Behaviour & Training

Every species has it’s own very specific ‘ethogram’ which sets out the priority of ethological needs required for that animal to feel emotionally and physically well.  For humans this is generally referred to as ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’.  The horse ethogram is very different to other mammals such as dogs and cats not least because they are not a predator but are a flight animal and they live in herds.

Horses are happiest and best adapted to domesticated life if their ethological needs are met as far as possible.  Once these needs are taken care of their ability to learn new things increases and learning becomes motivating and effective.

Fear and stress can be a damaging roller coaster that escalates day by day for no obvious or apparent reason.  This can be due to some of their needs not being fully understood or because communication has broken down between trainer and the horse.  Over time this can contribute to poor health and even affect the welfare of the horse.

Regardless of your chosen discipline, in order to get the best performance from horses we need to manage their stress and help them stay calm in day to day situations.  To achieve this is useful to have taught a set of ‘life skills’ that support them in most situations they are likely to encounter.  This would include:

• visits from the vet, dentist etc,
• having feet handled, trimmed or shod
• travelling by trailer or lorry,
• being handled by strangers,
• separation from companions or field mates
• clipping
• worming
• leading and standing still
• traffic and cyclists
• livestock

These are not things we can take for granted that someone else has taught horses during their life time, but they are just expected to understand how to behave.

Just about anything can be taught without force, pain, fear or stress using shaping plans with positive reinforcement (operant conditioning) training.

Consultations

IMG_0454-224x300It is important to eliminate pain as a catalyst for unwanted behaviours so I will work closely with your vet (and farrier if appropriate) to make sure we are aligned in assessments and working together to support you and your horse. Most vets are happy to give vet referral for my behaviour consultation so this is the first thing that needs to be in place. I can write to your vet or have a telephone conversation to get this in place.

The first consultation will normally take approximately 2 hours when we will go through full history and any other relevant information. We will then observe your horses and I will make a full assessment, between us we will come up with a workable plan to modify the behaviours. It is not necessary for me to observe the actual behaviour if it is a dangerous such as aggression or wild body language.

NAC Behaviour Modification Plans (BMP) follow a framework based on positive reinforcement and providing the horse with the most natural environment possible within your personal circumstances. Everyone is different so this will depend on your livery arrangements, personal circumstance and time constraints, we have to be realistic. I will keep the vet/farrier informed.

There will be some time commitment required from you to work with your horse going forward and the time required will depend on the severity or complexity of the problem. I will work alongside you to support you, we will have follow up consultations and conversations and I will be available on the phone to talk through any questions or concerns.

 

Initial consultation, including report: £100 (2 hours)

Follow up consultations: £45 per hour

Mileage 40p per mile outside a 10m radius of Wellington

How I can help

How I can help

I am available for one-to-one consultations to provide a full behavioural analysis. I do this by going through as much as is known of the horse’s history and asking a series of questions that help me establish the root causes of unwanted behaviours. Once I get a reasonable picture I can make recommendations for a behaviour modification program tailored to the particular needs of your horse, whilst taking into account the owners personal practical ambitions and time constraints. All behaviour consultations will require vet referral.