I am so very lucky to be able to visit people, horses and yards across the UK. It is a fascinating part of my work life and I thoroughly enjoy it. There is huge personal challenge for me as an individual as well as being the expert called in to help unpick dreadful behaviours in very unhappy and misunderstood horses. The other side to this is being very gentle and understanding with the owners because they are just as damaged and traumatised as their horses. They don’t understand why their beloved horses are seemingly working against them so badly. They have all, invariably, been given terrible advice from every other horse owner on the yard, which has, invariably, led to an escalation in aversive training methodology. Humans still insist on using such force on horses with lots of actual physical punishment included, to “sort out” the problem.
I get called in when things become uncomfortable for the owner, who does not want their relationship with their horse to be based on fear and punishment, or when all their options have run out. Invariably, there has been an escalation in the unwanted behaviours because of all this awful advice too! They cannot sell the horse on, behaving the way it does and so are facing euthanasia.
I have used the word “invariably” several times because that is exactly the scenario I see playing out all the time. I wish it were otherwise. However, I love it when I can unpick all the known historical associations as well as the behaviours on offer now. By teaching the owner how to truly understand what is happening and why, without the use of labels. Humanising or anthropomorphising the behaviours with labels like stupid, lazy, stubborn, dangerous, sharp, fizzy, awkward, being a b……. d, is so not helpful and so wrong of us humans. Categorising a horse or a dog in such a way belittles the information the animal is giving us and makes us resent the animal as though it pre-plans its actions.
All behaviour is information and all behaviours are emotion driven (fear, panic, grief, rage, disgust, lust, care, seeking and play) The emotional brain is driven by hormones and these are triggered by the actions being used or by the environment the animal is facing…. just like us! We are absolutely the same.
By the end of the day, the owner completely understands their horse. They understand the behaviours and what is driving those behaviours. They have been tutored and started in a whole new type of training based on sound proven science. The way forward is all based-on reward and building connection with each other. I am in the business of creating “Trust Accounts” all over the UK. No more punishment, no more confusion, no more frustration. Changing and influencing future behaviours by changing the consequence to the animal in front of you. At the end of the day we need to change human behaviour in order to improve horse training and horse ownership. Help is needed to increase welfare awareness and the understanding of the emotional needs and welfare of horses in general.
The pictures show an array of equipment which are, by design, for the control of horses by administering actual pain …..this not a scene from 50 shades of grey. It is the reality of traditional horse training which unenlightened horse owners think nothing of using regularly. There is no wonder that fear based behaviour in horses will never end and I will never be unemployed.