July 30, 2011

Exploring new ideas

This is a post from a recent FB discussion. Worth posting here.

It seems the forum has led us to the place where we want to talk about things that are unseen, things that are hard to describe, things that might not be tangible, things that go outside the bounds of normal horse training conversation. While my focus is clicker training, I love exploring the different modalities. Actually one of my favorite books is "Kinship with all life" and that has enough "woo-woo" to make lots of people scratch their heads LOL.

And as long as we're sharing personal revelations maybe I can share more too. It's funny how the pendulum swings in a person's life. I have two main schools of psychological influence that act like the Yin/Yang in my psyche and daily thinking process. On the one hand I am influenced by my degree in Depth Psychology. Basically Depth Psychology studies matters of the unconscious, think Jung and Freud. For example I'm always looking at what is being said "behind" what is being said.

In regards to the intuitive and depth side, I rarely talk about it on the forum. One of the reasons I don't discuss the intuitive side very much is that we don't have consistent measurable ways to test our ideas. And let me make this clear, I am NOT talking about anyone on this forum. So for example there are those who think that horses can be trained with thought alone. To me this is a form of magical thinking. What I mean by magical thinking is, we want to just "think" something and assume the animals around us will understand. A shadow side of magical thinkers can be a low priority placed on follow-up communication or observation to assure that we're understood. I'm not talking about good, clear visualization or imagery. I'm talking about those who assume their thoughts are the main ingredient to good communication in training.

An example of magical thinking was demonstrated to me recently by a horse owner who needed to ship several baby horses. She had failed to prepare them, nor had they been weaned. She very confidently told me she sprayed some stuff in their mouths, and told them in her mind to go into the trailer. She said everything worked out just fine. But in my mind I thought of un-weaned babies, frantic mothers, future problem trailer loaders, and all around bad training.

I know this lady had good intentions. She took an idea and implemented it, but didn't follow through to see the consequences of her idea. I've also seen other examples of the fallout of her approach. My thought on this is if we take the mystical side of ourselves and don't balance it with the practical applications that are also available to us, the results can be devastating to our animals.

This brings me back to the pendulum. I've been trained in depth psychology, I love the mystical, and now I'm totally focused on behaviorism. So the behaviorist side of myself says please, please, please, become masters of observation. Study your horse's body language as carefully as your horse has leaned to study yours; this will help make communication work. Watch for patterns of repeating behavior. Become so skilled at reading subtle learning nuances that your horse thinks you are magic at reading HIS mind. Instead of making your horse do something and then clicking him for it, try to see what your horse can offer you and click him for THAT. Fully explore shaping; you may find just as much magic there.

I hope I didn't offend anyone. The posts are wonderful and there is such genuine seeking and sharing going on here. I just want to encourage people to learn to observe behavior, analyze behavior, find ways to help your horse develop his mind.

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