All animals, including humans and horses, respond to the same powerful principles of learning. One of these principles, classical conditioning, is responsible for horses learning many things we don't mind them learning, but also many, many things we never want them to learn. In order for classical conditioning to occur, a horse must experience the pairing of something 'neutral' with something that has meaning to the horse. For example, the sound of a chain being undone on a g
I see horses for a variety of behaviour problems, such as aggressive behaviour, general anxiety, specific fears about various things or events, or issues related to separation from other horses. These issues can occur during routine management, in-hand, or when ridden.
No matter the horse behaviour problem, before I even see the client I am usually giving them some 'triage advice': advice meant to help the client see an immediate reduction in the frequency and/or intensity
Aggressive behaviour is a common complaint of horse owners. Aggression in horses may appear as threats such as ear pinning or kick or bite threats, or it can involve actions such as biting, chasing, kicking or striking. Aggressive behaviour may be directed towards humans or other horses. In rare instances, it may even be self-directed, where the horse bites themself. Horses displaying aggressive behaviour are not only potentially dangerous to be around, the behaviour often in
When you train your horse, are you making deposits in the trust bank account, or are you making withdrawals? Many horses I see have trust bank account balances in the red. Dr Susan Friedman was the first person I heard describe the relationship we have with our animals as a trust bank account. It's a nice way of picturing the trust we have with a horse we are training. Put simply, every time we set training up so the horse can successfully behave as desired and avoid causing
A common complaint from horse owners is that their horse is mouthy when haltered. The horse mouths or nips them, or the halter or leadrope, when they try to put the halter on or remove it.
Horses behave this way for several reasons. For example, the horse may want to engage socially with the human, but because they have not been taught acceptable ways to do so they resort to behaviours they might use with another horse. Another common reason for mouthy behaviour is anxiety.
Did you know that doing a little basic math can result in profound changes for your horse's behavioural and physical health?
Horses are 'trickle-feeders'. This feeding style, very different from our own, results from how horses have evolved to access and digest food. They move almost continuously, while taking in small amounts of forage (that other animals find hard to digest) each step of the way. In total, horses eat for 14 - 20 hours a day, depending on forage quality and
As I type this, I am on evacuation alert at home due to a wildfire burning, uncontained, 2 km south of my home in our remote community. The fire began Wednesday. Due to unprecedented conditions, it spread rapidly through the forested valley. There is one road into our valley, and one road out. This road is currently closed to all but emergency traffic. The fire has crossed the road, and in the process burnt power lines that feed half of our community. Tragically, three homes
Horse owners are all too aware of how a physical injury can temporarily sideline - or even permanently lame - their horse. This knowledge leads most owners to do their best to minimize physical injury: raising foals with maximum turnout opportunities properly conditioning their horse for the demands of their ridden work ensuring adequate rest and recovery periods between training maximizing turnout ensuring their horse's living spaces are free of hazards using well-fitting ta
A shaping plan puts to paper exactly what steps you will take to teach a horse a new, wanted behaviour. Taking a few minutes to write a shaping plan can help you achieve better results, faster. It can also help you trouble-shoot, should you run into any problems during training.
As you can see in this clip, I usually write no more than ten steps when crafting a shaping plan. While this shaping plan addresses how to teach a horse to accept fly spray, you can use a shaping pl
Most people only check in one location on the horse's body when determining the tightness of a girth or cinch - just above the horse's elbow. But horse's can have different conformation in this area. This can affect the perception of the girth or cinch's tightness, and result in a false reading as to its true tightness. As seen in this clip, I advise checking the tightness of your girth in two locations: just above the horse's elbow, and where the girth contacts the sternum.
Almost every interaction we have with a horse affects their confidence. No matter our horse training goals, this confidence - in themselves and in us - should be a top priority. Learning how to recognize and respond to a confidence threshold - a place where the horse might lose confidence if we proceed - is an important skill for trainers to have. How the trainer responds at these thresholds can affect the horse's confidence. Horses may lose confidence when being taught how
What's a start button, and why should it be part of your horse training? A start button is a way for an animal to give consent to something that the trainer would like to do with the animal. It allows the animal to communicate to the trainer whether or not they are ‘ready’ for the event to happen. The benefits of start buttons are twofold. While it might seem counter-intuitive, teaching an animal that they have some perceived control over what is done with them is both empowe
One Myth, Three Facts, & A Confession About Fixing Behavior Problems in Horses Myth: If you don't allow the horse to make the mistake he won't learn from it. It's a popular myth in the horse training world that you need to allow the horse to make a mistake so that they can learn from it. This usually involves allowing the horse to do exactly what it is you don't want them to do - essentially setting things up so that the unwanted behavior is triggered - and then correcting th
"Sleep is one of the most relevant behaviors for biological functioning."
All animals must sleep. Sleep deprivation in horses negatively impacts immune system function, and impairs memory, learning, and physical performance. Research in other species has shown that sleep deprivation can lead to mood swings, hallucinations, and even death.
Horses can sleep lightly while standing, thanks in part to the stay apparatus, but they must lie down each day to achieve a minimum of