photographs are provided by Sentient Equine and others

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About Me

The focus of my journey is now on trying to help reach the tipping point in positive, scientific based horse training. To bring science into the work, and training out of the dark ages. Having seen the joy that positive reinforcement training brings to both partners in the horse - human relationship over the past 17 or so years, there is no going back...

 

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"Thinking of your horse as behaving badly disposes you to think of punishment. Thinking of your horse as struggling to handle something difficult encourages you to help him through his distress."- The Concordia Connection

November 20, 2015

‘U’ has been doing really well and, as you know, even participated in a clinic this year. He was also doing really well with regards to coming to the mounting block and inviting me to get on…or so I thought.

He was happy to come to the block and even let me on. He was also happy to have Shannon continue to play the games we had played on the ground while I was on his back.

We all got so excited about this that we started to go back to more normal riding stuff, fading Shannon out and having me do the click and treat for simply walking around the cone circle.

Well this went well for a couple days and then ‘U’ stopped offering to come to the mounting block!

So what do you make of this?

Traditional trainers would just say ‘get over it’ and make him go to the mounting block and continue with what they wanted to do. But...

December 23, 2014

Clicker training for many is something they slip on easily like a well fitting glove. For others it represents a real U-turn in their thinking. They have become comfortable with their current tool kit. Swinging a lead doesn’t feel forceful. It’s just how you use leads. The horse complies. Everything is light and polite. They don’t see the lack of sparkle as a problem. Until you have experienced the contrast, how do you know that something is missing? If I don’t know how much better a cake can taste when I add butter and cream and chocolate to it, I won’t mind the bland flavor and heavy consistency.

If you bring your old habits of thoughts with you into clicker training, you can still end up with that bland product. You may be mixing in the “butter and cream”, but you won’t see the result. It will get lost unde...

December 16, 2014

So, the second key is staying true to clicker principles – no matter the challenge. It may seem easier to slip back into old training habits, but that wasn’t going to help this stallion. It might have gotten compliance – for a short time – but it would only have cemented his anger.

Once you recognize that there is ALWAYS another way to train everything, it’s easy to find the third key.

The Third Key: Managing the Training Environment

Learning how to arrange the training environment so you can stay true to clicker principles is another of the keys. This really is one of those areas where you find yourself saying trust the process. When this stallion was galloping out to turnout, someone could easily have said all you’re doing is “letting him get away with ripping the lead out of your hand. If you let him run out...

December 2, 2014

The second key revolves around Ken Ramirez’s definition of an advanced training technique. An advanced training technique is anything that requires experience to use well and which two or more trainers cannot agree on. I have always loved that definition. In the horse world we really need to pay attention to what Ken is saying. When someone is greener than green, what are they told? They need to get tougher with their horse. In other words, they need to get better at using punishers and space enforcers. But those are the tools that require the most skill and the most understanding to use well.

At the Shedd Aquarium, novice trainers are not paired up with animals that require advanced training skills. When Ken gets to this point in his presentation, someone always raises their hand and asks: “But Ken, what if y...

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