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By Maddy Butcher Gray
A recent University of Pennsylvania study measured catch-ability in horses as it relates to human-horse eye contact. After developing formulas and performing weeks of experimentation, researchers found it really didn’t matter if you made eye contact or not. Read UPenn abstract here.
“It became evident to us that the human handler’s body posture and head posture, as well as stride” likely impacted the success or failure of each approach.
UPenn researchers may have meant well. They may have been trying to disprove methods espoused by trainers like Monty Roberts. He says to avert your eyes whenever approaching a horse.
Sure, that might work.
With some horses.
UPenn researchers knew Roberts was putting out some questionable stuff. They made a good case for disproving his method.
But let’s face it, Roberts’ methods hold as much water as a sieve. His post on catching horses is laughable, not helpful or informative. Punching a new hole doesn’t enlighten us much.
As it happens, Martin Black wrote about catching a horse in recent issue of Eclectic Horseman. He never mentioned a word about eye contact.
“A friend of mine once said to approach a horse like you have a full glass of water balancing on your head. If you think about not spilling the water, your feet will be softer, smoother, and more acceptable to the horse…If the way you walk toward him doesn’t feel good to him, he won’t be expecting anything better next time.”
The researchers would have made a better contribution by quantifying Black’s technique or at least quantifying the other aspects of approach.