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

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

Oh, The Heresy!

Just thought I’d put all my cards on the table and tell you I train with food rewards, if you haven’t guessed it already.

I unabashedly feed rewards from my hand. I know full well this is a giant no-no in the minds of many, many trainers.

I even reward with food under saddle.  The funny thing about this is, my horses seem to really enjoy being ridden. Maybe it’s because the source of all good things, me, is on their back. I’m like a portable lunch box accessible at all times. They like to take me with them. Continue reading

Aversives: A Fancy Word for “Ouch”

A friend of mine sent me a link to the website of the Association of Animal Behavior Professionals.

Lots of big words on AABP’s site, but check out their general statement, which pertains mostly to dog trainers. I’ve bolded the parts that I thought were awe inspiring. How very cool would it be if we had something like this for horse trainers. Continue reading

Video: Starting Raleigh with Attraction

tvHere’s a look at my present experiment: Starting a horse using mostly attraction.

All of these video clips were shot on our third ride. The first two rides looked exactly the same. I put the videos in the basic order of the sequence that they were taught. My goal was to create in Raleigh’s mind a wonderful first and lasting impression of what it would be like to carry a rider.  Continue reading

A Popular (Inaccurate) View of Pressure

As Irony would have it, I read an article in a popular horse magazine written by a popular trainer defining the language used to communicate cues. It reads, Pressure is any cue that gets a response from a horse.

This incredibly misleading sentence sums up the entire reason for my blog.

Pressure is not a cue. Pressure is a means to enforce a cue. Continue reading

Is My “Damaged” Horse Worth Keeping?

I have a horse named DaVinci who is recovering from what seems to be Post Traumatic Stress. I’ve had him for almost two years now and an outsider looking in might tell me to get rid of him and tell me he’s useless.  Just when I thought he may have irreparable damage and I was considering the thought he may have a mental illness, wondering if he’s even worth keeping, I received an unexpected phone call from a wonderful woman in California, named Roxanne, who works with Mustangs. Continue reading

Food is Not a Bribe (To a Horse)

Horses are motivated by food and rightfully so (given the thousands of miles of intestines it has to maintain by continually eating anything with fiber). I believe horses are acutely aware that if things aren’t going in, things will plug up, clog up and result in a bum trip. The way I see it, horses have no hang ups regarding food. But humans do. Continue reading

The Other Language of the Horse

It’s interesting to note that books and calendars are not filled with dramatic pictures of wild stallions snoozing in the sun. The more common image is of two rearing, teeth-bared stallions engaged in mortal combat. So naturally because of these popular photos, one might assume that horses commonly use force to interact and communicate with each other. Continue reading

Natural Born Targeters

In a nutshell, everything I do with my horses is summed up by three, very scientific words:

What Feels Better?

At the heart of that phrase are two other important words. Association and motivation. For instance, if my horses associate me with something that feels good, they’ll be more motivated to pay attention to me, to be with me, to trust me. If they associate me with something that feels bad, you can bet I’ll see all sorts of things that make me feel bad. Like the hind end of a horse as it runs away from me, or the pinning of ears, or the flying of hooves, or the throwing of me off its back. Continue reading

What the Heck Kind of Training Is This Anyway?

If you read my page about Attraction, or if you’ve read anything from my PaintingHorse site, you may say, “Sounds like this is Clicker Training” and then wonder why I’m not calling what I do Clicker Training.  I think a more correct term would be to say it’s Positive Reinforcement training, but wow, is that a loaded term. Continue reading