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Wow - what a story! Sounds like a movie ...

I can't speak to what happened between your horse and you on that day in the past. What lead up to that outburst, etc. because nobody else was there but you.

I think that both of you reacted on instinct but not on ground of a dominance theory that has by now been disproved to exist in horses and even in canines.

I read another article way back (which I can't find at the moment) that we as humans jump to easily to behavioral models calling another species dominant or "in need of being put in place" because the social structure we envolved out off is/was a highly dominance based one. We are, in a way, blind on that eye to recognise other structures in the social order of another species and label what we see with terms we are familiar with.

We also have to keep in mind that almost every social group of animals we observe is a domesticated and artificially formed group, nothing "grown" in nature and in a natural habitat.
Yes, Easter and I both definitely acted on instinct! And what led up to that outburst was ignorance but I can't pick apart what I did because until the "crisis point" I was only playing games and not observing my horse's body language and attitudes. A more experienced person would have seen the danger signs a mile a way. All I saw was a beautiful, running, leaping, bucking horse--until she came after me!

Your article is interesting but it does not disprove dominance theory. Rather, it explains how hierarchy works in a feral herd. It brings up a term I've never heard applied to horse hierarchies and that is "tyrant." I've never heard any horse behaviorist use that term, so the article is attempting to discredit a term and a related theory that doesn't exist (or at least hasn't been used in circles that I am familiar with). He's right that leadership in herds is not maintained by tyranny. A "tyrant" horse is kicked out of the herd until it shows submissive behavior. We had one of these in our herd years ago. The horse tried to fight his way to the top of the pecking order by brute force and would attack other members of the herd violently with little or no provocation. The top horse (a mild and benevolent gelding) and the most dominant mare (she was not the lead mare) threw him out of the herd and made him stay away. He never stopped being aggressive and so was never allowed to integrate into the herd for the six months or so he lived there. The other horses did not try to use positive reinforcement to teach him an alternate behavior pattern. They used punishment (biting, striking, kicking) to physically throw him out, then they used the threat of punishment (pinned ears, rushing, aiming their haunches) to keep him outside the circle.

On the subject of domestic herds, I previously made the observation that the bottom animal is the one most likely to be sadistically mean to anyone under them. Your article does not contradict this and in fact states of a domestic herd, "Lower status individuals may be repeatedly harassed even though they offer no challenge to more aggressive higher status animals. This behavior generally has no useful function whatsoever..."

It does not say anything about low-status animals attacking ones who come in below them, but I imagine the author has seen this tendency. This aggression is not always aimed a member of the same species but often at anything perceived as smaller and weaker (dogs, children, chickens). I sometimes feel that these picked-on individuals have an inner need to exert control over someone--anyone--because they have no control over anything else. And since they've mostly been shown aggression by other herd members, they haven't learned another way to behave.

I won't go into the article's analysis of round pen training because I am not a huge advocate of round pen training myself. I've used round pens effectively as a tool to achieve certain ends, but I've also had to retrain enough horses that were abused in round pens to know that these places can be nothing short of torture chambers in the hands of ignorant trainers. The best part of the article, which sums up exactly what I feel a trainer should be is the last sentence: "But if we did want the horse to accept us, learn from us and trust us we would want to behave as if we were a head mare, or perhaps benevolent and protective harem stallion – in which case we would signal our high status best by regular and predictable socialising, unflappable calmness, confidence and self-control." YES, YES, YES AND YES!!! Can we have an "AMEN, Brother!"
another interesting - allbeit long - read about many things, connecting brain development, metaphors, social systems and how we perceive the world and horse (animal) training.

Oh no! If the discussion devolves into the quagmire of American politics all semblance of reasonable discourse will be lost forever! I didn't like that article at all for a number of reasons which would take so long to get into that I'd have to write 69 pages of my own. But for my political commentary, suffice to say that I fall into the large and rapidly growing category of disgruntled Americans who can't stand conservative or progressive politics, belong to no political party, and refused to vote for either mainstream candidate in the last election. 

Even more than the overly simplistic view of politics, what I found awful was the "strict father" vs. "nurturing parent" dichotomy. The author espouses a ridiculously narrow view of family psychology and boils it down to two stereotypes. I get the feeling that this author has some deep-seated daddy issues since she doesn't say "strict parent" (she mentions briefly that mothers can be strict and fathers can be nurturing, but she won't go so far as to embrace gender equality in the terms she uses). She also has no room in her confined viewpoint for discipline and nurture to go hand-in-hand. You are either a strict disciplinarian (read that "abuser"), or you are a nurturer. There is no middle ground in her thinking. Notice that the terms the author uses predispose the reader to hate the one and love the other. The article presents a very dishonest viewpoint which makes me question whether the author has ever met an actual "conservative", or if, like many of our progressive friends, she is making up nonsense based on a lot of politically charged stereotypes. If there's one thing this past election teaches us, it is that, politically speaking, progressives are every bit as didactic and authoritarian as they accuse conservatives of being. Case in point:      

"Try clicker training at your boarding barn and see what happens? People who were raised in the strict father model will see your training as immoral. They can’t leave you alone because they view your actions as a threat to their authority. So whether they are in your barn, or on the internet, they will feel that it is their moral duty to punish your training choice. We see this all the time on facebook and in forums. Post an enthusiastic report about your first attempt at clicker training, and what happens? You’ll draw in all the sharks in the neighborhood." 

And yet here is this woman bashing anyone over the head with "strict father" metaphors if they don't adhere to HER preferred training technique!  Dodgy

Here's the deal: I have never once said one word against clicker training, nor positive reinforcement--and you won't hear it because I believe it is a valuable and legitimate training technique when applied correctly. However, I do not think it is the exclusive way to train, nor the only correct way to train. I hope that I never give anyone the impression that my way of training is the only way either. We all have many things to learn from one another and from our collective education and experience. It's good to tell what works for us and be honest about what doesn't. I've never met a trainer yet who "knew it all". Right now we are going back to basics with our goat Finn because he's not happy in his training. I plan to make a separate post about that later. The key here is that it's the trainer's job, no matter what technique they are using, to ensure the overall comfort and happiness of their animals. It could be that the animal is uncomfortable because of equipment. Or maybe he's out of shape. Maybe he doesn't like the treat you're using. Maybe you need to improve your handling skills. Maybe the training technique that worked well for one animal doesn't work so well for another. Maybe there's a combination of several things going on. It's the trainer's job to evaluate these possibilities and go back to the point where you were working well together and start over. 

One thing that bothers me about several of the clicker training articles I've read is that they indicate that if you're having a training problem, it's because your technique is bad. Fine. But if you aren't having a training problem, then it's because your animal is in a state of "learned helplessness". That is the cheater's way of being right no matter what. If clicker trainers want others to listen then they need to stop taking the "my way or the highway" approach that alienates anyone who has successfully trained an animal using any other method. 

Oh, and you actually can see a goblet and two faces at once if you just focus.  Cool
NO, it was not meant to develop into discussion about american politics. It was meant as an interesting read about how metaphors and social structures we grow up in influence thinking.
Phew! We definitely don't want to get into politics! I removed my picture because I think it could be overly inflammatory and while I find it pretty funny, others may find it offensive. 

The author attempts to make a point about metaphors and social structures based on a very shallow and one-sided point of view, then goes on to use those metaphors as a way to denigrate entire people groups that she clearly doesn't know or understand. That is not ok. She then tries to apply this flawed model to horse training. She makes the grave mistake of saying that there are two (and only two) diametrically opposed ways of doing things. There is no such thing as a "nurturing disciplinarian" in her mind even though nurture and discipline regularly work hand-in-hand, and you can see it in nature just by watching a mare and her colt or a mother goat and her kids. The ones that do best are nurturing but also discipline appropriately. My mare Easter did not discipline her colt, Jet, so the poor mare spent the first few months of her lactation with bloody, swollen teats. Most mares nip a colt when he bites her udder, but Easter would never reprimand Jet for any infraction. By the time he was two months old he was abusing her (kicking, biting, striking, mounting). We were lucky that my friend came back to school about that time and brought her kind but disciplinarian gelding back with her. He stepped in and protected Easter from her own colt and taught Jet a few lessons about how to treat a lady. He punished Jet for hounding Easter (nipping, driving him away) and then showed by example how Jet should treat her. He was kind and patient with Jet but he refused to put up with rude, dangerous behavior. Jet soon learned to treat his mother kindly and even quit biting her udder. The author left no room in the discussion for a "strict father" who is also nurturing, kind, and sets a good example. She similarly left no room for a "nurturing parent" to ever deal out punishment. It seems to me that the author herself is following the "strict father" model in setting up her case against it!
I find it interesting to what different points we find "resonance" in that review.

For me, the realisation why we say things like "prices rising" or "coming out on top" - finding that these metaphors are rooted in things we experience as a toddler and then incorporate in daily speech for hundreds of years now. Learning why, what is happening in my brain (and the brain of others), intrigues me every day.

For you, it seems more important to keep your view of why punishment is necessary sometimes.

But I will stop that now. It seems we are indeed turning in circles, not understanding each other based on our different experiences.

Take care, all of you! Love your goats!
I guess I would be a lot more interested in the author's discussion of metaphors if she didn't misuse them make so many wrong assumptions about whole huge groups of people and how they were raised. Clearly not all metaphors are universal! I think the author needs to get out more, I think she needs to take some psychology and politics classes, and I think she needs to research her topic more thoroughly before writing about it. 

One thing we must not lose sight of, Sabine, is that we actually agree about most things. I think there's maybe 10% or so that we quibble over and that sometimes makes it seem as though we have very different views when in reality we are fairly close in our thinking. I know for a fact that, despite some slight differences in style, everyone here loves their animals and does their best to care for them and look out for their needs. I've had a marvelous time working with my goat, Sputnik, and seeing him blossom from a nervous, shy, almost autistic-acting goat into a happy, bold fellow who wants to be with me and has a strong desire to please and to work. I'm sure we will all experience successes, setbacks, and puzzles with each of our animals from time to time, and I think it's wonderful that we can share those here. Our collective wisdom and experience is far greater than any one of us, and our different perspectives are valuable for looking at problems from different angles. I hope that our small disagreements never overshadow the larger picture here.
Today I had a lesson driving a horse. It was fantastic and not at all what I expected. We did some practice time trials going around cones (I didn't drive that bit, I was just the "groom"/passenger) as well as driving around the back lanes of the district. The experience has really helped me understand the importance of the whip. I am going to assist my friend long-reining her young Friesian cross to help me understand more about training an animal to drive. I think it is going to be very good for me Smile
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