Miriam and Carrie,
Thank you both so much for exercising your brain cells here. You've both brought up many of the things that I've been thinking over about SATS,CT, freeshaping, mimicry in the last few days.
I have been blending a lot of different things as I've been feeling my way into what works for me and mine. Have come up against all sorts of problems, some mentioned by each of you, which have helped me to learn. Yes, some of my horses sometimes get completely hypo with CT approximation.... and yes, they become a little boring and difficult to encourage towards self expression with too much controlled BandT etc etc.. and I'm sure that these problems are really coming from my own ineptitude in the application of the techniques.. unfortunately I'm not one to learn by others mistakes.
, I insist on making my own.
I have come to believe though that there's lots to be gained by blending.. most of my problems stem from not understanding fully enough the implications, cause and effect, and not knowing where or how to differentiate clearly between different techniques. As I become more skilful and knowledgable, I think I will find myself becoming more and more adept at choosing a technique to suit a situation, a specific task, a specific horse (or different trainers as I teach others). And knowing how to transmit to the horse what my expectations are in each different type of training so that they know when to be precise, when they need to experiment, and when they're being invited to freely express themselves.
So.. I'm so glad that you are both able to share freely your knowledge and perceptions about the different techniques, without the need to go bi-polar about it.
Miriam, you're absolutely right, dualistic thinking, if A is right, B must be wrong, is so limiting.
On the flip side, if one has a horse that has a history of shutting down from force/compulsive training, using free shaping can help them come out of their shell because there isn't a wrong answer.
Yes, I agree. This is one instance that I think really suits free shaping techniques, (although specific teaching is good for some tasks for these horses too).
Something that we do here in AND which (correct me if I'm wrong) isn't used in SATS, is spend a lot of time (and energy!) encouraging the horse to express and experiment with their own natural behaviours, with or without the use of freeshaping.
The benefits of this are three fold. THe first is, this is a main ingredient for obtaining natural collection. Yes, it can be trained, with targets, CT or BandT, and we do that too... But that's only part of the equation of what most of us feel to be real collection. The other part is in the mind. The intangible quality of life, expression, vivacity, power, exuberance, joy, passion. This is where the free work comes in, encouraging the horse to be joyous and uninhibited and connect with one of it's natural behaviours that has so sadly, usually been repressed out of it's repertoire. (Only to have a sad parody of it forced back in again later.
) I don't know if this same quality of SELF expression could be obtained from simply training it. I'd love to hear what Carrie and Kayce think about this.
The second reason for encouraging the horse towards FREE self expression - that is, not even free shaping, simply delighting in spontaneous play and responding creatively to what the horse has to offer - is that it changes the quality of the relationship.
No matter how good you are at CT or BandT, you're still in the position of employer/ employee, boss/worker, master/student. In fact, probably, the more skilled you are at that, the more the horse will be looking to you for direction and instruction. By changing the quality of the relationship to add much more of a friendship dimension, we add another form of motivation for the horse to follow our ideas, and increase our significance. One of my best friends back in NZ was also my boss. In work hours, we had a healthy, mutually respectful working relationship, with clear demarcations of responsibility and decision making. After work, we were equals, once again mutually respectful, who enjoyed playing, relaxing, talking together, with no boss/employee discomfort. I like to believe this flexibility is possible with our horses as well.
I believe there is SO MUCH to be gained by opening ourselves up to the horses real friendship and communication... on every subject..not just that they understand the target,
both on a personal level (what I gain from it) and on a training level (how it improves the horses ability to learn and respond to us).
The third reason..
I think horses can be much more difficult to get to the "Sophisticated Learner" stage than other animals that SATS trainers are commonly working with... not because of their innate nature.. but because of what's usually already been done to them in controlling, squashing, repressing, punishing, forcing. Horses are incredibly co-operative, so they learn quickly and solidly how to adapt to this sort of dynamic. And it can be so terribly hard to undo. Combined with that, even once we start with R+ training with a horse, we also have so many preconceived notions of what a horse must do, how they MUST behave, what constitutes politeness and acceptable behaviour, and many of these notions are completely counter to both the underlying philosophy of SATS, and to successfully encouraging the kind of feeling in the horse that will lead to the expressive natural collection we're looking for. These notions can be just as hard to undo in ourselves as in our horses. I find it quite amazing how often I encounter these notions still strongly at work in people who are using SATS with horses - bottom line, I must show him who's boss. (Not in you Carrie, which was why I was so delighted to meet you.
Spending time in true free play, encouraging decision making, spontaneity and self expression in any form as long as it is safe, IME goes a long long way towards helping to undo the negative effects of previous (horse and human
) indoctrination. I've found myself peeling like an onion as I uncover and discard more and more layers of old junk.
And I've experienced almost miraculous changes in really shut down horses that I didn't get with specific training (B and T or CT) alone.
The results really show in their sense of pride, their self carriage, and their energy levels.
And of course, playing spontaneously is just plain fun!
Seems to me at the moment that there are specific areas that are more suited to one or other of the methods: B and T, successive approximation (CT), Capturing, and free encouragement of self expression...yes and even that ole pressure/release when used very sensitively and without escalations of pressure.
B and T style seems to be great for teaching something like a shoulder crunch, bow, laying down, etc.
I've also used if very successfully for teaching shoulder in, but to be completely accurate, I'd have to say that I also blended in just a tiny amount of pressure in the form of the direction of my walking body as the horse targeted nose to stick as it moved under her neck.
I still find that pressure and release is the simplest way to train and cue many things, but I limit it's use to a communication, not a demand. (Much the same as I would with a family member; I may gently put my hands on their shoulders to ask them to move out of the way and allow me to pass ..my mind is boggling at the thought of having to supply a target on the opposite side for them to move to
, but I would never push, poke, flap my hands in their face or shake a stick at them if they didn't respond.
And I look for alternatives that engage the brain whereever practical.
I can't begin to imagine how creative and athletic I would have to have been to have used B and T to train the liberty airs above ground that Sunrise is now athleticising herself with.. or how long it would have taken us to get there. By using free play, with just a little shaping and capturing, she's performing these moves that can take years to achieve, in just six months. Of course they're not perfect, and they're not on cue yet, as they would be if I trained successively, but my goal is not to put on a show, my goal is to allow her to experience a high level of fitness, athleticism, agility and collection, and to learn to enjoy her vitality.
My two most abused horses responded best to the two methods in tandem.
Having very clear communication with B and T increased their confidence and stopped oppositional defensive behaviour.
But rewarding and encouraging spontaneous actions (no wrong answers) was what put the joy back into their lives.
Initially I tried to differentiate between "task time", when I'm asking for something specific and "play time" when I'm encouraging self expression with a "cordeo on/cordeo off" routine. But I think that with careful attention to my intent and my language, this is unneccassary. THere is still some confusion now.. but that's usually because I'm not clear about what I want.
So, please, Carrie and Miriam, and all others, don't stop the information flow. It's such a wonderful opportunity expand our knowledge and our thinking. I'm really excited to learn more about all these techniques and investigate the pros and cons and pitfalls of each so that I can choose and apply what's best in each unique situation.