Seal with a Kiss

I double dare you to watch this video with out letting an “awwww” or even a tiny tear escape. On so many levels I love this video. The first level, is the intent. Both participants appeared to want nothing other than to be in each others company. The other is the dynamics of the attraction-based communication. Individually, they were simply attracted into interacting with each other. No force, no tension just pure looking forward to what pleasant thing would happen next. Continue reading


The Negatives of Negative Reinforcement

I stumbled upon a wonderful article written by Kellie Snider, editor of Animal Behavior Answers, and positive reinforcement dog trainer. In her two part article she discusses the unwanted teachings of negative reinforcement. She very clearly discusses and defines many issues surrounding the use of negative reinforcement as a teaching method, bringing to my mind a few similarities occurring in the horse world. Continue reading

Pressure and the Click

I have an internal struggle. I’m seeing more and more articles about clicker training and horses, which is a good thing, right? Well, I’m not so sure. One article discussed how to train your horse to put its head down. It clearly demonstrated how to apply pressure to the poll and then once the horse lowers its head you click.

Herein lies my struggle. Why should the click be associated with pressure? Continue reading

New Paintings, Palominos and Mind Reading

New paintings have arrived, but not without a story involving my muse, DaVinci.

DaVinci is my gelding recovering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I’m not certain if he’ll ever fully recover, but the journey continues to amaze, like today for example, where I think he read my mind and painted what he saw! Continue reading

Identity Crisis?

There are so many words in our vocabulary yet none of them seems to help me define definitively what label I place on the type of training I do.

Even when I say the word ‘training’ it makes me feel a little uncomfortable. I feel like my work-play with my horses is more about a dialogue, or a conversation, even verging on communion. To say ‘training’ evokes images of a teacher and student. More often than not, my horses are the teacher, and I am the student.

Here is a fabulous article by a dog trainer encountering a similar conundrum called Why is Positive a Negative, by Gillian Ridgeway, from a website I dearly love, called Dog Star Daily.

Continue reading

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. Continue reading

A Sappy but Powerful Experiment

Here’s a fun little exercise I did with DaVinci. I was patting his neck and admiring his beauty. Part of me was wishing he’d hurry up and get over his deep-seated fears of things that sound weird, things that smell weird, things that move fast, things that move suddenly, things that are in the wrong place, people who he doesn’t recognize, people who sound weird, people who smell weird, people who move fast and so on and so on. Continue reading

Things to Smile About

Many thanks to my friends in cyberspace that sent me these two videos and a funny little story.

The videos demonstrate creative, attraction-based ways to encourage humans to get exercise and be responsible.

And a little story demonstrating a not so attraction-based sentiment:

A cowboy and his wife had just got married and found a nice hotel for their wedding night. The man approached the front desk and asked for a room.

He said, “We’re on our honeymoon and we need a nice room with a good strong bed.”

The clerk winked, “You want the Bridal?”

The cowboy reflected on this for a moment and then replied, “Nope, I reckon not. I’ll just hold onto her ears until she gets used to it.”

For me this was like a two for one. Not only was it a nice play on words, it was also a great example of habituation for both horse and human. 🙂


Whoops and Mutual Operant Conditioning

I just received a comment from a very insightful and great proofreader that the Animal Management Resources blog that I was so excited about, hasn’t had a post since early 2008.

That little tidbit of information completely explains why I couldn’t connect to their members blog page. Silly me, I just thought my computer was having issues again.

If anyone knows of any such blog or similar resource where there is an inter-species positive reinforcement forum, please let me know.

Until then, I’m finding that many of the resources pertaining to zoo animal handling to be very informative. Especially when its core is based on mutual operant conditioning. Here’s Wikipedia’s description:

Mutual Operant Conditioning is the relationship between an animal owner or trainer that turns to the exclusive benefit of the animal rather than the trainer. Marine biologists have mentioned that they often feel they are the trainees rather than the trainer.

I completely love that the focus is on the benefit of the animal rather than the trainer. This has to be why this type of operant conditioning works so well for medical treatment of zoo animals.

I’m in awe each time I read about zoo animals being trained to voluntarily stand still to have blood drawn. No cross ties, no shanking, no yelling. Just a wild animal offering up it’s body to be poked by a needle.

If these are the things that can be accomplished with wild animals using mutual operant conditioning, I’m really excited to see what can happen with our domestic horses.

I offer my apologies for posting out dated information 😦


R+ Trainers Unite

I’ve just been inspired by a comment from Mary Hunter (Stale Cheerios). She mentioned the fantastic idea of having a group of Positive Reinforcement Trainers from all walks of life, aquariums to aviaries, to paddocks and living rooms, come together and share their experiences. With the click of my mouse, I found this site Animal Management Resources. Here’s how they describe themselves. Continue reading

NutriBit For the New Year

I can barely contain my excitement. There is a new product on the market that feels to me like a direct answer to a prayer. My prayer was, “How can I make a seamless transition from ground work to under saddle using attraction-based methods?” Before I tell you about this new product, I feel the need to explain why I’m so enthused, even before trying it. Continue reading

The Practice of Appreciation

I’ve been told and have read that successful positive reinforcement training (or attraction-based work or clicker training) is both an art and a science. It certainly helps to observe, as an artist with a trained eye would, the subtle nuances of your horse’s behavior. And the knowledge of science can shed light on the ins-and-outs of operant conditioning. I’d like to add a third category that compliments both the art and the science: appreciation. Continue reading

Teaching a Horse to Target

All this talk of attraction and why targeting works so well and I haven’t explained how to target. The process is a weird combination of being technical and observant. There are a few rules for the human to follow, but the rest is simply watching your horse to gauge his interest. For me, the moment is absolutely magical when I see a horse’s eyes widen, his ears perk forward and I feel him say, This is great game. I know how to play it and I’m good at it. Let’s play again! Continue reading

“Good Become Normal” Videos on Sources other than YouTube

Wow. I just found out that not every country has access to YouTube. In response to that, Mary from so graciously added a list of “Good Becoming Normal” videos from Vimeo. Thank you Mary!

Mary wrote: “I have some videos there and I know a few others have some clicker training videos. Not as many there as on youtube, though, unfortunately.

Here is my Nika learning the parelli friendly game at liberty:

And some others of me clicker training some of our horses:

Here is a video I love of a very creative horse playing with cones and rings:

Judy Ryder has quite a few videos on vimeo:

As does Leslie Pavlich:

Search the site for “clicker horse” or “clicker training horse” and there are several other users with videos as well.”

Courtesy of the amazing Mary H.


More “Good Becoming Normal” Videos

In my ongoing quest to find and share examples of attraction-based training I found these two clicker trainers.

This trainer has 19 amazing videos on her YouTube channel. I love the videos teaching her horse to do belly crunches. A valuable exercise for any horse.

This trainer has a whopping 136 videos of wonderful videos sure to make you smile and say wow.


Random Acts of Scritchy-Scratch

There’s a mantra in the field of sales that says, People don’t care what you know until they know that you care. DaVinci, my post traumatic stress gelding, has caused me to tweak that saying to fit his point of view — DaVinci doesn’t want to interact with me until he knows that I care. Which leads me to a question. How do you show a horse that you care? Continue reading

The Gift of “Good Becoming Normal”

‘Tis the season of giving and I found a few gifts online in the form of awesome websites. The first is a dog training website chock full of phenomenal training information. It’s called Dogmantics. If I could snap my fingers and fast forward into the future I would love to provide a resource like this for horses. Continue reading