Titles are important. Names matter. I learned this a long time ago when I started referring to the “t’ai chi wall”. That’s an element in the rope handling that I teach. Suddenly, it became a something. It stood out from everything else that was associated with the rope handling.
Names matter. Farmers know this which is why they don’t name their animals. Names transform them into individuals.
We name our horses because we are looking for that individual connection. That brings me to the rest of the title I have given my new book. I’m calling it, “Modern Horse Training: A Constructional Guide to Becoming Your Horse’s Best Friend”.
In previous posts I’ve talked about what Modern Horse Training means to me. I’ve described the example/non-example comparison that I am making by choosing that title. In yesterday’s post, I wrote in general terms what constructional training refers to.
Of course, I tried on many different titles, but I kept coming back to “Modern Horse Training”. And then there was the subtitle. I considered staying with just “A Constructional Guide to Horse Training“, but I kept adding on the rest: “A Constructional Guide to Becoming Your Horse’s Best Friend”.
I know there will be people who read that title and think the book isn’t for them. They are interested in performance not friendship. That title is too mushy.
I’m also interested in performance. The cover reminds us that we don’t have to give up on one to have the other. Training teaches performance skills. It also creates connection.
I should say good training does this. Force-based training turns communication into a one way street. When you use commands, meaning you are controlling your horse with a do-it-or-else threat backing up every request, you become like a drill sergeant barking out orders. The sergeant tells the private what to do. The private does what he’s told. He’s not on equal footing. He doesn’t respond by giving an order back to the sergeant. If he does, he’s being insubordinate, and he will be punished.
Punishment shuts down behavior. When we use command-based training we shut down the back and forth communication that makes being with our horses such a joy. We shut down the full expression of their personality. That funny, brave, inquisitive, smart, mischievous, bold, kind individual we love so much disappears and hides away from us. Good training brings our horse’s personality out of hiding – in a good way.
In a recent Equiosity podcast I brought together a group of people who are currently going through my on-line clinics. They were all regular attendees in the coaching sessions that are part of those clinics. The conversation turned into a three part series. I ended by asking each of them to describe what they thought of when they were pictured a clicker-trained horse. I thought they might describe some particularly fun bit of training they had taught to their horses. But no, to a person, they all talked about the relationship that was developing through clicker training. What they most valued was not that they could now pick up their horse’s feet with ease, or load him on a trailer, or ride him. What they valued most was the connection the training was creating.
That’s why we have horses. Think back to the horse books you read as a child. If you are one of the horse addicted, you probably had a whole shelf full of them. Yes, the stories were full of riders who soared over giant fences or raced across deserts. But always, what mattered most was the love between horse and handler.
Too often performance is put first and that connection is lost. We talk about “bomb-proof horses”. But what really does that mean? Yes, safety always comes first. I want a horse who is comfortable with me and the world around him. But if there is a bear nearby, I would like my horse to be able to tell me that going forward is really not a good idea. I want my training to give him a voice that counts, a voice that is listened to.
If he’s hurting, I want him to be able to let me know that he can’t do what I’m asking. I want him to be able to tell me this without having to shout. Horses shout by rearing up, kicking out, bolting off. Long before he has reached the boiling point, I want my training to give him a voice that is heard.
This is how we keep horses sound. It is how we remember why we fell in love with them in the first place. It is how we transform ourselves from drill sergeant into best friend. The title is the right one to chose. The new book is indeed a constructional guide to becoming our horse’s best friend.
The new book, “Modern Horse Training: A Constructional Guide to becoming Your Horse’s Best Friend” will be published April 26, 2023. It will be available through my web site: theclickercenter.com and through Amazon and other booksellers. Look for it in hardcover, paperback and as an ebook.