Spin off from "Horse with unwilling attitude" - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 03-25-2012, 10:04 AM Thread Starter
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Spin off from "Horse with unwilling attitude"

Ok we highjacked that thread for a bit, oops.

I am seriously extremely interested in this subject. I know what my mind, my eyes, and my perceptions tell me about the response I get from Rascal. I am really interested in how these responses aren't enjoyment, but more of a result of conditioning the response....

Does this supposedly also hold true with grooming, bathing, hand walking, and new experiences? Does body language in foals not tell us if a response is a positive or negative? When a tiny foal leans into a nice scratching, is this not enjoyment, but something we taught it? When said foal whinnies as you come into view, this isn't a greeting but a taught response? When Rascal sees my car pull in and comes racing to the gate, is this because he only wants his feed? He knows when breakfast, lunch, and dinner times are. So, why does he do this at the other times, if not for companionship and the desire for contact or the enjoyment of scratches?

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post #2 of 7 Old 03-25-2012, 02:43 PM
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I didn't read other thread, but imo, causing the horse to want to be with you, by being Friendly (scratches, etc) is the main/most important game in horsemanship.
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post #3 of 7 Old 03-25-2012, 03:00 PM
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I would say these are all instinct or habit. Instinctively he leans in for more scratches, no one taught him that. No one told him whinnie when you come up the drive way, he just does because that's how he would greet his friend or mother. Something non-instinctive would be standing still while tied up or him giving you his foot. A habit would running to the fence for food or going over to his bucket before you feed him.
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post #4 of 7 Old 03-25-2012, 03:14 PM
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You mustn't let yourself go to extremes when trying to understand another species' thinking. WE only know HUMAN thinking (and even there, we're not so good) and I do think all our impressions of about everything is at least slightly anthropomorphic.

To avoid this, we usually get "scientific." Until everything boils down to chemical reactions. And loses all meaning, at least as far as helping us deal with day-to-day living.

I think "enjoyment" is universal for all life forms, although WHAT it is will certainly vary. Does a sunflower "enjoy" the sun? Close enough. Does a fish "hate" pollution? Close enough if he flees from a sewage spill. Do horses enjoy being ridden? Of course they can, if they're not in pain, they're moving freely, or even just cruising along with their "herd." The hard part for us is--how can you really tell?

The other point I'd like to make: a conditioned response doesn't exclude pleasure. You can do something by habit, and still feel pleased (like taking a familiar jump.)
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post #5 of 7 Old 03-25-2012, 10:27 PM
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I think the greatest confusion comes when people mix up 'pleasure responses' and being 'friendly' with wanting to please and be 'trained' or what we call 'trainability'. These are totally different and not really related. I have had so many spoiled horses brought to me to 'straighten out' that loved people, loved to be scratched, followed them everywhere but reared straight up and even went over when that same person tried to ride them away from the barn or bucked them off every time they got on.

These people invariably came to me in tears saying "I just don't understand it. He loves me and he follows me everywhere and then tries to kill me. Why does he hate me when I try to ride him? Can horses be Schizophrenic? Do you think he is mentally disabled?"

This is not a problem for a horse. He likes scratches just like two horses mutually groom each other and then one tries to tear the others head off if he gets in his feed bucket ten minutes later. Horses do not equate learning and being trained with being friends or pleasing someone in the same way people do.

Some of the best horses I have trained and shown have been very aloof, did not like being petted, groomed or 'played' with, but had impeccable manners and trained to very high level with little or no resistance along the way. They were all business. They did not dislike people, never laid an ear back and never refused a request, never followed someone around and acted like people friends did not exist. I have several now. The dam of this line is 21 or 22 and still acts this way. I have two daughters left and they are like that as all of their siblings have been. You have to walk out to them to catch them. Three of her daughters have trained to a very high level and have been exported to Ireland and the UK. None of them has ever shown one affectionate moment toward a person that I have ever seen -- ever. They also make few mistakes and show little or no resistance. It is their nature and while not being affectionate, they are VERY trainable. These two things are just not related to me.

I think people relate so much to a horse's personality -- as I would call it. There are horses that are really 'characters'. Horses that can keep you amused and are a pleasure to be around. That's personality. But to me, personality has no relationship to trainability.
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post #6 of 7 Old 03-26-2012, 08:00 AM
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But to me, personality has no relationship to trainability.
Totally agree. Although I prefer to have the combo of both. I don't really like horses that are "all business" (even very well trained) and wouldn't want to own one.

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post #7 of 7 Old 03-26-2012, 08:36 AM
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In a herd situation, horses have acceptable grooming spots. Should a horse invade another area, there is an immediate warning. And of course some are more tolerant than others. I think this is why we have horses that display either aloofness or a display of what are considered bad manners when being groomed by a human. We are invading off limits areas. In most horses thro repetition the horse becomes tolerant, but that doesn't mean he's changed his views on being groomed all over or hugged. If we try to sort out pleasure from conditioned reflex it will drive us nuts. Sometimes we just have to accept what is.
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