Thursday, 26 May 2011

Why, why, why, why, why?????

Lots of my musings this week seem to be about training, behaviour and how horses react.  At least that makes a change from celery for you regular readers :-)

Its very often the case that owners notice changes in their horses' behaviour once their horses have been here a while.  Its not because of anything special that happens in the way of training but it is (I believe) because horses become more comfortable while they are here.

Happier hooves, as I said earlier in the week, mean a happier horse and even a small improvement in landing or hoof structure has benefits for the horse's muscles and leads to a horse who is more comfortable in his neck, shoulders and back.

I must admit that dealing with horses' "bad behaviour" is a bugbear of mine  - there are so many trainers who focus on dealing with behaviour but for me, behaviour is  - not always, but surprisingly often - a symptom not a cause.  You could opt to address the "behaviour", but if you can deal with the cause, the so-called "bad behaviour" often goes away on its own.
Its back to the old question - why? So let's take one hypothetical horse, and ask about why he is acting the way he is.

Why is the horse behaving "badly"

- because his back is sore.

Why is his back sore?

 - because his feet hurt.

Why do his feet hurt?

 - because he has damage to his collateral ligaments or deep digital flexor tendon.

Why has that damage occurred?

 - because his hooves load and function incorrectly.

Why do his hooves load and function incorrectly?

Because of bad biomechanics, (sometimes) inappropriate shoeing and (sometimes) nutritional issues.

So why would you try to address the behaviour if you could resolve the underlying problem instead..?

BTW, before I wrote the title of this blog, I had no idea that it was in the Wikipedia dictionary :-)

"The 5 Whys is a question-asking method used to explore the cause/effect relationships underlying a particular problem.

Ultimately, the goal of applying the 5 Whys method is to determine a root cause of a defect or problem."


cptrayes said...

I'm still fighting shy of mentioning the behavioural changes on an open forum. To the unintiated it must sound as if we really are crazy. But Ace went lazy recently and it disappeared as soon as I put amuzzle on him overnight. He was feeling hungover, not lazy.

Someday we may be able to talk more openly about this, but I feel so sorry meanwhile for all the horses being "trained" to behave out there who are actually in pain.

Completely agree with yesterday's training blog too.


smazourek said...

I try to remember that behavior is just information about how the horse is feeling. Horses are never "naughty" or "belligerent" on purpose.

jenj said...

This has been something I've been contemplating recently. Saga's always had a very sensitive back, to the point of me buying two new saddles and having them fitted regularly. Yet sometimes he would still suck back in the trot and start this little teeny canter instead of trotting forward. After pulling his shoes, I noticed that the problem was worse until I changed his feed. Hmmm, maybe not a back problem after all? Or maybe the back is just a symptom of the feet.

On one hand I think it's great that horse owners are paying more attention to saddle fit (I remember 15 years ago people didn't care nearly as much). On the other hand, if the saddle DOES fit and there still seem to be issues with the horse's back, they've got to start looking at what's going on further down. Just because your shod horse isn't visibly lame doesn't mean that there's not a problem.

Nic Barker said...

Its a nuisance, isn't it, that we learn most from the sensitive ones :-) Life would be so much easier but so much duller(!) I dread to think what would have happened if I'd never met Baily or Jacko or Angel, for example :-)

Nic Barker said...

BTW, C- agree with you 100%, and I think you are doing more than most to challenge the perceptions out there...

Val said...

Do we only get five whys? That was very funny about Wiki.

I fully embrace your treat the cause philosophy, but I have met some serious resistance in trying to do so for horses that I worked with but did not own. For example, one horse was bucking, bolting, pinning his ears, and parking out without urinating. There were saddle-fit issues, hoof issues, and clearly something serious related to the parking out, but a trainer was prescribed to cure his behaviors. I was also verbally reprimanded for raising questions about the animal's health, so I reluctantly quit a job that I loved, because I just could not watch that anymore.

Nic Barker said...

For sure, Val, serious resistance is part of the deal... :-(