Painting Horses on Local TV

What a day! With 45 minutes advance notice, I had a local news crew in my humble backyard to do a story on my painting horses. Suddenly I morphed into a pitch fork, shovel, lipstick-wielding human tornado. I managed to set up my painting station, groom four horses, groom me, attempt to fill the craters dug by my terriers, clean paddocks and top off my treat pouch. Whew!

Here’s a link to the story with video.

The story featured both my youngest and oldest painters. Raleigh the Clydesdale, as the youngest, never ceases to amaze me with his focus and maturity for a four-year-old. I truly believe that his history of being trained primarily with attraction-based methods is the major reason behind his fascinating ability to concentrate and think. His gentle giant Clydesdale breeding may also play a part as well.

And then there’s Romeo, my oldest painter, the pint-sized powerhouse Paso Fino. He seems to swell with pride when the cameras appear. He adores the attention.

Juliet and DaVinci didn’t feel too left out as they were happily grazing nearby.

Fortunately the reporter and the photojournalist escaped without a drop of paint on their clothes. All in all the day was wonderful, and if you have a keen ear, you’ll hear that I repeated that word three times in a row during the story.

At least today no one would accuse me of being a pessimist, because everything was simply, well, wonderful!


11 thoughts on “Painting Horses on Local TV

    • Yay! Thanks!

      I sometimes feel sorry for the reporters when they do stories on us. They have to listen to my incessant chatter about the wonders of pressure-free, force-free communication. After they see the horses in action they then have a very clear understanding of positive reinforcement/attraction in action and why I talk so much. I’m very thankful that they include some of the chatter in their stories.

      Raleigh, the giant teddy bear, I think was imprinted on painting. I swear his earliest memories are of holding a brush, or watching the other horses paint. It’s fascinating to see his response to painting because of this background. I think he thinks he was born into a family (painting) business and takes his job very seriously 🙂

      And a big thank you to you for your posting your notes from the ORCA Art and Science of Animal Training Conference on your blog Fantastic and cheers to you.


  1. Very cool!
    I have several ponies that I myself have taught to paint – and I have been using clicker training for many years now.

    I thought it was interesting in your video how you enthusiastically coax your painters on as they do strokes that you like. I find that I do this with my boys as well – the more enthusiastic I am, the more they “perform” for me. Its basically treating them the same way you would your dog….getting them excited about the task at hand.

    Lately I’ve been doing a lot of evaluating my body language and my voice tone when I work my ponies. Attitude is everything and I’m loving the results I’m getting as I try to “train my horse like a dog”.

    Anyway, just had to throw that out there – I was excited to see someone else doing what I was doing. 🙂

    • We live in exciting times. Positive reinforcement training with a clicker suddenly makes so many things possible as you’ve commented.

      The enthusiasm I feel and express when standing next to my horse is due in part to how they seem to light up when given the opportunity to use their mouth, their teeth, their neck and most importantly their brain to accomplish a task with a perceived change.

      Even as a child, it was difficult to me to think of my horse as an animal. My backyard pony was so much more than that, he was my best friend. I’ve carried that feeling into adulthood. I continually ask, “If I were a horse, how would I like to be taught?” When I answer that, suddenly the line between human and horse disappears and the communication becomes being-to-being rather than horse to human.

      I think we live in exciting times when we all can have the freedom to treat our animals, not as society or tradition has dictated, but with intent and compassion to honor our animal’s unique being-ness. I can’t wait to see what with all of our animals when we give them this freedom!


      When I give my horses the opportunity to feel and express, and the environment of painting does this so well, I see that their desires are really no different than mine.

  2. I was waiting this afternoon to catch weather on the 9s and poof there you guys are! Great job!
    Jolie is doing well. While eating I can pet her cheeks and face, but no body yet. Re-introduced the target, and even though she is unsure of my funny looking, makeshift target, she is giving it her best shot.

    • Thanks!
      I’m happy to hear about Jolie. It’s a big step for her to trust you enough to let you in. I like to think of each click-treat as a happy deposit you’re making into her trust account. As a former PMU mare, she’s probably had lots of withdrawals that felt bad simply as a result of being part of a business that literally extracted from her. You get to be the bright spot in her life where you make those deposits that tell her that, “You are important to me, I value you, for you, not because I need something from you.”

      Even thought you do need her to have the behaviors like standing still, easy haltering, etc, the moment when she feels her bank account is full and she has money/trust to give, you will be amazed at the transformation.

      With DaVinci, my PSTD gelding, the horse I never thought would ever resemble a normal horse, is blowing my mind with how much he is giving back when I ask. It took a long time to fill his trust account, but wow, was it worth it. It’s so cool, in the sense, there was a very clear defining moment when he decided, “Ok, I’m ready to accept treatment. You can touch me. I believe you when you tell me you’ll keep me safe.” That amazing moment, I feel, was completely sponsored by a history of good feeling clicks and treats.

      Also too, if your target is not appealing, try dripping a little molasses on the soft end. I haven’t found a horse yet that didn’t find the target suddenly attractive!

      Keep me posted!

  3. Very cool. I am impressed with what you have achieved! I just posted a quick vid and story about this on my site and then came here to buy a painting but I see they are all sold 😦 Any idea when you’ll have more?

    • Thanks so much!
      I too marvel at all the things that can be accomplished with the power of positive reinforcement. I should have more paintings on the Art Gallery page by Monday. The next paintings will feature each horse’s individual preference. Juliet likes to paint big expressive strokes, Raleigh and Romeo like the intricate flippy strokes great for abstract looking tree or grass scapes, and DaVinci has a unique ability to create impressionistic type flowers. Stay tuned!


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