We’re taking a break from ridden sessions to build a more “positive” future for horses and ponies in riding schools!
Thank you for visiting our website and wanting to learn more about what we offer at Nine Acres. You probably already know that we pride ouselves on being horse focused – we want our horses to enjoy the lessons just as much as the clients. For that reason we have never told our clients to carry whips, kick or pull on the reins – none of that seems like much fun to a horse. In 2017 we began looking at Positive reinforcement training. Horses are normally trained using negative reinforcement (“pressure and release”) to teach them the response we want to our signals. This is something I was growing increasingly uncomfortable with. Dogs, zoo and marine animals are all succesfully trained with reward based training – for everything from basic commands to veterinary procedures – so why couldn’t we do teh same with horses?
Whilst it is possible (and always the aim) to work with light pressure, many situations require escalating pressure to an uncomfortable level in order for the horse to initally learn what we want them to do.
When horses are uncomfortable, unclear or unmotivated, or when the “threat” of pressure subsides, a higher level of pressure may need to be reintroduced to remind the horse. This is why so many beginner lessons involve the use of clumsy, strong aids such as kicking, pulling and carrying a stick. The aids have to be more unpleasant than the task the horse is being asked to perform.
This is not something I was ever prepared to resort to, so in 2019 I made the decision to only work with positive reinforcement methods in lessons and began training all clients (and the school horses and ponies!) with reward based training.
We always try and turn challenges into opportunities, and 2020 -2021 gave us an enforced opportunity to take a break from offering riding school lessons and dive further in to the world of training with Positive Reinforcment – they love it and we know you will too!
Many of our orginal school horses and ponies are now enjoying their retirement, and we don’t feel they will bebefit from returning to ridden lessons. When we are ready to restart ridden sessions with a new team of ponies we will be sure to let you know through our website and social media. As before, all new clients will begin with our Newcomers to Nine Acres Induction sessions. If you feel aligned with our belief that training and riding horses should be fun for them too then we look forward to seeing you there.