Once upon a time, I used to daydream about being able to talk to my horse. I wanted to be able to communicate my ideas clearly, to tell my horse that I loved her and, if I'm honest, to hear my horse tell me that she loved me back!
You have no idea how surprised I was after chasing this dream for years and trying a host of different training methods, to find that science was the key to achieve my dream. The sciences of equine behaviour and learning theory provide a foundation for understanding the needs and behaviours of our horses, interpreting their body language, and knowing how to train them effectively by clearly explaining what we want. All of a sudden I had a way to understand what my horse was saying to me and to explain to her what I wanted in a way she could understand. I could finally talk to my horse!
By choosing to use positive reinforcement training, which my horses LOVE, these good feelings have become associated with the training environment and with me. So not only have I realised my dream of being able to communicate with my horses, but I also get to hear them tell me that they love me - which, quite frankly, just never gets old. I hear this whenever they actively choose to be with me. This could be when they come running up to see me, when they ask to do training, or when they come quietly up to me and stand close, relaxing and sharing space.
My goal is to help you and your horse build the partnership you are dreaming of, one where you can achieve your goals through clear communication and cooperation, with loads of good feelings for you and your horse.
I am here to show you that it is possible to train your horse in a way that is not only effective, but as fun for your horse as it is for you.
My focus is on teaching you how to show your horse what you want him to do, rather than focusing on what you don't want. We achieve this by setting up the environment so that both you and your horse can be successful and training using positive reinforcement - we give treats and scratches when your horse gets it right. We also incorporate choice for the horse, for example by allowing them to initiate certain behaviours they find difficult.
Horse behaviour is not only a result of training. Your horses' unique history, current living situation and even feed can influence his behaviour. For these reasons, I also investigate the history and current living arrangements of your horse, to help you address any underlying stressors holistically.
It is very important to me that the training techniques I use represent an ethical training choice. One of the ways we can assess whether a technique is ethical is to ask if it is the "Least Intrusive and Minimally Aversive" (LIMA) method to achieve our goal. No horse or training situation is the same, but challenging ourselves to take the LIMA approach helps us make ethical choices.
As a lifelong learner, I am constantly studying. My relevant qualifications and further training include:
- IAABC, Resolving Fear Issues in Horses
- IAABC, Fundamentals of Animal Behaviour and Learning
- Behaviour Works, Living and Learning with Animals
- University of Guelph, Equine Behaviour
- Masterson Method, Weekend Workshop
- Equestricare, Red Light Therapy
- Equestricare, Certificate of Equine Massage
- BSc, MSc, Grad Dip Ed
"A particular issue we were having was that he was refusing to load onto the float. Even though he could be 'forced' onto the float, there were obvious signs that he wasn't ok with this and he was displaying signs of anxiety about the whole thing.
Sara worked with my horse and I and showed us another way to look at the situation. Sara used positive reinforcement to change my horse's mindset about the float all together. Sara showed me a way to encourage my horse on the float completely at liberty, which gave him control over his choices and therefore he didn't feel so trapped. Once he realised that he had the option of leaving the float or moving forward to receive a reward it didn't take long before he was willingly loading onto the float. He now self loads and travels much better."