When one comes to understand the science of learning, the training of animals becomes more comprehensible, even for individuals who only take a passing interest. This is something that behavioural scientists like Dr Andrew McLean continue to reinforce in their work with, for example, horses.
There are individuals who simply ‘make up’ solutions for behavioural problems because they believe it makes logical sense, but in working with horses we’re often dealing with a kind of reverse logic because, as noted, we have to think in a scientific way. Hard-core science debunks myths and perceived logic, so too in horse behavioural therapy.
This week I worked with a warmblood mare who goes wild when farriers make an attempt to attend to her hooves. Her owner called on the services of a so-called ‘aninal communicator’, who explained that the mare had ‘ticklish’ feet and that she experiences a ticklish sensation every time he touches her feet – as if she’s a human being.
From my experience – backed by science – this mare has no ground control and has learnt, over the years, that if she stands on her hind legs she experiences full freedom from confinement. Perhaps she experienced trauma in her earlier years which explains this behaviour.
With her feet having to be shod, the process here requires good ground control with habituation so that she gets comfortable with lifting her feet for farriery. This will take time but is an essential process as per the science of education.
“Ticklish feet” is a scientific inaccuracy, one of a few that seem to mesmerise individuals who are uneducated around horses.