Do you ever reply to questions in Internet groups you’re in? You’re not one of those people who says stupid stuff, are you? I guess I am…
I wrote a reply to a woman who had posted a horse handling question on a Facebook group I’m in. She wrote, in response to some advice I’d offered, IN ALL CAPS! so she was yelling at me. She obviously didn’t want a stupid, behavioral, researched, positive-reinforcement kind of answer.
She believes I was off-target and didn’t understand what the problem was with this biting, kicking, angry mare. Oh yeah, that’s me.
What was I thinking? I knew I probably shouldn’t clarify when she brushed off the first person’s answer. But she was not getting it. Ugh! I have problems with leaving people in-the-dark when they are asking for some light on a solution.
Alas, elsewhere ignorance reigns. And the horse suffers – quite seriously in this case. Which is probably what spurred me on.
Should I have responded at all? Easy answer … Noooo! Do people actually honor FREE advice … mostly Noooo! Ah, they say thank you, but with no cost to them, there is also no value or commitment to the advice. Of course, this person didn’t say thanks…
The first person answering offered – how about clicker and positive rewards. I thought the questioner worried about the horse biting if she offered food rewards for behaviors. She wrote – “It bites.” So I said how to deal with resolving biting when offering treats … wrong.
“THIS ISN’T ABOUT GIVING TREATS! THE HORSE NEEDS A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO TRAINING!”
I almost let it go. But then I did respond because, OK, I just didn’t want to let it go … and people who use negative reinforcement and punishment like it when it works. It’s a nice, for them, closed system – no thinking. Hence they tend to escalate their yelling or rude actions. Escalate, escalate, escalate … more, do it more, because it will work with MORE. But, what they don’t consider is it’s not good for them. It’s not good for them to be that way, it turns them bitter, shuts off their empathy and leaves them angry.
So I wrote, “You are absolutely right (I was being affirmative), the horse did need a different training approach (I was repeating her words) and that was offered by everyone who responded to your query.” (I wasn’t the only useless advice giver). And, I wished her all the best (definitely true – plus I didn’t want her to yell at me anymore. Her negative reinforcement was working…grr).
Unwritten I wished some more stuff…
I didn’t say that her ALL CAPS shout was ironic. Although it was. It made me snort when I read it.
I didn’t chant, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” since she had written that she used positive reinforcement. I wonder what she thought she did that the horse would think, yay, positive reward. Yay, you didn’t whip me! Yay, you quit jerking on my face! Yay, you quit bothering me by removing the pressure of your presence. Yay, you slapped me and said **gibberish**.
(–Aside whisper– If you don’t know the difference – positive means added something the horse likes and negative means something aversive taken away to reward behavior … the examples were negative reinforcement, the slap might be considered punishment and the gibberish, well is gibberish**horses don’t know English until taught words by connecting them with actions, but they do know threatening body language/tones)
I didn’t say, don’t take in horses to train when you know so little about — HORSES…
Or; How do I even know what the question really is when the writing is so lacking in key information…like not mentioning that she only wants new approaches in the same vein as what she has been using, just new, but the same … OK.
To be fair, horse training is mostly the use of negative reinforcement, advance/retreat, bits, whips, spurs, pressure – the good trainers are very specific and measured with its application because they don’t want to push the horse into too much fear or anger. And it works, horses remember. They are a high-fear animal and running away is their claim to fame. Beautiful runners.
Rougher trainers tend to work (find some success) with the calmer horses, because they can get away with it (they’d wreck the hot-blooded Arabs, thoroughbreds …) This horse was sent on to a rougher trainer, one who would ‘lay it down’. Euphemism – for tying up, throwing down and restraining until the horse gives up (learned helplessness, mental shut down and strong risk of physical damage).
What would you think are the chances of this ending well? And, who will be blamed? The horse.
Right … The positives like food, eek! The anti-food line is a big, wide gap between what research says and what many horse trainers do. No, we don’t use food to train … that would be … cheating. And the horses might like it. They would come too close to us, get too enthused and we don’t know how to train them if they aren’t more afraid. We don’t know what to do when it comes to using food, except avoid or only give it once we get done training. There is a long tradition of using the tools we use. They need to respect us (euphemism for fear).
True, that’s pretty much the way it rolls.
Yup, I gave her an example of how food could work to start to repair the inter-species rift, silly me. Will I do it again? Well not to her, but …. oh heck, probably yes.