Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated by horses. Every year on my birthday and every Christmas I asked for a pony. I dreamt about riding and training horses at liberty. Of course in these fantasies the horse and I were one.
We could communicate in a way that the horse would do everything voluntarily and with ease. I never needed to use force, or use training aids like a bit, a whip or spurs. I dreamt about being friends with my horse and that he would trust me in every situation. That we really could rely on each other…
When I was older I chose to study animal management. A study in which animal-human relationships and animal welfare were key subjects. After my bachelor degree I became a certified riding instructor. I trained horses, but I still had the feeling there should be something else out there, something better…
The traditional and classical ways of training and riding horses were too focused on getting results. There seemed no place to spent time and effort on the relationship between the horse and the rider. Something I was still longing for. I wanted to train and ride my horse, but wanted to have a solid foundation of trust and friendship first. No one seemed to teach this…
Move away from pain or move towards pleasure
When I started studying learning theory, I learned that there are basically two ways to train behaviour. We all have this in common. We either want to move away from/avoid discomfort or pain or we want to move towards pleasure. This was when it hit me: I was still using discomfort to train my horse. Even though I was told I was playing a ‘game’ with my horse, he was still learning by moving away from discomfort (which was called ‘yielding to pressure’ to make it sound more humane).
Apparently you can also do the opposite in order to teach behavior and use ‘pleasure’ to teach your horse new skills. Horses are like humans: we share the same emotions. Like us, horses also like to move towards pleasure.
Change the foundation of your relationship
What really amazed me when I started changing my ways is that the relationship with my pony also totally changed. I used to think that I had a good bond with my pony because I trained him from the day he was born. We spent 18 years together. After changing my training approach and using positive reinforcement, I noticed that my pony was also changing. He became eager to work with me, he started whinnying as soon as he saw me coming and he even started to canter to me in the pasture. Something he normally didn’t do. He didn’t walk away, but I always had to come over and get him. In a short period of time we became really good friends and developed a partnership based on trust, which is an excellent basis for all training.
Don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t easy to throw out all the equipment that I used to force a horse into doing things. It was a process. A long process with lots of ups and downs.
Are you ready to change your ways?
If you are ready to make the change to a more ethical approach of horse training and improve your bond with your horse and have more fun together, let me know by sending me an email.
I offer personal coaching in which I help you train your own horse. I believe that you know your horse best. I think there is more value in you training your own horse than sending your horse to a stranger to get trained. I want you to gain the knowledge and the experience so you become the best friend you can be for your horse.
I wish for every equestrian to have a click with his or her horse. Visit my website http://clickertraining.ca if you want to learn more about me or my training method.
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