Be Careful of Quacks
We’re often told that horses are mimics and will copy whatever their “leader” does. I’ve seen trainers run along in a trotting motion when they want a horse to trot alongside them. Even better, when they want the horse to canter, I’ve seen trainers skip along pretending to canter, thinking that the horse will copy them.
My brother-in-law Steve Byrne had a couple of family horses – Nugget and The General – for more than twenty-five years. The horses were kept in a paddock and fed twice a day. One day Nugget wasn’t eating and Steve went down to investigate. He found ducks in Nugget’s bin, eating the feed. Each time Nugget tried to eat, the ducks pecked his nose and chased him away. Nugget ran backwards away from the ducks, then stood and waited patiently for his turn to eat.
According to modern horsemanship, Nugget submitted to the ducks. If you follow some of the theories going round, the ducks became Nugget’s “leader”. They pecked him into submission. The ducks established themselves at the top of the “pecking order”. According to these leadership theories, Nugget would follow the ducks wherever they went, submit to them and copy their every move.
Oh please! Do you think Nugget tried to please the ducks and do whatever they wanted? Do you think he followed the ducks around the paddock? Do you think he copied the ducks and started waddling? Perhaps he ran along, flapped his limbs and tried to fly, just like the ducks.
This sounds absolutely ridiculous. But it’s no more ridiculous than thinking that a horse will copy your movements. And it’s no more ridiculous than thinking that a horse will follow you because he thinks you’re his “leader”.
Nugget didn’t think that the ducks were his leader. He didn’t think that the ducks were higher in the pecking order. The simple fact is Nugget didn’t want to be pecked on the nose, so he waited until he could eat his feed in peace.
The horse world is full of old wives tales that suit the human way of thinking. Some humans like to think that they’re at the top of the pecking order. Many trainers think that chasing horses to the point of exhaustion and using fear and force will help them to be the “boss”. They believe that every horse should “submit” to them and “respect” them.
Horses however, just want to make life as easy as possible for themselves. They don’t want to be pecked on the nose by ducks and they don’t want to be chased and harassed for reasons they don’t understand.
Read more on this subject here: www.fearfreehorsetraining.com/blog/horse-herds-and-pecking-orders
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Excellent bit of logic in everything you said. Love the Ducks and the pecking order...lol.
Thanks for sending your book promptly , I am enjoying the read and I have already got a halter on my
foal who before I got your book and reading your sensible advice , did not want anything to do with us...we are working on building up the confidence and trust factor ..doing a little bit often .So far so good.
Thanks so much as your book has taken me back to basics , you never stop learning with horses.
Julie April 22nd, 2015
It's great that you're doing such a good job with your foal. Glad you like the ducks.
Neil Davies April 22nd, 2015
I had this image in my mind about the horse wanting to be a duck...lol Even funnier was the bit about 'trainers' running/skipping trying to teach a horse to trot/canter. Get that on film...hilarious. There are the humans that think they are at the top of the pecking order with everything - they got some hard lessons to learn. I love the way you think. It's how I thought for the last 40 years & no one with 'odd ideas' on how horses should be trained could ever change my mind. Had the best relationship with my 4 horses. One thing I do know is that they are very smart, got a lot from them by being gentle. If you need to use Fear & Force perhaps those sort of people should not have horses or any other animals. If they don't want to chance their ideas perhaps their best pet would be a pet rock. Keep up the good work. Love reading your ideas. Makes me feel I'm not the only one who sees your point.
Dani Sanchez April 22nd, 2015
Glad you enjoyed the blog. Keep up the good work with your horses.
Neil Davies April 22nd, 2015