“Why is Everything With Horses So Hard?”

“Can Competition Horses be Trained Affirmatively?” she asked. I know why she asks. This rider has been trained to think that it’s hard to be good enough, that the work is hard so you have to ask your horse in ways that are hard. She has seen trainers claim that force is justifiable to win, … Read more

Does it Feel Like Everyone is Watching You?

It’s you and your horse. Sometimes people looking at him think he isn’t much but that’s because they don’t know horses. Anyone can see the beauty of mustangs galloping the rocky terrain or a team of Friesians pulling an antique carriage in a PBS show, or a foal cavorting circles around his dam. Beyond the … Read more

Calming Signal Substitutions: Helping Your Horse

Most of us are old enough to remember what a rolled-up newspaper is for. Wacking the dog, of course. Because dogs are destructive and must be taught to behave. The dog would have something in his mouth, like a shoe or a roll of toilet paper or a measly old sock on the way to … Read more

Thanksgiving is for the Dogs.

Here are two of my dogs, Preacher Man and Manning, guarding the back door. You’ll notice they are facing the wrong way. It’s not about who might come in; it’s about making sure SHE doesn’t get out. “Herding dogs,” my other dog, Jack moans, “have a little too much space between the ears.” He is … Read more

Gray Mares, Time, and Priorities

Do you notice that it gets a little easier to be yourself every day? Public speaking wasn’t the sort of thing I was born being good at. My first lesson: Everyone thinks it’s a good idea if the person making the presentation breathes from time to time. I listened to podcasts about public speaking, and … Read more

Human Calming Signals: What Counterfeit Means

Back in the day, there was a word used when talking about a stoic horse that who seemed almost too good to be true. It appeared nothing was amiss; the horse worked well enough but something didn’t feel right, and with hindsight, the feelings were confirmed. These horses were called counterfeit. I don’t know that … Read more

How Horses Train Us

You are a horse trainer. It does not always give me joy to say so, but it’s true and other professional trainers agree. If you are holding the rope, you qualify whether you watch videos or not, take lessons or not, have already paid a trainer four times what you paid for the horse or … Read more

Boundaries: Whose Space Is It?

Horses gallop on pounding hooves that cut the ground and then melt to a stop, whiskers floating in the light. A masterpiece of contradictions, horses frighten easily but are forever curious. Wilder than a dog, much bigger than a cat, with a certain animal magnetism that drew you beyond childish reason. Can you remember your … Read more

Affirmative Training: Misunderstandings About Control

You have made some changes in how you work with your horse and you’re both much more relaxed. You’ve evolved beyond the old voices that demand you show your horse who’s boss. Those debunked methods threatened and shamed you as well as your horse. Now, you believe in building the horse’s confidence and training affirmatively. … Read more

Affirmative Training: A Cowboy Walks Into a Bar…

A cowboy walks into a bar. He’s dusty, fresh from the barn. Shuffling his feet, keeping his eyes low, he crosses the floor. Voices stop as the cowboy collapses on a stool by the bar, pulling his hat off with one hand and burying his head in the crook of his other arm. The bartender … Read more