I've recently seen quite a few posts against bullying in the equestrian world. These are part of an effort to try and teach children participating in equestrian sports to support each other and treat each other with respect, rather than to trample over and bully each other to get ahead.
My question is, in a world where children are taught that it is perfectly acceptable to bully horses (the use of positive punishment and negative reinforcement is still sadly the primary means of training at riding schools), how can we possibly expect children to have respect for each other? If it's okay to use pressure and pain to get a horse to do what you want and to win a competition, why is it not okay to treat your fellow equestrians in a similar manner?
In stark contrast to the majority of the equestrian world, stand organizations such as Funda Nenja, The Underdog Programme and the Humane Education Trust, where children are first taught to show respect for animals they are working with through the use of FORCE FREE training methods and POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT. The results are children who show compassion and respect for animals and EACH OTHER, despite the fact that most children in these programmes are far worse off educationally and financially than children participating in equestrian sports.
When we constantly rehearse bullying behaviour in our interactions with animals, it impacts on who we are and how we treat others. Similarly, when we practise kindness, patience and positive reinforcement with animals, it can positively influence how we respond to people we interact with.
I am not saying that being a positive reinforcement trainer turns us into saints - we are still flawed humans. But we all know that rehearsing behaviour makes that behaviour stronger.
Really gives one food for thought.... doesn't it!