The Devious Mind of the Horse Trainer

Using associative thinking in the process of horse training taxes the creative, or should I say, devious, mind of the horse trainer. You can almost make a case for knowing which children will grow up to be trainers when you see that look in their eyes that says “I wonder what would happen if… ”
I’ve been accused of using “reverse” psychology, or even “perverse” psychology in round pen training. If a horse keeps wanting to run away, my stance on the issue is “you want to run, then let’s run, and we’re going to run till you don’t want to run anymore!” It’s kind of reminiscent of “You want to cry, I’ll give you something to cry about!”Well, what seems to happen is that the horse has to choose between giving in to instinctive fear versus breathing! Then, the next time he’s in the round pen, he associates being out at the fence with exertion, and being next to me with resting and being safe. Over time this associative thinking builds a mindset in the horse to want to be in the good place, next to you, rather than being away from you and having to work hard. You see, horses are inherently work averse. Seems like they never figure out that you were the reason they were having to work in the first place, though. Oh, well, I guess it’s like Daddy always said, “To train a horse, you’ve got to be smarter than the horse! “

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