INTERVIEW WITH RETO
How did you get onto dolphins when it comes to horses?
You can't tie dolphins to work with them, you have to win them over. This way also works with horses and they prefer to have it that way! The learning progress is much faster than I ever hoped for. And it's fun for both trainer and horse.
What is different from the usual methods?
In the case of horses, mechanical aids and negative reinforcement are still used almost exclusively, instead of involving the personality of the horse and its willingness. (...)
What is negative pressure?
With negative pressure, something unpleasant (or even painful) is exerted on the animal and removed immediately when the desired behaviour occurs.
In contrast, with so-called positive reinforcement, the animal is immediately rewarded when the desired behaviour occurs. (Source Wikipedia)
But isn't rewarding normal?
Yes, by now with practically all animal training is it the case, but incomprehensibly hardly with horses! Rewarding as a primary tool is still often frowned upon in horse training. In horses, fear is largely used with mechanical aids, sometimes also with roughly or incorrectly used troughs/whips, scare and other means of pressure. (...)
How to reward a horse?
Not only with goodies! For example, you can give the horse peace of mind, caress it, play your favourite game with him briefly or just goodies.
The most important reward is to give him security, a quiet moment of feeling security.
How do you imagine dolphin training in concrete terms?
Already when you take the horse out of the box are you going against it´s will. Hop hop, put on halters, tying up, saddle, bridle on and off you go. The will of the horse is already on the line.
In dolphin training, you start with a new horse by going to a riding hall or a locked place and letting the horse go free. Then the task is to find an “in” to the horse. How can I get the horse interested, motivate it to what I want to do with it? How can I become the leader for the horse?
Don´t you just give him a goodie?
No, the nature of the horse is that the strongest eats first so this would put you in a bad situation and defeat the purpose. Leadership and giving security is the key to success. By the way no animal eats when it is afraid. Even in this situation, it does not help.
But is there never any pressure on your method?
I expected the question (laughs). Yes, there are, but as rarely as possible. We work with an exact communication sequence. Pressure may be required within that sequence, but at the end of each task performed there is a positive reward of the kind described above.
Look, horses also use pressure on each other. They show the weaker with various warnings, go away. If he ignores it, there are clearer signs, and then it sizzles. This is normal horse behaviour. At the stop sign in traffic, I clearly decide, if necessary, with pressure. A certain amount of pressure is also needed to develop respect and leadership.
Hmm... but is there not a danger of a pure petting culture?
Yes, that's a certain danger, but not only in dolphin training. In the absence of leadership, the horse becomes unsafe or dominant and it can even become really dangerous. The horse weighs 500+kg and is a muscle pack. The horse must have respect for the human being.
What distinguishes dolphin training from freedom dressage?
Freedom dressage has other goals. Freedom dressage is mainly about work at the ground and circuslike lessons. If you put too much empfhercise on this application, you would have lost anyway.
Dolphin training aims to achieve a safe and harmonious cooperation in all situations, including riding, and to forge a team. Circus lessons are delightful exercises, but not the primary goal.
What do you think of top-level sports?
I am impressed by the performances. I am convinced that with top couples it is the case that the riders also only succeed in getting the horses to cooperate fully. These horses also want to, otherwise the pair would not get so far. As far as the psyche of the top horse is concerned, the goals compared to our freedom training are not as far apart as one might think. It gets tricky when there is little understanding, but all the more ambition.
Dolphin horsetraining also for young horses?
The training of raw or almost raw young horses is not primarily a question of method, but a question of human experience in dealing with young horses. In many years of experience I have learned that every young horse is good for surprises. Too fast an accident happens, too fast a mistake that can hardly be corrected. Training young horses belongs in the hands of a horse person with many years of experience. Of course, I then prefer him to work with dolphin horsetraining if possible. (Addendum to the original interview)
Do you want to revolutionize horse training a bit?
Yes, a bit far (laughs). My goal is to bring about a rethinking of predominantly positive pressure and reward. Dogs have not been beaten for a long time as a training method. (...)
I want to make sure that horse and person understand each other better and both enjoy being together as a team.
It is an infinitely beautiful feeling when you feel that the horse is looking for peace and security with you and when it fully trusts you in difficult situations or even tries to please you by offering you tricks of its own that it has learned.
Where can I learn the dolphin method?
There is a demo day at www.delfin-horsetraining.ch and there are courses where you can get familiar with the theory online and then be coached by one of our trainers with your horse.
What does someone who wants to do that have to do?
Take a look around our homepage www.delfin-horsetraining.ch and then click on registration. There you will find an overview of the available courses and a free demo course.
Thank you very much!