I can’t help anyone who ‘wants to train their horse.’
That’s not entirely true. Let me rephrase that.
I can help anyone who wants to ‘train their horse,’ but I choose not to.
Why? because if I did, I would be sending them down the same pathway that leads to chaos.
Let’s start at the beginning.
There has been a blossoming of many who are singing the praises of their ‘science-based training.’
But alas, just because something is ‘science-based’ doesn’t necessarily mean it is what is best for the horse.
A good example would be ISES.
Excerpt from their website.
“The International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) is a not-for-profit organisation that chiefly aims to facilitate research into the training of horses to enhance horse welfare and improve the horse–rider relationship.
Initially, that sounds great, doesn’t it? And yet, one of their videos on Youtube would make anyone with an ounce of brains and compassion cringe in horror at their flagrant needlessly abusive, counterproductive ‘training practices’ displayed in that video.
There are others, including some who advocate being science-based and ‘for the horses’ while standing next to one who has been caged indefinitely without acknowledging the fact that there is no worse mental, emotional, and physical torture for a horse on the face of the earth.
So where is the Truth? Where is the answer?
The answer is in your heart and mind. For if you simply want to ‘train your horse,’ there are literally countless numbers of training formats to follow. Each one proclaiming to be different and better than all the others while utilizing some of the world’s most sophisticated marketing ploys imaginable.
Yet all of them have several things in common; (1.) They all are bent on altering the behavior of your horse. (2.) None of them begin with acknowledging their horse as ‘equal but different.’ (3.) None of them prioritize the horse’s mental, emotional, or physical well-being above all else. (4.) None of them focus on type of relationship one shares with their horse.
No matter what they say, no matter what science-based or pseudo science-based explanations they offer, the above three facts are irrefutable. And the second they reach for any type of tool, aid, or gadget, they fall into the pit of speciesism.
Speciesism: the assumption of human superiority leading to the exploitation of animals.
Speciesism: 1. prejudice or discrimination based on species; especially discrimination against animals. 2. the assumption of human superiority on which speciesism is based.
So, which type of relationship will you choose to share with your horse? The normal herd hierarchal relationship where your horse is beneath you in herd rank? Or will you choose the one that needs neither a ‘leader’ or a ‘submissive animal to train’?
Equine Ethologists study horses in their natural environment. They refer to that particular type of relationship I referred to as affiliated pairing, nonsexual bonding, peer attachment, mutually beneficial coalitions and preferred associates. There are countless references to this type of relationship from a great variety of Equine Ethologists all over the world, (McDonnell, Mills, Rees, Waring, Mc Greavy, Goodwin, Beck, Mc Lean, and many, many others).
Excerpt: “partners, with whom they stay in close proximity, rest, allogroom, approach and follow (Fey 2005: 86). Horses form “long-term, cooperative alliances between unrelated individuals” (Fey 2005: 83) and “tend to be faithful to their playing partners” (Sigurjónsdóttir, et al. 2002: 4-5). In their lives, horses will have only one or two such close preferred partners (Fey 2005: 86).”
Excerpt from ‘The Domestic Horse,’ by McDonnell-Mills on P 86:
“Testing the frequency distribution of ‘being closest’ and ‘total interactions exchanged’ against the negative binomial distribution, it has been shown that throughout their lives, horses have only one or two, rarely three, preferred social partners regardless of the size of the band in which they live. (Fey 1987: Monard 1992).”
In domestic herds these Pair Bonds are commonly referred to as ‘horse buddies’ or horse pals.’ Unlike the normal herd relationship, (and normal ‘training’) is an extremely harmonious, trusting, intimate relationship between two horses that is not shared with others in the herd. It is literally a ‘herd of two within the herd.’ Unlike the normal herd relationship, herd rank is inconsequential. The specific companionship of the other horse is all important. The respect and caring they hold for each other is patently obvious to even the untrained eye.
We also know that the horses’ primary means of survival is flight. So, instead of trapping them in a small area that would be stressful, we’ll meet them out in an open pasture where they have complete Choice. They will learn faster, (and retain their learning longer) in that area because stress hormones inhibit learning.
Trapping them in a very small area and ‘making them do something,’ (or conversely not do something) creates a very adversarial, confrontational relationship. That is the exact opposite of what I seek for myself and my horses, (and those who I help as well).
The very FIRST thing we would do is learn about our horse’s needs and culture by painstakingly going through a book entitled, “The Domestic Horse: The Origins, Development and Management of its Behaviour”
by D. S. Mills and S. M. McDonnell.
And we would watch the documentary life story of a Mustang named Cloud so that we can better visualize the amount of healing our horse will need before attempting to win their heart.
Then, and ONLY then, we would meet them out in the pasture that far exceeds their flight zone to begin the process with a well-informed but Open Mind, Open Hands, and an Open Heart bent only on winning their trust and love.
For once that is achieved, nothing is impossible.