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Horse Whispering Demystified

Since Monty Roberts wrote The Man Who Listens to Horses in 1999, horse enthusiasts have been inundated with talk of round pens, respect, joining-up, etc. This so-called “natural horsemanship” encourages owners to take a spiritual voyage with their horse to attain a new and more humane level of enlightened relationship. As a psychologist with a specialty in learning theory and equine psychology and behaviour, I can assure you that there is nothing magical, elusive, or even “natural,” about natural horsemanship. Most of these trainers rely on well-researched learning principles of classical and operant conditioning introduced by Ivan Pavlov (remember the salivating dogs?) in the early 1900s and taken further by the psychologist B.F. Skinner in the early 1960s. Natural horsemanship methods are not necessarily harmful when applied with the timing, experience and skill of an experienced trainer. The marketing spin that sells these techniques as revolutionary, magical and embedded in…

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