The Training Tree: Introduction (Part 1)

In my early training days, I was taught that the first thing a real trainer did was to gentle a horse. You proceeded to do that by tying the horse up somewhere and sacking him out until his skin stopped jumping when you whopped him with the sack or blanket or whatever and he stood there and accepted it. The problem with a system like that is it doesn’t teach the horse what to do. Instead of being positive, it’s negative. It teaches the horse what not to do. If he keeps flying around at the end of the rope, he’s going to get hit again. If he stands still, the sack will go away.

If you grab the handle of a hot pan, it doesn’t take you long to realize your mistake. Your body reacts to the stimulus and you let go of the pan. You learned not to pick up a hot pan but since you didn’t really have time to process all your options, your learning isn’t very complete. Just like the horse getting "gentled", you got a negative education. You learned what not to do, what to be afraid to do. If you had had the time to process the situation, you might have gotten a more positive education and learned the way to pick up a hot pan so you wouldn’t get burned.