The Volunteering Horse:
MY PURPOSE AND EMPHASIS IS ON HOW WE TEACH BEHAVIOR.
It is in the teaching phase that I avoid pressure techniques and where I use positive reinforcement to SHAPE, CAPTURE, TARGET, MOLD, AND LURE in an effort to elicit the behaviors I want to see from the horse.
I say this statement a lot and, judging by the responses, I can see that some people just have no point of reference in terms of what it means to get behavior using these techniques. In some ways, this lack of understanding is a PERFECT parallel in the human world to what our horses experience in the training world.
Let me be more specific with an example. Do you remember seeing the image of the golf pro, wrapping his arms around a woman, trying to teach her how to swing the club? That image is funny to us on several levels, but the thing that catches my attention is the fact that it is extremely difficult to execute a physical action when someone else is pushing my arms or body into a position. There is no “life” to the position, it didn’t emerge from my own efforts, it didn’t get created by my own mental understanding of the task, nor did it spring from my ability to coordinate the mind/body unity that goes into a physical task.
I think it is the same with horses. When the HUMAN steps back and just gives the signal that “yes” this is a good action, the ANIMAL is the one who thinks through the puzzle. That is why shaping is so effective; the animal has to figure out how to move its own body. They have to connect their hardwired problem solving skills into figuring out what will earn them what they want.
THIS is natural horsemanship at its most basic level. When the horse is successful, he gets what he wants. When he is not, he has to think of a way to try again.
So how many of you have stopped and thought to yourself “I don’t know how to do this, let me get my hands on it and then I’ll be able to understand it?”
Well that is where I think most horses are with learning. We need to give them the time to figure it out and the patience to let them.
That means giving up sticks, reins, ropes, whips, stepping into their space, throwing rhythmic energy at them, or any other of those things that are supposedly “helpful” rather than just letting the CLICK do its job.
I am here to tell you that you can get immense amounts of VERY useful behaviors this way.
Once you shape the behavior, then give it any cue you want. Your hand wave, a finger point, a voice cue, the lift of the lead rope or rein are all possibilities. But these things happen AFTER the behavior is shaped, not before.
For some of you this information is familiar and you already use shaping. For some, it is going to seem like a foreign language. It might even feel like someone is trying to mold you into some position that isn’t comfortable. I understand that, and my goal is to continue to post examples, topics and interactive groups where you will be in a position to experience for yourself, the power of these techniques.
Anyway, it is what I am teaching, because of the powerful effect I see that it has on training behaviors. Horses do so well when they have a part in creating the behavior. I’m pretty sure humans do too.
So if this sounds like something you’re interested in learning, you’re in the correct place. If you want to follow someone else’s techniques, feel free to share those techniques on that trainer’s page. As I say to those who contact me, I am here to promote the training techniques that many people overlook when they resort to “pressure/release/click/treat” in order to TRAIN behavior. I am here to promote shaping, capturing, targeting, some luring, and modeling (molding).