I know that when I considered being a scientist and being all sciencey, my first idea for research was going to involve a remote control car.
DAMMIT SOMEONE STOLE MY IDEA!
Hahaha just kidding! I was NEVER going to be a scientist! According to science there are no vampires or unicorns and I could never live like that!
I think the so-called scientists are having a freakin good laugh over this one. I can see it now, “HAHAHAHA They think we’re working, collating and analyzing data, but we’re really just playing with remote control cars! Suckers!” At least that’s what I’d be saying…
Are you confused yet? Good, so am I, but I’ve at least had the (dubious) benefit of having read the article and watched the video that spawned this discussion (or what will soon hopefully be a discussion).
The video provides a really good summation of the study being done. This line from the video pretty much says it all, “The reason the training (Join Up) works is the same reason that all horse training and a lot of animal training works, is that it doesn’t actually require that you understand horse body language particularly well, just understands that you’re able to chase and not chase at the right time.”
Are you freaking kidding me? Excuse me, I need to chain my hands to something so I don’t pull out my hair.
Aaaaand back. Ok, here we go.
YOUR RESEARCH DATA IS INVALID! Why the frak was she in the round pen when using the remote control car? That introduces a completely different factor and perverts any data accumulated that might support her theory. There were numerous times during that video when the horse came to the human to “join up” and effectively asked the human to be its alpha and protect it from the evil stimulus chasing it. She then backs away from the horse and chases it away with the car. If that’s the way all Australians act around horses then no wonder more people are (apparently) killed by horses than any other animal! And this is a place with a buttload of poisonous snakes, frogs and spiders – not to mention kangaroos that would jump (pun intended) at the chance to fight Ali (“Float like a butterfly, sting like a right hook of a kangaroo” is the saying, right?).
What this video, the brief showing of her unintentional interaction with the horse and her conclusion that Join Up involves scaring the horse, tells me is that she has does not understand the underlying concept of this training method. Now, I don’t have any experience with Monty Robert’s Join Up method personally, but the round penning I did do never involved fear! It involved me controlling the horse’s speed and direction with my body language, backed up by a whip that was used only when the horse needed motivation to move (unlike typical alphas in a herd, I wasn’t about to get close enough to nip the horse’s ass to drive it forward). If science is telling us this is wrong then we seriously need to reevaluate lunging! Maybe we should be lunging our horses using RC cars too!
Did you know that, at 1:20 in the video, the horse reacted like that because the car crowded the horse (applying more pressure) and effectively “cornered” it before it had a chance to change directions and move off again. As the car gets ahead of the horse – which tells the horse to change directions – the horse does change directions and actually turns towards the outside of the arena, which is the correct response.
From the article:
“The Join Up technique starts with a trainer chasing an untrained horse around a round pen. As the trainer reduces the intensity of the chasing, the horse approaches and the trainer pats the horse and walks away.” Eeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhh Wrong-o. The horse, once it accepts you as its alpha, will not approach until your body language invites it. This can be applied to humans too. Think about it, who are you more likely to approach? The tight ass who’s standing ramrod straight, shoulders back, eyes hyper alert like daggers piercing your soul, or someone who’s just chilling, maybe has a hip cocked, shoulders relaxed, kinda looking around checking out the scenery. Body language isn’t always such the foreign language we assume it to be – the fact is, we really just don’t think about it. But horses do. All the time.
“Two main features of the method are that it depends on the human trainer being able to communicate with the horse using ‘horse’ body language, and that it is a humane form of training. Our study casts doubt on both those claims,” – quote in the article from Cath Henshall, the researcher. I would love to see the RC car in action. Can they maneuver it in such a way to make the horse change directions by turning in towards the middle of the circle? What about making the horse turn towards the outside of the circle? -oh ya, there’s a difference. The horse should always turn towards the outside unless you invite it to turn inwards by changing the direction of your shoulders (there’s a bit more to it but I’m not going to try to explain it in writing). If the horse automatically turns inwards then you are not its alpha; whereas, with a turn to the outside the horse is turning its back on you and saying that it respects and trusts you to not jump on its back and maul it to death.
“Ms Henshall questioned how humane it was to deliberately scare a horse.” – this statement, to me, screams that she does not understand horses. Period. (There’s so much more that I could say about this alone and really get into it, but that’s not the point of this already long post. I will, however, leave you with this: Tarps.)
It’s possible that the method of round penning I learned is different from Monty Robert’s and that my comparisons and interpretations are waaaay off – but I was told that they utilized the same principles. If someone else has trained with Monty Robert’s and had a different experience, one more in line with Ms. Henshall, then I’d love to hear about it.
From my experience, the purpose of methods like Join Up is to establish the human as the horse’s alpha buy communicating via body language. This is done by controlling the horse’s speed and direction. Out there, away from the human (the only herd available to a horse inside a round pen) the horse is more of a target for predators so they want to be with the human; the horse’s instincts tell them that the herd is a safe place. Now, I know that the whole ‘natural horsemanship’ thing is a fairly taboo topic in our industry. But I have had a lot of success with the round penning I’ve done. It’s how I have an angelic 17.3hh Hano/TB. When he spooks, he goes around me and he does not pull on the lead rope. He is, at all times, aware of exactly where I am. If I walk towards him with shoulders squared, he gets out of my way, no questions asked. Don’t get me wrong, this is just my experience and I know there are a helluva lot of charlatans out there *cough*Parelli*cough* – but that is another can of worms for another day. Today’s issue is with the research involving the remote control cars and I firmly believe it is bullshit – and so does this study done in 2011 that measured quantifiable data like heart rates to indicate fear/stress.