I have just come back from a well- earned break away from work attending this 4-day conference in the Midlands. It’s a bit like coming home now, re-meeting delegates from all over the UK and Internationally who have become friends! It certainly is a meeting of great minds and expertise in animal training and an absolute pleasure to listen to and watch examples of their work across all species.
The presentations were as varied as ever, ranging from domestic pets (especially dog training) to captive species in zoos from around the world. Witnessing, and being educated in, the great work in conservation in the wild and how people dedicate their lives to helping endangered animals and saving environments internationally.
Sometimes it feels so vast. So many animals in so many places stretched to near breaking point because of human conurbation, farming, mining and industry. Each individual person and each organisation, no matter how tiny, are making a difference but the world is working against wild animals everywhere. They certainly pay the price especially when it comes to pollution.
Us humans urgently need to have a massive rethink when it comes to packaging. Undegradable plastic bags and wrapping do more to harm marine wildlife than anything else. The seas are a mess. Its horrifyingly sad to see just what harm we are doing. It could all change though and easily. Simply by banning plastic shopping bags worldwide would make a huge contribution to cleaning up the seas and saving much suffering in marine animals, fish and birds. We have the technology to make all plastic bio degradable so why don’t we? Changing human behaviour is always the key to improving every aspect of animal welfare from ethical training techniques to education in care, husbandry and environmental responsibility.
This year I presented my work with horses to conference. I used 3 examples of how I train using behavioural science, to make enormous changes to very damaged or fearful horses. I showed how horses can be trained to participate in painful veterinary procedures instead of using force and restraint. I showed how we can introduce games to desensitise fearful horses to noises and movements so they can then become calmer and less reactive to environmental triggers. I also presented my work with a very traumatised blind and partially paralysed pony called Headway and how he now lives a calm, fulfilled life where he is in control. I will write all about him in my next article.
The slide is from my presentation. Its where I begin with each horse and where I hope to make the main changes during training. This slide would be no different in training any animal anywhere.
It is the animal training industry which will eventually change the horse industry. Young people being educated in the science of animal behaviour and learning will filter through into the horse world. The UK Equine education industry is still in the dark ages and does not teach, train or operate their yards using any of the above. As in all things we must start somewhere. I feel a bit like a pioneer being the first commercial yard in the UK to train horses this way. Change happen slowly but it does happen eventually, science cannot be ignored-she says with hope in her heart!