Researchers Urge Rethink of ‘Monty Roberts’ Horse Training Method

In the article, Researchers urge rethink of ‘Monty Roberts’ horse training method, I read about a fascinating method of using remote control cars to
mimic the actions of a trainer using the “Join-Up” method with success, demonstrating that horses respond to pressure and release rather than making
a human-horse connection.

Horses respond to pressure and release from a remote control model car exactly
as they do with humans. image courtesy of
Researchers at the University of Sydney have given me (and many others!) reason to shout “I told you so!”
Cath Henshall, a Master of Animal Science candidate in the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University led the research and is presenting her
findings at the International Society for Equitation Science conference in Edinburgh tomorrow, July 17, 2012.
Henshall says,
“We believe that our research highlights the unpleasant underpinnings of round pen horse training and for that reason we caution against
its widespread use because it uses fear to gain control of horses.
Monty Roberts’ methods were thought to be revolutionary because, among other things, no physical pressure was applied to the horse. However,
emotional pressure is regularly applied to get results.
Frightening the horse, chasing the horse in a circle in the round pen, releasing that pressure only when the horse has “chosen” to turn in toward the
humane prove only that the horse is capable of choosing relative safety with a human or surrogate (the model car) over other unpleasant stimuli. And
yes, the horse can learn from such choices. For those who have questioned whether it is human to rely on the horse being forced to choose “fear or its
termination” in order to learn, this study is illuminating.
Although it is appealing to think that horses in the round pen choose to follow their trainers because they are responding to us as though
we are a horse, we believe that the use of fear has no place in genuinely humane and ethical horse training.
The use of remote control cars to mimic the Join Up technique and to eliminate the assumed essential role of the human’s speaking “the language of
the horse” was inspired! Henshall ‘rewarded’ the horses for stopping and turning towards the car with a period of ‘safety’, when the car didn’t chase
them as long as they kept facing it. Some horses were actually trained to walk up to and touch the car. Henshall and other researchers were able to
train horses to produce similar, though not identical, responses to those seen in (human-horse) round pen training. These results undermine the claim
that humans’ ability to mimic horse behaviour is an essential component of the technique. They KNOW we are not horses, folks.
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