIR standards, protocols and perception of friendship.
In the horse buddy/Peer Attachment relationship, there is no need for any defensive posturing of ‘personal space.’ Either horse can approach his trusted friend and touch them for an invitation to play, or allogroom, or just momentarily rest their chin on them without the slightest worry or fear of any reprisal or punishment. If the horse shares this relationship with a human, (and learns the frailty of humans compared to horses) they will never harm them. This includes, (but is not limited to) biting, kicking, barging, etc. While training formats that utilize hierarchal comfort/discomfort methods may work temporarily, the difference is in the longevity of the behavior modification and the type of respect.
We have respect for the speed limit, (because we have respect for the traffic cop who will give us a ticket for exceeding it). This might be called’consequential respect’ as there are consequences for disobeying the posted speed limit, (and it’s enforcer).
We also have a special respect for those we hold ‘near and dear to us’ and care about. This is the type of respect Friendship Training creates. Intimidation, pressure, discomfort and physical punishment are neither needed nor used.
If the traffic cop gave you a ticket when you were doing absolutely nothing wrong, (according to your beliefs) that would be a form of deep betrayal. It is much the same for horses if they are misunderstood.
The level of trust between two horses that has bonded is absolute and unconditional. While they can be seen teasing and playing with each other more than other horses in the herd, neither one would ever contemplate purposely hurting the other. Absolute trust evolves through freedom-based, nonviolent interactive consistency utilizing equine standards of intimacy and friendship, and developing a comprehensible form of reciprocal communication.
Their communication to each other is so subtle, it sometimes seems like they are reading each other’s minds. While Friendship Training initially uses specific single words, (in conjunction with simultaneous hand/body cues) they soon become phrases and sentences until we actually can ‘talk’ to our horse on his level and they understand us completely.
Equally important, the ‘communication’ must be RECIPROCAL. The horse must be able to communicate his feelings at all times, (as long as their communication does NOT harm their mentor/teacher/friend).
The depth of their understanding of each other is so complete, they are always aware of and sensitive to each other’s needs, nuances and moods, and respond accordingly. This is one of the rewards of Friendship Training.
In the changeable, often chaotic world of domestication, they create a ‘herd of two within the herd and find a degree of peaceful harmony in each other’s company. They do not share this closeness, this intimacy, with any other horses in the herd.
The road to intimacy in the human/equine relationship cannot be found in any training manual or video. Intimacy and caring cannot be forced or ‘trained,’ it must be earned, and must be earned in a manner understandable and acceptable by the horse.
This is the ultimate goal of Friendship Training.
Friendship Training does not use whips, cordeos, harsh bits, spurs, clickers or any other ‘training aids’ to establish this intimate relationship
Restriction and mounted activity are regarded as hypersensitive issues to be addressed AFTER the relationship has been firmly established. The horse learns all the needed basic ground and mounted request responses before he ever wears a halter.
As it has been easily proven worldwide that horses can be taught all essential ground and mounted request/responses without any type of restriction in a completely freedom-based environment, we find our present day terminology of training a horse ‘at liberty’ in a round pen or picadero to be at best, deceptively misleading.
The intent of Friendship Training is twofold.
Primum non nocere, (‘first do no harm’). In many cases, this means having to first ‘undo’ the mental and emotional harm that may have been done previously by others. It also means understanding the impact of what we are doing with the horse from HIS perspective.
The intent is also to establish the greatest possible levels of RECIPROCAL trust, understanding, respect, communication and most importantly, intimacy. Horses are very sensitive and aware of our intent.
For some, there can be no greater sense of achievement in this world than watching a horse slowly evolve from learned helplessness and the belief that all humans are treacherously illogical, (and can inflict great but undeserved physical punishment for seemingly no apparent reason) to believing that there is one human in this world who is ‘different.’ One human who understands them and truly cares for their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Using pressure/release and comfort/discomfort is one-way communication that simply tells the horse he MUST do whatever the human working with him orders him to do, (especially so when he is trapped on a longe line or cornered in a round pen/picadero from which there is no escape). This ‘entitlement’ is nothing more than an interspecies master/slave relationship.
The ultimate goal is give our horse the greatest opportunity to perform his mounted activities without chaos, fear or trauma, (and to make his domesticated life as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible). This requires an in-depth greater understanding of equine instincts, needs, fears and social behavior.
To gain a greater understanding of equine instincts, needs, fears and social behavior, Friendship Training requires a select reading/study curriculum before starting the program with your horse. There are additional strongly suggested elective studies concerning nutrition, hoof care, conditioning, stalling and numerous other subjects that directly affect the domesticated horse.
A Registration Form (application) is required before any commitments are made as to the acceptance of the applicant pursuant to personal goals, needs, commitment and available situational/environmental conditions.
There are two classifications; Amateur (for the concerned horse owner) and Professional (for those who desire to help other horse owners and their horses). There are four certification levels to the Amateur Classification. Upon completing the Preliminary FTX series, you will be allocated a personal Certification Number to verify your (and your horse’s) initial level of achievement. A written test and video is required to attain Level I certification (the highest Amateur level). Amateur Certification brings the horse and his owner to a level of confidence that makes their mounted journey as safe and enjoyable as possible for both of them.
Note: Each horse is an individual unto himself and will have strengths and weaknesses different from all other horses. As such, there are NO expectant time limitations to achieving each level of proficiency.
Advancements are made from very simple, easy to understand and do interactive requests that only require a few minutes of interaction a day to incrementally teaching more complex ones. Each step is micro-tailored to both the individual personality of the horse as well as the confidence level of his human teacher/mentor/trusted friend. (This format utilizes both shaping and chaining.)
When you first start using the Friendship Training Exercises, you are required to send a daily email report describing each FTX lesson for the next 30 days for guidance and support. This is absolutely mandatory. You may continue to send reports, questions, inquiries after the initial thirty days as they are always welcome.
For some, the horse is simply a tool, status symbol, breeding success or financial asset. For others, the horse is a companion that is cared for and loved. Those of us in the Friendship Training family have reached a deep emotional and spiritual connection with our horse. We are in essence, soul mates, a separate entity unto itself.
Our role, as mentor and caretaker of God’s greatest creation in the animal world, is one of continuing education. That is, we are constantly striving to learn everything we can to make our horse’s lives as happy and wholesome as possible while preserving their spirit.
Amateur Certification brings the horse and his owner to a level of confidence that makes their mounted journey safest for both of them.
FT is a way of life, and a life long relationship that deepens each day.
When all is said and done, there is actually very little difference in what various ‘trainers’ actually DO. The only real difference is in their marketing strategies.
Whether you decide to join our FT family or not, we beg you to watch the ‘Cloud series’ videos, read Dr. Francis Burton’s ‘Chapter Seven,’ free on the Internet at: http://www.gla.ac.uk/external/EBF/uhcc7.html
Also read award winning ethologist Andy Beck’s “Horse Behavior” E-book, (third edition) and McDonnell – Mills, “The Domestic Horse.”
We promise you will never regret it.
For the two greatest enemies that make the life of the domesticated horse as chaotic and miserable as possible are ignorance, (a lack of knowledge not to be confused with stupidity) and tradition.