The Failure of Good Intentions

There was a time that I thought if I saw my horse curled to one side, itching his flank, I should run over and scratch the spot for him. That if I could acknowledge his itch and resolve it, in time I could teach him to show me where he had pain. My work with … Read more

Affirmative Training: Response Time and a Hail Mary Pass

My client and I were having an online meeting. We’d been working on a systematic process of getting her and Bradley, her gelding, back to riding. It’s a process that I’ve developed that has space for horses and riders to be individuals, and more than traditional training, we focus on listening to calming signals and … Read more

Training Your Horse: Spring Fever and Fluid Goals

Ants in your pants. It was a childhood affliction constantly mentioned by adults when we couldn’t sit still in church or school or at the dinner table. Pervasive, chronic, and most of us didn’t grow out of it. I was certain that all the dull talk about patience was just a flimsy defense put out … 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

The Problem with Pre-Corrections on Horses.

She enters the barn, looking left to right. What does she think her horse might be afraid of? First, let’s adjust everything that is out of place, just tidy the barn aisle up. No pesky plastic is visible. Start with his saddle pad. She’d better let him smell it. Sure, she’d been riding him in … Read more

The Dynamic Power of Consistency

We would like consistent behavior from our horses. It would be good if they took each cue with light and immediate response. But some days we climb on and don’t feel like doing much. We don’t really have a plan, not that we care. We lollygag around slouching in the saddle and banging our legs … 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

Who’s Risk-Averse?

This week a stranger asked for my prayers. She posted a photo of an incredibly young girl with a crushed skull in the ICU. She was injured by a family horse. You’ve seen these heartbreaking posts, too. People say accidents happen. Did her mom take that photo? A prayer for her, too. I can’t imagine … Read more

Human Calming Signals: What’s Your Barn Persona?

How aware are we when we pull on a persona? We’re usually aware when we tidy one up to make an impression at a job interview. We might notice that we’re different at church than at Walmart. It isn’t deception; it’s just a good idea to use a different persona when pulled over by the … Read more

Real-Time Communication: The Land of What-If

My horse always pulls his head away. My horse never wants to go first on the trail. My horse always fusses during vet calls. My horse never likes arena work. Humans love to show knowledge and predict an outcome. It demonstrates that we know our horses, have been in the situation before, and lived to … Read more

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

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

Life Coach: The Goat Version

It was a beautiful end-of-summer afternoon, just about feeding time. Cupid had been with us for almost a year by then. He was an elder foster horse having a great summer in that precious way that makes you quiet inside. Cupid never expected much or asked for special treatment. He’d been used hard and not … Read more

Calming Signals and the Myth of Desensitizing

  This chestnut mare is all that. Alert. Intelligent. Willing. And in possession of the quickest response time of any domestic animal; seven times quicker than us. Each of her senses is better than ours by a good bit, but then we hardly use the senses we do have. We’re so unaware of our surroundings, … Read more

Calming Signals and Implicit Bias.

The Barnies are really hitting their stride. I started an online subscription group earlier this year called The Barn. Soon after someone referred to the members as Barnies and it stuck. The name makes me smile, and in the beginning, there was a free-for-all of good intention. My training approach is very different, the focus … Read more