Affirmative Training: Can You Take a Hint?

  It’s a story that I’ve heard quite a few times. You’ve heard it too. The horse was getting a little worse all the time and the rider was trying to get him fixed. When the gelding got fussy in his face, the rider tried to hold his head steady by using pressure on the … Read more

The Problem with Humility

I’ve gotten sour on a word. Why does it matter? Words are how we understand each other but some words get borrowed as code words for something else. Sometimes they turn into monsters and sometimes they get stuck between your teeth like a raspberry seed. Words impact how we feel, trickle down to how we … Read more

Is Affirmative Training Denial?

It was during a meeting in an online class called Back in the Saddle. We’d shared videos of the week’s work, each participant moving ahead at their own pace and level, and each person paired with a unique horse with a history of his own. Some were bringing horses back from time off, some of … Read more

Distraction: A Simple Answer for Bright Shiny Things

  Is your horse distracted? Is he always swinging his head at every noise? Does he knock you with his shoulder or just stop and freeze? Now people are coming. What will they think seeing you standing flat-footed with your horse looking like he might spontaneously combust? Maybe you jangle the rope; did you read … Read more

Calming Signals and What You Can’t Unsee.

  Here’s our barn rat. She started earlier than most. Now, she’s tall and smart and brave and what we used to call coltish. Her mom is my friend and boarder, and her little sister is extremely cool, too. Our barn rat helps with chores, does daring feats on the horse swing, and has a … Read more

Making Peace with Anxiety

A caption for this photo? “Dressage rider doesn’t grasp the fundamentals of team penning.” How about “Dressage rider brings a breath of fresh air to The Cowboy Way.” Words matter. The goal of affirmative training is to collect positive experiences for your horse. We never want to dominate or push too hard. Once the horse … Read more

Calming Signals and Living on the Ulcer Continuum

Forty years ago, we didn’t know about ulcers. Some horses acted crazy and we tried to train them out of it. Colic was the number one killer of horses. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. Then around thirty years ago, we began to recognize and study ulcers. Research papers came out, scopes were invented, … Read more

Long Dark Night of the Soul: Colic

Andante’s nickering. I’ve pulled the hay out of his run and swept the mats. He has a baritone voice, a make-out music, bad boy nicker. He drops a hip, under his breath, “Hay, b-baby.” No, he can’t have any for a while. I’d rather have a knife to my neck than see a horse with … Read more

Why Training Techniques Don’t Work

  It’s Sunday night and the clinic has ended, but there might be a horse or two that can’t seem to get into the trailer. That isn’t the crazy part. The owner is tired and muttering something about how happy the horse should be to get in the trailer and go home. That part is … Read more

Deconstucting Fear with Affirmative Training

  Something is off with your horse, but you can’t tell what. You might be leading him or you might be riding. It could be in a strange place or in your home arena. He isn’t being resistant, but it’s not right. Then he sees something and goes very still. You try to see what … Read more