Quite often on social media, the question comes up of “What training method was used here?” followed by a video of the finished product of said training. Because it can be very difficult to determine what methods of training you’re seeing, I’ve created this list to help you weed through all the videos you come across, or even training you might see in person.
Turn off the sound – Often times, what the trainer is saying, or what you’re hearing in the voice over, is not really in line with what you’re seeing. When you aren’t sure about what you’re seeing, you can easily be swayed in to thinking something is right by what the person is saying.
Go with how what you’re seeing makes you feel – If it feels unkind or wrong, it probably is. If you don’t understand what the trainer wants the horse to do, the horse probably doesn’t understand either. If you feel uncomfortable or aren’t sure what you’re seeing is something you could do to your horse, this is not a training video you should follow.
Look at the trainer’s hands – a whip is almost always a dead giveaway that the horse is being trained with negative reinforcement, and positive punishment (I have rarely seen one without the other).
Read the comments below the video. Sometimes the conversations within the comments will paint a clearer picture of how the horse was trained.
Pay attention to the horse – How does the horse behave during the interactions with the trainer? Does the horse look away often? Does the horse acknowledge the trainer in any way by looking at, moving closer to, nuzzling, or sniffing at him/her? Is the horse’s behavior what you would expect from a horse that likes the person?
Positive reinforcement training is almost always very obvious, unless during editing, feeding the horse was cut out of the video. If you’re not sure, it’s probably not positive reinforcement.
This is, of course, by no means a complete list. The more videos you watch, the more you can train your eye to see the small details that give away the training method, as well as the true relationship between horse and trainer.