I constantly see people fight about training methods on Facebook. I hear people arguing training methods anytime you get a group of horse people together. This got me thinking. What makes one method work when another doesn't? And if one method works on pony A but not on pony B does that make the method wrong? The pony wrong? The person wrong?
That led me to think about feeding. This is also a passionate and often argued about topic. So if pony A can eat alfalfa hay and be turned out on green grass, but pony B can not, does that make pony B wrong? No of course not! It makes pony B different. There is something about pony B that means it can not eat alfalfa or green grass. And because the pony isn't wrong the owner is not wrong for believing that alfalfa and green grass aren't the ideal feed for ponies. This doesn't make either owner right or wrong.
I feel this is the same for training methods. The ONLY training method I can't get on board with is the one that is based in hitting and smacking a pony for behavior the owner doesn't like. Unfortunately I see this one shared the most often on Facebook. Especially on the miniature horse forums. I think this is because quite a lot of miniature horse people have not owned large horses, but moved into minis from dog ownership. Training a predator type animal is much different than training a prey type animal. ANYONE who has successfully trained a large number of horses will agree with that statement, regardless if they agree with your training method. lol.
I just read Animals in Translation, by Temple Grandin and she touched on this subject many times:
You shouldn't break any animal's spirit, horse or dog, but a nervous prey animal like a horse or a cow doesn't need to learn obedience as a separate concept the way a dog does. A cow or a horse who's being trained just need training not dominating; a dog needs training but he also needs dominating.
I hear people tell others that they need to be the leader and dominate their pony. Especially if biting is the issue. They claim that the pony is trying to dominate the owner. But prey animals simply don't act this way. At least they aren't hard wired to behave this way. Typically they are being playful and trying to treat you like another pony. (Of course there are always exceptions. When grown stallions are biting that is a different story, but can still be handled in a kind manner that doesn't involve smacking or hitting or man handling the stallion.)
In a normal herd situation you will have a leader. This leader is kind, compassionate, it's responsible for telling everyone when it's time to drink and where the best grass is. This leader will not tolerate bullies and biting and kicking. In fact is extremely rare that this leader will EVER need to bite or kick to get their point across. This is not the typical picture of a leader that people think of. They think of a horse that does bite and kick and chase to get it's point across. But in fact THAT horse is the bully and the others will most like try to avoid them. This leaves them grazing along the edges of the herd most of the time. This is in a healthy, "normal" herd. Of course we have all seen ponies and horses that are the bully and they force everyone to do what they say. This is not a healthy or normal herd situation. This is what I had here when Mikey was here. He wanted to be the leader and took that position but was in no mind to be a leader at all. And it took moving him to another herd for him to find is spot. And guess what!? He is second from the bottom in that herd. So clearly he is not leader material.
Please don't be confused about what a good leader is. Because this will be important when you go out to work your pony. If you are yelling, hitting, pushing, pulling and smacking, your pony won't view you as a good leader. They will see you as the bully. No one feels safe when the bully is calling the shots. This can lead to lots of issues that I read about all the time. Spookiness, bolting, acting aggressive, etc.
Just a little something to think about on this quiet Sunday.