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Clicker Training
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Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Sat Dec 15th, 2007 01:30 am
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This is an interesting topic, Patricia - one that I've thought about for quite a long time.  I've read the books, watched the videos and live demos and for a while was strongly influenced by a person in this country, a neurobiologist who has recently been awarded a PhD for his work on operant conditioning as a training mechanism for equines.

I think you sum it up well by saying that it all depends on what goal we have with our horses, which will vary from person to person.  However, from my own experience I would expand that phrase to saying that our chosen training method/tool depends on what type of relationship we want to have with our horses.  I'm grateful to my own horses for explaining to me that the relationship I would have with them by using operant conditioning techniques would be different to the very enjoyable, and precious, relationship I already had.

My old friend, the TB gelding, who has been with me for over a decade was quite mystified about why he suddenly had to start communicating with me via a bridge-signal, and despite the edible positive reinforcements, really did not like this type of interaction.   My young colt, who was only around 12 months old at the time, did have some fun with this until his hormones clicked-in at about 2 yrs.  Being of an exuberant, over-the-top nature, no amount of positive reinforcement would hold his focus and attention - he had better things to do even though he is very food motivated.  The message was delivered by my other horse in a far more forceful way.  This is a mature Spanish stallion who I was only just getting to know - he told me in no uncertain terms to quit messing around with that silly gadget and return to our normal way of interacting.  This horse is sensitive in the extreme, frequently seeming to me to be some ethereal being from another planet - but he became very agitated whenever I used any type of positive reinforcement training, completely unable to concentrate on what I was wanting to do.

You are probably thinking I was simply not using the techniques correctly, but there was no issue about getting the response I intended.  The problem was that it totally altered the type of relationship with each horse - I felt they had lost their trust in me, did not feel safe enough to put their welfare in my hands.  Sure, they performed whatever it was I asked for, but that dreamy softness in their eyes was gone.

This is a purely personal perspective, so speak only for myself and do not criticize anyone who takes a different route, but my choice is to have a relationship with my horses that is one of deep reciprocal friendship where they seek my company for the safety it gives them rather than seeing me as an entertaining (or irritating) vending machine.   I guess this is similar to wanting friends to seek my company for its own sake, rather than because of any food I might cook or gifts that I might give.

Best wishes - Pauline

Patricia Barlow Irick
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 Posted: Sat Dec 15th, 2007 02:30 am
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Pauline,
Are you refering to Andrew McClean? Maybe not because I don't remember him being a neurobiologist. It must be someone else or maybe he is?

Andrew does not use clicker training or any kind of bridging to my knowledge. He said that it does not make them reliable enough, they need to be trained by pressure/release (negative reinforcement). I think he and his wife are working with dressage and eventing horses, but he does have a PhD on the topic of equine behavior. His Training Centre a good illustration of where positive reinforcement is not a good technique... when you are training clients high-dollar horses and have little room for the critters getting too creative.

Your observations and trial of the technique are to be highly commended. There is nothing quite like putting something to the test and seeing how it works. I wish I could have been there to see it happening. Good for you even if it didn't work out as you wished!

I think animals have to learn how to be trained. They come to understand the transactions with humans and over the course of the relationship they become more and more accustomed to "the way things are".  Expectation is one facet of the dynamics. You were violating their expectations in a big way, weren't you?

The other facet is that all species of animals go through a stage of training where they decide that they are being manipulated. They get angry and resentful. They sull up and refuse to play. You have to just set your expectations aside for a few days and then they seem to realize that they would rather play the game than not. You can't really escape that phase, you just have to not give up at that point, but not push it. Of course it makes you feel like you failed horribly if you don't know it always happens, whether they are dolpins, seals, canines, or equines.

Have a great day!,
Patricia

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Sat Dec 15th, 2007 05:51 am
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Yes, Patricia, that is the person I was referring to, and having seen this person work with a large number of horses over several years and having had personal discussions with him, I'm well aware that he condemns positive reinforcement of any kind.

My reason for mentioning his methods was to make the point that all forms of operant conditioning, both positive and negative, are based on the assumption that the animal (or person) will behave like a robot, i.e. press button 'A' and response 'B' will result.  Any emotional influence on the part of the animal is totally denied. There is a great deal of media fanfare about the successes of these training methods, but I have seen the demonstration failures that are never mentioned.

I have to disagree with you that all training must go through a phase where the animal is 'angry and resentful'.  This had never been my experience until I abandoned what I instinctively felt was right, in favour of what I had been intellectually persuaded was 'right'- with the consequences described above.  Calling for the horse's focus in the manner described by Dr Deb on other threads about confidence, roundpen work etc, immediately produces a horse who willingly and happily does absolutely anything for the handler - there is no need for desensitization or any anti-spook techniques because the horse is frightened of nothing when in the close presence of his trusted friend and carer.  There is never even a single moment of anger or resentment.  Wish I had known all this 30 years ago but as usual I have had to learn the hard way.

Given that the person we speak of is a committed scientist, I've often thought it would be interesting to set up an experiment where the results of his methods were judged in a purely scientific manner, i.e. forget about subjective observations re eye 'softness' etc and rely on comparison of hard measurements of stress indicators like heart and respiration rate, blood cortisol etc.  There could theoretically be 3 training methods run for, say, 5 minutes each with the same horse - a negative reinforcement sector, a positive reinforcement sector and a (for want of better nomenclature) roundpen sector with vitals being taken a couple of minutes after the end of each sector.  Don't imagine it will ever happen, but if it did my money would be on the latter.

Best wishes - Pauline

 

 

Cyrus44
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 Posted: Sat Dec 15th, 2007 09:54 am
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Here I sit- knowing why dr Deb would say that "one day she hopes I return as whole different type of student"

I am a student of Dr Mclean, and his wife Manuela, and have also been in group with Dr deb-

Both, to me are very clever and intriguing teachers, and I know I use many methods, but I never criticise anything that I have not tried either.

I have never tried "clicker training" and do not think I ever will, its a bit like training dolphins to me.

As a child I used my hands, my thoughts and actions, things that I thought I invented myself as I wandered alone with my pony, but I guess we all use our instincts, and the horse is our greatest teacher.

I am enjoying Ray Hunts book now- "think harmony with horses" and there is nothing in that so far that i would ever disagree with

Along the same lines, I find using " horse training the mclean way" a simple way to lead people along a path they do not quite understand. They did not grow up with horses, they did not have parents who taught them how to work with animals, as I had. I have never had a horse that I could not get along with, but my appy made even more sure I respected his ways as he had been somewhat spoilt in many ways, but he had the kindest nature I had ever met.

Some people just never get enough exposure to good horsemen, and when they meet a good teacher, need more help than just figuring it out for themselves.

Every teacher I have met has added something to what I know- mostly good- some not so good.

Maybe they will see a change in me at my next lessons, and ask why?

To me- I read similar things in all books- the people just have a few word changes.

But the differences do really lie in previous thread where dr Deb talked about the need to show off and compete, there are many people out there, for whom competition brings out the worst in them.

In teaching and learning- people all have different learning styles and some people need more structured guidance than others, as it does not seem to happen naturally for them.

 If training revoles so much about the relationship- how did dr deb meet my horse and have him accept her so willingly, there is also a method there, that worked quickly for her . 
  Dr deb cuts me down  for who I am, but I keep bouncing back and looking and listening...

BUT  I do always find I follow a little quote from I cannot recall  where and its a bit changed- and  I have always felt  horse lives by this too.

"We may forget or forgive the words and actions that you use with us, but we never forget how that person made us feel"

Thats why I always go back to the mcleans - they never judge, they just help.

And I think I am like Ray's horses, I like a teacher who makes it easy for me to find the right thing, and makes it hard for me to do the wrong thing.

Think harmony with horses is a good read- thanks.

I will work towards a soft firmness, and do my best to lose the tight hardness.

But- like the spoilt horse, I need a firm guidance, as some habits are very hard to break.



Would wither scratching be consodered as "positive reinforcement" ?

 


Last edited on Sat Dec 15th, 2007 11:34 am by

Patricia Barlow Irick
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 Posted: Sat Dec 15th, 2007 05:25 pm
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Pauline,
I must not have it explained it well. Animals that are trained with bridge-signal training go through the anger stage. It kind of catches you by suprise because you can't see any reason for anger. I wasn't saying anything about any other types of training.

Sorry you misunderstood me.

I think the experiments you speak of would be interesting in deed!!!

The way I see it is that you have two avenues for training and everyone tries to find the right mix of them: the ethological aspects of the equine mind and the simple facts of conditioned behavior. You can look at what anyone is doing and see both. My habit is to recognize the parts that are simple conditioning and sort them out from the ethological aspects (most of the horse world runs on pressure/release (aka negative reinforcement). Then it is the ethological aspects that are really more interesting. I study them.

Patricia

Allen Pogue
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 Posted: Sat Dec 15th, 2007 10:15 pm
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Patricia,

 Ok then, when horses learn from observing other horses (an example of which I shared in another thread) which method is that?

Allen

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Patricia Barlow Irick
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 Posted: Sat Dec 15th, 2007 10:32 pm
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Allen,
I wonder why people believe they don't learn by observation? However, I have found that it's hard to teach them things that way when you want to. Especially teach the donkeys!!!

Do you use a bridge signal? I have never noticed it on your videos, but you talk to them quite a bit and use verbal cues, yes? I love to watch you work with your horses on the clips. And the whips you sell on your website make the best kind of targets for bridge and target work.

Tell us what your experience of clicker type training has been.
Yrs,
Patricia


rebecca g
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 Posted: Sun Dec 16th, 2007 06:34 am
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Dr. Deb,
 
    I am thinking about what you said about not needing a "clicker" and not needing a whip to lunge a horse. I have experimented with not using the whip. At first my horse was slower to get moving, but then we got "in tune" with each other and as a result he showed an even greater sensitivity to my signals and everything became easier and more relaxing for both of us. Several years ago I used "clicker training" to teach one of my llamas. From what I had observed llamas do not do any mutual grooming (they actually do not seem to like any physical contact at all with each other) so petting wouldn't be much of a reward to them.  Using food as a reward without a bridging signal just results in being "mugged" by a llama.  Anyway, as a result of "clicker" training I ended up with a llama that would bring me his halter and stand nicely to have it put on, stand quietly to be clipped, fetch other objects, lead nicely, wave, and other tricks. I tried just the bridging-food reward with with my horse and he just seemed more distracted. With him a "good boy" (bridge), release of pressure (reward) and praise (additional reward) work well. The bridge signal is only neccesary when teaching a new response or perfecting an old one.  Used too often out of context it looses it's effectiveness. Reading these post and reguarding what you said about not needing a clicker and how much pressure we exude without being aware has made be think about something.  I think that part of what is happening at the moment that a person "clicks" or gives another type of bridge signal is a simultaneous release of pressure that they weren't even aware of. Thinking back to when I was training my llama I am sure that I was probably holding my breath and unconciously tensing my muscles, intensely focusing, ect until the moment that my llama made the smallest step in the right direction. I am quite possitive that in addition to "clicking"  I relaxed everything about me. So there was a lot of "pressure and release" taking place even if I wasn't aware of it at the time. Being that they don't even seem to like to touch each other llamas may be even more sensitive to pressure than horses are.  The clicker books were  useful to me in learning just how to break down a new behavior that I wanted to teach into really small steps.  Just more to think about. Best wishes, Rebecca

Ailusia
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 Posted: Sun Dec 16th, 2007 10:20 am
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What I like most in clicker training, is that the whole concept is meant to teach you "how to teach", not "what to teach". Allen, I have seen that horses learn by observation. This is very motivating for them. My mare saw many horses ridden under saddle, and when I putted the saddle on her own back, she looked really proud, "like an adult horse" :) same thing when she figured out that I'm standing on a chair because I want to get on her back. She is moving around to get her back closer to me, so that I can lean on her. When I do so, she immediately does the "proud pose" :)
I am so happy about this. Now I had an idea to use it with the other young mare. As I wrote before, her owner didn't work with her own horses for a long time, she wasn't very experienced and she thought that they are boring. She had her older horse started by another person, but finally only that person was riding him. I want to encourage her to "start" her horse on her own, only with my (and my mare's) help. I thought of an exercise that will be new for my mare too, so that both of them will have no idea what they are supposed to do. My mare will teach the other mare not "what to do", but "how to learn".
They are now in the same herd, they look similar and they are becoming close friends, so I think that such "class" will be a good idea. I want the other mare's owner to be involved, although she's not experienced. So after the first "session", we will exchange horses; she will work with my mare and I will work with hers. As she is a beginner, I want her to understand clearly what we do and have the same equipment; the clicker, and the halter, and leadrope. We will teach them to stand on a mat, so something similar to dr Deb's "go to your room" lesson, but without corrections.
Now I'm thinking if the other mare would be able to learn the Spanish Walk only by observation, cause my mare already knows it. Of course it doesn't have to be for everyone, but it just helps a lot sometimes. And it helps to learn how to eventually use corrections, too.

LindaInTexas
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 Posted: Sun Dec 16th, 2007 02:19 pm
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Re: horses and anger

I read a lot about operant conditioning, though I'm neither a scholar nor an expert.  I noticed that one of the horses I was working with became very aggressive with treats, and I think there is a named behavioral response "?reward?- induced aggression", that is a reaction to the animal's frustration of not being rewarded when he thinks he should.

I've noticed this particularly in my cockatoo.  When I bring out the training treats, he will begin offering me behaviors.  I have to ignore them all until he settles down and begins paying attention to me and I can give him a cue or look for the behavior I want to reinforce.  In a horse, those offers of behaviors can be friendly-looking or not-so-friendly looking, or the horse can just dive for the treats....Either way, it's not a good way to build the kind of relationship most folks want.  I'm pretty careful about using treats to train a behavior.

Right now, my biggest challenge is teaching an elderly horse who has recently gone blind to walk about her pasture, enter a stall, find her feed and water, and generally to become comfortable in a dark world.  She has never liked treats, and with no teeth, most treats would be dangerous to her health.  Clicker training is out of the question.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Allen Pogue
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 Posted: Sun Dec 16th, 2007 03:43 pm
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Hello Patricia,

  The first time I dabbled with actual clicker training was in 1996 at the request of a client whose experience in dog training made her think that she needed her Caspian colt "clicker trained".  I did it because that was what I was being paid for, but after several months I knew that the use of the clicker had become an impediment to meaningful communication.  For one reason is that it took up space in my hand where I needed the room for either a lead rope or a whip. So I experimented with attaching a clicker to the whip handle. Another downside to the clicker was that there is no meaningful vocal message. What I am referring to is that there was no modulation of the message. Additionally when working more than one horse at a time there is no way the horses can figure out who the handler is clicking at.

 I sincerely believe that relying clicker training is a sure path to perpetual mediocrity.

 Some of the worst examples of clicker training I have seen is when the handler uses the clicker rapid fire, clicking away like a mechanical device.

I asked Sacha Houcke ( head trainer at Ringling Bros and student of Freddie Knie Sr.) what he thought of clicker training. He scoffed at the idea. His horses perform all manners of Tricks, High School, Liberty and dressage brilliantly.  If clickers were God's gift to expert/professional trainers then he would be using them. Simple as that!

 In the final anaylsis, as I see it, the introduction of clicker training to horses was a great marketing scheme (which differs from a scam). It did get a lot of folks thinking that with this crutch they could achieve something. So they spent more time with their horse in a structured setting and 'voila' things did happen. Was it the clicker or was it time spent? Dr Deb is right on target with her explaination that some people think they need a gimick to market their wares so they get on a bandwagon with tooting horns.

 You mentioned using the modified whips as targets, well yes they can be used for that, but my intention in designing them was to give me a way to meaningfully communicate with the horses in a language they really understand. That language is the language of 'posturing' to show intent, 'bluffing' to show that I mean it and actual (safe & positive) contact when needed to make a correction or to indicate direction. There are times when a a horse needs contact either for reassurance that they are doing right, or to straighten then out if they are ignoring or getting pushy.

   IF you can make (meaningful) contact without causing stinging pain then you are a couple steps ahead of the game. The horse will more likely respond positively in the future because you have shown him that you are ready, willing and able to back up a bluff and not freak him out by making him so uncomfortable that it hurts.  Most new horse owners (that want to become trainers) are not willing to deal with a horse in terms a horse really understands and ultimately respects. They refrain from using whips because of the negative connotation associated with them. They think that whips are nothing but (out of date) instruments uncaringly used to torment a horse into compliance. Nothing could be further from the truth.  However there is an kernal of fact that is every other whip you have seen at the local tack shop or feed store follows a design first created several hundred years ago.  They are way too flexible, usually black in color which renders them nearly invisible (excluding the new fad of bling colors) and the snap on the end is thin and  hard-woven so that it will either sting or be ineffective, with almost nothing inbetween.

I believe that the proper use of the modified whips allows the cue to become a reward which is a different training paradigm.

Allen Pogue

 Austin, Texas

BTW  You did not answer the question.

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DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Dec 16th, 2007 08:10 pm
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I want to stand up and say 'hurrah' for both Pauline's and Allen's thoughts expressed in this thread, and to thank Allen once again for posting helpful photos of horses who are enjoying themselves, and learning new things, in company with a human.

Very interesting to me is the fact that, quite a few posts back, Patricia totally missed the compliment or encouragement that I offered her: that was, "you can't fool me into thinking that you are something less than you really are."

Still less can Patricia fool me by telling me that she is a scientist. I'm a scientist too, and as such, I refuse to be less than I really am. Now, a person may not understand what I mean by this, so I'll tell a wee story. Long ago, when I was in college, I had a teacher -- Claude W. Hibbard by name -- who was a famous paleontologist. He was also an irascible, stubborn old man. A native of the hardscrabble ranchland of Meade County, Kansas, Hibbie was famous for his viewpoint that women should not attend college, especially graduate school, because since in his view they were all destined to marry, why would a professor want to waste valuable time teaching them, when they would just be removed from the workforce anyway?

In graduate school, I had another teacher, another old man -- he and Hibbie were deadly enemies -- and that was E. Raymond Hall, a mammalogist and onetime director of the Museum of Natural History at the University of Kansas. Hibbie had been on staff there in the 1940's along with Hall, and there's a famous story about Hall, who was a very aggressive, impatient, and abrupt man ringing for the elevator and being so absorbed in reading some memo that when the doors opened and the car wasn't there, he fell into the open shaft and would have died if not for managing to grab onto the cable. Hibbie's famous reaction to this story was a gruff, "well if I'd been there, I would have pushed him in."

I relate these things to give a kind of flavor of the times. These were the men -- and they only represent two out of literally many thousands in their generation -- who would certainly have seen to it that a graduate student would be quietly forced out of the program if he or she had expressed, for example, a belief in God. They firmly believed that such a belief was a sign of a soft brain. And even in a later day -- throughout all of my undergraduate and graduate training from the 1970's through the 1980's -- any belief in anything beyond what science could explain was regarded as grounds for suspicion or even expulsion. This would include the belief that animals have intelligence probably equal to our own if different in character, and that they have feelings. And I do not believe there is any real difference in this today; many scientists still think that there is a fundamental contradiction between a belief in spirit and soul, and the ability to do "hard science".

Of course, this flies directly in face of the fact that the greatest scientists -- Einstein being the most famous recent example -- have expressed the belief that there are realms beyond realms, possibilities beyond any that logic can explain. And the most important thing that Einstein and other have said, is that anyone who denies these things is cutting herself off from her own deepest intelligence -- in other words, living as much less than she really is.

This brings us to the academic behaviorists, whether they claim to be Skinnerians or not. One and all, they are shortsighted and dangerous in my view. Some have "plans", like the Nazis, and of course then they are even more dangerous -- but they are all dangerous, because the techniques they advocate, whether "positive reinforcement" or "negative reinforcement", actually do work. Has anybody seen the recent movie "The Golden Compass"? That is an excellent picture, I mean after Billy has his daemon surgically amputated, of what animals become after extensive training. I do not believe in training, and I do not train horses. Make friends with them, yes; teach them, yes; show them the good way to live, yes, but not train them. I am saying that no animal is safe around a trainer, especially an EFFECTIVE trainer who understands behavioral protocols as well as does Patricia.

When's the last time any of you have used a "behavioral protocol" on a friend? Would you be acting as a friend if you did that? Would you be expressing respect for your friend's intelligence, good intentions, and integrity if you did that? On the other hand, have you ever taught a friend anything? This is what Allen is expressing -- how possible it is to teach friends. And what Pauline is expressing is that this is done primarily by expressing courtesy toward the friend -- you perceive what your friend needs, and then you give that to them. The same statements are true between teachers and their students: the teacher sees what the student needs and then she gives it to them. For those who are following this line of thought, or who would like to pursue it further, I suggest reading C.S. Lewis' "Space Trilogy", particularly the third volume, "That Hideous Strength." Not to mention "Kinship With All Life" by J. Allen Boone. Was Strongheart "trained"? Of course not. The whole premise of this book is that Strongheart only became a good performer when a perceptive human came along who did not even try to "train" him, but who instead believed in, and respected, Strongheart's intelligence as being as high, or higher, than the human's, and who acted accordingly.

This brings us to the matter of anger. In "The Birdie Book" I go over the emotional stages that many horses seem to go through when they are brought in from the back acreage or their dam's pasture to become riding horses. These stages are, interestingly, exactly like those of people, and so I have used Kubler-Ross's "stages of emotional acceptance" as a focus for discussion. (Yes, I know her work has been criticized but that is a moot point here). The first stage in this series is denial, followed by anger, then bargaining, then depression, and finally acceptance. And I do see this many times when horses are being started, no matter by how skillful a person, because frankly, it is a huge change for them to be made to realize that, from that time on, they will not always be able to follow their own inclinations and their own will as they always have in the past. The deepest point I am making there is that anyone who starts a horse needs to understand this, that the horse may have to go through these stages, and he may even need to grieve. The human needs to recognize this, to have a full grasp in humility of all that he is actually asking the animal to give.

On the other hand, we are doing nothing overtly to provoke the animal to anger. This is a different thing altogether. If the handler is working with a horse that is already familiar with people and a domesticated workspace, then there should, as Pauline notes, never be any anger. If anger comes out of the animal, it is because the human is bringing that out. The human is making a mistake, or has already made a series of mistakes. To make a series of mistakes implies that the human's ability to read the horse is deficient.

And this is to be especially noted: one of the most likely things that will make a person blind to their horse, is that the person has an agenda. A behavioral protocol, or method, is an agenda.


HOW to drop it goes right back to that belief in the animal's intelligence. Boone says "I found that I could not communicate with Strongheart, I could not hear his thoughts, unless I first 'made the bridge level'." In other words, so long as anyone believes they are above the horse (as opposed to being merely different from the horse), the best I guess they can hope for is clicker training.

So, full circle we have come again: no student is going to fool me into thinking that they are less than they really are. For to not give the rest of the Creation credit is exactly to be less.

And Allen, I want to close by saying that not only your whips, but your whole program amuses and tickles me; what a huge amount of intelligence YOU are showing. This is, of course, what enables it to come out of the horses in return, because what anyone puts in is what they get out.

Your whips are simply flags, they are fulfilling what our elderly teacher thought was most important about a flag, vis., that the cloth on the end of the whipstock made it hard for a person, even if the person was having a moment of anger, to hurt the horse with it. It got the message across without hurting the animal, which if it should happen, as our teacher knew, makes it impossible for the horse to think straight. So I am not against "whips" in this sense; only the ones, as our teacher used to say, that "just seem to 'stick' in peoples' hands."

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

 

 

Patricia Barlow Irick
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 Posted: Mon Dec 17th, 2007 01:36 am
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There have been some very good posts in this thread. I am on the same page with you about spirit, Dr. Deb and as someone with an interest in bereavement counseling, I had appreciated your use of Kubler-Ross in the Birdie book when I first read it. Sometimes it doesn't matter if an idea is eventually discredited on semantics, the idea has been helpful and heuristic.

But science is by necessity reductionistic. It can't and shouldn't be expected to explain everything or really anything that is very complex. So if you try to take the behaviorists paradigm, reminding yourself that it is only an incomplete construct, you at least have some language to tie to things. So learning by observation is one of those intangibles which does not get it's due.

I have tried having the critters watch when we were running a labryinth, but I couldn't find any evidence that they improved their scores that way. The major factor in their success rate was the distance or time between when they got the cue telling them which way to turn and when they actually had to make the turn. The limits to  short-term memory probably preclude learning anything like that by observation. They might be able to learn a movement by mirroring the trained animal at the moment it does it. It seems to me that mirroring is involved in the way that horses think, probably to keep them synchronized in the herd. I have been experimenting with it with my new mustang, just standing with him and stepping as he does with his front feet. He gets very curious about me when I do this and then he starts yawning amost compulsively. I think yawning in carnivorus species can be sublimated aggression, but I don't know about yawning in horses. Any ideas?

Allen, have you had any success in using observation to train? I know that you told me once that putting a less trained animal into the ring with a more trained animal was a shortcut through some respect issues, but that doesn't seem like quite the same thing.

I liked reading about the llamas and also what Cyrus44 had to say about her experiences in addition to Pauline and Allens comments. Wouldn't you have loved to see the man step into the elevator shaft?

My hubby was looking over my shoulder yesterday and read some of Paulines post. He wanted to talk about the issue, his point was that equines are more likely to be like pets in this day and age than like performance animals and that relationship with your pet was paramount. He rides a mule, spoils the heck out of him, and the mule loves to go. He wouldn't dream of giving up talking to his mule or not having a pocket full of carrots when he goes to the corral.

Yrs,
Patricia


Pauline Moore
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Joined: Fri Mar 23rd, 2007
Location: Crows Nest, Australia
Posts: 273
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 Posted: Mon Dec 17th, 2007 11:35 am
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Patricia - now it's my turn to apologize for not making myself clear.  In speaking of relationship with our horses, I did not intend to infer that this is something separate from, or instead of, any performance objectives.  Quite the contrary, I was hoping to convey that calling for and directing the focus of the horse to ourselves is the golden key that opens every performance door we could ever wish for.  Doesn't matter if our desire is to simply play about with 'tricks' at home, or to produce a professional, commercial display or workhorse, or to enjoy a weekend trailride in comfort and safety or to take on a rehab project with a seriously abused and messed up horse, or to commence education of a young horse - the starting point is all the same.  The brief postural conversation that Allen described so well and that Dr Deb has described in much greater depth, is all that is needed to turn that key and unlock whatever door we choose.  I know of no other approach to a horse, operant conditioning included, that can turn a scared, hostile horse into a trusting, compliant friend within a few minutes.  The rewards of positively reinforced conditioning focuses the attention of the animal to the reward or target, not the handler in person, thus there can be no relationship with the handler.

Does this type of relationship make the horse a pet?  According to that huge tome misnamed 'Shorter Oxford English Dictionary' "Pet   An animal domesticated or tamed and kept for pleasure or companionship" - I think this would cover 99% of the horse-owning public regardless of their preferred method of interaction with their horses.  If you were thinking of the definition more usually applied to a person ("indulged or spoiled") then I would have to stress that there is no room whatsoever for this in the type of relationship with a horse that I refer to - it would be counter-productive, preventing the horse from attaining that feeling of security they crave above all else.  I don't believe there is anything wrong with treats, given at random like unexpected gifts to a friend.  My own horses certainly have a taste for all things orange and crunchy but do not demand or expect.

Best wishes - Pauline

Patricia Barlow Irick
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Joined: Thu Nov 1st, 2007
Location: Counselor, New Mexico USA
Posts: 42
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 Posted: Mon Dec 17th, 2007 04:22 pm
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Pauline,
You would have to see the man and the mule together. He spoils the creature in ways that make me cringe! But they seem to be bonded and what you or I predict about the matter does not come to pass. I can't figure out why not, except maybe the mule, being very intelligent and quite a nerd at the bottom of the pecking order just needs some unconditional positive regaurd. At any rate it works for them.

By some synchronicity last night as I was pushing the send button on my message that included mirroring and yawning, a message came in with some video links. Brenda was curious about her horses interaction and all the yawning going on.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BY_UmXdgylY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHFngt1AONs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rotHrtyK6Kc

Yes, if you weren't so far away you could stop by and hold up that mustangs feet for me to photograph since it would only take a moment or two. I would really like to see that! I am not saying that I don't think someone on the planet could get the job done, but show me some evidence, some clip or something of someone just taking a wild horse and turning it into a willing and unfrightened creature in less than the 10 minute limit on YouTube and you will have me convinced. Kitty Lauman seems to take about 3 hours.

This morning all my animals had escaped including Chaco, the new mustang. The bigger animals had chased him off into the far corner of the property. I fed the big guys breakfast and got them out of the way. I called Chaco and he came trotting into his pen for breakfast. I was pleased.

Yrs,
Patricia


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