Welcome to the Cardinal Points Farm blog !

Dear friends and fellow animal lovers, here it is ... a blog to discuss training.

My specialty is horse training and dressage, but I’ve applied to my horses many invaluable lessons from other animal trainers. Together we can create a greater awareness of the unlimited potential for greatness that your animals (and you) possess, once you acknowledge that many animal species are intelligent and capable of reasoning and communication.

So let’s get started ! Let's share insights, lesson plans, techniques, videos, pics, stories ... what have you.


Sian Min The
Cardinal Points Farm

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If you'd like to post your training stories, send your stories to me for consideration. Please specify how you'd like the attribution to read, i.e. your full name or your online name.

Texas wildflowers

Had to share this ... spring in south-east Texas after a wet summer brings out this profusion of wildflowers. Mostly Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes. I wish I were a better photographer: I tried to capture the seas of color stretching into the distance.





OWN the training outcome: mitigating dog aggression

As animal trainers, whether of horses or dogs, we are accountable for the consequences of our training: we own the results. We should not shift responsibility to the animal, nor to the training tools we use. Why? Because we humans are supposed to be, and some have insisted that we are, superior in intellect and dominant in role.

For example, how people deal with animal aggression is often based on emotion. News reporting is rife with terms like "vicious", "mauling", "attack", "killer", "dangerous", "rogue", ... you get the idea. These words are eye-catching, but they offer no solution to the problem. What is needed here is understanding and appreciating the animal for what it is, and skillfully channeling its behavior to productive outlets.

Here is an article by Julie K (a familiar contributor to this blog), originally written for a discussion group on the SATS methodology for animal training:

“ Since we have many members here who own pit bulls, I wanted to start a topic here we can discuss this characteristic.

” What is aggression? It is a chemical activity in the brain. It is the expression of and surrender to that chemical release.

” The breed was created for combat (as were many other breeds), and if presented with the correct conditions and ingredients, and allowed to develop to fruition, you may one day experience the perfect storm. Much time is wasted in trying to discern what caused it or which label to give it.

” Our emotional reactions are useless as this is not the way to end the problem, which in truth is only a problem in keeping any animal as a house pet.

” One of the keys to being successful is management. This is a SATS themed list, so I won't discuss that here, other than to say if your dog is expressing, it is your job to stop it from happening and that you should always think in terms of safety first.

” SATS can help us to replace the expression of aggression in many ways. Learning can fill the same neural pathways; aggression cannot occupy the same spot at the same time. We can teach them conditioned relaxation and we can teach them to control their impulses. What you want to teach your dog is up to you and the individual dog; here you will find and learn to use tools to help you teach your dog. Dogs can learn far more than conventional expectations of dog training allow, much of which is designed to repress behavior.

“ The (pit-bull) breed, perhaps more than any, needs useful outlets for its' courage, determination, and intelligence. You may, at first glance, not see the value of some of what we teach, but it is learning and building a communication system with your dog. This is an integrated teaching method, designed by a Master of Ed(ucation), with a lifetime of experience with many species, where the results can be amazing once put together.

“ I recently saw a man in a blues bar with a bad case of Asperger's; think Jerry on Boston Legal--- then he picked up a guitar and all his 'ticking', both verbal and physical, went away as if he had switched neuro-channels. We have the ability to teach our dogs to do this. We encourage you to explore, read, and ask questions, whether your goal is a dog who is well behaved in the presence of others or a title in your chosen venue”.

Julie K, April 10, 2009

Thank you, Julie!

Get your horse's attention ... with another fun game

... and in the process teach him to reinback.

These attention-getting exercises (or games, as my horse sees them) can be very brief and ad hoc. Here's a clip taken on a windy day. In it, I ask my big brown gelding to step back, pause, step forward, then place his chin in my cupped hand. All the while, a flapping yellow object on the fence barely merits a glance from him.

Some observant readers may note the lunge whip in my hands, but they'll also note I do not use it (it's there in case my other horse decides to crash in on the action).

When I speak, he listens. That's what will save me at a show, when tarps are flapping and plastic bags are flying in the wind ...

What happens when the show doesn't go just right?

Here is a wonderful account of a REAL day at a dog show. Horse folks, substitute in the trappings of a horse show, and can you just picture yourself in this situation?
Thank you for sharing this with us, Julie K !

" This Saturday we went to a dog show. It was painfully cold, gusty, and in a covered cowbarn out in the country. I debated whether we should just turn around and go home, donating the entry fee. This particular show is an old one, run by a kennel club which supports my breed, offers trophies, etc., and I wanted to give it a try. It would have been great to have earned a title there, but things just didn't go that way.

" The ring gates had fallen over and were staked into the ground. In the time before we showed, we walked around and investigated the area, saw the sights, named and explained all sorts of different objects, people, and other dogs. The area was roped off with that plastic tape which they use for crime scenes and many of the dogs were afraid of it. I had my little dog investigate it and jumped her over it, which she enjoyed.

" The judge was an old friend and a very nice man, but seemingly dyslexic, often calling the wrong direction in the heeling patterns, and taking a looong time to get through his classes. We didn't show until almost five in the afternoon.

" She did me proud on the heeling, she had rapt attention and great rhythm. I got a bump when she passed the judge, some foot pattering on the stand, lost a bit on the off lead, had nice recall with front and finish. It felt good, like we were really clicking.

" Then came the group stays. On the sit stay, I turned to face my dog from across the ring, and the wind started gusting. The ribbon behind her began to flap. A few seconds into the exercise, it occurred to me I was in the recall position, arms down at my sides--- but it was too late to change it now. About 20 seconds in, she looked at me, and trotted lightly across the ring. We were invited to complete the stays and I had to tell her twice to down, she didn't want to. The three minutes was extremely long, even worse than with most novice dogs; I didn't want her to bust both exercises. The wind was blowing dirt around and the ribbon was making a lot of noise. She tried very hard to comply, even laid her head down several times while her ears were swiveling around. She did it!

" I was disappointed not to have qualified, but will reflect upon what we did right and will work on the things we can better. We have a long future of showing and titling ahead of us, we're in it together, for the duration. What I will remember in the long run is not each individual show, title, win or loss, but our teamwork and relationship".

Julie K, March 30, 2009
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