There are eighteen lessons in the DVD series.
Come have a private lesson with Alexandra Kurland in this two hour introduction to lunging and lateral work.
Pressure as a communication tool
Basic Leading: Foal handling and Ground Manners
The “Duct Tape" lesson
Putting an End to crowding: Lunging and Lateral Work
Does your horse barge over the top of you? Fidget and dance when you groom him? Spook at his own shadow? “Lesson 2: Ground Manners" shows you how to solve these and other common ground problems. In the process you’ll be laying the foundation for upper-level performance work.
“Lesson 2" shows how to teach basic leading and handling skills using the clicker, including:
These fundamental ground skills are the foundation of emotional control and performance in your horse. The video uses freeze frame, and slow motion footage to highlight the details you’ll need to be successful with your horse. Whether your horse is a juvenile delinquent or a solid citizen, the lessons on this tape show you a gentle way to reach your training goals.
In the booklet, “Getting Started, Clicker Training for Horses", I describe three exercises, targeting, head lowering, and backing, which are the basic building blocks that I teach to all clicker-trained horses.
Targeting introduces the horse to the basic concept of the clicker: behavior leads to click, click leads to rewards. Touch a cone, and all of a sudden your human turns into a giant vending machine! Targeting is the main focus of the first video.
Backing expands the clicker concept for the horse, and helps put an end to mugging behavior. Nudging you is not the way to unlock the “vending machine". Yielding to pressure and moving away from you is. That means that built into the foundation of clicker training is respect of space. You must have that for safety. You also need it for upper-level performance work. This is the focus of Lesson 2: Ground Manners.
Head lowering is the third important building block because it creates trust and relaxation. This is the mental state in which your horse is going to do his best learning. This is the focus of Lesson 3: Head Lowering: Your Calm-Down Cue.
Lesson 2 begins with a discussion of negative reinforcement: what it is and what role it plays in horse training in general, and clicker training in particular. The video shows you how to take the horse training skills you already know and combine them with clicker training. That’s one of the great strengths of clicker training: it piggy backs so well onto other training methods. You don’t have to throw away everything you have already learned about horse training. You take the best of what you know and combine it with clicker training to make it even better.
Clicker training makes use of two powerful training shortcuts. The first is targeting. The second is negative reinforcement, or more simply put, pressure and release of pressure. This later is something that all horse training, no matter how gentle or harsh, has in common. Pressure and release of pressure is the way we communicate with horses. When you take the slack out of a lead or a rein to ask for a turn, you are using pressure. When you add leg, or shift your weight in the saddle to signal a change of gait, you are using pressure.
Pressure is our universal language. To be safe around horses, they need to learn to move away from pressure. The question is not whether we make this part of our training, but HOW we teach it to the horse. In clicker training pressure becomes information the horse uses to get to his reward faster. From his point of view he is just playing the children’s game of “hot and cold" Pressure is not meant to intimidate or cause pain.
Lesson 2 shows you how to introduce the concept of moving away from pressure to your horse. It begins with a very simple exercise which is particularly useful for pushy, bargy horses: backing in a stall or small paddock.
The purpose of this lesson is twofold: to teach your horse to move away from pressure and to teach him how to maneuver his body in tight, trappy spaces. This later piece connects the turning of his hips to you and gives you control of his feet.
When a horse is first asked to back near a wall, many horses will feel stuck. They don’t realize that they can just swing their hindquarters over and continue to back. Instead the only options they see are either barging forward over their handler, or planting their feet and growing roots.
Through this very simple exercise we are teaching the horse to be more aware of his whole body. As he learns to swing his hips to the side and back out of your space, click!, good things happen. All the pressure goes away AND he gets a treat. In addition to learning an important physical skill, he’s also learning emotional control and relaxation.
In addition to learning an important physical skill, he’s going to be learning emotional control and relaxation. He’s going to discover that turning into a freight train and barging over the top of you isn’t the only solution available to him. When he finds himself in a tight, trappy situation, instead of panicking or freezing, he can look to you for guidance to help him out.
Working in a stall or small paddock helps a horse learn how to maneuver his body, and it also helps the handler learn how to set his horse up for success. The video uses slow motion and freeze frame footage to teach the mechanical skills needed for this lesson. It highlights a fundamental handling skill which is one of the key building blocks for many critical ground exercises, including head lowering and lateral work.
From backing in a stall the video lesson progresses to basic leading. Here I let Max, a three month old Friesian colt, and his owner teach the lesson. Backing, moving the hips and shoulders, yielding softly to pressure on a lead, and the beginnings of ground tying are illustrated clearly by this youngster.
The second half of the tape extends the concept of moving away from pressure to teach the beginnings of lateral work. I use my young horse, Robin, a Cleveland Bay cross, to illustrate how you can focus on individual parts of the horse and get them yielding to you. This “duct tape" lesson, as I refer to it, is the cornerstone in the development of both basic control and all upper-level performance work. The video shows you how you can take a basic “move away from pressure" lesson and combine it with the clicker to produce an incredibly light, and responsive horse. This is the beginning of the development of a beautiful, elegant carriage that has become the hallmark of our clicker- trained horses.
It’s all well and good to watch a trained horse perform, but it’s often much more useful to see how you work with a horse who doesn’t know anything about lateral work. In the final section of the tape, you get to watch our Icelandic stallion, Sindri, in his second in-hand clicker training session. Sindri began this lesson by crowding in on me and wrapping his body around mine. Never mind lateral work, just walking a straight line with him was our first goal. Sindri’s eagerness to be right there next to you made this almost impossible. The solution was systematically to teach him to move his hips and shoulders away from pressure. The result was the beginning of lateral work and lunging.
When we taped this session, I was not wearing a microphone, so the sound quality is not as sharp as I would like it to be. However, it was such a good visual, I felt it was important to include this footage with the rest of the lesson. This part of the lesson is especially for all of you who have felt totally left out when you have listened to an experienced horse person describing a horse’s movement. If you have trouble seeing what they are talking about, you will really appreciate the slow motion segments in this tape.
From lunging to lateral work you’ll learn how to ask a horse to carry himself in balance instead of crowding into you. Through slow motion and freeze frame footage, I highlight the important mechanical skills you’ll need for this lesson, and the responses you can expect from your horse. In addition to a basic clicker lesson, you’ll be training your eye to see and understand the balance shifts that help a horse perform at his best.
This DVD was first produced in 2000