How many minutes, hours, or days do you think you have you spent watching DVDs or Youtube clips of other horse trainers working with horses? If you are like the majority of horse trainers, that number may be much higher than the time you’ve spent watching yourself train. With this post I hope to convince you that those numbers need to change.
Your camera or smartphone may be one of the most beneficial training tools you own. When we film (and objectively review) our training sessions we are able to see with great clarity areas where we are doing well with our feel and timing, and areas where we can improve. Reviewing training sessions also allows us to step back from what was happening in the moment, and better observe the horse’s response to our approach that session. Were our cues too abrupt? Did we give the horse enough time to respond to the cue? Did we miss opportunities to more frequently reinforce the horse for desired responses or behavior?
It can help to watch training clips a few times (with the sound off first) focusing on different aspects on each review. Turning the sound off allows you to visually observe first, without noise distraction. Turning the sound back on will then allow you to notice if you use your voice appropriately, or not, during training.
On the first run through of your clip watch just the horse and their reactions and responses: Does he look calm and interested in training? Does he look confused or worried? Is she responding to cues, or is she instead escaping escalating pressure?
Now watch again, this time focusing on your behavior: Is your timing correct? Are you offering clear cues for the horse? Could your shaping steps be smaller, or larger? Have you adequately prepared your horse to learn what you are currently teaching? Are you punishing more unwanted responses than you are reinforcing desired ones? If yes, can you see ways to change that balance?
It’s important we review videos of ourselves objectively, without harsh criticism of our efforts. The goal of reviewing your training sessions is not to make you feel badly about your current skills, rather it is to help you improve. And we can ALL improve. Trust me. Make sure the inner self-talk you use when observing your sessions has the same tone of voice you would use to critique the work of a friend or fellow trainer you respect and admire. That tone should be helpful and constructive.
In summary, filming yourself when training horses involves the use of the single best tool in your training toolbox: your brain. As my friend Sarah Dykes says, “Use your brain to train.”
Happy horse training.
Lauren Fraser, CHBC offers relationship-based horse training that blends the art of horsemanship with behavioral science and the practical application of learning theory. She provides horsemanship coaching, behavioral consultations, solutions to problem behaviors, foundation training, clinics, and educational presentations.
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True narcolepsy is rare in horses, but sleep deprivation is not.
This video shows an older mare who is sleep deprived, falling into REM sleep while standing. Horses must lay down to achieve REM sleep, and when deprived from doing so it may manifest as the behaviors you see here. Sleep deprivation is harmful to the health of all animals, so it is very important that your horse has the ability to lay down each day, and feels safe to do so.
Horses won't lay down to sleep for a number of reasons such as pain, lack of suitable resting sites, or when they don't feel safe to lay down. It's reported that two factors resulted in this mare not laying down to sleep - the arrival of a new horse, and undiagnosed arthritis pain ... See MoreSee Less
Sleep Disorder Case : Horses require 30mins/day REM sleep. Siri is a 22 year old Arab X mare. Last summer after a new, dominant horse was introduced to the herd, she lost weight and was seen to have frequent episodes of partial collapse, once falling onto her side. The episodes resolved, but a couple of weeks ago the same behaviour was observed again and New Forest Equine Vets were called in to investigate. Collapse in horses is fortunately uncommon, but when it does occur can obviously be hazardous to both horse and handlers. Three types of 'collapsing' are seen in horses; seizures, syncope (fainting) and sleep disorders. Siri underwent a very thorough clinical examination including neurological and musculoskeletal assessments, and had a range of blood tests performed. The most significant findings were; The original association of the behaviour with the arrival of a new field-mate. A low grade right hind lameness, with severe persistent right hind pain with flexion tests. The gradual lowering of the head, before the front legs buckle. We also found a cardiac arrhythmia; Siri has a second degree AV block, but this is a normal finding in horses and would not cause fainting. Siri's condition is a Sleep Disorder. True narcolepsy can occur in horses, and is usually associated with events like grooming or saddling. Siri is most likely suffering from sleep deprivation. Horses require 30 minutes of REM sleep per day and although they can doze standing up, they need to lie down for REM sleep. We expect that when the new dominant herd-mate arrived, Siri was not comfortable to lie down in the field with him. Now she has lameness and finds it painful to flex her right hindlimb, which is likely to be preventing her from wanting to lie down to sleep. She is currently on a bute (pain relief) trial, and her owner has made her a lovely deep stable bed that she is coming into daily to encourage her to lie down – so far, no further collapsing episodes have been seen. A very interesting case and a good reminder of how important it is for horses to feel comfortable, physically and psychologically in their herd/environment, so that they don't miss out on their REM sleep.
3 days ago ·