Goat Diaries Blog by Alexandra Kurland
So here's one thing that bothers me... I read this blog entry yesterday and it's troubling because it makes clicker training sound very non-versatile. Alexandra tells a story of watching a fellow trainer work a Thoroughbred in a field on a longe line. Here's the part that bothers me: 

This trainer knew I was exploring clicker training.  She didn’t get it.  What could clicker training do for her that she didn’t already have the skill to get from a horse?  So she asked me what I would do if someone drove up with a horse trailer and unloaded the horse she had just been working with into the hay field.  As a clicker trainer, what would I do?

I hadn’t been teaching clicker training very long at that point.  I was still in the early stages of figuring things out.  I didn’t have a good answer for her.  Now I do.  The answer is I wouldn’t unload that horse into the hay field.  If I did, I would have ended up using management tools that would have looked pretty much like the session I had just watched her give the thoroughbred out in his paddock.

This bothers me because a sound training system should be applicable in any management situation. I live out west where many people keep horses on big ranches with no facilities at all--no barns, no corrals, no fences except the barbed wire perimeter. If you want to train a horse, the only tools you have to work with are the ones you bring with you. I trained several horses when we lived out in Lake City, CO where the only thing we had was a 100-acre field where we paid pasture board. Only two of the horses were mine and the rest belonged to other people who shared rent on the pasture. This was typical of the ranch boarding situation in that area. You rented a pasture and that's all you got. Horse shelter came in the form of trees at one end of the field. It disappoints me that Alexandra would choose not to train horses at all rather than use alternative methods required in different settings. She needs to understand that not all horse owners have the luxury of being able to work out of stalls, barns, arenas, and other controlled settings. Many of her lessons are very tailored to having the "right" set-up, and this can be very limiting for those of us who don't have that set-up. 

My horses have never even seen the inside of a barn or stall until last weekend when I took Jet to the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo for a trail obstacle competition--that was his first experience having to spend the night in a stall and he took it in stride like he tends to take most things. I started Jet in Lake City during those pasture boarding days and he's turned out to be a wonderful, reliable, unflappable horse. He helped pull my carriage for two summers when we lived in Lake City and he was only three and four years old those summers. I trained he and my mare to ground drive and drag logs in that 100-acre pasture, even with all the other loose horses running around. During my first summer operating the carriage business, I moved my horses to a much larger 400-acre pasture, but I never had to worry about whether I could catch them. They loved their job and usually came running when they heard my truck coming up the drive. If they didn't, it meant they were too far away to hear the truck and I had to drive out to them. But they never ran away when they saw me coming, which tells me they loved their job and they loved being with me. A horse who lives with buddies in a 400-acre pasture will never be caught unless he wants to be. 

The point is, I think Alexandra needs to get over her hangups about alternative training methods and be a bit more open-minded. A horse can be trained using different methods and still be happy, enthusiastic in his work, and mentally sound. I used longe lines, whips, bits, halters, pressure-release, and other tools to show the horse what I wanted, and I rewarded him for a job well-done. The key was that we understood each other, not necessarily which precise language and tools we used to get there. The training should suit the situation. If the training can't be adapted to alternative set-ups, then we have a problem.

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RE: Goat Diaries Blog by Alexandra Kurland - by Nanno - 03-21-2018, 10:31 AM

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