Don’t Shoot the Dog, Karen Pryor
A frequent and understandable objection to the idea of clicker training is that you wouldn’t want to be stuck having to click and treat for the rest of your subject’s natural life. This, of course, is a misconception. The click is not intrinsic to maintaining the behavior; any old cue and any kind of reinforcer can do that. The click is for the training only. Once the learner has learned what you set out to teach it, you can put the clicker away. But you might use it again if you need to “explain” some new thing; you can communicate quite specific information with your clicker.
For example, my friend Patricia Brewington owns a clicker-trained Percheron gelding named James. Pat and her husband Daucy trained James with the clicker from babyhood through all his mature tasks of carrying riders, pulling wagons and sleighs, and hauling logs out of the woods. When James was fully educated, the clicker and food treats were no longer needed. James knew and complied with many voice cues and hand signals. He visibly enjoyed praise and patting as reinforcers for work well done; and also ice cubes, playing with balls, ringing his sleigh-bells with his nose, coming into the barn, going out of the barn, being allowed to watch whatever the people were doing, and many other daily-life reinforcers.
One day James developed an abscess in his foot. The vet decreed that the foot should be soaked periodically. So Pat got a bucket of warm water, set it next to James, and put his foot into the bucket. James took it out. Pat put it in. James took it out. Now James is a very large horse, and Pat is a small woman. Physical force was not an option; and Pat almost never scolds her horses. What to do? She went in the house and found a clicker. She came back out to the barn. She put James’2 foot in the bucket—and clicked. Pat described his response metaphorically, as reinforcement trainers often do: “Ohhh! You mean keep my foot in the bucket. Oh, okay.” No carrot was needed to seal the bargain; James just hadn’t understood what was wanted, and when he did understand, he didn’t mind doing it.
A horse is easily frightened and full of fear, much more so than man. Fear or fright are the causes for quite a number of his sudden actions, such as stopping short, shying, jumping sideways, bolting and rearing, and for even minor signs of restiveness such as nappy steps, throwing the head about, twisting the tail, and so on. Such difficulties should never be attributed to disobedience (‘The beast doesn’t want to!’ etc.), but the cause should first of all and always be looked for in the rider. Quiet reflection and patience will have better results than punishment, which the horse often does not understand, often indeed cannot understand, and which in any case frequently only intimidates him still more.Riding Logic, Wilhelm Müseler
*Warning, this is a graphic read*
Tom Olive is some sort of great horse trainer from Ocala, he and his mustang Einstein are supposedly famous. Tom agreed to hold a clinic at my friend’s barn. On the first day, 9/13/14, Tom worked with a few horses. I’m mainly going to talk about Juno, a 4 year old curly mare who had only ever been ridden in her pen a few times in a halter by me.
My friend asked Tom to get her dead broke by the time he left. Tom tied her to the side of the barn and proceeded to beat her with a golf club that he had turned into a carrot stick. She tried to run but would just get yanked back around by the rope. She also tried to strike out and attack him, causing her to get beaten worse. Then he saddled and bridled her, with a bit, and got on her while she was still tied to the barn. He began to jab her sides with his spurs and beat her some more with his golf club.
Eventually he untied her and rode her around the field. The only cues he gave her were to slam her sides with the spurs and yank the crap out of her mouth. Eventually she got tired of his abusive behavior, threw him, and once again attacked him. He then beat her around the face/head with the golf club for a good five minutes or so before getting back on. He worked her so hard she fell to her knees. He would give her a break every now and then, so he could work with other horses. The clinic started at 10am and that’s when he started with Juno. At around 5 or 6, a group of 10 riders, including Tom on Juno, and me on a friend’s paint, Joker, got together to go for a ride up to the lake to have a campfire. For the whole day and ride I was working damage control as best I could, however if I had spoken up or called anyone I would have been banned from the property, and the horses we did manage to get away from him would not have been warned in time. Many of the riders trailered up, and did not witness the abuse. It’s about a 60 minute ride each way. Since my sister, jdh-mst-gnt, didn’t get off of work until 7, she didn’t make it to the lake until 8. She then asked if anyone wanted her to ride their horse back for them. Tom, whom she had never met, agreed to let her ride Juno back because he was sore and didn’t want to ride anymore that night. When she saw Juno she was in bad shape. There was no life in her eyes, she refused to graze, drool was pouring out of her mouth, and she just looked like she had given up on life. She took off the bridle and Juno was very confused, she had no idea how to let go of the bit. She put a rope halter on her and mounted up, not long after that the rest of the group mounted their horses as well. When Juno’s owner saw that we had taken the bit off he got very upset and demanded that she put it back on but she convinced him that she didn’t need it. It took about 10 minutes, but life slowly started to creep back into her. They led the group, in the pitch black, back to the barn and by the end of the ride she was pretty much back to normal and was even trying to graze. She was untacked, rinsed down, and put up for the night.
The second day, 9/14/14, the farrier was out in the morning for Juno and another horse. He said that under no circumstances was she to be worked in anyway because a tendon in her leg was about to blow. Of course Tom and her owner were very upset by this because they had planned to do the same as they had done yesterday to her. So Tom went to work on an 18yr old AndalusianX mare named Misty instead. He said he was gonna teach her how to lie down. He tied a rope to her front left leg and tied the other end to the saddle horn. Then he cranked her leg to her stomach and pulled her head between her knees. She put up one heck of a fight. She nearly flipped over more than once. It took nearly a half hour to finally throw her. This continued for at least another hour if not more. Tom kept saying that he couldn’t stop because she needed to know that he was in charge and she wasn’t going to win. By the time he was done with her she could barely walk. Her leg was all tore up, and was barely usable. She was in a lot of pain; she has permanent damage because of this. While he was ‘training’ Misty a lot of the spectators left because of how abusive it was, yet the whole time her owner was very happy and saying what a great job Tom was doing.
We stopped watching after an hour and went to talk with some other people who were still waiting for Tom to work with their horses. My sister and I ended up working with them instead and had no problems and then the owners, very wisely, loaded them back into their trailer and left. Tom and my friend were very disappointed that there were no more horses to ‘train’, so they took Juno out of her stall and worked with her instead of retiring for the day. Tom worked on getting her to climb onto a stone pedestal and then stuffed her in the corner of her stall and worked on moving her hindquarters. It didn’t take long for that hopeless expression to find its way back on her face…
Fucking sick! This tom guy needs to be hit with a golf club!
Share and warn people about this arsehole!
Absolutely sick, this man needs to never touch another living thing in his life. Human, horse, or otherwise.
Also who the hell even thinks it’s plausible or OK to ask a horse be dead broke by the end of a single clinic? That is basically asking for them to be beaten into submission, proper training takes time and shortcuts are bad news about 99.99% of the time. The owner of these horses (I was confused if this was your friend or someone else) needs to get a wake-up call ASAP or get out of animal care. This Tom character would have been kicked to the curb of any respectable barn the second that golf club came out, the fact that this was allowed to continue for two days is absolutely horrific.
It must have been horrible for you to be stuck watching that and unable to say anything, thank you for bringing this to light (and working those other horses instead to save them from this Tom dude).
I would have just reported him to the ASPCA and be done with it.
What a horrendous man…
What the fuck is wrong with some people? I mean seriously, was he dropped on his head as a child? Because it wasn’t from a great enough height.
the type of horsemanship i hate.
This sickens me but I do have to wonder… Why didn’t anyone stop him? If this was my horse or anyone’s horse for that matter that I saw getting beaten, I wouldn’t stop to take pics I would stop the guy beating the horse. Witnessing this is enabling this abuse to happen, this makes witnesses as responsible as the abuser himself
I did some googling, and apparently he was involved in the Extreme Mustang Makeover, which doesn’t surprise me. Taking a wild animal and breaking them to ride in a matter of days is a recipe for abuse.
Just so everyone remembers his name and to avoid him, that’s Tom Olive, in Ocala FL. I believe he was previously affiliated with StartingOver Ranch (this website barely works), but according to the more active facebook, that organization is aware of the abuse and is no longer associated with him.
Spread his name around and keep your horses safe.
And if anyone ever claims they can get your horse broke to ride in a day (or even a few days), don’t believe them.
Don’t Shoot the Dog, Karen Pryor
Engaging a wild animal in some simple shaping procedure can give you a startling glimpse of what might be called species temperament—of how not only that individual but that species tends to tackle the challenges in its environment. Teaching training to my class of keepers at the National Zoo, I used a number of different species as demonstration animals. I stood on my side of the fence, using a whistle as conditioned reinforcer, and tossing in food; the animals moved about freely on their side. The polar bears turned out to be immensely persistent and dogged. One bear which accidentally got reinforced while sitting still took to offering “sitting still” as a response; slavering hopefully, eyes glued to the trainer, it could sit still for half an hour or more, hoping for reinforcement. It seems possible that in an animal which stalks seals on ice floes for a living, this kind of tenacity and patience has important survival value.
Species temperament shows up in many, many species in a shaping session. When I inadvertently failed to reinforce a hyena, instead of getting mad or quitting, it turned on the charm, sitting down in front of me, grinning and chuckling like a fur-covered Johnny Carson. In shaping a wolf to go around a bush in its yard, I made the same mistake, failing to reinforce it when I should have; the wolf looked over its shoulder, made eye contact with a long, thoughtful stare, then ran on, right around the bush, earning all the kibble I had in my pocket; it had sized up the situation, perhaps deciding that I was still in the game since I was still watching, and it had taken a chance and guessed at what would work.
Sometimes the animals understand reinforcement perfectly. Melanie Bond, in charge of the National Zoo’s great apes, had started reinforcing Ham, the chimpanzee, for various behaviors. One morning he was accumulating his food rather than eating it, with the intention, Melanie supposed, of eating outdoors. When Ham saw that at last Melanie was going over to open the door and let him outside, he knew what to do: He handed her a stalk of celery.