Today, I was answering the questions sent to me by Pauline Barbier who is OneHorseLife follower from France. Pauline is writing an article about OneHorseLife for her French blog: https://unjournalequestre.wordpress.com/ and has sent to me, among many others, the following question:
Do you use only positive reinforcement, or also negative reinforcement? Can you explain your choice? What is your opinion about Natural Horsemanship?
When people are together with horses, it is very common that people are very scared. Firstly, they are scared of the horse, because a horse is a powerful and a quick animal. So they use techniques to dominate the horse, or at least to keep the horse safe and under “control”.
The techniques born or chosen in fear, are bringing more fear, so with time people notice that they are feeling now safe and confident by their horse, but they are scared that the horse is not happy. So they change the techniques and turn towards techniques to make the horse more happy.
But again, the techniques born or chosen in fear, are brining more fear. No matter how “positive” they may look like on the outside (this is the tricky part).
With time people see that clicker and treats are allowing them to have more fun with the horse, but at the same time are bringing them doubts and fear: people fear that the horse is doing things for them or spending time with them only for the treats or because being conditioned. So they change techniques and their approach.
But again, the techniques born or chosen in fear, are bringing more fear: Time passes, and a person is still in fear, but this fear is only subtler and subtler and subtler one, moving from “I am afraid of the horse” to “I am afraid of that the horse doesn’t love me” and “I am afraid I am not enough”.
Fear fuels fear and no changes in the techniques and approaches will help.
In my Life I met many horse people and horse trainers, that went through all the possible ways of being with horses and techniques you can possibly imagine and they still were in fear:
- Fear of being not enough,
- Fear of doing something wrong,
- Fear of loosing connection with their horse,
- Fear of asking for too much,
- Fear of asking for too little,
- Fear of asking for anything at all.
Fear can bring only more fear, and nothing will stop or change it. To release fear from your Life, you have to make this very important shift: from fear towards love. You know that your actions are born in love, if they bring you no doubts or fears, you know that you do right, when you do as you must in any given moment, and when you follow your Natural Path.
The positive and negative techniques gained their names expressing appearance or disappearance of something that can be considered pleasant or not pleasant to the horse, and that may allow the certain behavior to be reinforced and appear more often or support it’s disappearance.
I believe that equestrian world is getting ready to go beyond the package of the wonderful knowledge offered by analyzing learning/teaching techniques. I believe we are ready to look inwards into us and the roots of our decisions, actions. I feel that we are ready to do so: to base all our actions fearlessly in love and start to look at them from the level of their core essence:
Is my action born/chosen in Love or in Fear?
Will it bring me more Love or more Control and Fear?
From this level we can discover that what we previously were doing with our horses thinking that it’s “positive” was fueled with fear (that my horse won’t be with me otherwise), and that in our lives we do many things and take many actions that look very positive on the outside, but in their core essence are controlling or limiting, simply because they express our attitude towards ourselves.
It is enough to look at many things, for example: diets, stretching and jogging and think why we do it, what core/base thought starts these actions and how our body feels afterwards. Do we do it to fight our bodies or because we dislikes who we are and we want to change, or because we love, respect and connect with ourselves?
I am sure that many of you have experience it in your live:
You looked at yourself in the mirror and you didn’t like your body. You thought: What to do about it? And you have chosen yoga or jogging. A positive choice. And then you pushed too much because you didn’t like your body and you wanted quick results, or you stretched too far because you didn’t like to feel how contracted your body is (“It used to be far more flexible when I was younger!” – you said to yourself in disappointment) and you have hurt yourself. So was this choice a positive or a negative one? If you have hurt yourself and your body is in pain now, we can say it was a negative one, no matter how positive yoga and jogging generally are.
If you take your actions because of fight – you will fight.
If you take your actions because of fear – you will fear.
If you take your actions because of love – you will love.
When we observe ourselves in Calmness we can see many interesting things.
Bodymarc has allowed my body to release tensions…tensions holding fear…thus clearing the mind….it is an ongoing process…since the seminar in Poland…smiles, loose jaw and open attitude disolve fear… bodymarc enters daily life…gratitude replaces fear..thank you Anna and Pawel
This is best explanation I have ever, ever heard regarding negative and positive reinforcement. Sometimes we loose faith in our intuition and allow someone’s technique to over ride. There are so many clinicians out there testifying that their way is the only way. When what really matters is the moment where the horse in front of you needs your feedback, your support, or for you to just be. That cannot be ruled by someone else’s ideas. This explanation brings this subject to where it truly belongs, us.