A Must Watch Video

If you’re feeling at all discouraged, this music video is guaranteed to warm your heart and cause you to hug the nearest being with a heartbeat.

In my humble opinion, it clearly shows the awesome power of positive reinforcement (force-free, pressure-free, creating an atmosphere where folks can feel good way of relating) in a world desperate for some new energy.

I’ve seen the power of this new energy transform even the most difficult of beasts. This video shows the ultimate transformation.



Hot Topic

This is gonna be a biggie. Fast on the heels of my research regarding the classification of horses as livestock vs companion animals, I find this statement from Nevzorov Haute Ecole School that horseback riding– anytime spent on the back of the horse, is no longer admissible. Here is Alexander Nevzorov’s statement as to why:

“I can openly say for the first time (with sadness, but really frankly) that if we are honest with ourselves and if we have respect for other living beings, if we rely solely on scientifically sound and accurate data, we have to recognize that the anatomy of the horse (no matter who is on horseback: a child, a Haute Ecole master or an athlete) leaves no possibility for riding. There can no riding – no need to fool your head – not for five minutes or ten minutes. Continue reading

Natural Pinball-Manship

Remember playing pinball, the coin-operated arcade game? This is a game where the player attempts to score points by manipulating (whacking) one or more metal balls on a play field inside the pinball machine.

As I was contemplating the current popular trends in horse training, I couldn’t help but note the similarities between the game of pinball and pressure/release/aversive/intimidation based horse training. Continue reading

Harassment Training in Action

Sometimes contrast is good. I normally prefer to link to feel good, positive, forward moving videos and stories, however this  story demonstrates my previous post in the most timely manner. I just posted a blurb musing about negative reinforcement training being called harassment training and I find a well publicized example that I feel compelled to use to visually demonstrate my last post. Continue reading

Negative Reinforcement aka Harassment Training

I love this article called Understanding Bird Behavior written by Steve Martin the internationally known positive reinforcement free flight bird trainer.  Although the article was written about birds, simply insert the word ‘horse’ where it says bird and you’ll find some fabulous insights.

Here’s my favorite excerpt:

Negative reinforcement: Another reinforcer widely used by bird owners and bird behaviorists is negative reinforcement. It is something the subject works to avoid. An example of how negative reinforcement can be used to train birds: A woman at a seminar once told me she didn’t have to use treats to get her bird to do tricks. She demonstrated how she taught her bird to kiss and do a big eagle. She held her Cockatoo up to her mouth and said, “kiss! kiss! kiss” pushing her face into the bird’s. The bird finally pecked her on the lips, and she stopped the harassment. Mission accomplished. Then, with the bird on her fist, she extended her arm and rolled it back and forth until the bird put its wings out to maintain its balance. The action stopped the harassment. This lady was training her bird using negative reinforcement. I also call it harassment training. This bird finally learned a peck on the lips was the only way to stop the harassment.

How many of these examples do we have in our day-to-day relationship with our horses? Although a gentle push, push, push, on a horse’s shoulders to move over may seem benign to us, there’s a giant possibility that it feels harassed. Shoot, I’d feel harassed if someone were pushing me physically to do something when a they could have used words or pointed instead.

I think the more we collectively realize that negative reinforcement has the potential to feel like harassment to any animal, the more we may begin treating our animals, hmm, and maybe each other, and fancy this, ourselves with communication that feels good.