Nell and Blue are treating my place like a couple of university students. They just turn up when they feel like it, use the place as a hotel and never tidy up after themselves. They eat me out of house and home and never tell me what time they are coming home or who they are seeing when they are out. I had to draw a line with Nell today when she turned up with some stray friend that I have never met before. The girl appeared to be barefoot and pregnant - but then mind you, so is Nell. Pie on the other hand thinks he is independent - he looks as if he could do with a good wash and haircut but he's got some nice friends that he goes drinking with. (It's okay, just humour me!)
I attended the APBC Workshop at Witney (Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors) which was entitled The Carrot and the Stick, an examination of different training methods for horses and the behavioural tools that they use. I was disappointed that the promised discussion and debate didn't really materialise and that different training methods weren't portrayed on a level playing field. In any event it helped me to clarify the role that clicker training can play in training. Clicker training is an excellent and positive tool to use during short training sessions and is a great way of teaching a horse to be imaginative and to offer behaviours. Nevertheless in my view it isn't a way of being with your horse all day every day since the horse expects attention throughout the sessions and needs to have a clear indication of when the session is over. In my view clicker training cannot avoid negative reinforcement altogether and this was accepted by the panellists - even the act of picking a horse's head up off the floor by lightly pulling on the headcollar amounts to negative reinforcement. I am very keen that there shouldn't be different "churches" within the horse training world and that our overriding aim should be to be as soft with the horse as we can possibly be (here I use soft as in attitude, not soft as in daft!). I will continue to use clicker training in circumstances where it seems the most appropriate way to go. Throughout my training I endeavour to use both positive and negative reinforcement and to avoid punishment.