Calming Signals: Trust Above Training

It was my job to haul him to his new trainer. He was a bright young gelding, some would call him hot, as if having too much anxiety was just how some horses are naturally. I’d call him low on confidence, not a crime in a young horse. He pranced a bit on the lead, … Read more

Aggressive or Assertive?

She was a breathtaking draft-cross mare who I met at Duchess Sanctuary this year. There was just a presence about her that made it impossible to look away. She came up for a closer look but didn’t pander. Standing her ground, there was nothing she wanted from me and I asked nothing of her. I … Read more

Affirmative Training for Colts and Fillies

  Foals are irresistible. They are precocious and lively; they cavort and air gallop and sleep flat-out. When they wake up, they’re an inch taller and even more curious about the world than before their nap. They have newborn piaffes and sliding stops. They jump like frogs. They are a fresh start, a whole new … Read more

Brain Science as a Training Aid

  It was a two-day-long science class and we were promised a brain dissection. I signed up immediately and have had the weekend marked off on my calendar for months. I can’t imagine you don’t want to hear all about it. Our instructor was Dr. Stephen Peters, (Psy.D., ABN, Diplomate in Neuropsychology) a neuroscientist, horse … Read more

Photo & Poem: Hand

  One draws attention, standing by a tolerant gelding and playing the horse whisperer, tickling withers, teasing his whiskery muzzle. Passive violence in the guise of a scratch, demanding an involuntary response ripped with conflict, pulsing with agitation. One demands sweaty perfection, the mare never exactly good enough, but rewarded at last, one ringing slap, … Read more

Affirmative Training and Spoiling Horses

Most of us hear voices. We might be working with our horses on an issue and floundering in the moment, because we hear a threatening voice in our heads. It could haunt us from the past; a trainer from decades ago, something said on a video or written. For some of us, the harsh threat … Read more

The Argument for Curiosity: From Fear to Courage

I rarely have any idea where I’m headed. I get in a car with a stranger outside of baggage claim and go to a horse facility I’m not familiar with. I don’t know the participants or the horses, their histories or skill level. It’s fine though, I’d wind up giving a different clinic each time, … Read more

Calming Signals and Holding a Grudge

Sometimes your horse isn’t forward and it’s frustrating. Or he doesn’t like the trailer, and now neither do you. Maybe your horse gets cranky when you take him out alone when all you want is to take a walk. And by that, you mean he’s the one walking and doing it badly. And of course, … Read more

Photo & Poem: Horse Trailer Conversation

Horse Trailer Conversation She takes me from the herd, pulling me to the box. Her hand is thick, there is no air in her feet. I want to run, fast and far, instead dragging my hooves, looking away. No, stand and fight, she says with dread in her spine. Standing next to the box makes … Read more

Creativity and the Problem with Training Techniques.

We were standing around the barn after the vet had left, a group of trainers and riders and horses, telling stories and laughing. I can’t remember what I said now, but the European trainer got suddenly serious with me, saying “You know there is only one right way to train that, don’t you?” I don’t … Read more