Heleski and a team of international researchers from MSU, the University of Delaware, the University of Göettingen (Germany), and the University of Milan (Italy) tested 95 horses of various breeds and ages at different locations in the United States and Europe. Researchers taught horses to cross a plastic tarp placed on the arena floor. To half the study horses the researchers said, "Good horse," in a soothing voice when they took a step toward the tarp. For the other half, the researchers loudly said, "Quit it!" when the horses took a step in the right direction.
Interestingly, the team found that, statistically speaking, horses learned to calmly cross the tarp regardless of whether they heard harsh voices or soft voices, Heleski said. In fact, a closer look at the figures reveals that the average time to learn to calmly cross was actually lower in the harsh voice group, although the difference is not statistically significant. And a similar number of horses in each group never succeeded in crossing the tarp calmly within the 10-minute limit.
Last edited by Mike Matson; Feb. 16, 2013 at 03:22 PM.
"No matter how well you perform there's always somebody of intelligent opinion who thinks it's lousy." - Laurence Olivier
I don't know if their findings are that surprising. I think it is the aggressive body language and tension that normally accompanies an angry voice that cause harm more than the actual voice inflection. I've known a few trainers that did lots of loud positive encouragement "Atta Boy!" "That's it!!" with positive results. I found it less appealing but the horses didn't seem to mind.
Actually, I'd believe it. I think it's more to do with body language and what's going on around them than the tone of voice. I've had colts who I was starting under saddle, do something like start to pitch and I would growl at them and a sharp 'uh-uh!!' and they'd quit and go right on down the road. Just talking to a horse in normal tones, as if they were another human standing around, does a world of good, too. I think the quiet is too quiet for a lot of horses and it gives them the willies. Like they should be on guard because a big, bad wolf is right outside the barn door. But if I'm talking and acting normally, they know all is well with the world, even if I'm SPEAKING LOUDLY AT THEM AND TELLING THEM THEY HAVE DONKEY ANCESTORS
Maybe a fraction of a second before the vocal cue was given, the soft-voice horses all happened to be thinking, "Sure, I'll walk across this tarp," while, unbeknownst and undeterminable to us, at the same instant the loud-voice horses were just forming the thought, "Tarp! Time to turn and burn!" and so heard a correction and continued forward.
I believe it. You have to train the response to "good boy," just like everything else. It's like clicker training - the best way to make the horse recognize that "good boy" is a reward is to associate it with food or wither scratches.
Source: Equitation Science, by Paul McGreevy and Andrew McLean. Best book I've ever read.
I attended a clinic with Andrew McLean and enjoyed it. He makes a lot of sense, but some things I'm so dyed in the wool in and my horses are so used to my ways, while he made sense, I'm still doing the same things.
One way was how he trains to lead.
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