I am past some unwritten expiration date that I never even knew was there, though there were plenty of signs for me to see. We are a nation (world?) of getting results immediately, of having all we want now, and we love, love, LOVE instant gratification, which is all fine, but only if you are like everyone else in that desire.
Me, I don’t fit into that box so very well at all. It is my core belief that the old saying, "If it's worth having, it's worth working for."
Some humans believe that 'training' is best done through the use of pain as a stimulus to get what they want from their horse. It's how it always has been. It is the only way, the best way and therefore, the right way. But I ask, is this true?
If you are poked each time you do something wrong, yes, you want to avoid the poke, the pain and the frustration of trying to understand what makes the jabs stop, but is this the fastest and easiest way for you to learn? I say no, it is not. You wouldn’t like being stuck, pricked, jabbed and prodded, so why is it okay for you to do this with your horse—And, call it training?
For example, take the use of spurs. Right now, on a Facebook page I belong to, there is an ongoing and vehement argument for the use of spurs on a horse that is a "stress-bucker". OP wants to know if this is a good idea. The new trainer has had three good rides on this once-wild Mustang, and now he wants to use spurs "to get more out of him".
Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm the one who is backwards and uneducated. Maybe they are all right to be discussing the merits of large rowels versus knobs and just how the pain is distributed. Maybe this horse "needs" to be poked?
Yeah. I don’t think so… My answer is, no, and Hell No. It is counter-intuitive to me to look at this horse that is now loping about without bucking and without the use of spurs gouging him, and then to unexpectedly say, "Gee, I think he needs more pain thrown his way so I can get more out of him."
Seriously. What the hell is wrong with people? Why is it so popular to push hard and harder, demand more and more, force submission, and do it fast-faster?
I've always considered myself to be a Holistic Trainer, meaning that I take the entirety of the horse into consideration when working with him. His mind, his body, his soul and his emotions. Now, I think I need to revise that particular definition to include the words, "Relationship Training" that focuses on the entirety of the horse and the rider. Maybe I've always done this; actually, I believe I have, but at the end of the day, I am a Horse Advocate. My sole reason for training was to help the horses that were deemed bad, rank and unsalvageable to become better citizens so they would be spared the hell of abuse and ultimately, slaughter (which is a nice way of telling the horse gets tortured and it’s not pretty, but we won’t say all the facts. But I digress and that’s a whole other topic. Back to spurs and the on-going debate.)
The horse is complex and ingenious and willing, and so usually, is his rider. As a trainer, coach and a 'talking mirror', I find that by focusing on the horse's attitude, willingness, and try, I get a real clear picture of who the rider is and what she really wants. What I'm getting at is this: Do you have a horse for the sole purpose of achieving pre-set goals or is there more to it? Like maybe relationship? If it is relationship, then take the time to build that camaraderie and trust, and ask yourself if increasing pressure or causing pain is the best way to do that.
Pain. Pressure. These things need to be defined. They each can be increased or decreased and used to either positively--by removing, or negatively--by applying, to the horse. His response indicates your success at 'training'. Conversely, think about his lack of response and consider that to be equally as important.
Pressure to a horse is anything from physical touch by you or another horse, to emotional pressure from you or another horse. Sometime pressure is perceived as pain by the horse; by us humans. Pressure is the thing most trainers use to get a horse to do what they want. Present pressure, and then back it off to signal a job well-done. It works. It always has, unless it doesn't and is observed with a horse that refuses to give to the pressure and instead, comes toward it/you. Now what? Bigger hammer? More pressure? More pain?
I'm just saying that the choice to apply localized pressure with your foot on a horse's sides is an individual thing. And I am saying there are other methods to try that take a little longer, perhaps, but will build your relationship instead of instilling a dictatorship role with your horse. There is so much more than 'getting more out of him'. Unless that really is all you want. I personally, would rather see you get a motorcycle for that purpose, but it is ultimately your choice.
There is force and intimidation, pressure and pain or relationship and trust. Choose wisely.