It was time to head to Google Scholar. I didn’t want to see any websites claiming ‘connection, harmony, being… etc.’ with your horse – I wanted some cold, hard facts. I had no idea what studies had been done on horse training, horse behaviour etc. I had found plenty of information on worms in horses, so of course there must be something on training!
I did find papers – some studies on how horses learn – and time after time, I read about reward based training and how this ‘method’ was far superior to anything else. Hmmmm…..
There was really very little information on horses – it seemed very ‘new’? Or was it that there wasn’t a great deal of interest – or funding – for studies on horse behaviour. The more I read though, the more I realised that I had been on the right track with the clicker training I had dabbled with several years earlier.
At the time, I hadn’t really studied it – and I was still looking for a quick fix and the ‘fairytale’. Now I was ready to roll up my sleeves and spend time understanding what positive reinforcement was really about – and how to apply it properly to horses. I was hesitant – it was much easier to pursue the ‘romance’ attached to horses. My mind did argue with me for a time about this. If I could pick up messages from horses – why couldn’t I just train them telepathically?
It was like one part of me was having a toddler tantrum – and the other part was the sensible adult soothing the toddler.
I knew why I was arguing with myself.
I knew this wasn’t going to be easy – it would perhaps require me to use the side of my brain that doesn’t really like being used. I’m not a ‘scientific’ person – I would much rather use the ‘poetic’ side of my brain. Clicker training did seem a bit ‘mechanical’ – was it just about tricks – would my horses only want to see me because I had food? Would they become greedy and spoilt?
It seemed to go against everything the horse world was promoting – ‘natural horsemanship’ – now this was proving to be a winner in the horse world. I constantly heard about savvy, feel, rhythm, timing, going up phases, seven games. I heard about being the ‘leader’ – it was the only way a horse would ‘respect’ you. I heard about being ‘the alpha’.
And then from the more alternate in the horse world – I heard about connection, harmony, being at one with the horse, just ‘being’. I heard about breathing, body awareness, sending ‘energy’, being a ‘holistic’ trainer, going ‘barefoot, bitless and treeless’ (I was never sure why treeless saddles ended up with bitless and barefoot). I heard about ‘doing nothing with the horse’, ‘don’t ask for anything’.
There were many, many trainers out there, labelling their horsemanship with some beautiful names – but what were they actually doing? Time after time I noticed behind the fancy names, it seemed to be a version of ‘natural horsemanship’.
I had become cynical after my time with Kert. No way was I ending up back in a similar situation with someone who says they have all the answers, but cannot deliver. These courses all seemed to focus on making you a ‘better – more aware person’. The emphasis was on human faults, buried problems and making you ‘face your issues’.
To me, the time to do that was in long term therapy – not at a week long course.
I realised that I needed to look to science for answers – but there was still a place for my ‘horse conversations’. Little did I know how easy it would be to blend the two!
COMING UP – ENTERING THE CLICKER TRAINING WORLD
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