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Reader Question: Nothing Else Has Worked; I’m Considering Using A Shock Collar

Reader Question: Nothing Else Has Worked; I’m Considering Using A Shock Collar

I received this email from a reader who is considering using an equine shock collar on her unruly gelding as a last resort. I wrote about equine shock collars as endorsed by Julie Goodnight here.

Hi,

I was considering buying equine shock collar for my horse and came across your article. I’m keen to understand what the alternative is when you have exhausted every avenue in terms of seeing if the horse has physical pain and it seems it is purely behavioural.
My gelding is not on the extreme end of the spectrum I am sure but is at times dangerous enough to the mare he shares a paddock with and to me that I have considered selling him.
He generally bullies the mare and when she comes into season he becomes quite aggressive towards her, last time pinning her down with his teeth by her neck while trying to climb on top of her.
With me he is generally pushy and argues about anything I ask him to do, and if I am out riding and other horses are running around, he then puts on his best stallion impression, tail up, neck arched, screaming at the top of his voice while plunging and spinning around.
I have had countless people of all sorts of therapeutic disciplines look at him and almost all have concluded there is not a huge amount wrong with him. Vets too and I recently had him tested as to whether he is a rig and his testosterone levels came back as lower than a normal gelding would be.
So here I am, trying to work out what on earth I do. I have had a trainer out who has given me some great things to work on with his behaviour toward me (basically me being a stronger more consistent yet fair leader) and I can see that over time this will work.
However I am at a loss of what to do with him and the mare. I am fortunate to be on our property now so can separate them but this is obviously unnatural and not a nice long term solution for either of them. Most of the day they graze happily together and he even lets her share his food, but in the afternoon, when he is bored, he just starts pushing her around and bothering her. And as I say, when she comes into season this escalates quite dramatically to the point one or both of them are going to get seriously injured.
If you disagree with shock collars, what would you suggest I do?
Many thanks in advance for your response.

I don’t believe there is ever an end to the opportunities for change in a horse. A shock collar is not going to make a lasting difference because horses, like people and other animals, cannot learn while they are in pain or afraid. And that’s just what a shock collar produces.

Imagine being shocked by a stun gun at what you believe are random times during what you consider perfectly normal behavior. How would you make sense of what is happening to you? I think it would take a very long time and a great deal of inductive reasoning. I’m not sure horses are either capable of or willing to apply this degree of reasoning to painful, seemingly random events like those produced by a shock collar.

The fact that you have had your gelding checked out extensively is commendable. But in terms of exhausting every available avenue to improve your horse’s behavior, you may need to consider that there is more to the behavior of a horse than physical or training-based behavior. If you have tried a wide variety of training solutions that have not worked (have you given them enough time for your horse to really learn?), then perhaps what you have is a loosely related group of behavioral reactions caused by fear, anxiety, or the fear of pain. These often are principal causes of “mis”behavior in horses.

It might be helpful to list the “mis”behaviors and group them according to whether your horse is acting aggressively, defensively, overly playfully, or just blowing off steam. Which ones seem to be most prevalent? What happens before “what happens happens (so to speak)”? What happens when you try certain solutions? What works and what does not? Keeping such a log even for a week might show you useful patterns in finding a solution.

After reading your description of his antics, I am reminded of my gelding Buster, who everyone said was too much horse for me. He was. At 17hh (I’m only 5′) and absolutely loaded with personality and great gusto for causing trouble (play) and breaking stuff with his teeth [(investigation) (hence the paddock name)], Buster also enjoyed imitating stallion-like behavior when it suited him. And it suited him every time I felt less than confident in handling/riding him, which was quite often!

In fact, Buster nearly killed me one afternoon as we rode back home along a fence line of fillies and I tried, mistakenly, to rein in his airs above the ground and “look at me I’m such a stud” antics by exerting “control,” rather than just doing the sensible thing and getting off, asking him to drop his head, and working on his body in such a way that I would connect with his limbic system to engage his attention, calm him, and make the situation safe. I should have and could have accomplished this easily with Tellington TTouch© bodywork and a few maneuvers from the ground. There is so much I regret about how I handled Buster, but I did not know at the time that connecting with his emotions through his body could effect such a profound change. In the intervening years, I have seen astonishing changes in just this kind of behavior in all sorts of horses with consistent, calm, quiet work with the TTouch Method.

Reading your descriptions of your horse’s behavioral issues makes me think it won’t help at all to get into a battle of wills by asserting yourself as a consistent, firm leader. This just won’t work. In fact, it has not worked, according to your own admission. So why not try something else? Something different, that affects animals in a completely different ways through different pathways?

Here is an article my friend Caroline Larrouilh and I collaborated on to define TTouch. I hope it helps you to see the possible benefits for you and your gelding.

Alternative Definition of Tellington TTouch In Light of Recent Findings in Neuroscience
by Caroline Larrouilh and Kim Carneal

The Tellington TTouch Method® is a holistic approach to physical, mental and emotional wellness that seamlessly integrates body work and in-hand work (ridden work in the case of horses), promoting a state of homeostasis (or coherence*) in both animal and handler. Maintaining a stable physiological and emotional state under varying types of stresses is the ultimate goal of all organisms. TTouch has a direct effect on the natural physiological responses necessary to achieve homeostatic equilibrium.

TTouch is the first integrated system of touch and in-hand work to consciously and systematically recognize and honor inter-species communication, seeking to create a relationship between animal and human based not on dominance or the “alpha” model, but rather on the acknowledgement of the animal as an individual. Instead, the Tellington Method teaches the handler to lead by example: to approach and work with the animal with respect and empathy; to break information into manageable bits based on what we know about the way animals’ brains and emotions work; and to give them time and space to process what is asked, using feedback from the animal to guide the next step. The Tellington Method teaches the handler herself flexibility and open-mindedness when seeking solutions, requiring that they adapt creatively to the situation to help the animal learn new behaviors. The Tellington Method thus differs from more dogmatic, academic training approaches with circumscribed toolboxes that rely on ethology-based dominance or fear to force obedience rather than engaging the mind of the horse.

In each of its applications, the Tellington Method allows for an animal and handler to connect at a cellular level, experiencing a state of harmony characterized by a calm, focused awareness and trusting confidence in each other. Each species reaches emotional and physical homeostasis individually and as a unit.

The electromagnetic field of the heart is responsible for generating heart coherence.

Heart coherence in turn effects an empathetic experience while increasing levels of neurohormone oxytocin (calm connection through physical contact) and decreasing cortisol (stress) in both animal and handler.

This degree of calm, engaged trust in mutual homeostasis (or coherence) greatly enhances the learning capability of both animal and handler. Research has shown that new skills are more quickly and easily learned in a state of calm, and are better retained and more easily generalized, or applied over a range of different situations. New scientific research about mirror neurons† may explain in part why the Tellington Method is so effective. Its exercises are thought to awaken mirror neurons in the brains of both animals and humans through both the sense of sight and touch. The sense of touch, along with the physical proximity and handler state of mind, is thought to further enhance the capacity for cooperative learning and performance via

Mirror Neurons form a large part of how we relate to others.

Discovered by Marc Iacoboni, they are literally responsible for the old saying, “monkey see, monkey do.

A key difference between the Tellington Method and others is that many of the benefits for the animal are handler independent and reciprocal. TTouch at its foundation is not a one-way endeavor like some methods of animal training, “do it my way because I am lead mare” or massage where the recipient is passive and the massage therapist is active, but interactive because heart coherence, neurohormone levels, and mirror neurons amount to cellular coherence in both beings. TTouch works on the entire body, brain and mind of both species involved. TTouch benefits both animal and handler all the way down to the cellular level.

* coherence–consistency, cohesion. From Dictionary.com:
coherence (kō-hîr’əns, -hěr’-) A property holding for two or more waves or fields when each individual wave or field is in phase with every other one

mirror neurons–neural cells found in the premotor cortex, supplementary motor area, primary somatosensory cortex, and the inferior parietal cortex of the brains of humans. While studies have not been conducted on horses, it is believed that most mammals share both similar brain structures and the capacity for mirror neuron function. In monkeys, functioning mirror neurons have been found in the inferior frontal gyrus. See Rizzolatti, Giacomo; Craighero, Laila (2004). “The mirror-neuron system”. Annual Review of Neuroscience 27: 169–192.

First, I suggest moving the mare for the short term, for her safety. If you are not her owner, you are at risk of being held responsible for any harm that might come to her through his hijinks. I would not worry at this point about what is “natural” and not natural.

Second, how old is he and how much exercise is he getting? A young horse (like my Buster) with tons of energy and not enough exercise is somewhat like a bored kid with too much Mountain Dew in his system and no hall monitor. “Eeee! What’s next? What can I do with all this energy?”

If he is not getting consistent workouts in interesting and stimulating environments (I am NOT talking about being run in a round pen or W/T/C around, around and around in an arena or lunging) enough to tire him out, then it’s only natural that in the afternoon he would seek out his own stimulation. “Buster” busted a lot of stuff, including me, and eventually, himself. Don’t let this happen to you.

As far as escalation with mares in season, I suggest that after you take a serious look at TTouch bodywork and groundwork, and if you choose to try some out, that you ask him to lower his head and lead him past mares in season using TTouch ground work methods. If you have to stop along the fence line and get him calm, do so through the use of bodywork. It’s quick ad simple, and the calm focus it creates cannot be beat. You are not then in danger of being injured in a battle for control.

Once you have success with a fence separating the mares, try working him (use a partner to work the mare, for safety and to reduce the possibility of mayhem) with the mare that is most familiar to him. If you have even a small success, then you know you are going in the right direction. Keep it up.

What I am suggesting is a methodical examination of how, when why and where his problems occur and what you have done in response. What works, what hasn’t. Follow this by an equally systematic connection with your horse’s mind, body and spirit in a way you might not have done before.

I truly feel that you will not have to resort to a shock collar if you try out these suggestions. Please let me know what you think and if you find a solution. I wish you the best of luck and safety!

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Researchers Urge Rethink of ‘Monty Roberts’ Horse Training Method

Researchers Urge Rethink of ‘Monty Roberts’ Horse Training Method

In the article, Researchers urge rethink of ‘Monty Roberts’ horse training method, I read about a fascinating method of using remote control cars to mimic the actions of a trainer using the “Join-Up” method with success, demonstrating that horses respond to pressure and release rather than making a human-horse connection.

Horses respond to pressure and release from a remote control model car exactly as they do with humans.

Horses respond to pressure and release from a remote control model car exactly as they do with humans. image courtesy of http://phys.org/

Researchers at the University of Sydney have given me (and many others!) reason to shout “I told you so!”

Cath Henshall, a Master of Animal Science candidate in the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University led the research and is presenting her findings at the International Society for Equitation Science conference in Edinburgh tomorrow, July 17, 2012.

Henshall says,

“We believe that our research highlights the unpleasant underpinnings of round pen horse training and for that reason we caution against its widespread use because it uses fear to gain control of horses.

Monty Roberts’ methods were thought to be revolutionary because, among other things, no physical pressure was applied to the horse. However, emotional pressure is regularly applied to get results.

Frightening the horse, chasing the horse in a circle in the round pen, releasing that pressure only when the horse has “chosen” to turn in toward the humane prove only that the horse is capable of choosing relative safety with a human or surrogate (the model car) over other unpleasant stimuli. And yes, the horse can learn from such choices. For those who have questioned whether it is human to rely on the horse being forced to choose “fear or its termination” in order to learn, this study is illuminating.

Although it is appealing to think that horses in the round pen choose to follow their trainers because they are responding to us as though we are a horse, we believe that the use of fear has no place in genuinely humane and ethical horse training.

The use of remote control cars to mimic the Join Up technique and to eliminate the assumed essential role of the human’s speaking “the language of the horse” was inspired! Henshall ‘rewarded’ the horses for stopping and turning towards the car with a period of ‘safety’, when the car didn’t chase them as long as they kept facing it. Some horses were actually trained to walk up to and touch the car. Henshall and other researchers were able to train horses to produce similar, though not identical, responses to those seen in (human-horse) round pen training. These results undermine the claim that humans’ ability to mimic horse behaviour is an essential component of the technique. They KNOW we are not horses, folks.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-07-urge-rethink-monty-roberts-horse.html#jCp

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Kimberly Cox Carneal
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Alternative Definition of Tellington TTouch In Light of Recent Findings in Neuroscience

Alternative Definition of Tellington TTouch In Light of Recent Findings in Neuroscience

By Kim Carneal and Caroline Larrouilh

The Tellington TTouch Method® is a holistic approach to physical, mental and emotional wellness that seamlessly integrates body work and in-hand work (ridden work in the case of horses), promoting a state of homeostasis (or coherence*) in both animal and handler.  Maintaining a stable physiological and emotional state under varying types of stresses is the ultimate goal of all organisms. TTouch has a direct effect on the natural physiological responses necessary to achieve homeostatic equilibrium.

TTouch is the first integrated system of touch and in-hand work to consciously and systematically recognize and honor inter-species communication, seeking to create a relationship between animal and human based not on dominance or the “alpha” model, but rather on the acknowledgement of the animal as an individual. Instead, the Tellington Method teaches the handler to lead by example: to approach and work with the animal with respect and empathy; to break information into manageable bits based on what we know about the way animals’ brains and emotions work; and to give them time and space to process what is asked, using feedback from the animal to guide the next step. The Tellington Method teaches the handler herself flexibility and open-mindedness when seeking solutions, requiring that they adapt creatively to the situation to help the animal learn new behaviors. The Tellington Method thus differs from more dogmatic, academic training approaches with circumscribed toolboxes that rely on ethology-based dominance or fear to force obedience rather than engaging the mind of the horse.

In each of its applications, the Tellington Method allows for an animal and handler to connect at a cellular level, experiencing a state of harmony characterized by a calm, focused awareness and trusting confidence in each other. Each species reaches emotional and physical homeostasis individually and as a unit.

the electromagnetic field of the heart is responsible for generating heart coherence

image courtesy nashvillemeditation.com. the electromagnetic field of the heart is responsible for generating heart coherence

This degree of calm, engaged trust in mutual homeostasis (or coherence) greatly enhances the learning capability of both animal and handler. Research has shown that new skills are more quickly and easily learned in a state of calm, and are better retained and more easily generalized, or applied over a range of different situations. New scientific research about mirror neurons† may explain in part why the Tellington Method is so effective. Its exercises are thought to awaken mirror neurons in the brains of both animals and humans through both the sense of sight and touch. The sense of touch, along with the physical proximity and handler state of mind, is thought to further enhance the capacity for cooperative learning and performance via heart coherence. Heart coherence in turn effects an empathetic experience while increasing levels of neurohormone oxytocin (calm connection through physical contact) and decreasing cortisol (stress) in both animal and handler.

Mirror neurons are a large part of how we relate to others

Image courtesy http://student.biology.arizona.edu. Mirror neurons form a large part of how we relate to others. Discovered by Marc Iacoboni, they are literally responsible for the old saying, "monkey see, monkey do."

A key difference between the Tellington Method and others is that many of the benefits for the animal are handler independent and reciprocal. TTouch at its foundation is not a one-way endeavor like some methods of animal training, “do it my way because I am lead mare” or massage where the recipient is passive and the massage therapist is active, but interactive because heart coherence, neurohormone levels, and mirror neurons amount to cellular coherence in both beings.   TTouch works on the entire body, brain and mind of both species involved. TTouch benefits both animal and handler all the way down to the cellular level.

••••••

* coherence–consistency, cohesion. From Dictionary.com:
coherence  (kō-hîr’əns, -hěr’-) A property holding for two or more waves or fields when each individual wave or field is in phase with every other one

mirror neurons–neural cells found in the premotor cortex, supplementary motor area, primary somatosensory cortex, and the inferior parietal cortex of the brains of humans. While studies have not been conducted on horses, it is believed that most mammals share both similar brain structures and the capacity for mirror neuron function. In monkeys, functioning mirror neurons have been found in the inferior frontal gyrus. See Rizzolatti, Giacomo; Craighero, Laila (2004). “The mirror-neuron system”. Annual Review of Neuroscience 27: 169–192.

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The Center Line by Caroline Larrouilh

The Center Line by Caroline Larrouilh

There is a clear line bisecting the arena. On one side are Four Schools, and hundreds of years of training, which has led to a number of training approaches that all have at the core a share appreciation for the horse as an individual, a desire to foster a harmonious relationship and develop him putting his welfare and emotional, physical and mental well being first.

The connection between horse and rider is considered artful. It enriches the rider AND the horse.

On the other side: Competitive Hyperflexion – one single school also know under the name: Rollkur and more recently LDR. A short history but a controversial one. Believes the good dressage horses have to perform on the Edge. The Edge of what? Insanity? Nervous breakdown? Lives by the maxim:

Dressage is a difficult sport. It is not a matter of IF but WHEN a dressage horse will be lame.

Believes injections, lameness and surgery are part and parcel of the dressage experience. Puts submission, first. Brilliance at the cost of the horse’s nervous central system, first. Puts showing first and enriches the rider but not the horse.

On our side, because there are different schools and sub-schools, egotists fight with each other to establish THEIR ways superiority.

On the other side, there is only one school and they are all busy taking over dressage, rewriting the rules and making fun at our side. They only have one egotist and they all follow him enthusiastically: He wins them gold.

We have to support each other to succeed, we have to look beyond politics and ego and find the common ground and stand on it firmly. We should extend the same curtesy to one another as we do our horses. We should be in and out of the barn, with horses and with humans equally gracious in debate or in agreement.

And we have to judge people on their body of work and actions, their commitment and the choices they make every day, and have for years.

As long as all the little chiefs fight to be bigger than the next chief over, as long as treaties and alliances are just hot air and last the time of a photo opp, Dressage will remain an endangered species.

I ask the representatives of our side of the Line not to call each other friend lightly but build relationships, work together, learn FROM each other and in doing so make our side stronger, make our side the only choice, if you want your horse sound and happy into its old age. If you want your riding to be more meaningful then a pilate session on steroid. If your horse is your friend first, and a vehicle for your ambitions second.

Support the people who are on our side, on your side even if you do not agree with all of their message, if their message is grounded into sound biomechanics and respect for the horse then a bridge can be built on what matters most: the horse.

If your particular little chief engages in battle, refuse to follow and remind them that united we stand, and divided we fall. And fall and fall. Put the horse first.

The Center Line is being squeezed more and more to the side and we are loosing ground. We have lost ground. How long before we are out of the Arena completely? Irrelevant and obsolete. And then what? Will we just wring our hands some more?

I expect more from the horsemen and women I choose to learn from. I expect the intelligence to know that without a coalition and a joining of forces, horses are doomed to be turned in mechanics. If adults do not start behaving as such then between Competitive Hyperflexion and Nouveau Horsemanship du Jour, traditional dressage, traditional horsemanship will keep gasping and eventually die.

Less lip service and more actions and we may make a difference yet. I certainly hope so.

Support Article 401. Respect the Rules. Protect the Horses.

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Anky Van Grunsven Accidentally Shows Her Slip

Anky Van Grunsven Accidentally Shows Her Slip

When I was a child, rude behavior, snarky comments, and general expression of my mischievous streak were greeted with this sotto voce comment from my mother: “Kim, your slip is showing.” A reference to what at the time (and especially in the South!) was an unacceptable deviation from decency. Your undergarments (and your true self) were not to be aired in public.

It appears that Anky Van Grunsven, arguably the creator of Rollkur, has flipped up her dress and waggled her slip for the world to see in threatening emails to Astrid Appels of eurodressage.com

image courtesy the Daily Telegraph

See the press release from Astrid below.

Date: Wed, 25 Aug 2010 00:03:58 +0200
Subject: Press Release
To: Astrid Appels

Press Release

ANKY VAN GRUNSVEN SUES EURODRESSAGE JOURNALIST

Team trainer Dutch Dressage Team Threathens Journalist!

Goal of Lawsuit: Anky van Grunsven demands removal of photo and claims damages

The renowned dressage rider Anky van Grunsven feels defamated by equestrian journalist Astrid Appels of Eurodressage.com. According to Anky images of her horses can not be connected to the controversial rollkur training method. This is a system developed by Anky and her trainer and life partner Sjef Janssen in which the horse is bending its neck in an extreme way.

Following years of research and a conclusion by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), the Dutch Equestrian Federation (KNHS) has decided in February that, “as of today hyperflexion/rollkur is seen as an aggressive way of a deep moving horse. This is forbidden as well as any head-neck position which is obtained in an aggressive way.
The LDR-method, on the other hand, obtains a deep bending of the neck without force and this is allowed.”

Much has been written about this controversial system in combination with animal welfare. And so has journalist Astrid Appels who has paid attention to this topic on her website www.eurodressage.com. Through highly aggressive and intimidating emails Anky van Grunsven and Sjef
Janssen have tried to prevent this, but Appels appeals to the freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

In his correspondence Sjef Janssen has sweared at Appels like a sailor. A few quotes:
“You are a tiny miserable figure”
“You’ll be next”
“You’re totally deranged”
“You’re just pathetic”
“You continue to be a super bitch”
“you belong in line with the German journalist mafia”

Appels is shocked by these intimidating and slanderous remarks by the official team trainer of The Netherlands and considers taking necessary legal steps against this.

This court case will start in Hertogenbosch on 8 September 2010.

Appels is represented by Mr. J.A. Weda

Wow. This shows just what the big name riders have to lose if stripped of their methods. Recrimination and anger of this magnitude do nothing to further the sport. Enough is enough. Bad faith, abuse, misrepresentation, and outright threats reveal participants to be manipulative and unpleasant behind closed doors. Vicious emails have a way of becoming public. See?

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By Any Means Necessary? Clinton Anderson’s Training Tip of the Week

By Any Means Necessary? Clinton Anderson’s Training Tip of the Week

image courtesy roadtothehorse.com

When working with your horse, you need to have the mentality: Do what you have to do to get the job done. Do it as easy as possible, but as firm as necessary. Whether it takes just a look to make the horse move, or whacking him ten times as hard as you can, do whatever it takes to get the job done. Notice I didn’t say “Do what you have to do unless you feel uncomfortable and then just quit doing it.” That’s what a lot of people do though. They understand that they need to be firmer with their horse when he is disrespectful, but they don’t like the idea of reprimanding him and increasing the pressure. But here’s the bad news: Every time a horse calls your bluff and you back off, you lose a lot of respect. Every time you threaten that he is going to get it and you don’t follow through, it gets worse for the next time. It’s just like with kids, if you make hollow threats, they know that they don’t have to take you seriously, and as a result they get more disrespectful. When you’re working with your horse, always do what you have to do and follow through. Do it as easy as possible, but as firm as necessary.

Um, all the emphasis is mine. I don’t think I need to say anything else.

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