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Why not just use my coach, riding instructor, or trainer to solve my horse's behaviour problem?

In the same way your coach, riding instructor, or trainer is a specialist in their unique discipline, my speciality is addressing horse behaviour problems. Having obtained a Master of Science degree in clinical animal behaviour, I have formally studied horse behaviour and the techniques used to address unwanted behaviours.

How are regular horse training methods and the techniques used to address behaviour problems different?

Training problems and behaviour problems are different. While training problems generally reflect a lack of development of a desired skill, behaviour problems are usually accompanied by unpleasant emotions such as fear or anxiety. For example, horses who barge over handlers when the veterinarian tries to vaccinate them are behaving this way because they are frightened.

Routinely-used horse training methods, such as 'pressure and release' training, or 'making the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy' can't positively address these emotions. Using such methods in an attempt to resolve behaviour problems often worsens the problem, or even creates new problems.

The techniques used to address unpleasant emotions, such as counter-conditioning and systematic desensitization, aren't generally studied by coaches, instructors, and trainers. Behaviourists address behaviour problems by using these techniques to positively change the horse's emotional state, while also teaching the horse how they should behave instead.

Do I have to stop going to my coach, riding instructor, or trainer if I work with you?

Heck no! Just like your veterinarian, farrier, or instructor, I can be an important part of the team of equine professionals you use to help you and your horse perform at your best.

What techniques do you use?

The techniques I use to resolve horse behaviour problems are both effective and horse-friendly. For example, I use counter-conditioning and systematic desensitization to change emotions such as fear, and positive reinforcement and shaping to teach new, wanted behaviours. These techniques, and others, are routinely used by animal behaviour professionals to address even serious behaviour problems. You can see video examples of training using these techniques on my YouTube channel.

What techniques don't you use?

Knowing what techniques to use is important. Equally important, I also understand the well-documented pitfalls of using techniques such as punishment or flooding. Animal behaviour professionals avoid using such techniques as they decrease the horse's ability to learn, increase fear and aggressive behaviours, damage trust between the horse and the human, and increase the likelihood that both horse and human will be injured during training.

How long will it take to address my horse's problem?

It depends! Some issues can be resolved at our first meeting. Long-standing or more complex issues may require we meet for follow up sessions. In such cases, I provide you with a retraining plan that I teach you how to implement between sessions. Most retraining plans involve you working in very short, frequent sessions with your horse. For example, 10-20 minutes a day, five days a week.

I'm afraid of handling or riding my horse when they are behaving the way they do. How will you address this?

One of the nicest things about the approach I use is that it is never necessary to deliberately trigger unwanted behaviour in order to resolve it. For example, it is never necessary to deliberately cause a horse that bucks under saddle to do so during retraining. In fact. doing this would be counter-productive to resolving the issue, and could even make the problem worse or create new problems.

I've heard that you might want me to have my horse see an equine veterinarian before we book an appointment. Why?

Many unwanted behaviours in horses are caused or made worse by underlying physical or medical conditions. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to address some behaviour problems until such issues are first diagnosed and treated by an equine veterinarian.

Are you a horse trainer?

Yes and no. Yes, I am an experienced horse trainer. No, I do not currently take horses in for routine training.

Prior to my current speciality, I worked as a horse trainer and riding instructor. While I am comfortable teaching untrained horses new life-skills (e.g. trailer loading for the first time, being started under saddle), my work is now focused solely on behaviour problems in horses (e.g. existing fears of trailer loading, bucking under saddle). In summary, in addition to addressing your horse's behaviour problem, yes, I can also help teach your horse any necessary new skills should it arise during the course of addressing their behaviour problem,