Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Safety versus traditional cruelty

Animal training has come on in leaps and bounds, predominantly as the old negative reinforcement systems have been swept away in a tide of positive reinforcement. To the traditionalists, this is bribery, but then people don't complain at the end of the week, or month, that their employer has bribed them. Lawyers don't haul you off to the police station when you give them money and press charges of bribery, they thank you for paying their bill.

So animals are entitled to rewards, just like people, unless of course they are horses. Horses need whips, spurs, bits and a level of discipline that Guantanamo Bay would find excessive. You take your dog for a walk, and it can pretty much choose where it puts its head, feet, whatever. But a horse needs to be directed exactly how to hold its body, at what angle its head is carried, which order its feet touch the ground.

And the reward is that they don't get hit with a whip, the spurs stop digging into them, the pressure of the bit on the mouth is reduced slightly. Walk a dog down the street, the way a horse is walked across a dressage arena, and you would be arrested. Racehorses are hit, repeatedly, and the Jockey Club claim this is in the interests of safety. Dogs race without whips. So do people. We hit horses with sticks, we kick them in the ribs, we stick metal spikes on our boots so we don't have to kick them in the ribs so hard, we tie their mouths shut on bars of metal so we can haul their heads around. The violence of horse training is endemic, and as such, nobody sees it any more.

I wanted to take animals into inner cities, and into the nice areas where the rich people don't live. To do this I needed a training system that I was happy to introduce to kids from a tough background, in what is considered to be a tough area, though I have only ever experienced kindness and consideration in what are termed the tough areas of cities. Just avoid the smart bits is my tip.

But my preconceptions meant I was worried about introducing more weapons into the area, and also finding a way to control the use of weapons. Schools don't try to get kids to use knives gently on each other. They don't have lessons on gently spraying nightlclubs with Uzi's. They ban weapons.

So I developed a training system to take into inner cities.
No weapons. No sticks, no bits, no spurs, no knives, no guns.
Nobody is allowed to deliberately frighten the pony.
That is all you need.

There are hundreds of things ponies like, being scratched in different places, being brushed, different foods, going to new places, and it is fun for the kids to find out what the pony likes.
When you know what the pony likes, you have a reward, and can persuade it to do what you want.
That's training without violence.

The most important advantage is that the animal will turn to its handler when frightened, for security, for reassurance, for safety. But if you are the the creep with the whip, the guy who boots me in the ribs with spurs, the girl who hauls my head around with a bits and curb chains, I won't see you as security, as safety, you are the problem, and I will run away.

Kindness is safer. In times of trouble do you run to those who hit you, or to those who give you a cuddle. If you seek comfort when you are scared, what logic dictates that a horse will do the opposite.

All the horse organisations, starting from the Pony Club teaching ten year olds, insist on carrying a whip. The Jockey Club say it is there for safety. I have mentioned this before, and I will mention it again and again, until the Jockey Club produce one shred of evidence to back up their claim. I have driven a wheelchair enabled pony drawn vehicle across England, Exeter to London, without whip, bit, spurs or any of the traditional nonsense and NEVER felt the least need for a whip. On two occasions, Obama the pony, was terrified, and on both occasions turned to me for safety.
Would he have turned to me if I was armed?

Weapons don't make you safer. Even Lion trainers have given up the whip. Why do the horse world retain it?

Because it is in their interests to keep horsemanship dangerous. It keeps the common people out.
Access to legal risk is one of the great class divides of the modern age. If you have your own land, you can teach your kid to ride a pony pretty much how you like. If you don't have land, or friends with land, you have to do it the way the establishment tell you to, and the businesses providing it, have to pay ruinous insurance because the risks are so high, thus keeping out common people. If you let common people do it, would the children of the rich and famous get to the top?

So the dangers make it elitist, but the elite make it dangerous. They insist on attaching lumps of metal to the horse's feet. They aren't necessary, and they are clearly dangerous. They insist on children carrying whips, yet there is no evidence anywhere that they make horses safer. There is clear evidence they make horses dangerous.

Every dangerous animal, ie innately dangerous, killer whales, lions, etc is now trained with positive reinforcement to make it safer. The horse, a placid herd living vegetarian, bred for thousands of years to get on with people, is trained with weapons that would be illegal if used on lions, and surprise, surprise, it is dangerous.

The danger is deliberate. Look at me, aren't I brave controlling this fiery steed, this mettlesome animal, this high couraged horse, and all the other euphemisms that say, I had a nice animal and I have turned it nasty and I can still control it.How sick is that.

The general public will never be able too enjoy ponies while the elite are allowed to make them dangerous. If you did to any other animal, what is done to horses, you would be arrested. What has the horse done to deserve this status?

To see some of my marginally more organised rants, try these links. If all else fails, try hitting them with whips. It works with horses, doesn't it? http://sites.google.com/site/wehithorsesdontwe/ http://saddlechariot.comlu.com/index.php

1 comment:

Killi said...

I would love to learn how to use a whip correctly ~ NOT for my horses, but against intruders & those who steal my dogs. I watch Harrison Ford & Antonio Banderras with undisguised envy at the way they can handle their whips. A knife or gun could easily be turned against me. Maybe I should go out & practise now while the horses are 3 miles away, the dogs are sleeping on various beds & the poultry are safely enclosed. (I was given my whip & have never used it anywhere near a horse & yes, it's a driving whip & not the more useful Indiana Jones/Zorro version!)