Recently, the buzzwords in animal training and welfare are choice and autonomy. The thinking is that the more animals have control over their own lives, the healthier they’ll be emotionally and physically. Certainly, giving the animal an environment in which they can choose their level of comfort – shady or […]

Choice and Autonomy


I am writing this while looking out at the Atlantic Ocean from my room at the Yankee Clipper Inn. I am here for two days with my good friend, Karen Pryor. A couple of times a year we go on these writing retreats. We hole up in our separate rooms […]

Don’t Clicker Train Your Horse. Yet.


Some injuries are easy to diagnose and treat. When a horse stepped on me, it was obvious that he broke a bone in my foot, and the treatment plan was straightforward. I was told, in plain English, to ice, elevate, protect it in a boot, and rest. I might not […]

Tonka’s Personal Trainer



Riding instructors talk a lot about aids – how you use your hands, seat and legs – to communicate what you want to the horse. I’d add another aid, and to me it’s at least as important as the others. Your eyes. Do this. Right now, look to the right. […]

Look, Focus, and Go


I was all set to write a training-theory filled blog today, but the weather report looked vile. It wasn’t the anticipated few inches of snow, but rather it was the freezing rain to follow that changed my plans. Instead of sitting at my computer this morning, I headed out to […]

Snow Day


For Tonka, 2017 was year of symptoms but no definitive diagnosis. It started with a slight head shaking. Then his back hurt. Then Tonka felt great and we had some rides where he did brilliant first level work. Then he couldn’t bend his neck. Then his back was sore again. […]

Getting Moving



It doesn’t matter what species of animal is in your care – horse, dog, cat, iguana – the only way for them to thrive is for you to know them well and to pay attention. Sometimes, identifying what’s amiss and figuring out a remedy is like solving an Agatha Christie […]

Deducing What’s Wrong


I recently had to rework some sloppy training on my part. It took me awhile to notice that I’d let things slip. Tonka is a calm and amenable gelding. But even a horse like that is always adjusting their behavior to what their human is doing. Just because you’ve taught […]

Reworking Sloppy Training


All horses can potentially cause injury to us humans. Their vision, hearing and smell keeps them hyper-aware of danger, and their response to that is to put distance between themselves and the perceived threat. If prevented from fleeing, they will rear, kick and strike-out. Horses are especially wary of new […]

Desensitizing and Counter-Conditioning Horses