Thursday, February 14, 2008

14th February, 2008 Incremental training

This year's RA conference was a positive affair with RA's turning out from Denmark, France and Mustique and Monty coming all the way from California for this and the tour. Hot topics included saddle fitting and barefoot boots as well as the link between scientific study and true behaviourism - so that for example, a recent study found that systematic desensitization works better than habituation (like it or lump it approach) which backs up all the anecdotal evidence that introducing a horse to something gradually in a controlled environment is better than throwing him in at the deep end. Monty calls the former approach incremental training whereas I have always said to the Exmoor ponies, "Nothing's changed!" when I have only changed one thing. I like to draw a series of steps in the sand, dust or on the mesh of a round pen panel to explain to people not to go from the bottom to the top in one jump - the good horseman, I say, is the one who includes the most steps and that's what rosettes should be given out for. The good horseman is the one who is not afraid of going back a few steps the next time in order to consolidate what they've done - every day should not be a puissance.

As horses learn to learn, to generalise and to trust, the steps link up to form a web which can widen in many directions at the same time.

Latest reviews:

Oh! Wow You clever girls congratulations. Well done W-pony I'm so proud of you all, I have been thinking about you all day. You are all stars!! Give him a gigantic scratch and rub from us lot.
L.R. 22.1.08 on hearing that we had backed W-pony.

It was lovely to see you yesterday and it was all so positive and it didn't rain! I really feel we have taken a step forward for training in a way they (and J) can enjoy and there is no reprimand for getting anything wrong so its a real win, win for them.
CH 24.1.08

Hi Sarah, Thanks for today. It amazes me that you manage to juggle your own horses, clients’ horses with different needs and aims, owners and visiting people! I think what I find most rewarding about my days with you, is the balance between having confirmation that the things I'm doing are on the right track, and giving me fresh ideas and new ways to look at things. Particularly, I liked the 'stopping after 10 steps' and doing the 'driving' with one long-rein before proper long-lining. I'll keep you posted, and at least I know who to call when I get stuck!
E-mail NB 26.1.08

Hello Sarah,

I am a success! I am a success! I am a success! And what's more Sarah thinks I'm brilliant!

He had his headcollar on the grown up way twice and lots of cuddles. Then I took him through into the rear stable and left him there while I opened both big gates. then I showed him the big snakey lead rope and clipped him on again. We did little steps 5 at a time untill we got to the field, I took him past the open gate and little shed and then stopped. he moved away slightly nervously and then walked back to me so I could undo his headcollar. What a good boy!
I must say I was very thrilled to have done it and it must get easier each time so that I don't really think about it. Lots of love and thank you for being there for me.
JH xxx
E-mail 1.2.08

Hi Sarah,

I hope you are well! It's a week since you came and I thought you might like to know Conker's being a good boy and I have led him out from the stable 6 times now on Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon, Tue, Wed and tommorrow. Love Jane xxx

Just though I’d let you know that I already saw a change in G-pony this morning. Did a little bit of sending her backwards while I was getting her through the gate to bring her in and as we walked across the field she was licking and chewing. After her feed she walked straight back with me, didn’t barge at all and only tried to go for grass once……..cant believe it is making a difference already.
From HB 7.2.08

I thoroughly enjoyed it (the course at the Exmoor Pony Centre), learnt lots and found you a very helpful, calm, friendly and approachable teacher. I still hear your voice in my head when I am handling "I'm not dead yet! Instincts, God and his mother...." !! I'm not really sure if this means I am mad, I think you should take this to mean that you have an effective teaching method which sticks in people's heads!!
JH 7.2.08

I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your Session on Saturday and how very helpful it was to both myself and B-horse. He has been a different horse since, very respectful and so good. He was a good little boy anyway but has stopped all the nibbling, and prodding, and stands to have his rugs changed. No more fidgeting.

DA 8.2.08

Evaluation Form

Handling the Young Exmoor Pony 28th October to 12th November 2007

I learnt new aspects of behavioural techniques and was able to practice and reinforce others that I had read about and learnt on courses that I have done in the past.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much hands on work we were able to do with the ponies. Other course, which cost more, offer far less opportunity for practical hands on experience.

The whole course was extremely useful covering many aspects of animal training eg positive and negative reinforcement, advance and retreat, desensitisation and clicker training. I have 2 horses, one mature and the other 3 years old, and I have been able to use many of the skills learnt on the course in their training. I have also found it very useful in handling other horses on the yard that are younger or more challenging than mine.

Sarah was very clear in explaining and demonstrating different behavioural techniques and provided a calm, safe and positive learning environment for both foals and students.

10/10 – without a doubt! For me, the course was the highlight of 2007!

This course offers a rare opportunity to learn how to handle not only very young foals and wild animals but also to learn how to help traumatised ponies.
DJ 10.2.08

Without Sarah’s help, initially to remind me how to long rein and then help desensitiising and helping me to start the pony long reining I would not have got anywhere.

PA 14.2.08