Tuesday, May 24, 2016

24th May, 2016 A Law Degree Does Not a Lawyer Make

When I came out of Bar School, with a law degree and the words Barrister-at-Law after my name, it meant nothing. I was certainly not a lawyer and not even a legal expert.  My grandparents gave me £1,000 to get a decent and trustworthy car, and I got myself a job - and that's where I learned to be a lawyer. That's where I learned to speak in court, to apply the law, to administer justice, and to control a court situation. I've often accused my husband of having a chip on his shoulder about University education because he became an engineer through the apprenticeship route, changing jobs every six months within the same company until he became more than a Jack of all trades, but an expert in many. He gets annoyed when graduates who haven't got a clue are fast tracked above him and he has to teach them their job.

On a recent thread people were being urged to go to Animal Behaviourists rather than Intelligent Horsemanship Associates because Behaviourists have a degree and a thorough understanding of learning theory. There are some very good Animal Behaviourists, especially those that are working intensively with positive reinforcement, but some of those that are working with negative reinforcement are in a mess. If a practitioner has rearing horses all over their website, twirling ropes, it doesn't mean they are good at what they do. Drama isn't what it's about.
Bear's owner was told that he had a problem with his eyesight when he kept offering the same side of his body to work with. Rubbish! This is just what semi-feral ponies do. And to then chase him around a round pen made out of dangerous panels, to the extent that he learned to climb the walls is more than daft. As was to offer the opposite extreme, just sitting in the middle with a bucket. He knew he didn't need humans, he knew that they were predatory, and he knew how to keep his distance.
Learning Theory and how it applies to horses is important but so is an understanding of how to train horses without getting big. One of the biggest advocates of a scientific approach is someone who uses a schooling whip to tell the horse to come forward onto a trailer. I can't see what earthly use it is to be tapping a horse that is frightened of going into a trailer. The tapping may only be negative reinforcement in the eyes and understanding of the trainer, but to the horse I'm pretty sure it is punishing the status quo.

The science itself can be flawed and shallow. One experiment about the effect of eye contact when approaching horses used Shetland Ponies as the subject. Tell me when was the last time, since you were four years old, or walked about on your knees, that you last have eye contact with a Shetland Pony? Another experiment involving catching used horses that were regularly being used as blood donors at a Veterinary College. I might have a problem being caught if it always meant that I was going to be restrained and stabbed with a needle. It's a nonsense.

There are good and bad TRAINERS and you need to look out for those that practice what they preach, and don't do things by rote. Having degree level intelligence may help, certainly a thorough understanding of learning theory, but they also need to understand what it means to be a horse. Learning Theory plus Learning Practical.