BOOKS: Problem Solving

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1998:

Problem Solving
by Marty Marten
Western Horseman (POB 7980, Colorado Springs, CO 80933),
1998. 247 pages, paperback;
$17.95 plus $2.00 postage and handling

Marty Marten, a Colorado
horse trainer, has worked around
horses for almost as long as he has
been alive––but unlike the authors of
other recent popular horse how-to
books, he does not waste time and
pages telling his life story.
Instead, he presents workable
and humane approaches to the
seven problems which tend to generate
the most complaints to humane
organizations about horse abuse:
crossing water, spooking, hard-tocatch
and herd-bound horses, barn
sourness, pulling back while tied,
and the most stressful issue of all,
trailer loading.

While Problem Solving
offers a kinder, gentler way of horse
training, what truly sets it apart is its
strong emphasis on the horse’s point
of view. As Marten explains, horses
are herd and prey animals.
Asking them to do anything that is
against their nature––which is pretty
much everything humans ask horses
to do––needs to be understood from
the equine perspective. A horse who
balks at a trailer is not refusing like a
defiant child. Rather, because horses’
primary natural defense is
escape, they perceive anything that
represents restriction and confinement
as a physical threat. We know
the trailer will not hurt the horse,
but the horse does not know that.
Marten sees this as an opportunity
for horse and human to develop a
partnership based on trust.
Marten teaches his readers
to recognize their own errors by asking
often, “Where did I go wrong?”
This is critical, because
trainers who fail to recognize their
own errors frequently reach for the
quick-fix when their patience wears
thin––which usually means severe
bits, tie-downs, draw reins and
other abusive gimmicks. These are
not part of Marten’s method.
With over 300 unstaged
photographs and diagrams, P r o b l e m
S o l v i n g addresses virtually every
mistake humans make with horses,
and shows how to avoid each one.
Yet Marten makes no promises that
just reading his book and going
through the motions will create a
harmonious relationship with horses.
If there is to be any criticism
of Problem Solving, it is that it
does not warn readers to steer clear
of trainers who offer 30-day training
miracles, shy away from having an
audience, or resort to devices that
force mouths closed, hold heads
down, or force horses into an unnatural
frame. These are all red flags
for horse abuse investigators, and
have become painfully evident with
the popularity of The Horse
W h i s p e r e r, which has prompted
many unqualified “trainers” to capitalize
on the book and movie.
Nevertheless, Problem Solving i s
one of a very small selection of
books by which all horse trainers
should be judged.
––Robin Duxbury
(Duxbury is founder and president of
Project Equus,
POB 6989, Denver, CO 80206.)


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