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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Start communicating!

... Continuing from my previous post Training Approaches – creating a slave or partner?

In the previous post I explained how bridges work.  I use a Terminal Bridge (TB) to tell the horse that s/he made the correct response.  It’s the Stamp of Approval, so to speak.  If the horse almost gets it right, but isn’t quite “there” yet, I encourage using an Intermediate Bridge (IB).  The intensity and enthusiasm of my IB is like the crowd cheering an imminent touchdown.  Judicious use of the IB and TB dramatically reduces the guess work (and the resulting frustration) for the horse.

In order for the bridge have significance for the horse you must first associate the sound "X" with a reward (treat).  This is a crucial first step, as this association must be so strong that the horse will actually choose his/her actions in order to elicit the sound "X" from you.

Conditioning the bridges

Where safety to the trainer is a concern this activty can be done through a physical barrier (such as the enclosure of a pen or stall), until the horse-trainer relationship has progressed to allow closer contact.

The Terminal Bridge

1. Face the horse
2. Make an emphatic, sharp sound: "X"!
3. Immediately present a treat so s/he can receive it immediately (i.e don’t make the horse “hunt” for it).
4. Repeat 3 times.
5. wait until s/he looks away (is distracted).
6. Say "X"!
7. As soon as s/he returns his attention back to you, give the treat.  If s/he does not, repeat steps 1-4.

The horse MUST be convinced that every time s/he hears you say "X" s/he will get a treat.  Without this association, subsequent steps will not work well, or at all.

The Intermediate Bridge

1. Hide a treat behind your back.
2. Say "X", and reveal the treat but at arm's length from the horse's muzzle.
3. As s/he reaches for it, keep the treat steady, and say "xxxxx..." (sounds like little "x"s strung together), increasing the volume and pitch of the sound as s/he approaches the treat.
4. Allow the horse to take the treat, and say "X"!
If s/he stops reaching for the treat, or goes in the wrong direction, immediately stop making the “xxx” sound.  When s/he resumes on the right path, you resume the IB.
5. Repeat 3 times.

Stop for the day!  Time to absorb

This absorption interval is very important for the learning process: it allows the horse's brain to process his/her new experiences. I work newbies for only a few minutes per session, but I may do a couple of sessions in a day.  If I sense burn-out or any sign of stress I quit for the day.  Never let it get to burn-out. This is supposed to be fun and interesting for the horse, and it’s better to stop with him/her still wanting to do more.  NEVER DRILL - three successful trials of any exercise will be more beneficial than twenty.

Start each new day with a brief review of the previous day.  Progress of some behaviors may be unbelievably fast (the horse will “get it” in a few minutes); others will be like watching grass grow.  Always remember that training is a never-ending process that lasts the life time of your relationship with the horse.

Next post, shaping behaviors …

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