Add a sponge to your lunge whip and you get a "spungewhip."
DaVinci moves towards the sponge instead of away from a whip. This way,
it becomes his choice (positive reinforcement), rather than being chased
from behind by a whipping sound (negative reinforcement).
Question: That was interesting, to watch
DaVinci follow a sponge. When he turned into you to receive your treat,
did you signal him to do so or was that solely on his own initiative?
What is your opinion of horse-speak, such as what Parelli advocates?
Learning the way horse's speak to each other through pressure and
release and then using that to communicate with the horse? Thanks for
sharing your invaluable lessons with DaVinci!
Answer: Hi Beth,
Thank you so much for watching DaVinciís latest video. Yes, I used a
signal, a click of my tongue as a very quick sound to let him know as he
began to target the sponge that I wanted him to follow it in the circle.
He in turn then waits to get his tiny alfalfa pellet after the sound.
Why I like this
video is it gives a whole new spin on pressure/release. With any
pressure DaVinci melts down in his fragile state. So, positive
reinforcement (no pressure to get a behavior) has been giving him much
I attended a
Parelli demo and he certainly was able to
get the horses to do what he wanted and quickly. Heís also extremely
skilled at handling horses. I have also done a few clinics where there
was a lot of rope work. I would have to send energy down the rope to pop
the horse in the halter to get them to back up, turn, walk away etc. I
was completely inept (tripping over the rope)
and for me I felt like the horse was saying "What did I do to get popped
in the face?" Poor Romeo actually looked very hurt when I would "send
him away." Perhaps I wasn't clear enough, but I felt really bad having
to use pressure in that manner. It just wasn't a good fit for me. I do
know it works for many people and their horses. I found with positive
reinforcement it's just really clear and both the horse and I are much
more relaxed and we both have fun and it's more my style. I personally
don't like to be told what to do. I'd much rather be given a choice, and
I just try to do the same with the horses.
My gauge is always,
Is the horse OK with what I've asked? "Itís
not what your horse is doing, itís how heís
doing it." With a lot of pressure/release situations I see the horses a
bit tense and their brain has not been engaged.
experiment was to do rope work with just positive reinforcement, no
pressure from a lunge whip from behind, just a question, "Do you want to
touch the sponge?" DaVinci seemed to say "Yes, this is fun." And he
moved toward the sponge. My goal is to do as much with him without
pushing, pulling, prodding....and see what happens when the horse has
the ability to choose. I feel much safer around a horse that honestly
wants to stand still rather than is standing still out of pressure.
The concept of
pressure/release is just that, adding pressure, getting the behavior,
then the release is the reward. The questions
I'm exploring are these: Is that technique any fun for the horse? Is
there another way they could learn without me being the source of
pressure? And can the reward be an actual reward, something they
really get excited about?
I've really had so
much fun watching the horses to see what motivates them. Romeo loves to
manipulate things in his mouth. Juliet loves anything where she gets to
use her hooves. DaVinci loves his pedestal. I think when we view
horses as individuals with preferences, suddenly pressure and release
seems a bit generic. <IMHO>