Books

Free download

Home Sweet Home with Romeo & Juliet

By Cheryl Ward and Sam Sharnik

Imagine a pair of 900-pound horses photographed in a furnished, carpeted house unpacking their suitcases!

Meet Romeo & Juliet, two real horses who talk, laugh, stick out their tongues, smile and eat cake with a fork. By following their hearts, they escape their mundane, barnyard lives and find friendship, fun and home sweet home.

  • 44 pages, PDF format
  • Reading level: ages 4-8
  • ISBN: 0-9790282-0-5
  • 8.5 x 8.5 in.
  • Printed copies available (softcover)

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Behind the Scenes of Home Sweet Home
This book was created by photographing Romeo and Juliet in large outdoor sets created specifically to look like they were indoors. We used actual carpet, base boards, and even lugged some of our own furniture onto the set.

Before each scene the horses were trained for a particular role, just as if they were human actors. They learned to stand on their marks and manipulate the objects according to the scene. Juliet even learned to lay down on cue and be covered by a giant comforter surrounded by stuffed animals.

The book has proven to be a real heart stealer for ages 4-8. One 5 year old boy was given the book as a gift. Apparently he loved it so much he insisted he must sleep with it. Prior to drifting off to sleep he had to kiss Romeo, Juliet and Cheeka goodnight. When he wasn’t sleeping with the book, it had to be hung on his wall so he could see it!

Order Printed Copies
Visit any of the retailers below to order printed copies online. Suggested retail (USD) $9.95.

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Free download

What Should I Do Today?

By Audra Giancola

Here’s another book in a similar style as Home Sweet Home starring our dogs. It was written by my daughter when she was 16 and photographed by both of us.

It’s a story of a huggable, fuzzy terrier pup who cures her boredom with a little help from her friends.

Audra wrote this story for an English assignment to send original books for a literacy program targeted to underprivileged areas in third world countries. Hopefully no one took offense that these adorable dogs were photographed eating at a dining room table, or standing on a kitchen counter top.

If you’re looking to read a fun, playful, feel-good story, look no further!

  • 28 pages, PDF format
  • Reading level: ages 4-8
  • 8.5 x 8.5 in.

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5 thoughts on “Books

  1. Hello,
    I work as a companion parrot behaviourist in the UK. I also ride horses occassionally, but do not know much about horse behaviour.

    I would like to know if someone could recommend sources of good books or websites where training methods for schooling horses are based on *positive reinforcement*. It would be good to have a handbook which explained how to give the aids for walking, trotting, cantering etc. using Pos reinf. What primary reinforcers can be used? What are a horse’s *favourite* foods? Can we use our own sounds/ body language to show affilitive behaviours towards a horse; and use these as rewards?

    Thanks if you can help!

    Regards,
    Greg Glendell

    • Hi Greg,

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful questions. The two books that come to mind that may interest you are:
      You Can Train Your Horse Do Anything: On Target Training Clicker Training and Beyond by Shawna Karrasch (http://www.amazon.com/You-Train-Your-Horse-Anything/dp/1570761655) and Clicker Training For Your Horse by Alexandra Kurland (http://www.amazon.com/Clicker-Training-Horse-Alexandra-Kurland/dp/1890948357/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1328192729&sr=1-1)

      Another website I love to recommend is that of Emily Larlham. Although she trains dogs her methods are identical to how I’ve trained my horses. http://www.dogmantics.com/Dogmantics/Free_Video_List.html Her Progressive Reinforcement Training Manifesto is this:
      “A type of animal training exists that involves no forms of intimidation, confrontation, violence, reprimands, or domination.”

      This has always been my aim with my horses. So for instance, instead of putting the horse on a lunge line or in a round pen and teach it to walk/trot/canter by moving ‘away’ from pressure (waving of whip, rope, stomping of foot) I teach it to target (touch with its nose) an object on a long stick to allow the horse to move ‘toward’ something positively reinforcing. Training my horses for under saddle work at the various gaits, they would first learn the verbal cues at liberty either while targeting or following me while a rode another horse. This way the aids (verbal cues) were always pressure free and learned in a pressure free environment. It was then very easy to establish a touch cue (legs touch the girth to trot–pressure free) with the verbal cue. The aids then looked similar to traditional aids that involved pressure, but the difference is they where taught similar to how someone would hand spell for a sight/hearing impaired person. The pressure was not aversive.

      When riding a horse, the obvious primary reinforcer is the release of pressure, for example to make the horse stop, the release of the pull on the reins is the reward for stopping. The cessation of pressure (leg to the girth) to make the horse move faster, or move over is the reinforcer. However, to change that dynamic so the horse is not under compulsion to react to an aversive aid, I like to spend time with the horse ‘retraining’ those aids. So for instance, if a horse is taught to move its shoulders to the right with leg pressure from the rider on the left, I’ll first teach the behavior on the ground with a target stick. Then I’ll pair that behavior with a verbal cue. Then a touch cue from the saddle. For each correct step in toward the desired behavior the horse hears a sound, to mark the behavior and then receives a food reinforcer.

      Horses vary as much as humans for their favorite foods. My mare loves alfalfa pellets, but doesn’t like apples. Usually the most high value foods are what the horse is routinely fed….it’s grain, or even bits of chopped hay. At this point, I’d like to add that I’d love to see the term click/treat changed. I think from the horse’s point of a view, food is not a reward or a treat, it’s a natural consequence to what happens to them in the wild or a liberty practically every waking moment. Food is essential to their moment to moment survival based on the digestive system’s dependence on requiring little bits of food all the time to keep things moving and to prevent colic.

      In working with my horses I would use the sound of a click (with my tongue against the roof of my mouth) to signal the correct behavior and it would be followed up by a bit of food. If I said the word “good” this also meant the correct behavior, but no food was to be expected. The word good became a conditioned reinforcer often followed up by a soft pat on the withers (like a mare nuzzling a foal) or a gentle scratch on their under belly where they can’t reach. As far as sounds, I’ve found that a low voice, similar to how they nicker to each other is well received.

      The other important thing that I have found about horses, as compared to dogs, is that horses seem to learn lightening fast especially when using food. I think it’s because they learn by association, whereas my dogs take a bit longer because they do better with repetition. In the wild a horse often only has one chance to escape a predator. Its life depends on making that association. If a feral dog misses the opportunity to catch its prey, it simply goes hungry, its life is not at stake.
      So, when entering into a relationship with horses using positive reinforcement it is good to be prepared for how fast a horse will make the connections and very important that the timing of the click/marker and reward has to be spot on. (No doubt you know all of this from your work with parrots!)

      I enjoyed your questions. I’d be happy to answer more!

      Best wishes,
      Cheryl

  2. I support the books you recommend. In the UK, you might also find a visit to http://www.hannahdawsonequine.co.uk She teaches people to train horses using positive reinforcement and has just launched her film “Cinderella…A Pony Tale”. Much in the spirit of your work, Cheryl, with ponies filmed in the kitchen or being ridden bridless and bareback through the woods. I reckon you’ll love it!

  3. I have just had the most wonderful time reading the articles on your site, in particular your round yard work.
    Something has never felt right to me about chasing your horse around to make it want to be with you.
    All my horses come to me when I call them so when I recently wanted to do some work with one of my ponies so that a friends child could ride her I asked for some pointers and was told long lining, so I did some research and although not convinced thought I would try.
    Well, needless to say my attempt to send her away resulted in her looking at me somewhat hurt and just coming in to me. So I gave her a big hug and we did some trotting in hand and other things together.
    Next time I am going to try the tasty treat on a stick method….what a fabulous idea!
    Do you have any other suggestions for saddle starting this pony, I want too do lots of ground work as I am too heavy to ride her myself.
    I also will not send her away as one of my horses suffered violence at the hands of a trainer. She then spent a few years recovering out in the paddock and I finally saddle started her again myself earlier this year.
    I vowed none would go away again.
    Any advice you can give to help me saddle start a pony that is too small for me to ride but make safe for a child would be greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks
    Jules

    • Hi Jules,
      Thank you so much for your comment and your kind words. What a fortunate pony to have such a thoughtful owner. In my opinion you are at such a fabulous starting point where you can establish a relationship based on honoring your pony’s unique brain rather than using techniques to manage brawn through pressure and release, intimidation and force.

      I’m so sorry to hear of the experience of your other horse. I’ve seen and heard of so many instances where trauma occurs especially when a trainer begins the first long lining lessons. The source of the trauma usually happens when the horse is made (often forcefully–tapping of driving whip etc) to move away while it is in long lines and trapped (attached to bit) which activates the fear system in the horses brain. The fear system decides whether the horse should freeze or flee. If the pressure escalates it can activate the rage system which results in the horse trying to kick at or attack the trainer in some way. My aim is to appeal to a different system in the brain called the seeking system. This is also called the expectancy system where the horse is moving towards or looking forward to something good happening. These systems are based on the work of neuroscientist Dr. Jaak Panksepp.

      Any time you ‘free shape'(reward a horse for a positive behavior offered) I believe it engages the seeking system. The very first step I’d suggest for you pony is to use free shaping to teach it to touch its nose to a target stick. Here are a few books that will show you how to use the language of attraction and get free shaping off to a great start with your pony:

      Karen Pryor: http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Started-Clicker-Training-Dogs/dp/1890948217

      Alexandra Kurland:http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1/188-3197495-5908054?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=alexandra%20kurland&sprefix=alexandra%20k&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Aalexandra%20kurland

      Shawna Karrasch:http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=shawna+karrasch&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Ashawna+karrasch&ajr=0 will be fabulous for giving you detailed instructions on how to relate to your pony using the language of positive reinforcement/clicker training/attraction-based training.

      I just read a fabulous book that details free shaping really well called “When Pigs Fly: Training Success With Impossible Dogs by Jane Killion:http://www.amazon.com/When-Pigs-Fly-Training-Impossible/dp/1929242441 Although it is about dogs, the exact same techniques apply with horses. In my experience, horses learn soooo much faster than (my)dogs.

      Also here are a series of videos that show the early steps of starting my young Clydesdale under saddle using free shaping, attraction and anything I could think of to encourage forward movement where it activated his seeking system. http://paintinghorse.wordpress.com/2009/03/26/video-starting-raleigh-with-attraction/

      I first taught him to touch a target stick, then touch a ball, then I’d throw the ball and he began retrieving. When he was in long lines, instead of driving him forward with the pressure, I simply threw the ball for him to move off towards it. Here was the key: After he was easily moving forward, I established a verbal “walk on” cue, THEN I introduced the driving whip for a touch cue. He already knew how to move forward. The whip was not used as something for him to move away from. It was a touch cue similar to using touch sign language on a person’s hand. This way his association with the whip was always positive.

      I used the same technique to teach him work on the lunge line. He first learned to follow a target stick in a large circle at a walk, trot and canter. Only after he knew how to do that did I introduce a physical cue of a lunge whip. I thought of him as being “bilingual” at this point. I taught him first by attracting/free shaping him into a behavior, then taught him the “pressure based cues” without using pressure. By doing this, it kept his beautiful brain completely happy in the seeking system and I never had to cause him confusion or the need to run away from me by activating the fear or rage system.

      I hope this helps. Feel free to email me if you have any other questions at: info@paintinghorse.com
      I’d love hear how things go!

      Best wishes!
      Cheryl

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