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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone,

I noticed a couple of threads late last year discussing Friendship Training. I understand your scepticism, I thought it was too good to be true when I first read the website. After talking to some of the members in their Yahoo group I decided it sounded like it might work - it is soundly based in behavioural science. I was a bit desperate to find something that would work with my stubborn, unconfident, resistant gelding so decided it was worth the risk.

We are still only in the early stages of the program but already it has made an enormous difference to us. He is willing to do as I ask and to try, and a few weeks back when he was galloping with another horse he actually broke off to come stand by me. I realise that it might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I would heartily recommend it to anyone.

Regards
Frances
 

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what do you do with your horse for friendship training ?
 

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i was just curious as to what the OP did that helped her and her horse so much.
 

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Yeah, I'd like to read that too. Just seems to be something quite controversial, so I'm a bit sceptical, but as long as it has worked for the OP, it's fine with me.
 

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As much as I love my horse, I REALLY don't want to go through mutual grooming.

I'll do more research when I get home, but this sounds to me like another one of these 'humanising' horses... do horse's understand a friend concept, or what 'friends' are?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
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.

Regards
Frances
 

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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)
The above is just basic good horsekeeping - any horseman will tell you that it is healthiest for the horse, physically and mentally, to be kept as naturally as possible; "as possible" being the key phrase. I'd hazard a guess that for 90% of horse owners (in the US, anyway) a completely natural state is out of the question for one reason or another. If mine were out 24/7/365 they would die of exposure before the weather broke in the spring. One horse in the barn physically cannot be barefoot - even not being ridden he will destroy a set of shoes in 8 weeks, and wear his bare hooves too short to nail to or risk trimming in under a month. A human riding and interacting with the horse period is highly unnatural.

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.
Again, this is basic good horsemanship. I would be very interested to hear how Friendship Training Positive Reinforcement compares/contrasts specifically with pressure and release. Pressure and release rewards the horse (via release of pressure - not necessarily even a physical touch; my fella responds to a glance and a shift of posture 9 times out of 10) for doing the right thing. I'd be very curious to hear a point-by-point comparison on that point. :wink:

Glad that you've found a training method that works for you and your horse!! :D
 

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Thanks, Frances, for sharing a program that's done wonders for the relationship between you & your horse!

I can see that it's not far, if at all different, from Parelli: in PNH, the Friendly Game is the most important game, the relationship is priority, & "getting it good" on the ground is the prerequisite for each student, regardless of age! :)
 

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I have one question. How do you reward positive behaviour, when you can't put pressure on the horse to ask it do do something? I am picturing someone standing back, 10 foot away from the horse holding out a lump of sugar saying 'Please Mr horsey, would you pretty please with a cherry on top care to step backwards one step for me so I can pat you without having to put any pressure on you?'.
Because horses certainly use a pressure-release system when they're out in a paddock together ;)
 

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I am picturing someone standing back, 10 foot away from the horse holding out a lump of sugar saying 'Please Mr horsey, would you pretty please with a cherry on top care to step backwards one step for me so I can pat you without having to put any pressure on you?'.

My horse would want 5 cherries on the top, eat it then walk off to look at the fanny on the mare on the other side of the fence.

So much for that friendship (even if he is laid back and does what I want anyways)

:rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl:
 

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I just don't understand the concept of "friendship" when horses themselves don't 'befriend' one another...they will form certain chains of respect for one another and THEN they will form certain bonds with each other out of those respect lines...you won't see the dominant mare, for example, bond or groom with the least dominant geldings or mares...there is no friendship involved with hroses, it is all about the line of respect...why do you think a lesser dominant mare or gelding will try really hard to dominate YOU the human? Because he has no one TO dominate in his natural herd!!!!!

Earn his respect (you don't have to beat it into him...you can be as gentle as you can...but remember, another horse will kick another, to gain their respect...), but be as firm as necessary...THEN you will have a trusting partner...respect has to come first...trust comes later, out of that respect. He has to know he can trust you to lead him, or he WILL do all those things you described.
 

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I agree, mom2pride. My horse treated me like nothing, he wasn't interested in any friendship, until I gained his respect. And no, I did not beat him. He is now my safest friend, although still sometimes tries to challenge my leadership and then I have to be as firm as necessary, and rainbows & butterflies will just get me into serious trouble. I suspect, that friendship training might work with some horses, but not with all. They differ.
 

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I have trained horses from all ends of the spectrum...from fearful, to downright dangerous, and disrespectful...and gaining respect is ALWAYS my first goal, and with every horse it has ended up with a respectful working partner; most of the ones I have bought, I have never sold, atleast not until I outgrew them, or circumstances forced me to place them...those I have trained for others, I have not wanted to give back! Now how you go about gaining respect can be different...How I went about gaining respect with my current mare, who was shy, fearful, and more prone to run away, than over you, and was a lot quieter, than my previous horse, an extremely rude, pushy disrespectful Appy; My body language had to be emmensely quieter with my mare, than it did for the Appy, who would take an entire mile if you even gave him a centimeter of room. Building respect doesn't have to involve whips and crops, but the language does have to be clear and concise to the horse to understand, and sometimes it DOES have to be physical...and unlike dogs, horses, aren't as built up by positive reinforcement like treats, because unlike dogs, if they are uncomfortable, they will not eat a treat and forget what's bothering them...so if you run into a 'bad day', forget training at all; then what?
 
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I was very sceptical myself about 'friendship', as was just about everyone I talk to about it. But the people who have done FT were equally convinced it worked, which is why I decided to give it a go. It did help to explain some odd things about the herd at my riding school - certainly there was lots of evidence of dominance behaviour, but there were also pairs of horses between who dominance didn't seem to be an issue - boss mare & her best mate a low ranking gelding, a mid ranking mare and lower ranking gelding, the boss gelding and an old gelding who did not seem to dominate or be dominated by anyone. The pairs spent most of their time together, ate together, mutually groomed - within each pair we couldn't see any signs of who was boss, there wasn't any dominance behaviour we observed. FT explained what these odd pairs might be - they call them 'preferred associates' or say they have a 'peer attachment'.

When I first met my gelding he liked me when he didn't seem to like other people - I bought him because he was so obviously unhappy with the person who had the use of him. Before I owned him I was spending time without asking anything of him apart from one test ride, when he went so beautifully no-one could believe it - this baulky stubborn spooky horse did everything I asked willingly. Then I bought him and began being the boss - gently, but still boss - because this is what everyone was telling me I had to do to get his respect and develop a good relationship. Instead he gradually became more resistant and gradually began to treat me similarly to how he treated everyone else, although generally with less force when he disagreed. I accidentally discovered that if he disagreed with a request, removing all pressure and waiting a bit and then asking very very softly maximised the chance he would do as I asked, where maintaining or increasing pressure, as my riding instructor suggested or did when he rode him, just escalated things and made him more obstinate. This was one of the things that made me think the FT approach might work for us. The other thing was the experiences of the people in the FT yahoo group - some were very experienced horse people who had successfully used a variety of training methods until they came across a horse for whom nothing worked but they didn't want to give up on, and tried FT in desperation, and it worked.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Sorry, I missed part of your question. The training is done in as big and open space as possible - a paddock, not a round yard - so that the horse isn't under pressure and you don't accidentally activate the flight or fight response.

Tries are initially rewarded with a food treat or scratch in favourite scratchy spot and 'Good boy!'; many people find that after a while the praise alone seems to be enough of a reward, the horses seem actively to want to learn / play games with their person. If the horse doesn't want to do it that day, then I just accept that. I know that sounds laughable, but my experience, and that of the people in the FT group, is that this doesn't make the horse decide he knows how to get out of work.

The only time pressure is used is to stop the horse from doing something that might hurt the human - biting or kicking. Similarly to many other programs there are several levels of 'no', from a gentle 'you are doing it wrong' or 'please don't do that' to a very strong 'DONT YOU DARE EVER THINK ABOUT DOING THAT AGIN!!!'

I know this all sounds odd... but it works...
 

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I'd really appreciate if you'd give an example of how should a person, who's doing FT with his horse, react to, let's say, a disrespectful horse that tries to show his dominance with a charge or rearing?
I'm really not trying to be overly sceptical, just interested on how this is supposed to work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
LOL, thank you Kayty and Spyder, they are very funny images. I can just them asking for cherries...

You start by teaching them the cues up close and rewarding them with food treats or scratches and praising them, and gradually the praise becomes reward in itself. I gather a similar thing happens with people who clicker train horses.

There does seem to be evidence that positive rewards work well to train horses, but they have to be in a space where they feel safe to learn.
 

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A horse that would charge or rear at someone, i find, are generally not disrespectful. Dangerous, yes. Often these behaviours have a source (past mistreatment or handling by humans themselves) And if and when you can determine the source of the behaviour then you can deal with the horse more effectively. Unfortunately this is not always easy.

And yes I think horses do develop friendships. They are intellegent creatures and although herd "pecking" order has a lot to do with bonds between horse/horse, human/horse. I like to think of my horse as a friend.
In my younger years I would neigh and act like a horse (run around, toss my head and my horse would reply and "play". We would hoon around the paddock together.... im sure you all think im a nob-head.
 
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