Saturday, 29 May 2010

GODMOTHER, The background.

Working with ponies and horses is pretty simple, it had to be, pretty much everyone used to do it. Deliveries, mining, docks, agriculture, railway shunting, factory machinery, it was all horsepowered, and operated by the cheapest labour, frequently child labour, that  the bosses could find. So you can forget all the "horsey" background nonsense..
This is horsemanship for people who just want to do things with horses and ponies. It is a system for enjoying them, being safe with them and getting them to work with you, and it is a three stage process.
Since this is aimed at those who have  never touched a pony, I assume you are going to start with a pony that is used to people and can be caught and handled. if you have never handled a pony, starting with a completely green pony, or one that is scared of people, is a challenging prospect, and I am not going to tell you how to do it.
So you have a pony that you can approach and talk to, in a safe secure enclosure, great. Now for stage one.
Be nice to it.
Feed it.
Scratch it.
Rub it.
Massage it.
And guess what, if you do things it likes, it will come to you.
Patricia Barlow Irick's blog on making friends with mustangs gives loads of ideas for how to make friends with scared wild animals. It works with them, it will be really easy with a tame pony. So get out there and make friends.

Friends have an  instant mathematical advantage to the pony,  which is why it is so easy to make friends with a pony.  A pony on its own, that meets  a predator, is the prey. If there are two ponies,  each will only have a 50% chance of being the prey. So friends are vital.
The Natural Horsemanship concept of sending a horse away isn't kind. It may not be physically violent, but the message to the horse is frighteningly clear.
You are on your own, when a predator arrives, and it will, you, and you alone, are the prey!"
No wonder they want to join up. Death is the alternative.
Friendship is just another way of looking at the problem. Rather than threatening a solitary and terrifying death, you offer friendship and a 50/50 chance.  The scenario is the  same because the pony is still terrified by his ancestral fears.
With friendship, rather than threaten danger, you offer safety.

Don't carry weapons.
It is really dumb to have to make this point. There is no other animal where you have to beg people not to arm themselves. Lion tamers haven't used whips and chairs for years. Army dog trainers, and even civilian guard dog trainers don't use weapons, and they aren't at the cuddly end of animal training.
So please, please, please, don't use whips, don't use spurs, don't use bits and try not to kick the poor animal.
I assure you it is much easier to make friends with animals if you don't approach them armed to the teeth. Strange I know, but true

Don't use violence.
Gerbil and Hamster training manuals assume you won't lay into your pets, so why do horse training manuals go overboard on discipline and showing the poor beast who is boss.
I have been told endlessly (by horsey people)  that i have to hit Obama for biting me. Now there is some logic in retaliation, so I give him a carrot or a scratch. Occasionally I shout, and sometimes I apologise. All these are forms of communication which make appropriate "retaliation" for Obama's communication.
I watched Nick Sanders' two stallions, Kevin and Ollie, endlessly squabbling with each other, snaking their heads at each other with teeth bared, and almost always failing to connect. Even when they did, there was no squealing in pain. A nip that would have me demanding an ambulance at least, is shrugged off by them as just communication, a prod in the shoulder..
Violence may be a valid response to violence, but most nips are communication attempts. Do you hit people asking you questions? And that is the joy of the internet, I can ask that question and even if your natural response to questions is to clock me one, I'm safe behind my keyboard.
I used to smack when nipped, because I saw it as legitimate retaliation, but one day, developing the row crop system at Ian and Theresa's Beacons veggie box farm, Obama chomped really hard on my wrist and wouldn't let go.
I punched him hard on the cheekbone, which pigging well hurt me, and he let go looking mildly offended. I found myself looking at what I was actually doing. I had hooked him up to piece of complex experimental equipment which needed at least two people to operate, on my own, in a vile mood, in driving rain, having just hauled him out of a field where his latest girlfriend was in season, and not surprisingly it wasn't working properly. So Obama bit me.
The message was clear. This is stupid, and it will all end in tears.
Once I stood back and looked at what I was doing, I dug out a carrot and gave it to Obama, left the equipment to get wet, and took Obama back to his girlfriend.. From then on the carrot/carrot principle was born.
Whatever they do give them a carrot.

Don't deliberately frighten the pony.
Because I wanted a system that I could take into inner cities with a pony, and use with anyone, it had to be simple, and it had to be fair. So no weapons, no violence, that is easy to explain. But lots of things can frighten ponies. Umbrellas, amplified music, cows, fountains and motorbikes have all terrified Obama on occasion.
I want people to be able to enjoy Obama, and any pony, so all I ask is that they don't DELIBERATELY frighten a pony. You do something that frightens him, don't repeat it. Though once he has calmed down, we might work together to get rid of the fear. But with no weapons, no violence, no deliberate frightening , I can let anyone play with Obama.
And since people like ponies, and ponies like people, this is a system that lets them get together.

Friendship is neutral, egalitarian, you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours., but it is the bedrock of this system. If the pony doesn't see you as a friend, he won't want to be near you, if he doesn't want tto be near you, he won't follow you. If he won't follow, you can't lead, and stage two is Leadership.

Leadership is a trade off, I take the risks, I pick the direction. But it gives the leader power. I decide when we move and where to, but not by forcing the follower, it's just that if he doesn't follow he's on his own. But then so am I.

 Leadership is positional. You lead from in front and from nowhere else. Check with any soldier. The leader is the guy who goes over the top, into the building, out of the plane, across the minefield...........FIRST .
Someone standing behind you, telling you to do it is a politician or a General.
You want to lead, well you go first.
Unlike soldiering, leading ponies is really pretty safe and pretty easy. The ponies primary fear is of large predators lying in wait to eat them. I don't know your neighbourhood, but the number of lions, wolves and hunting dogs in and around Exeter is pretty small. That doesn't mean it is safe, it means that the fears that Obama has inherited, are unlikely to be fulfilled.

Leadership isn't about dominance. Leadership is a two way process. You follow my lead, so I get the choice, and I get the first mouthful of anything really lush, but you get the knowledge that in any ambush, I am lunch and you are safe.
That is the trade off. The power comes from the leader being prepared to set off on its own. That may be because it is older and came this way last year and knows that there is good grazing the other side of a band of trees. The band of trees probably contains predators, but the grazing is very lush. These are the decision processes that are involved in the day to day leadership questions.
I can lead today, and you can lead tomorrow. But the fact remains, the first one into a potential ambush is dead, the folower gets to run away..
That is the risk the leader takes. That is why the SAFE option is to follow. Being left on your own is even more dangerous. Ponies are  herd animals, and prey species. Their defence is in numbers, and speed.
As a side effect, if you lead often enough, and you are right, and manage to avoid all the lions in Exeter over a few months, your pony decides you are worthy of respect as a leader. This is the basis of the GODMOTHER relationship.

Leadership is walking in front. Er.......that's it.
Try it, and once your pony has followed you somewhere, next time he won't be frightened of that route, or maybe it will take two attempts, or three..............or seventeen. But is that really so much to ask to get a pony that will go anywhere you want?
But as you lead into stranger and stranger areas, your pony comes to depend on your judgement more and more. They love variety, they love new places, but new places and variety scare them. Temple Grandin uses the phrase "curiously afraid" to sum up the issue.
That curiously afraid status is the perfect training tool. As your pony moves closer, seeking reassurance, you can go from leader, ie the one who is in front today, to GODMOTHER. The one who is always right, always there, always ready to defend you, to the death if necessary, and always asks you to tidy your room.
Next we look at the GODMOTHER concept.

Any horse or pony training system based on talking horse language so you can be the boss horse, is doomed to failure. For a start, do you really want all the mares to yourself and the very best bits of grass. If you do, carry on. I want my pony and I to be able to enjoy ourselves in reasonable safety, unless we choose to do something terminally stupid like galloping across unknown rough ground with a chariot, when I want my pony to be safe, and I rather hope to get away with just bad bruising.
Obama knows I'm not a horse. Not enough legs. Extensive research has been conducted on this issue by P Cook et al in
Follow link to research.

The lack of wiggly ears is another major problem, and you stink of houses and make really silly noises.
However these defects in a horse, are perfectly acceptable in a God. God's get away with behaviour that would have you flung out of the House of Lords, there are things even they find unacceptable, and you only have to look at Hindu temeples to see that mathematical relationships between body parts aren't too closely followed.
 And the Great Spaghetti Monster, in his Pastaral capacity as the acknowledged Deity of us Pastafarians, has more appendages than you can shake a stick at. If we can believe in the Great Spaghetti  Monster, I am sure you can persuade your pony or horse to accept you as omniscient, etc.
Then, you too can achieve the status of GODMOTHER.
There is only one minor problem. You will have to be sincere. And that means that the safety and well being of your pony MUST come first. If it does, he will believe in you.

The GODMOTHER concept works. I have been taking Obama into some really silly situations of late, and  although frightened, he doesn't panic. The main problem is persuading him to get out from under my waistcoat which is where he feels safe. This is based on Tmeple Grandin's wok and that of Jaak Pranksepp, and mor edetailed explanations will follow.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Facebook Privacy

I must say I find Facebook's adjustable privacy settings really rather admirable. I have  loosened up quite a few of the settings so more people can be offended by my opionion that using whips with ponies and horses is unneccessary, dangerous, counter productive, cruel, stupid etc. I will expand on this  subject ad nauseam, but this is a good moment for those who are offended, or embarrassed to be associated with someone whose views are so offensive, to unfriend me before I go any further.
This is a final warning.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

The Godmother Concept

I have spent hours discussing behaviour with Nick Sanders, a really great horseman, and the inventor of the Magic Rope. ( I can sell you a cut price version, if you are interested) and we came to the conclusion that horses and ponies just weren't  fooled by us pretending to talk horse. We are clearly missing a couple of legs and proper ears.
Given these deficiencies, trying to pretend to be the alpha male, while being the human equivalent of a unidexterous deaf mute, is going to be exceedingly hard work.  But pretending to be God is a lot easier. Gods always look a bit weird, and their behaviour is not what you would expect in polite company.
Try asking your host to sacrifice a couple of virgin daughters and throw a few thunderbolts at the slightest provocation, it doesn't go down well in Notting Hill.
So the trick is to persuade your pony that you are omniscient, all powerful etc. This is done on a regular basis by parents, throughout the animal kingdom. For some considerable time, children believe in the magiclal power of their parents.
But there is another factor. Richard Dawkins in the selfish gene looks at the selfish interests of the gene, and the concept that from a gene's point of view, sacrificing your life to save the lives of three of your children, makes sense. This is based on each child having half of your genes, therefore three children is one and a half of a parent.
It is this logic which makes parents defend their children, even at great personal risk. The fact that you like the little creeps might factor somewhere as well. But parenting is not about dominance for the sake of it, or for the extra food and sex as in alpha male dominance. Parents use force to keep the brats safe, not to establish dominance. They just are dominant.
By combining the attributes of a supreme being, ie being allowed the wrong number of limbs and wiggly appendages, like the Great Spaghetti Monster, and the loving, caring, but forceful if necessary attributes of a parent we get

Then tacking on another complete layer of complexity, the PANIC concept from Animals Make People Human, (Grandin's book), which suggests that PANIC is separation anxiety, we have a really useful training and working tool for ponies. Stand close and be kind, and positive, and occasionally ask the pony to tidy its stable, and you are THE GODMOTHER. Therefore no separation anxiety, therefore , although fear may be present, PANIC won't be.

Facebook, nervous times

I had a really nervous couple of hours this morning when i couldn't put anything on my facebook page, or send messages, because apparently someone finds my comments offensive. Now since almost all my recent comments have been about trying to persuade people that the horse's status as the only animal you can buy a whip for, and the only animal that animal welfare charities encourage small children to carry a whip to deal with, iIreckon the problem is the other way around.
If asking people not to teach children to hit horses and ponies is offensive, I would rather be considered offensive. Unfortunately I also think facebook is a brilliant communication device. I hope that facebook will not ban me for trying to stop whips being used on horses and ponies.

More offensive comments. Blocked by facebook.

Just checking which words Facebook finds offensive.
whips, bits, spurs
I just tried to put this comment on my note about Temple Grandin's book, and apparently Facebook users find the content offensive.  This is what I wanted to say. Maybe the typos are the problem which is why I left them in.

Just in case there is any doubt, I would like to point out that weapons are ways of increasing the level of pain or damage you can inflict with your own body. Whips are the most obviuos weapons, but whips, bits, boots (if you intend to kick the animal) even hard hats if you are gojg to headbut it.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Question Time

Which Animal based charities encourage children to use whips on animals?
Which Child based charities encourage children to use whips on animals?
Which Charity ostensibly working with both animals and children, tests 10 year old children to see they can
# Mount and dismount # Hold the reins correctly and carry a whip in either hand.
Is this in the best interests of the animals?
Is this in the best interests of the children?
What definition of charity are they using?
Should anyone care?

Temple Grandin does it again.

Temple Grandin has done it again. Just when I thought it was time to launch my training program, heavily based on Animals in Translation, some creep lends me Making Animals Happy, (originally published stateside as Animals Make People Human), and I have to do a complete rethink.
I haven't got to change much of what i do, which as a matter of principle is as little as possible, but the reasons why I do what I do, have changed. And an awful lot of the complicated bullshit I had written can be safely ignored. I am back down to some very simple principles. To get ponies to do what you want there are certain simple rules. First the don'ts
Don't use weapons.
Don't use violence.
Don't deliberately frighten the animal.
Pretty much anything else goes. It may not work, but that isn't my problem. As long as you aren't armed, aren't using violence and deliberately frightening Obama, I can stand back and watch his reactions.
Being Obama, he will probably do what you want really easily, just to annoy me. But that's cool.
The positives in my training system are also pretty simple.
Be nice and give loads of rewards. If your pony sees you as a nice person to be with, he won't disappear into the distance.
If you want him to go somewhere, lead him.
Leading can only be done from in front. It is positional. If you are on top of somebody, you aren't leading, behind them, you aren't leading, running off to safety, you aren't leading. The reason the animal follows, is safety. If you are wrong and there is a lion behind that shop sign, you are being eaten while the pony legs it back up the road. Respect doesn't enter into it, if you are in front and you are wrong, you are lunch. On this basis Obama will follow anyone.
Now back to Grandin, and she introduces the concept of PANIC as separation anxiety, ie the emotion is the same and follows the same path in the brain as an animal that has lost its mother.
Combine this with the new research on wolves which suggests the standard social group in the wild, is the 2.2 kids and a Volvo model of suburbia. On this basis the whole alpha male stuff becomes less relevant.
With Obama, when he is really scared, he wants someone he knows and trusts, close to him, and the closer you are to his head, shoulder area, the better. But this isn't a positional thing, it is proximity based. The closer the better. This fits in with the PANIC / separation anxiety theory. As long as Obama is with someone he trusts, he may be scared, but he won't PANIC because he isn't on his own.
The person can even be riding the pony and still provide the reassurance, as the rider can lean close and stroke and reassure the animal. If the person is kicking and using a whip and fighting with the bit, the animal is less likely to see the person as a parent, ideally the mother, and calm down.
This comes back to a discussion with Nick Sanders where we basically agreed that most ponies count the legs, and wiggly ears, and decide people make pretty poor ponies, but we can be Gods. Excess body parts or weird biology don't stop you being a supreme being.
So you can lead without building a bond, because your sole role is to be lunch if wrong, But to stop PANIC, you need to be a substitute Mother, calm, omniscient, source of food and all good things, scratches and confidence.
Persuading your pony that you are the Mother God isn't that difficult. No need for stone tablets, lightning or earthquakes. An abilty to produce parsnips, scratch the bits the pony can't reach, stay calm, and show the pony that you care about his safety and happiness, is enough. Mother Godesses aren't into  all this aplpha male dominance rubbish, a bit of love and the milk of human kindness (a rare commodity), is all that's needed.
With these two techniques I will take Obama through city centres, work prototype agricultural machinery, provide all terrain disability access and blat around on the beach at high speed.