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  • Writer's pictureDale Rudin

How We Treat Our Horses... and Why

There's often blow back when someone interacts with their horse with kindness, empathy, and/or (gasp!) rewards. However, there's generally more acceptance, even support and encouragement, for training with force, intimidation, pain, fear, and coercion. I think it would be a no brainer. And yet, I chose the former option for decades. I didn't believe the latter would work and I thought it would cause trouble. I think the bottom line was, i didn't want to give up control, or what I perceived as control. I also didn't consider the consequences of my actions. I only focused on the goal. Reaching that goal was my sole measure of success. How i got there was of little importance to me, but it sure had an impact on the horse - not always a good one. Let's say you can get the EXACT same results using either method? Which would you choose? Positive reinforcement and other compassionate welfare-centered means of communication always beat harsher methods in learning speed, retention, recall, engagement, interest, and reducing stress levels. In fact, it enhances problem solving skills, confidence, and the bond with the trainer too. Using force, and other compulsory approaches, does teach a horse behaviors, but it is also creating anxiety, tension, problem avoidance tactics, emotional distress, physical strain, and damaging the horse-human relationship.

It often leads to reactive behavior, sometimes even unpredictable and dangerous behavior. This results in horses experiencing even higher levels of force to control or subdue them. At some point the horse may find itself being shuffled onto to a string of owners or dumped at an auction.

Today is the first day of the rest of your horses life. What kind of life shall it be? We all have a choice. Which approach feels better to you? Which would your horse choose?

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