Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Broken Hill, NSW, Australia
• Horses: 0
The previous discussion seemed to be by people who had read the website but not actually done the program. :) I agree it looks a bit 'out there' but it really does work. It is not so much humanising horses as recognising we are both living creatures & have some things in common.
Horses can develop friendships/pair bonds/become horse buddies if they are kept in a herd environment; and in fact one of mine has a 'relationship' like this with one of the riding school horses - they hang out together all the time, graze together, groom each other.
:) No need for mutual grooming with your horse, I think most people who do the program probably gently discourage that. :) I would...
There is much more info on the website, but basically the aim of the program is to take away all the stress we may be accidentally putting on a horse by making their living conditions as natural as possible (24 hour turnout, able to interact naturally with other horses, feeding hay based diet, etc) and using positive reinforcement (ie rewarding for doing the right thing) rather than pressure and release to teach the horse. You also teach the horse some basic voice and hand cues - back, stand, move over, come, etc which you initially use for groundwork and later transfer to mounted cues. The horse is taught in a large open area - not a round pen or small yard - so you don't accidentally activate their fight or fight response.
It's not for everyone. To do it you have to be able to have your horse live in fairly natural conditions ie 24 hour turnout with other horses, which is problematic for many people. It also usually requires you don't ride the horse until you have finished the training - the idea here is you are both much safer if you develop good communication on the ground and then transfer it to ridden activity. I understand this may make it look unattractive, but at my age (I'm 51) a fall hurts and I'm happy to invest some time to get a safe riding partner.
My gelding was prone to being unpredictably spooky and very stubborn and resistant and was beginning to become dominant with me on the ground. My riding instructor was training him for me, he would go along fine for weeks and then 'blow up' and the blow-ups were increasing in strength - no bucking or rearing but becoming very spooky and continuously shying, jerking his head hard enough to break the instructors finger, etc. The change in him since I have been doing FT is remarkable - he willingly comes to me and tries to do as I ask, even backing up on request which he wouldn't do before, his whole posture has softened so that he looks happy and relaxed, the dominating behaviour towards me has disappeared. My biggest surprise was that I have become much more confident with him and all of the other horses; I didn't realise how much fear I was carrying with me until it left.
From talking with people on the Yahoo group FT is fantastic for horses with problems, and if you have one who you get on well with it deepens the relationship. All I can say is I'm delighted with how my horse is progressing, I wish I'd known about it ages ago.