At Home Clinic Series
Starting in March
Click on each course to learn more
Every horse is a study of one. The coaching sessions give you direct help with your training. They are truly like a clinic. Join others in the courses to learn from one another in the coaching sessions. Learn more
Each of the courses is $250. That gives you membership in the course for one year. Once you are enrolled in a course, you can also join the Live Virtual Coaching Sessions.
The individual courses are part of a larger teaching program. I encourage people to go through them in order. Each course builds on material covered in the previous courses. You will begin by registering for Course #1. After you have completed each course, you will be able to register for the next course in the series. The courses are all self-paced so you can move through on your training schedule.
Clinic #1: Off to a Great Start with Clicker Training
$250 for a one year membership in the course.
The title says it all. I want to get you off to a great start with clicker training. And if you are already an active clicker trainer, I want to share with you the evolution of our understanding of how to teach well.
While you're learning how to teach using positive reinforcement and constructional training, your horse will be learning great ground manners. You'll use these foundation skills to teach the "universals".
It doesn't matter what your long-term goals are for your horse, these universals are exactly that. These are skills your horse needs to understand to get along well with people. The universals include haltering, grooming, foot care, blanketing, basic leading, medical care, etc..
That’s a lot of ground to cover and it all sits inside this one course.
At the end of it you will have a good understanding of the core skills and concepts that I want you to take forward into the rest of the courses.
That includes an understanding of
the role the environment plays in successful training.
the six foundation lessons of clicker training.
dynamic food delivery.
the many options you have for teaching strategies.
cues versus commands.
how to keep behaviors (and your horse’s emotions) in balance.
how to chain behaviors together using cues and base behaviors.
This gives you a great starting place for being able to answer for yourself the many “how do I teach my horse to _____” questions you may be starting out with.
These clinics very much follow the adage: “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime”. (As a vegetarian, I am tempted to change the wording, but I will leave it as it is.)
$250 for a one year membership in the course.
Some of the beautiful horses you will meet in this course.
Clinic #2: Extinction: Friend or Foe
Puzzles. That's what our horses throw at us. That's what training is about. It's a series of puzzles that we need to solve. Sometimes those puzzles can seem like giant roadblocks. Other times they are simply interesting brain teasers.
I want to help you learn how to solve those puzzles. If you feel as though you're facing major roadblocks, I want to help you create a smooth path around them. My intent is to help you discover the fun, the sneakiness, the effectiveness of good training.
"Sneakiness" That may not be what you were expecting, but good training can be wonderfully sneaky. You'll be discovering what I mean by that in this course. Step by step, layer by layer, course by course, you are learning how to be a successful puzzle solver.
There's a "What" "Why" and "How" to training.
What are you going to teach? Why are you teaching it? And How are you going to teach it.
In the first course we looked at the "what", "why" and "how" of Getting Started with Clicker Training.
As you went through that course, you probably discovered the truth of the statement: it is always a study of one!
This work is not like baking a cake. There isn't a set recipe you can follow that will guarantee you great results each and every time. Horses are much more complicated than that.
Some horses make the training easy. They are great students, and they make everything so straight forward. But other horses may be coming into the training with a lot of baggage. Their past training experiences have created a lot of confusion and fear.
Think back to your days in grade school. You may have some stomach-churning memories that can help you relate to their difficulties now.
So you may be encountering some puzzles, some road blocks in your training. The intent of this course is to help you understand the puzzles our horses throw at us. Understanding comes first. That makes the solutions easier to find.
So we're going to be looking at Extinction. This course asks an important question. Is extinction your friend or is it your foe?
You'll be finding out what that question means, and why I have chosen to make this the central focus of our second clinic together.
Courses 1- 5 are prerequisites for this course. Once you have completed these courses, you will be able to register for Course #6.
You can't "not cue". Cues evolve out of the shaping process. They evolve along with the behaviors you are teaching. Understanding cues - how to teach them, how to use them, how to transfer one cue to another - plays an important role in keeping you out of the extinction trap. You'll be learning more about this in the Extinction: Friend or Foe Course
Clinic #3: What Do You See?
Good training depends upon clear criteria and good timing. Put those together and you will have high rates of reinforcement. The result: successful learners. Successful learners mean happy learners and happy teachers.
In the previous course we looked at the teaching strategy of loopy training. The clarity of loopy training results in clear criteria. It keeps you from bouncing around - reinforcing this response, then another, leaving a trail of extinction frustration behind you.
Clear criteria evolves out of the constructional approach. You break a complex behavior down into small component parts. Your beginning step is often a very small change, a tiny movement.
If we're going to go micro in the selection of criteria, that means we have to go micro in our ability to observe details.
I say observe instead of see, because we can observe in many ways. We can use all our senses. With horses listening adds to what we see. We hear the uneven rhythm in a horse's trot, and we begin to look for signs of lameness. We observe both visually and tactically. What do we see as our horse moves beside us. What do we feel through the lead? In the horse world "feel" is often regarded as a special gift, something you're "born with". The reality is we can all learn to be better observers and that's what this course is all about.
Before we can see fine detail we need to understand what we are looking at. What do you want?
Balance sits at the center of everything.
Good balance isn't just about looking pretty.
Think of it like a triangle. Physical balance, emotional balance and long term soundness are all connected. If you want a happy horse, a healthy horse, a great relationship - balance matters.
So we're going to begin this course by looking at balance. We'll look at example/non-example to help you discriminate. What pleases your eye? What does good balance mean to you?
This is not a "how-to" clinic. I won't be going through the step-by-step details of individual lessons. That's not the function of this particular course. Instead you'll be learning what to look for no matter what the lesson is that you want to teach.
You'll be learning how to recognize good balance, and why good balance matters.
The expression is: Click for behavior. Feed where the perfect horse would be.
What are you looking for? And where would the perfect horse be? That's what we'll be exploring in this course. I know many of you will want to skip past all of this. You want to get your horse on a trailer or standing well for the farrier. You want to saddle up and ride.
All of these skills depend upon our triangle: a happy horse, a healthy horse, and a great relationship. Build those and everything else is easier.
Courses 1- 2 are prerequisites for this course. Once you have completed these courses, you will be able to register for Course #3.
What do you see? To help sharpen your eye, I'll be sharing some fabulous before and after photos. These case histories really help you appreciate how important good balance is for the welfare of your horse. In addition to the photos, I'll be using slow motion video analysis and a new Awareness Exploration series.
Clinic #4: Rope Handling
The rope handling course represents a shift in focus. So far we’ve been looking at the WHY and WHAT of training. Now we’re going to look at HOW.
This is a skill building course.
We put halters and leads on horses. We ride horses. We want them to respond to tactile cues. So the question is not do we use these pressure-based cues but how do we teach them? I want the lead to be a communication tool my horse trusts. Escalating pressure doesn’t belong in the clicker training tool box. It creates avoidance and fear which generates tension. They work against everything I want for my horse - great balance, a great relationship, a sound body, a happy, confident learner.
The rope handling that I teach has been developed by the horses I have worked with over the past thirty years. It has been the horses who have shown me the details that matter to them. What feels safe? What feels inviting? What makes sense? Is this clear or is this better? The horses have shown us how to ask questions and let them provide the answers. So the details that I fuss are not arbitrary. They are there because the horses have shown me that they matter.
In the horse world, we’re told that having a good “feel” is important, but it’s also implied that it’s a gift. You know the phrase - he’s a gifted horseman. That implies it’s something you’re born with.
I know better. A “good feel” is very much something that can be taught. It’s something we can all learn.
That’s what this rope handling course is about. I’ve developed a series of Awareness Explorations and rope handling demos that will help you develop beautiful handling skills.
Good rope handling is something you can learn, but it isn’t something you will master all in one go. It is a study of a lifetime. This course contains lessons you will return to over and over again as you explore what it means to shape on a point of contact.
Courses 1- 3 are prerequisites for this course. Once you have completed these courses, you will be able to register for Course #4.
Everything is connected: liberty work, work in-hand, riding: they all grow out of the same core understanding of how to communicate back and forth between horse and handler. The result is a horse who floats with you in beautiful balance.
With thanks to Michaela Hempen and her mare Graya.
Course #5: Managing Energy and Emotions
There's an expression I use a lot in clinics. You only know what you've presented. You don't know what anyone has learned.
Each of you brings your own study-of-one history and expectations to these course. I always find that it's arrogant of me to say what you'll learn. I know what I am going to cover but I don't know what is going to grab yopur attention. If you started these courses because you had one of those "I've tried everything!" problems and out of desperation you thought you'd give clicker training a try, you may have started out impatiently waiting for me to get to your unique problem. "When is she going to talk about teaching my horse to stand for the farrier?" That may be your lament.
Or maybe you have a perfectly nice horse, and you just want to learn more about positive reinforcement training. You're as interested in the "why" as you are in the "what".
Those are two very different reasons for exploring this work. My two hypothetical learners may latch on to very different parts of this course. So what will you learn? I don't know, but I suspect the simple answer will be a lot!
We're definitely moving away from basics into concepts that sit on the leading edge. This is the work we explore in Science Camp with Dr Jesus Rosales Ruiz, Mary Hunter, Michaela Hempen and myself. That doesn't mean the work is suddenly going to become difficult and hard to understand. As always, the approach I'm taking is constructional. We may be looking at complex ideas, but we will do it through the lens of behaviors you understand well.
One way of viewing this course is to say that it's about problem solving. Most of our horses have some unwanted baggage we'd like to get rid of. But getting rid of things puts us in an older way of thinking. The focus is on the problem and what we can do to fix it. In these courses you've been learning how to shift your focus very deliberately to a constructional approach. That is certainly going to be the case in this course. We may begin by looking at a training problem we would like to solve, but the solution revolves around creating new behavior, not trying to fix something that is already broken. The cribbing project will show you very clearly how this works.
You'll learn how to establish baselines and identify the environmental factors effecting your horse's behavior.
Then you'll establish a training environment in which you teach your horse the behavioral repertoire he needs to be successful. You'll see how these procedures work to:
provide alternatives to stereotypic behaviors such as cribbing.
address unwanted behavior your crossover horse may be presenting such as biting as you saddle him, or reacting violently to the lead.
teach new performance skills.
We'll be following the very detailed case history of Blondie, a quarter horse mare who is the subject of a research project on cribbing conducted by Michaela Hempen under the guidance of Dr Jesus Rosales Ruiz.
So this is real world training. You will be seeing how the concepts we've been exploring can be applied to solve some very complex training issues.
Courses 1- 4 are prerequisites for this course. Once you have completed these courses, you will be able to register for Course #5.
Blondie during the cribbing study
Clinic #6: Connecting the Dots
You can never do one thing
Throughout these courses, I suspect you are finding that with each performance milestone you reach, the relationship with your horse grows ever deeper. That's one of the great bonuses of this work. You can ask for a lot and instead of it being a burden for your horse, he just becomes an ever more confident learner.
What have you done so far?
Through the previous five courses you’ve been collecting an ever broadening repertoire which we have wrapped around a solid conceptual structure, and a means to get there.
Loopy training provides the teaching process. Clicker training gives us the ethical grounding so every step of the training considers our horse’s welfare. It also provides us with a great deal of laughter.
You have used the foundation lessons to improve your horse’s husbandry skills, and that in turn has expanded his repertoire of trained behaviors even further. It is time to connect the dots and move deeper into performance work.
What will you be learning?
In this course we’re going to connect those very first clicker training lessons where you introduced your horse to targeting and the other foundation lessons all the way to riding. We’ll do so by looking at lateral work: what it is, why you want to teach it to your horse, and how you go about “popping it out” of some deceptively simple lessons.
We’ll define what it means to shape on a point of contact. That’s both a key concept and a critical handling skill. We’ll use awareness exploration to explore bend, gives and other critical elements. And I’ll introduce you to The Hug - a powerful lesson that helps your horse release tension throughout his spine. This is an important first step for all performance work, whether it is on the ground or under saddle. You’ll be building a “domino chain” that will transfer directly to riding.
We’ll begin the lesson with a review of shaping on a point of contact. I introduced you to that concept in the rope handling course. Now we are going to use it to teach lateral work.
Courses 1- 5 are prerequisites for this course. Once you have completed these courses, you will be able to register for Course #6.
Michaela Hempen and her mare Graya. I suspect by now you have many pictures of your horse that you want to frame, and as you connect the dots to lateral work, you will have even more.
Course # 7: The T'ai Chi Walk and Lateral Work
It’s time to pop out lateral flexions.
When I first learned about teaching lateral work, there was a lot of crashing and bashing on horses. The result was beautiful - the process for getting there not so much.
So nowadays when I see lateral flexions pop out of lessons such as the “Why Would You Leave Me?” Game, I can’t help but giggle. It can’t be this easy! But it is.
The old masters would say: prepare, prepare and let it happen. And that’s what we’ve done. Through the previous courses you’ve been preparing your horse. You’ve built the repertoire using loopy training. You’re ready for lateral flexions to pop out. In fact they probably already are, but it’s possible you didn’t recognize what was happening.
So in this course we’re going to use some deceptively simple lessons to bring them out into the spotlight.
You’ll be starting with the duct tape lesson and the “Why Would You Leave Me?” Game. That will provide the framework for building two powerhouse lessons: three-flip-three and hip-shoulder-shoulder. Together they will help you will pop out lateral work and prepare your horse for riding.
Courses 1- 6 are prerequisites for this course. Once you have completed these courses, you will be able to register for Course #7
3-Flip-3 lateral flexions help this beautiful draft cross to be as light as a feather in hand.
Course #8: Riding From The Ground Up
Finally! We’re going to be looking directly at riding. I say directly because throughout these courses you’ve been working on riding. Think back to the details I fussed in that very first lesson where you held a target out to your horse, clicked and then fed him a treat. I didn’t let you feed him any old which way. I had you pay attention to your balance and his.
You learned to feed with your left hand on the left side of your horse and your right hand on the right side. You learned to move your feet as needed so you fed, shoulders-over-hips-over-feet in balance. You were having a riding lessons and so was your horse.
When you delivered the treat, you paid attention to where you held your hand. It was click for behavior - feed where the perfect horse would be. In “grown-up are talking” the perfect horse is standing in good balance. That means you’re delivering the treat so he lifts up from the base of his neck. He isn’t falling forward, leaning on his forehand. He isn’t twisting to the side to reach for his treat.
The initial instructions were feed where your horse’s neck looks pretty to you. It’s okay if that changes over time. Food delivery is dynamic. As your eye for balance develops, it may well influence where “the perfect horse” is.
Through these lessons you and your horse were normalizing good balance. It’s so very sneaky. You’re working on one thing related to an immediate task on the ground, but when you include these handling details you are also connecting the dots to riding.
So we’ve been working on riding throughout all these clinics. After all ground work is just riding where you get to stand up and riding is ground work where you get to sit down.
Well in this course you get to sit down! We’re going to ride.
But I don’t want you to get on business as usual and throw away all the work you’ve been doing. What was your horse’s previous riding experience? Did it leave him with some unwanted baggage?
In Course #5 Managing Energy and Emotions, you learned how much the environment influences the behavior/emotions you get. So if you get on and pick up the reins as you have always picked up the reins, you will be right back in the context of stiff, defensive riding.
So in this course we’re going to change your riding cues. You’re going to begin at the beginning with single-rein riding.
I’ll be explaining what this is, how it works and what it will do for you and your horse.
We’ll begin with the basic core single-rein riding lessons. These are designed first and foremost for safety. Perfected they take you to riding heaven.
In the previous course, The T’ai Chi Walk and Lateral Work, you learned about two powerhouse lessons: 3-flip-3 and hip-shoulder-shoulder.
In this course I’ll show you how to incorporate them into circles and turns to develop a beautifully engaged, collected horse.
The lessons begin with basics and take you to the stars!
Courses 1- 7 are prerequisites for this course. Once you have completed these courses, you will be able to register for Course #8
Beautiful balance - physical and emotional is always a delight to ride.
Virtual Coaching Sessions
The lessons that are set up for you in this web site are only part of each course. I will also be holding virtual coaching sessions on a regular basis. You can certainly make use just of the on-line portion of the clinic, but I hope you'll also sign up for the coaching sessions. This is, after all, a clinic and not just a series of on-line presentations. The coaching sessions are held once a month on a Saturday at 1 pm eastern time. They tend to be mid-way through the month.
In these coaching sessions we will be:
discussing concepts/training topics that are of interest.
answering specific training questions.
reviewing video and providing feedback for anyone who wants to send in a video of their training. The video should be related to the course material.
These on-line coaching sessions will give you direct feedback on your horse's training. Plus you will get to watch what others are doing. That's always inspiring.
The coaching sessions are a great opportunity to meet up with other clicker trainers. It's a closed group, which means it's a safe place to share. Clicker training attracts the nicest people. I think you'll find a wonderfully supportive community. If you feel as though you're training alone, this is a great way to connect with training partners.
So this is my suggestion. Go through the course material at your own pace. You don't have to stay up caught up with anyone else. With horses that just isn't practical. It could be too wet, or cold, or hot to train where you live and just right for someone else. So work at your own pace, and the pace of your horse. You'll find these courses are packed. To go through the material in all eight courses, I'm guessing it will take even the most eager trainers about two years. And even then that doesn't mean they're done. If anything, it just means they're ready to get started! Every time you dive back into these courses, you'll find new layers you didn't spot before.
If you want video coaching, you can send in two to three minute video clip for analysis and training tips. You'll get email feedback on the videos, plus we look at many of the videos people send in during the coaching session.
The fee for attending with the video analysis is: $85/session. You can sign up for a spot without a video for $60.
You must be currently registered in the on-line clinics to participate in the coaching sessions.
Once you are enrolled in a course, you will receive notifications for the Live Coaching Sessions.
The length of the sessions will depend upon how many people attend. Normally they are two to three hours long. If they are running much past this, I will add more sessions and limit the number of videos that we watch in each session.
To get the most from the on-line material in these courses, I urge you to join the coaching sessions. This is the clinic part of these courses. I have kept the price of the registration in the on-line portion of the course low in the hope that more of you join in the coaching sessions. But I want to leave it up to each of you to decide how often you attend.
I look forward to getting to know you and your horse through these clinics.
Discover the fun of learning together in the virtual coaching sessions.