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JO BLOGS - Back to School

JO BLOGS - Back to School

Wow, well it turns out that I have now been blogging for a whole year, I have appreciated every single view, like, comment and share that everyone has given me. The thing that you might notice about my blogs is that I absolutely love learning. I soak up nuggets of knowledge like a sponge. Ironically, I am absolutely rubbish in a pub quiz unless the questions are really obscure, then I am dynamite.

I will kick off this blog with a diagram, diagrams usually bore the pants off me, but bear with me, you’ll like this one, or I think you will at least be able to relate to it. It’s a diagram to show the Dunning-Kruger effect, the what? Never heard of it?

This is my take on it; It’s an illustration showing knowledge and ability vs self belief. i.e; what you know, what you think you know and its relationship with confidence.

In 1995 a guy called McArthur wheeler covered his face in lemon juice and robbed an American bank in broad daylight. He believed that the lemon juice rendered him invisible to CCTV. Of course, the daft idiot got caught. It prompted researchers Justin Kruger and David Dunning to carry out a series of studies to relate the over estimation of ability against lack of knowledge. They also found that the most competent of people tended to be those that underestimated their own ability. The thing that strikes me about this effect is that it can be hard to tell where you are actually sat on the curve at any one time. One thing that I am confident about, is that I have sat atop Mount Stupid a number of times and probably will do again at some point. I do hope that I am somewhere on the slope to enlightenment most of the time. I don’t think that this model applies to all people all of the time but I do think that it serves as a bit of a good reminder to stay open minded about where I think I am at with my level of knowledge.

Continued learning is really important to me. So when the opportunity to attend a Hart’s Horsemanship Workshop popped up pretty much on my doorstep, it was way too good to miss. The course was titled ‘Inside Your Horse’s Mind’.

Ben Hart’s methods, principles and approach from what I had seen online were right up my street, so I got myself booked on. Armed with my notebook and pen, I attended the classroom based course on 24th November. Well wow!, the course did not disappoint. It was really nice to attend a classroom based course/workshop for two reasons, a) it was warm and dry, and b) there was no horse being paraded in to a strange place, way above its stress threshold, to have its problems solved in the name of showmanship.

I am a very visual, practical learner and I found Ben a very engaging trainer, a naturally funny guy who used practical and video demonstrations to get his point across. He clearly has experience with horses, donkeys and mules by the bucket load.

A day course can only ever be a snapshot of any one subject, yet I can’t believe how much I learned in one day, my perception of the way that my horses and I see things was challenged in a good way. I have a better understanding about the different ways that my horses learn and remember things, and how my horses perceive the world through their senses. I also had some humbling reminders about how and why the environment can influence my horse’s behaviour. The course content also reinforced some of the things that I have previously learned about why you can put lots of work in at home and then have it all go boobies up when you take your horse out of his home environment. This all may seem obvious, but more than once I was enlightened beyond the obvious. I like that Ben had time to work through a number of problems that people were having with their horses. There was so much more that we covered than I can write here. Boy, I am glad I took notes.

Us horsey folk are an emotive bunch, we have a strong emotional bond with our horses and are passionate about our beliefs. So I was interested to see how Ben tackled the subject of different training approaches;

Positive reinforcement - giving the horse something they want when they get it right ( reward).

Negative reinforcement which in general terms relating to horse training means removal of pressure as a reward when the horse does the right thing.


This could be a whole topic on its own and is not as straightforward as you might think, but it was covered objectively yet sensitively without judgement. There were some good examples of how each of the methods can influence the horse’s learning for better or for worse.

There were a number of people on the course all from different backgrounds, it was a great open minded group, and everyone was there for the same reason; to be able to have a better understanding of their horse’s behaviour. I felt the information given to us was relevant to all styles and levels of training.

I took many things away with me from the day, but the main thing that I think will benefit me and my horses is to implement a proper shaping plan. A shaping plan is a written plan of all the steps you need to take to teach a new behaviour or solve a problem. The point is to keep you on track (with some flexibility) and ensure that you don’t miss a big chunk out of the little steps that you need to teach the horse something.

At this point I need to give a nod to Sandra at Hippologic, who is a big advocate of shaping plans and training logs. I must admit there are many times over the past year or so that I have read her wise words, intended to have a shaping plan, then just gone ahead and trained what I wanted to train without having that written plan. Sometimes I need to hear something a few times for the penny to properly drop.

I feel that Ben was very good at demystifying the science and art of horsemanship for us mere muggles. For me the sign of a really good course is how much it stays with you and how much it changes your behaviour. There was definitely a lot of food for thought and I will be implementing lots of the advice gained on the day.

So hopefully, I am a maybe a little further along that slope on the diagram in the right direction.