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Saturday, April 20, 2024

‘Ought to I Do It With out Any Tack?’

[Picture caption: woman sits on chestnut horse who isn’t wearing any equipment]

I acquired a non-public message from somebody asking my opinion on making ready a horse to be ridden for the primary time utilizing constructive reinforcement (R+), with out using any tack or gear. It is a topic on which I’ve had sturdy opinions for some time however have by no means shared publicly. This felt like a superb alternative to air a few of my considerations, within the hopes that by doing so it probably prevents each horses and folks from experiencing conditions which might end in bodily or behavioural accidents.


As a former teacher and horse coach, I’ve began (and restarted) horses below saddle utilizing what many would name horsemanship strategies:

•I’ve systematically ready horses by groundwork coaching and desensitization to tack/gear earlier than driving

•I’ve taught them cues to maneuver their our bodies ahead and backwards or transfer one a part of their physique in isolation (hindquarters, forequarters and many others.).

•I’ve taught them to yield their our bodies to the texture of sunshine pressures, from my bodily contact and gear comparable to halters & leadrope, in addition to ‘steered’ strain, from my physique or gear comparable to flags.

Briefly, earlier than I swing my leg over their backs for the primary time, I do my greatest to make sure that they’ve been taught to calmly settle for any course I might have to present them as soon as I’m on them.

I do that as a result of I’ve each witnessed and personally skilled the ability – and fallout – of an ill-prepared horse being ridden. This typically ends in bodily and/or behavioural accidents to each horse and human. For instance, regardless of me considering I had adequately ready a horse (when clearly, I had not), one eventful experience resulted in me sustaining a fracture to my thoracic vertebrae and the horse creating a robust worry of individuals falling off when he bucked laborious.

Regardless of ideally suited preparation, ‘life’ can nonetheless occur when a horse is initially ridden: the neighbour sparks up her chainsaw; a canine runs into the world by the outlet within the fence; or, as has occurred to me, a horse tied up outdoors the world pulls again laborious or somebody driving down the highway paintballs the aspect of the world wherein you’re driving. In such moments, I’ve been grateful that I took the time to show my horse to calmly settle for gear that aids in me directing their physique in order that I might make use of quick response prevention.

Response prevention is ‘the process of altering the surroundings to stop undesirable behaviour from occurring’ (Probability, P. 2003). Response prevention will not be punishment, however it may be an efficient, low-stress various to stop undesirable behaviours occurring. In conditions comparable to those described above, response prevention is used to stop a small startle response from changing into a extra catastrophic chain response of behaviour: the horse startles and spooks, the rider slips, the horse sees and feels this variation of place and bolts, the rider falls off. The rider is bodily (and probably behaviourally) injured, and the horse has been subjected to a preventable state of affairs the place worry conditioning quickly happens.

Using gear on a horse for his or her first experience would not assure that bodily or behavioural accidents will not happen. However by response prevention, gear, very like the fence round an area the place a horse is began, completely can decrease any hurt that will happen.

I perceive absolutely how new trainers might discover it a powerfully interesting image to see a horse being began below saddle utterly equipment-free. Nevertheless, as a medical animal behaviourist and IAABC licensed horse behaviour marketing consultant, I really feel strongly that such photos fail to think about the potential unintended, harmful ramifications for each horses and people. For folks and horses, some accidents cannot ever really be healed. Bodily or behavioural scars might stay. Regardless of using evidence-based, low-stress behaviour modification methods to assist horses overcome behavioural accidents, relapse of realized fears is unfortunately frequent. It is a actuality, it doesn’t matter what quadrant we might attempt to make use of when beginning a horse. A lot of my purchasers face this actuality after we work collectively to assist their horses overcome a variety of realized fears.

In abstract, I really feel strongly that we owe it to each the horses and the fantastic era of latest, R+ horse trainers to color a unique image of low-stress coaching: one which additionally considers minimizing potential trauma by response prevention.

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