Tag Archives: Horsemanship
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

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The Ethics of Bits

I found this video through Sheila Thompson of Bitless Bridle UK. I make absolutely no statement regarding the tone or reliability of what the videographer is saying in the following video. There’s some nonsense here, and there are a lot of very good points as well. In other words, though I do not approve of bits in general, this video is not a representation of my opinion on bits.

[ January 12, 2010 this youtube video has been removed by owner]

I’m hoping to open up discussion on a theoretical basis here: What do you think of the ethics of bitting?

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Petition to Reform the FN Rules

Petition to Reform the FN Rules

I read this in Camera Obscura, who found it at Glenshee Equestrian Center.

Just Say NO to Rollkur

Just Say NO to Rollkur

It’s about time. Riders and trainers have long complained about the decline of horsemanship in general and dressage in particular, especially as concerns competition. In recent years, only the most spectacular, showy performances have been rewarded at the expense of correct dressage and, more importantly, at the expense of the well-being of the horses. The situation is becoming toxic – for horses and riders. It’s time to clean house.
Granted things are unlikely to change when these riders are backed by serious money and corporate sponsorships, but we have to try something to bring the standards back up to some meaningful level.

Grey Horse Matters sent me this link from Philippe Karl’s website and I thought I’d pass it along to those who might be interested. Philippe Karl is one of the too few truly classical voices out there, and someone I have great respect for as a horseman. Of course, the Petition only addresses the German Equestrian Federation, however, this organization sets the standards to which we are all eventually subject due to its powerful influence on the FEI. A change in the German system might just positively influence the FEI and other national federations, including the USEF and USDF. I have signed the Petition, and I hope you will consider signing too and possibly forwarding to horsey friends or post on your own blog…

Here is the petition. Please pass along after signing.

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Thankful Thursday: My Teachers

Thankful Thursday: My Teachers

I read Akal Ranch‘s last Thankful Thursday post with great interest. Simrat’s Standing On the Shoulders of Giants, thanking all the trainers she has learned from.

At first I thought it was not the best idea to copy another blogger’s idea directly, but then I knew Simrat would not object to being my teacher. We should all thank our teachers, whether they taught us good things or bad.

There is a Buddhist principle which states the same thing. In the Mahayana Dharma, there is a simple saying, “Be grateful to everyone.” As Pema Chödron says in her book, Start Where You Are, being grateful to everyone “is a way of saying that we can learn from any situation, especially if we practice … with awareness.”

“Be grateful to everyone” means that all situations teach you, and often, it’s the tough ones that teach you best … You’re continually meeting your match. You’re always coming into a challenge, coming up against your edge.

As we all know, horses are excellent teachers. They don’t know. But they can show you “where you need to be more gentle, where you need ot be more clear, when you need to be more quiet, and when you need to speak.”

Same holds true for mentors, trainers, riding instructors. You can’t really trust anyone else’s interpretations of the truth because you yourself have the wisdom within. Some of us only learn this after looking back long and hard at our teachers, both equine and human.

My first trainer and my first horse were a particularly difficult combination, one which I’ve written about before, though not in detail. I feel guilt about the way I treated that horse under the guidance of that teacher, yet I probably shouldn’t. I have learned a lot from her. I learned what it takes to be a successful horseperson. I learned toughness and resolve. I learned that being intimidated by horses is not an option. I learned a great number of basic skills, and I learned patience, though of a different kind than I practice today. Each time I get in the saddle, I remember what she taught me, “You have to show the horse what you want“, and I learned how to be quiet. She taught me those things. Looking back, I also learned many things I do not want to be part of my horsemanship toolbox: traditional natural horsemanship skills that thinly veil dominance and force. It is now easy for me to find ways to avoid that and come to a greater understanding with horses. I don’t know, however, if I could reach this place with such great understanding if I hadn’t been to hers first. It all makes better sense now.

Katie Little introduced me to Sally Swift and Tellington TTouch.

My second trainer taught me a whole new seat. She took away my saddle for three months and I really learned to sit on a horse. She taught me to jump. Bareback. The thrill of learning something that previously struck terror into my heart gave me such a sense of accomplishment. She is a Parelli-trained teacher, and her easy approach to training horses was fascinating. I also learned from her how not to deal with people on a strictly human basis. I have often wondered what it is about horsepeople that make them so difficult in real life. I think it has to do with passion. If you have great passion and desire, you make mistakes in dealing with people if you are not mindful of possible outcomes. This in itself was a lesson worth remembering.

My third trainer taught me patience and stillness. She is a wizard in the strictest sense. Her blend of traditional English horsemanship and calm, still mindfulness allows her to achieve amazing results. I’ve seen her take a greenie out into the hunt field and show him a great day, have a nice time herself, and come home without a scratch. Not many people can do that. The most important thing I learned form her was quietness. I thought I had that nailed early on, but I was able to take it to a deeper level with her. Not only was it “shut up and sit there,” but it was, “have no specific agenda because you will be disappointed and force the horse.”

Vera taught me about loyalty.

Linda Tellington-Jones blew a hole in my perception of reality with horses. She dismantled all my understanding of horsemanship, and reassembled it from the ground up. Along with the reconstructed horsemanship, she presented a new way to look at interpersonal relationships. She provided me with a new beginning, and a new purpose in life. A change that I’d needed for many years. I’m still amazed at the events that have unfolded in the last two years. And how they have changed my life. Thank you, Linda.

And now to the horses: Thank you!!!




Marksman Millie and Julia G. Scheibel

Brego, for demonstrating how dominance doesn’t work with fearful horses.
Millie, for being the best babysitter on the planet. Also for being true to your breed, a full-blooded Percheron, who really doesn’t like to move out in the ring. You taught me how to ask correctly.
Buster, for showing me what a (Parelli concept) Right Brain Extrovert is really like. And that you were too much for me at that stage of my learning. I wish you a happy life. I adore you.
Holly, for revealing true equine maternal dedication and elegance.
Mystic, for grace, and for showing me the value of eternal vigilance.
Storm, for being who you are. A stallion of uncommon beauty, inside and out.
My babies, Madison and James, for allowing me to shepherd you through the first year of your lives. Nothing can match that experience.
Maira, for being peaceful, beautiful, and accepting of all my flaws. May you show the same kindness to your new “husband.”

Living in the horse world, for however short a time has made me who I am. It is a singular influence on the way I see the immediate world, aside from Buddhism. I might never have gotten to this point, where my life is about to enter a new and exciting phase, without all my teachers.

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Blogging Is the New Crack

I find I just can’t put it down.

I left it alone for a few days. My stats plummeted. Can’t have that! No! I missed chatting with you all. I missed the very act of writing. Researching. It’s a balm to the soul, and meditative in its own way. I get to leave my worldly cares behind and focus on what’s important to my inner self for a while. No stress.

So while I said I was taking a break, I may be cutting down, but I’m not stopping. I find that I can’t. Because as Mike Thomas says, exploring the concepts of horsemanship and lifemanship, seeking the moment of perfection, is about as easy to put down as a crack pipe.

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What's Your Horsemanship Tool of Choice?

When I first began to learn about working horses in addition to riding them, I was taught to use a dressage whip with a plastic bag, a rope halter, and a series of lead ropes of varying lengths. There were a number of things that stand out about this method: first, I learned that if you really want to get the horse’s attention, that plastic bag will do the trick; second, I learned that I am not an expert rope handler and never will be. More often than not, I’d end up smacking myself in the face with the leather end of the rope. There were weeks on end when I sported red welts to prove it. My trainer urged more practice with the rope, tied to the fence: I was hopeless.

In the round pen, I was so klutzy that once, chasing an “impudent” horse around with the stick and bag, I fell and caught myself on a jump in the middle, collecting a splinter the size of a fountain pen. Even after a trip to the ER for removal, I didn’t think, “Hey, this type of training is not for me.” This was cowboy training, pure and simple. Natural Horsemanship, slightly feminized, applied by a skilled and powerful woman who taught me a lot. Still not for me.

And not enough. Not enough of the right stuff. When I took a clinic with Frank Bell, I had a grand old time. Because my trainer had recently been studying his methods, and went on to become one of his certified trainers, I had already learned most everything Frank taught in that clinic, and I was proud of my mare when she performed like a superstar. Frank is such a gentle man, who emphasizes safety above all else. But in addition to the crucial addition of hands-on work, he also uses the rope and rope halter in his work. So participants got to see me flailing about again. At least I didn’t hurt myself in public.

For a while I was enamored of Clinton Anderson and Pat Parelli. Both use sticks and rope halters in their training. After seeing Clinton Anderson in a demo in Texas, I left feeling that for him, a horse was a unit to be processed, and nothing more. There was no heart or empathy in his training, no emotional congruence. He only wanted the right behavior at the right time. Once Anderson was done with a horse, he was done with the horse. There’s one bit of equipment of Clinton Anderson’s I do adore, and that is his Aussie Tie Ring. Horses who pull back when tied are a danger to themselves and property. I don’t own tie rings because I’ve never needed them, but if I did, you can be sure I’d have a pair.

I’ve never seen Pat Parelli in person. I certainly know that his television shows and DVDs are inspiring, but it’s a fine bit of merchandising and showmanship. I love watching him walk around an arena moving a horse about with just his body language. Seems like magic. But what are we missing between takes? What’s left after that? I admire anyone who can teach themselves how to use all his tools and skills without attending the dozens of clinics normally required.

The woman who took over my old barn in Afton is Parelli certified, and boyo is she a skilled trainer. Her horses turn out beautifully. She is not a bully, and her horses reflect that. But when I moved on to a barn farther away, where most of the training is done in the saddle, I missed the opportunity of watching ground work. I was the only one who did anything like that, and it was frowned upon. No round pen, a very large arena, full of jumps of all sizes, and suddenly I lost the desire to do the work. It showed in Maira’s behavior. Until I met Linda Tellington-Jones.

I’d love to know what, if any, tools you folks out there use in your ground work, and how you use them.

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