Super clear, super useful!

So many methods to choose from to train your horse or dog, cat etc. Here’s a piece written by Tara Choules from Dog Star Daily that cuts to the chase.  She provides a super clear, simple, compassionate guide of what truly works. And no doubt will make you and your beloved four legged feel great!



Positive Reinforcement (and cheese) to the Rescue

I was driving home yesterday when I spied a dog running loose along the busy road at the entrance of my neighborhood. Her black muzzle and smooth fawn colored coat created a perfect camouflage amongst the roadside autumn leaves.  In my rear view mirror I saw a line of cars approaching. Continue reading

Life Under Construction

You know when you visit a new website and click a link or placeholder and see “Under construction”? I feel like I need to slap a sticky tab with that message on my forehead for all to see.

My life is undergoing a major change that must be lumped into the category of ‘under construction.’ For the past decade I’ve been wrestling unsuccessfully with complications from celiac disease, which made me feel like my health was under destruction. Continue reading

Painting Horse Going to the Dogs!, my website for horses that paint on canvas with brushes in their mouths, has expanded to include canines! Here is short video of my dog Trixie painting her very first painting on canvas board.

She has developed her own unique and dramatic stroke style perhaps endowed by her terrier genetics to grasp hold of small (usually fast moving critters) objects and shake them into submission.

Continue reading

Attraction in Action!

I love this video by Emily Larlham showing the power of teaching a dog the touch cue. This is one of the very first behaviors I teach any horse I work with. It creates the ultimate environment of attraction where the animal moves towards something that feels good, rather than away from something that feels bad. It activates their SEEKING emotion. (Dr. Jaak Panksepp)

I first teach the touch cue using a target stick, then I teach them to target the back of my hand. Continue reading

New Interview!

I was recently interviewed by Regis and Kelly. Just kidding. Even better!  I was interviewed by the dynamic duo of Anna Twinney and Vincent Mancarella for a podcast on their fabulous website Reach Out to Horses. What a blast I had!  Anna, with her hypnotic British accent, and Vin, his witty and warm sense of humor made me feel right at home. Continue reading

Progressive Reinforcement and Reciprocity

You can see I’ve added the Progressive Reinforcement Manifesto Logo to my blog in support of Emily Larlham’s ( solution to clarify and create a new term for what it really means to train ethically.

Progressive Reinforcement, the term coined by Emily, means: Teaching animals by rewarding desired behaviors and excluding the intentional use of physical or psychological intimidation. A type of animal training exists that involves no forms of intimidation, confrontation, violence, reprimands, or domination. Continue reading

A Must Watch Video

If you’re feeling at all discouraged, this music video is guaranteed to warm your heart and cause you to hug the nearest being with a heartbeat.

In my humble opinion, it clearly shows the awesome power of positive reinforcement (force-free, pressure-free, creating an atmosphere where folks can feel good way of relating) in a world desperate for some new energy.

I’ve seen the power of this new energy transform even the most difficult of beasts. This video shows the ultimate transformation.



Hot Topic

This is gonna be a biggie. Fast on the heels of my research regarding the classification of horses as livestock vs companion animals, I find this statement from Nevzorov Haute Ecole School that horseback riding– anytime spent on the back of the horse, is no longer admissible. Here is Alexander Nevzorov’s statement as to why:

“I can openly say for the first time (with sadness, but really frankly) that if we are honest with ourselves and if we have respect for other living beings, if we rely solely on scientifically sound and accurate data, we have to recognize that the anatomy of the horse (no matter who is on horseback: a child, a Haute Ecole master or an athlete) leaves no possibility for riding. There can no riding – no need to fool your head – not for five minutes or ten minutes. Continue reading

Natural Pinball-Manship

Remember playing pinball, the coin-operated arcade game? This is a game where the player attempts to score points by manipulating (whacking) one or more metal balls on a play field inside the pinball machine.

As I was contemplating the current popular trends in horse training, I couldn’t help but note the similarities between the game of pinball and pressure/release/aversive/intimidation based horse training. Continue reading

Harassment Training in Action

Sometimes contrast is good. I normally prefer to link to feel good, positive, forward moving videos and stories, however this  story demonstrates my previous post in the most timely manner. I just posted a blurb musing about negative reinforcement training being called harassment training and I find a well publicized example that I feel compelled to use to visually demonstrate my last post. Continue reading

Negative Reinforcement aka Harassment Training

I love this article called Understanding Bird Behavior written by Steve Martin the internationally known positive reinforcement free flight bird trainer.  Although the article was written about birds, simply insert the word ‘horse’ where it says bird and you’ll find some fabulous insights.

Here’s my favorite excerpt:

Negative reinforcement: Another reinforcer widely used by bird owners and bird behaviorists is negative reinforcement. It is something the subject works to avoid. An example of how negative reinforcement can be used to train birds: A woman at a seminar once told me she didn’t have to use treats to get her bird to do tricks. She demonstrated how she taught her bird to kiss and do a big eagle. She held her Cockatoo up to her mouth and said, “kiss! kiss! kiss” pushing her face into the bird’s. The bird finally pecked her on the lips, and she stopped the harassment. Mission accomplished. Then, with the bird on her fist, she extended her arm and rolled it back and forth until the bird put its wings out to maintain its balance. The action stopped the harassment. This lady was training her bird using negative reinforcement. I also call it harassment training. This bird finally learned a peck on the lips was the only way to stop the harassment.

How many of these examples do we have in our day-to-day relationship with our horses? Although a gentle push, push, push, on a horse’s shoulders to move over may seem benign to us, there’s a giant possibility that it feels harassed. Shoot, I’d feel harassed if someone were pushing me physically to do something when a they could have used words or pointed instead.

I think the more we collectively realize that negative reinforcement has the potential to feel like harassment to any animal, the more we may begin treating our animals, hmm, and maybe each other, and fancy this, ourselves with communication that feels good.


Positive Interrupter

Here’s a fantastic video by Emily Larlham in her Dogmantic training series. She offers a complete selection of free positive reinforcement clicker training videos that are IMHO, priceless. Although the videos are targeted for dogs, simply insert the word horse when she says dog, and you’ll experience the same valuable results.

This particular video teaches what I think is an invaluable tool that I’ve used in a similar capacity with my horses if I see their attention begin to wander.  For groundwork, I’ll make a type of kissy sound and then click/treat for eye contact with me, and under saddle, I click/treat for a flick of the ear in my direction, either from a voice cue, or a rein aid.

I love her explanation as to why a verbal no-no, or eh-eh, is ineffective.



Teaching a Horse to Lie Down

My column this month for the online magazine Going Gaited took place in the form of a viewer workshop. A wonderful woman and her equally wonderful Rocky Mountain mare participated in a month long project designed to teach her gorgeous mare to lie down on cue. I hope you enjoy their journey as much as I did! Read all about it here:

A Declaration of Equine Rights

Just for fun, lets play the “What if a spaceship landed in your backyard” game. Out of the spaceship floated a little green alien. It said, “I am a peaceful visitor to your planet and I want to know about this creature called ‘horse.’”

What would this green visitor glean from its experience with you?

I happened to observe a training scenario with a fancy, well-bred young horse, with a knowledgeable, experienced trainer and loving horse owner. The horse was a lovely blank slate with groundwork in place and a handful of rides under saddle. Continue reading

Training with Oxytocin

After reading the book Made For Each Other by Meg Daley Olmert, I should probably change the name of my blog. I brainstormed long and hard to come up with name “I Feel Good, My Horse Feels Good.” My other choices were “I’m Smiling, My Horse is Smiling” or “Training Horses the Way I’d Like to be Trained if I Were a Horse.”

All of my name choices revolved around how happy I am when I’m working with my horses. The reason I started my blog in the first place is that when I saw other folks working with their horses, neither they nor their horses seemed to smile as much as I would when I was working/playing with my horses. Continue reading