Care and Management

These are focused on specific care, management, husbandry, and enrichment for horses

Dealing with Emergencies

As positive reinforcement trainers many of us struggle with the fear of what to do in an emergency. What if our horse becomes aggressive or dangerous when spooking, how do we protect ourselves? What if our horse becomes over aroused and potentially aggressive? What if our horse gets hurt or sick and we need to perform a medical procedure we haven’t had time to prepare for? What if our horse is sick and can’t be given food? How do we ensure our safety and our horse’s wellbeing without becoming aversive?

First and foremost. We may all aspire to reducing or eliminating aversives in our horses lives, but the truth is that they are bound to happen. Life isn’t always perfect and emergencies do happen. Even poorly performed R+ can become aversive for a confused learner. So while we may (and I feel we should) aspire to being aversive free we must forgive ourselves the times life isn’t so perfect. We can utilize tools like the Humane Hierarchy which encourages us to assess the horse’s lifestyle, management, nutrition and health care, then arrange the antecedents, before moving towards a training approach with positive reinforcement to alter the behavior. Only then consulting professional trainers, veterinary behaviorists, or anyone with experience to help ensure you’ve tried all logical options before progressing to using aversives to overcome an issue. There will be times we may need to slide down this hierarchy very quickly, ruling out adjustments and training techniques in our mind very quickly in order to keep a situation safe. We may even act instinctively, defend ourselves or fall back on our pre-learned habits to get a job done quickly, rather than rethink a new alternative way to handle it. Ideally we would save these more extreme options for situations like a veterinary procedure that is non-optional. We wouldn’t want to use restraints, confinement, or aversives, just to teach our horse something fun we want to do for ourselves, but rather for something that is needed for their own well-being.

If you’re contemplating going to an aversive extreme to get something you want from your horse, stop and think about how important it really is that it be done, and who is this really for? Is it really vital your horse learn to carry you if it’s emotionally damaging to themself? As opposed to a medical or safety situation which is truly vital.

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Posted by Jessica in Care and Management, Clicker Training, Ethics, Troubleshooting

Taina Beginning to Explore

Those of you who don't know Taina, she's one of the most damaged horses I've ever met. She came to us last summer as an extreme neglect case, she was emaciated and lame when she stumbled off the truck and up our driveway to her new home. Over the next few weeks we unwrapped layers of her terrible past. With X-rays and grooming the filth off her body we learned she's had the ligaments cut in her tail so it forms the "J" shape so popular in the Paso Fino shows. Her legs lashed with whip marks from dancing in pillars, and her trachea crushed from being roped in rodeo events. As her winter coat grows in the white marks of scars become more and more apparent all over her body. Emotionally she was much worse than physically, which is hard to imagine. When it was time for any sort of interaction she'd tuck her head into the back corner of her stall and tremble while we haltered her and began whatever treatment was needed. While she'd stand near the front of her stall and carefully take handfuls of treats from us, she would leap away at the first sign of danger. Soon her fear began to fade and her feeling of control expressed as aggression. She rapidly learned she could keep humans at a safe distance with her beautiful dragon impersonation.

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Posted by Jessica in Care and Management, EE Horses, Equine Emotions, Troubleshooting

Wispy’s Winter Fitness

Wispy’s Winter Fitness

My beautiful flower, Wispy, has gotten a bit… shall we say, portly? She’s just like me, terrible posture and eats way too many sweets! We’ve decided to take this winter to get ourselves into shape. This being said, I have always really struggled when looking at aspects of equine fitness and exercise. There is so much out there and so much of it is based on unstudied theories, opinions, and misguided training philosophies. I struggle to pull apart what parts are beneficial to the horse’s well being and which parts are for us, for fun, sport, or cosmetic appearances.So much of concepts of physical training is done to help horses become more of what we aspire for them, and not so much for their own health. So much of these concepts are also taken to extremes which push the beneficial aspects of the training to detrimental lengths. Pushing collection to strain the hind end, strength and speed training to strain the joints, everything being pushed to be done to new, higher, faster, more dramatic extremes. My dear friend Janneke helped me puzzle through all of this and break it down step by step for me and Wisp just as she had for her horse DeeJay before he fell ill. So how did we break down what Wisp and I really need? and how do I teach it all with R+?
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Posted by Jessica in Behavioral Science, Care and Management, EE Horses, Troubleshooting

Consistency is Safe but Variety is Fun

Consistency is Safe but Variety is Fun!!
When we rescue a horse the first thing we like to show them is that their new home, their new world, is safe. To do so we make a clear schedule and meet their needs in an organized and neat way. This means we feed them in a simple way (no puzzles, nets, or slow feeders), in the same place and times of day consistently. We make sure everything is done gently, slow, and predictable. The predictability is the key to feeling safe. Continue reading →

Posted by Jessica in Care and Management

Heart Horses

Heart Horses
Many of us equine-enthusiasts strive for what we consider a special relationship with our ‘heart horse’…
We have millions of definitions, descriptions, stories and romantic ideas of what this “relationship” should be or look like. A common image is a horse and human riding together in a whimsical setting, with no tack or tools to bind them, just two souls connected by the heart. We dream of clear communication letting our horses know exactly what we want from then and when, creating beautiful, dance-like riding. We also dream of a horse who has the self-created desire to comply. The horse who wants to do what we ask, for no other reason than their love for us, their beloved human. Continue reading →

Posted by Jessica in Care and Management, EE Horses, Equine Emotions, Ethics

Quality over Quantity

Quality over Quantity
I was talking to a friend about some of the horses we have at the rescue and some of the difficult choices we make for them. We are in a constant battle between quantity and quality of life. Continue reading →

Posted by Jessica in Care and Management, EE Horses, Ethics

Protective Contact

Protective Contact

“Protective Contact” is working from the other side of a fence, gate, stall door or other barrier (backwards round penning is a blast with the human inside and the horse outside the pen). Protective contact is an extremely valuable tool to keep in our tool box, it’s great for horses new to CT, new to people, new to being hand fed, new to living domestically and great for people new to CT. Continue reading →

Posted by Jessica in Care and Management, Clicker Training, Troubleshooting

Do we need to be Dominant?

Do we need to be Dominant?
Dominance=Ownership NOT leadership. Dominance is designed for any group of animals living together of the same species, a family unit, band or pack. It was made so that individuals don’t get hurt in unnecessary fights with each other over resources, they determine once or twice who gets priority access to resources and they stick with that role. Continue reading →

Posted by Jessica in Behavioral Science, Care and Management

Making it a Lifestyle

Making it a Lifestyle
A number of people run into a situation where the horse will only do the desired behavior “in a session”, but as soon as the session is over and you go about daily life it’s like the horse forgot the skill or is being intentionally fresh. Sometimes the horse will even become muggy/pushy in regular handling, but be perfect in a session. Continue reading →

Posted by Jessica in Behavioral Science, Care and Management, Clicker Training

Enrichment

Enrichment is one of the biggest tools we have in our toolbox! Often under-represented, under-appreciated, and under-utilized. But it can cure a number of behavioral problems, inspire movement, creativity, thoughtful learning experiences, as well as bring actual fun and contentment to our horses. Remember good animal welfare is not just a lack of bad things in the animals life, but also the addition of things that make them happy and fulfill their physical and emotional desires. Continue reading →

Posted by Jessica in Care and Management, Ethics