Lisa, from Laughing Orca Ranch brought up the difference between training with patience, and using force. I thought about replying in the comments, then realized that since my day was so exciting, that I'd just make my evening post about it.
So Lisa asked, "Above all else, I've learned that you have to pay attention and not use force. Patience and understanding go much further, don't you think?"
Personally, I don't think it's an either/or type of situation. Keep in mind, I never EVER advocate abusing an animal. With that said, there are many times that force is a necessary training tool in the arsenal of tricks. Of course, using force should always be done with patience, so Lisa is dead on!
Now, using anger is the real problem. I never get angry toward a horse I am working with. Oh yes, I often get angry AT a horse, but that's the point that I'm walking to the house, NOT when I have the horse in hand, or under saddle. Anger has no place when working with horses.
Force on the other hand can be very useful. It all depends on the horse you have in front of you. So many people think of only what the horse brings to the training equation. Look at it this way, Red plus blue equal purple, right? Red plus yellow equals orange. Purple and orange are NOTHING alike! Now, if you replace red with the horse, and the other colors with the various handlers in that horse's life, you can see how this applies.
Not the most flattering picture of either myself or the horse, but notice the look on my face, but the relaxed posture of my body. I was being intentionally stern to Spot for throwing his head. All I needed was to act grumpy to him and put a touch on the chain and he responded.
Here is my father, self proclaimed to be "not a horse person". He is more passive and submissive in his approach, but he still is getting respect from Olivia, a yearling filly. Notice his softer body position, but the horse is completely focused on him? The next picture in that series is a lovely standing photo of the filly, exactly what he had asked for.
Disclaimer here: I think that much of what Parelli says is right, I think Clinton Anderson has his head on properly, but I think that what they are SELLING is bunk. Good for them for selling it, but they are trying to fit people and horses into molds that are too complex for a DVD set. I think the above pictures show exactly how different individual and proper handling techniques can be!
So, this is why I started blogging. Much of it is to put my thoughts into words. Like I said, I'm the type that does, but doesn't always talk about it. I often find it difficult to explain to owners what it is that I'm doing. To me, its instinctual. I hope to archive my "thinking out loud" here, so that I can reference it later, and to point to when I'm asked a question. If others read this, and learn something from it, then I'm even happier! So many people have shared their knowledge with me, so if I have something that others can use, I'm glad to pay it forward.
So, I digress again. I am good at that!
The use of force when training is something that should be done with a calculated purpose. Whether it's tapping with a whip, or touching with a spur, or even as severe as throwing a horse on the ground (which is used WAY too often in my opinion) it can be a useful tool. It also depends greatly on the horse you're working with! Like I said in this morning's post, trust your gut!
Yes, my father again, with Trouble. Sadly, we lost trouble to severe colic. May the pastures be greener where you are my dear.
Trouble was a mess. She bit, she kicked, she pawed and she was completely unpredictable. When I looked at Trouble, I saw a kind eye, and a horse begging for a chance, not a freakish rogue. I spent many hours teaching her to let me touch her. I'd pet her neck, she'd snake her head out to bite me. I'd pet her withers, and she'd try to cow kick me. If I had a moment of expressing anything but a happy attitude, she became so fearful that she'd blow up - striking, rearing, bucking in place.
I laughed away her attempts to bite me, since I knew I was safely out of range. When her teeth darted at me, I "rebuked her" by touching her nose solidly. When she tried to kick me, I would simply hold my hand on her withers, moving with her until the kicking stopped. When she allowed me to touch her with out fighting, I rewarded her with grain (from a bucket as I couldn't touch her nose) and eventually worked up to petting her head and cooing at her for a reward.
Eventually she learned to love people, and to come up seeking out attention, hence the above picture.
On the flip side, I have had quite a few horses come to me knowing nothing but praise. Rover was one. Darling Rover knew nothing other then cookies and petting. To reward him was nothing out of the ordinary, and he didn't see why he should work to seek the reward. Brushing, hugs, cookies, these things were what just happened, not something that he EARNED! He was dangerous in his own right, although much more subtly then Trouble. Rover never paid attention to his handler. He would crowd your space, while staring off into the distance. A sudden move could spook him right on top of the poor person at the end of his lead. He didn't understand that he couldn't express dominance to other horses with a human in the middle. Sniff noses and paw... sure, that human will move!
For Rover, I had to set the ground rules. Get out of my space, or you are pushed out. If pushing doesn't work, then I would tap his shoulder with a crop until it was enough for him to pay attention. Start daydreaming in hand, and he was working. From lunging to backing up, if he didn't focus, he was MADE to do something he didn't like. When Rover offered to act as I desired (i.e. be safe) on his own, with out a reprimand first, only then was he rewarded. Today he's one of the best horses I have for beginners.
Another example of the proper use of force is when working with the dominant horse. This type of horse requires its handler to PROVE her strength. If the horse tries to walk on top of you, intentionally, to out dominate you, then yes, you had best return force in kind. A snap of the halter, a quick jerk of a stud chain, slapping a whip across its chest if it's heading AT you. All are examples of force, and all can be very effective. See, horses relate movement to dominance.
Arden, shown here, is starting to dive into the circle to move the trainer. She really disliked that trainer (see rearing photo from previous post!) and only had the single session with her. The trainer though, is standing calmly, and not giving ground.
The problem though, was that this trainer also never gave praise, and Arden is a horse that works for a "good girl!". Arden did not understand what was being asked of her, and had been trained (by me) that praise is the sign that she's doing what I want. A simple release of pressure was not giving this horse the reinforcement that the horse needed to feel secure. Because of this horse's personality, she chose to handle her confusion by taking control of the situation, hence her attempts at dominance.
Now, what Lisa was referring to was not a problem with aggression. In her case, it was a situation of confusion. I completely agree with what her gut told her - put away the crop, and work it out slowly! From her description, it sounds like Apache didn't understand what Lisa was asking, or didn't understand WHY Lisa was asking it, or didn't understand WHY she should do it because Lisa's emotional level was different then the command she gave. I'd put money on the last option, but I wasn't there. (It's the most common problem).
When there is confusion, using force is the WRONG way to deal with it. In that case, it's no different then spanking a child who doesn't understand math. It sure won't help the kid learn, nor will it help the horse. If the problem is from emotional residue (we all face fear when handling horses, at least if we're SANE!) then the horse was actually performing the desired response. Apache was calm, and stood like a saint, rather then sensing fear and becoming spooky or bolting. The problem is, that it sucks to admit that the fault lies in us, the handler, and not the beast with a golf ball sized brain. Nothing worse then being outsmarted by a horse and having to admit that your lieing to yourself. Yeah, I've been there MANY times.
And yes, horses do feel love. It's a scientifically proven fact. Oxytocin is released into the brain, it's taken up by the receptors, and is processed. This causes the mare/foal bonding that is called motherhood. It's also the hormone that causes uterine contractions. Oxytocin is released in almost all mammals (I don't know of any that don't have it) from prolonged physical contact, and results in a pleasurable feeling. In humans, we call this feeling love.
Thanks for the excuse to ramble out my thoughts Lisa.... it got me out of making dinner!
A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses
I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.