Most of us equestrians got into the world of horses because we were fascinated by something about them.
Whether it was their beauty, their power, their kindness or ability to forgive, we got into horses because we just enjoyed being with them. But the traditional horse world seems to have forgotten that at times. Horses, to me, are more than just livestock or sport animals, they're companions who's worth is far beyond what they can provide for us. We're often told we need to dominate our horses, be their boss, never coddle them or train them with food. Otherwise we're not good owners and our horses are unsafe. Coming from a more traditional training background, I was told the same thing. That was until I discovered the science behind learning theory and operant conditioning. It made so much sense, and it was right there under my nose the whole time, yet no one in the equine industry talked about it except a small, ever-growing group of people. Simultaneously my mare, Chipsy, offered me an unconditional gift I could have never expected nor ever repay. This changed my whole perspective on equine training and our relationship with horses.
A new path began.
Now, I want to change the way we start our future generation of equine partners. Instead of dominance, force and demanding respect we show kindness, empathy, gain trust and lead by example. Equine welfare is a must too, something we cannot short cut along the way. I advocate for a herd driven environment with adequate space, where horses can express their natural behaviours, a forage-based diet, and enrichment activities. With a mix of force free, reward-based training, species appropriate welfare and an emphasis on a trustworthy relationship, we can ensure our equine companions are happy, enthusiastic, and balanced members of society.
What is Force-Free Horsemanship?
The basis behind force-free horsemanship is that as trainers and horse owners, we do our best every day to use the least invasive and minimally aversive method possible.
This means that our horses physical and mental welfare always comes first, and that when we work on our horses education such as basic handling skills, medical procedures, under saddle work, and advanced skills we do so with kindness, understanding, and reward-based methods over the use of punishment and escalating aversives.
It also means that the horse is an active partner in their own education, and that they get to communicate their wants and needs without any consequence from their human. They have the choice & freedom to interact with us, & they are allowed to say "no" at any point.
It is our job as their human partners to listen, and hone our own communication skills as horsewomen & men, in order to teach them with no force and no coercion.
“You and your horse. His strength and beauty. Your knowledge and patience and determination and understanding and love. That’s what fuses the two of you onto this marvelous partnership that makes you wonder… ‘What can heaven offer any better then what I have here on earth?’ “