Part 5 – How Do You Treat Your Centaur?

What on earth is that feature photo about? It is titled ”Arriving Home”. The link is here to find more weird and wonderful artwork! Now, read on!

We have gone through the basics of clicker training in the first episode of this series. The horse is reinforced for doing the behaviour the human wants.

Wait…..what’s wrong with that sentence? ……..these words…… “The Human Wants”.

You see, I’ve learnt that clicker training is way more than that. If it is just doing a behaviour that the human wants, we have only partially stepped out of the cultural fog. We may have an arm and leg out, but our head is still in that fog!

We have made it nicer for the horse – as in – come and stand at this target and here is your treat – rather than – let me pull or wave a whip so you stand in this spot. That’s certainly a step up!

But wait – there’s more!

What if the horse has free choice and an equal say in what they do?


That sounds ridiculous! They would just stop in their paddock!

Well they might just stop in their paddock if the alternative is to do something incredibly boring or something that causes pain or fear.

Let’s just give horses a new look while we explore this. In fact let’s pretend we have a paddock full of Centaurs – horses look like this. Hmmm – maybe we need to remove the arms…. And they communicate like horses do!

They have good backs which you can put a saddle on and they eat grass. They are strong and can move quickly! Here’s a photo to give you the idea.

Captured Centaur

Now you have this image – does anything change within you? This is your horse. How would you like to treat it?

Do you want your Centaur to do what you command – with a treat reward – or do you want to give your Centaur a signal/cue that results in that behaviour being very reinforcing? Of course they have free will not to do it – then you need to examine why they chose something else.

Now Alexandra Kurland has a great book called JoyFull Horses. It is found in her blog – this link will send you to her writing about cues – not commands. JoyFull Horses is full of such wonderful information – take the time to read it!

I’m using this image – and the feature image – to help us move out of the old mindset. Let’s move into a new one!

The idea is to move the mind from all the preconceived expectations and ideas we have about horses. That helps us explore new ideas. We can remove the blocks and we can pretend we are working with a variation of the horse.

Then you can go out there with fresh eyes. You don’t need to break out of the cultural fog – it is just melting away – and with it, your confidence is growing. How will you treat your Centaur? You need to listen hard – it takes great observation and lots of patience. However, the result is worth it!

Until next time!



3 thoughts on “Part 5 – How Do You Treat Your Centaur?

  1. Hi Heather,

    Yikes, that picture of the Centaur has me reeling. On one hand, I can’t relate to it as a horse because the image of the human part overrides the horse part. The human half looks harsh and almost cruel. Is the centaur a metaphor for how people think of the horse, as something to carry the human and do its bidding?
    The magic of the horse is what is between its ears and the mirror to its soul through its eyes. This Centaur looks like it has no wisdom, just a warrior. Is that a prejudice I hold from things that I have read about Centaurs in the past? Yikes. Do our traditional views prejudice what is true about horses, what they feel and think? Food for thought indeed. I understand what you are trying to convey. If a horse looked more like a human would we treat it differently. Likewise, do the things that we have been taught in a traditional context prejudice how we treat our horses? Can we change that context, I sure hope so. Thanks Heather, for cracking the door so that others can explore, a great way to get people to see with different eyes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great thoughts Sue! Yes I was looking for an idea – an image – that would get us to think more about horses and how we treat them. I thought of a Centaur. In the second image the Centaur is actually captured…. it made me think of captured horses!

      Liked by 1 person

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