Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Interesting Question....

Suppa41 over at Living History sent me an email asking a really good question. (Yep, I'm that nice, if ya'll send me a question and I blog about it, and you have a blog and I know where it is/you link me to it, I'll link you in the post about the question. New policy, that I just enacted right this minute.)

"I work as a AV professional and we had a request by a client for a video wall that is 5’ by 65’ to train horses to herd.

Just wanted to get your thoughts on this “idea” and if you think it would actually work. We don’t want to get sucked into a project that has the prospect of not paying because the horses didn’t learn and getting stuck with a mess of equipment."

Well. Lets take this one step at a time.

First off, while using a "flag" or stuffed pillow like cow on a series of ropes and pulleys with a motor on one end and a remote control has become fairly standard practice, that is still a real object. It's something that the horse can relate to, it's three dimensional, even if it only moves in two.

A sixty five foot long video screen, however, is not.

Now, I may be entirely off base here, but I've never seen one of my horses cozying up to the boob tube to watch Mr. Ed re-runs. I'm not sure that images on a wall would be a concept that they could grasp as a training tool.

As a matter of fact, running through the scenario in my own head, I see a large chance that a lot of damage will be done to said video screen bout the first time someone tries to get them near it. Horses spook at a weird shadow on the ground... a wall that moves... that's just asking for trouble. They have no idea that the images on the screen aren't going to jump off of it and eat them.

And, if you put a fence between the screen and the ponies, they're only going to want to work from the other side of the fence.

Another question I have is: What is this "herding training" they speak of? I can see possible applications in cutting, but that's about the only equine sport involving cattle that you can really train for without... well, real bovines. And then it's just to get the whole "this is my line, I have to block you" concept through their heads.

You don't "train" a horse to herd cattle. You go out, and you herd the damn cattle. When you start, yes, you have to tell the horse which cattle to put pressure on, which ones to chase after, and when it's time to back off a bit and just let them amble on down the road. As you go along the horse starts to watch for that cow that's looking for an opening to make a run for it.

The horse does learn, so I suppose you could call it training, if you really wanted to. I call it Saturday afternoon, myself.

But the point is, you can't "train" that in an arena. It's something that they have to learn on the job, in my experience. You get your horse to the point that he or she doesn't take off for the horizon, or the sky, every time you twitch, and then you go and you work.

Personally, I like to have my horses to the point that they don't try to give me flying lessons when I swing my leg over before I start taking them out to move the herd.... Just a precaution, and a courtesy to the neighbors.

I hate those "Hey, there's a horse in our yard," calls.

As for whether or not it will be a valid training tool for cutting, which may be what was meant by "herding".... I am not the world's authority on training horses, but to me, it doesn't seem like it would be too useful.

Or maybe I'm just enough of an old fashioned girl that I think there are some things high technology ought to just be left out of.

After all, the beef is better when it's grass-fed, the sky is bluer without the smog, and, in my mind, a good horse doesn't come from training in the arena or corral.

A good horse comes from spending more time with your mount than your mate, from stumbling home after a full day's work together, from play in the pasture and in the saddle, nights spent walking in circles because your partner has colic.

And most importantly, a good horse comes from two very basic things:

Trust, and Love.

Trust your horse and he'll trust you, and a horse that loves you will walk straight into Hell with you, if you ask them to. It's your responsibility to make sure that they've got enough water when you get there.


suppa41 said...

Thanks! That was kind of what my boss and I thought also. The whole idea seemed absurd when it was pitched to us.

Farmgirl said...

You're most welcome, and thank YOU for giving me something to blog about!

Pawpaw said...

Yup! Best way to train a horse is astride it. The moving wall thing is a bad idea.

Robert said...

Hell, have you TRIED letting the horses watch Mr Ed? They might be talking and calling you Wilbur by the end of the week.

Farmgirl said...

Robert, as much as I talk to my horses, I'm pretty sure if they were gonna pick it up, they would have by now.....

They'd also be convinced that their names are "big beautiful boy" "little girl" "old broad" "old girl" and "you little shit"......

Anonymous said...

Good post.
Horses do react to video screens, but badly. They don't see a horse, they see a moving shadow; there is no smell of 'horse'. Also, the horse on the screen doesn't react as another horse, the body language of two strange horses interacting is missing. This is also true of arena mirrors, interestingly what seems to happen there is that the horse is either curious or spooked at first, but then learns there is no horse there and ignores the mirror completely.
I don't think they would learn anything, and I imagine the initial panic, especially if it was a confined herd, might be catastrophic.