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Lifestyles

March 26, 2012

Horse whisperer: Trainers teach force-free methods of training horses

GREENVILLE — David Davis walked his black and white horse, Caleb, around the indoor arena, letting Caleb show off how he can lie down, sit on a stack of hay and even perform “equine ballet,” where he turns in a circle, while holding a leg up.

Davis was one of two horse trainers showing off their horses’ skills while teaching others how to use force-free and snack-free methods to train horses during the second annual Greenville Equine Seminar, at Sunny Acres Riding Stables.

“I do this to make the world a better place for horses to live. A lot of times, abuse happens out of ignorance. People do things to hurt horses, because they don’t know better,” Davis said. “You don’t have to force a horse to do something. They will do it, because they want to please you.”

“These horses learn from their mistakes,” trainer Martin Schwartz said as he showed how to train a horse how to turn and at what speed. “If you let them make a mistake, then show them what they should be doing, they learn.”

Sunny Acres Owner Chuck McGee said he offers this event for free every year to help educate the community.

“If we can increase their knowledge, they will have a safer time and a more fun time out there riding,” he said.

Horse enthusiasts of all experience levels came out to learn the training techniques, including 12-year-old Rivers Culwell-Hood, who has been riding since she was 2.

“It’s always worth learning something new,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot that I need to know to hold on better, because I’ve been thrown already.”

The methods taught involved using praise, not treats, to get the horses to perform. Sunny Acres Trail Boss Tom Cannon said that is important, because treats can lead to health problems, such as diabetes, and can make horses think that human hands hold food, which can cause them to bite young children.

Mandy Williams, of Floyds Knobs, has been riding and training for about four years. She said she tries not to use treats during her training.

“Most of the time, I train without [treats], because they can get pushy with it and you don’t want a 1,000 pound animal pushing you around,” she said.

Cannon said it is good to see the interest in horses spreading.

“We saw our children staying outside and playing. It makes more sense than sitting inside, playing video games,” he said. “Plus, the horses need us.”

Sunny Acres is located at 11680 U.S. 150, in Greenville. For more information, call 812-923-9919.

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