horse training

Learning Curve

Narrated by Kate

To give you a bit of background about me: I started out a “new” horsewoman. I spent my suburban childhood and college years without a single animal companion! (GASP!) The only animals we had in our home were a few fish … and they only lasted a few weeks before my dad tried to clean the tank. (Sorry dad!) I came home from school to an empty fish tank - so, fish were out. On top of that, my parents could never agree on a size of dog they wanted: dad wanted a great pyrenees like he had grown up with, and mom wanted a small dog that didn’t bark or shed… 🤔 (basically she wanted a stuffed toy) - so we never actually had animals.

Meeting horses for the first time was a bit intimidating for me. Honestly - just being on a farm with 6 dogs was a shock to me. But, in a sense I think that helped me in my training abilities. I was a clean slate. We have people of all abilities contact us, some have had horses (like Lisa) for practically their entire life. Others, have spent their life around horses, but have never owned any. Still others, have extensive experience with dogs but want to get involved with horses, and a few are just like me.

I’ll share one of my favorite learning stories, that may help open your eyes to some lessons your trainers have been trying to teach you.


Denver & the Scary Grate

Denver

We were out training in downtown Oxford. It was a gorgeous day, years ago, where we had visitors who were purchasing horses shadow us to get a feel for how we train our horses. We had started writing down our training material but didn’t have seminars available yet. Downtown Oxford has a nice piazza area where you can often hear bands playing and a nice lawn area where students were doing their homework and relaxing in the grass.

Steps are a big deal for horses, we all know that. But, try concrete steps with a grate at the bottom of them for drainage. I want to say we had Denver and Dallas out to train together. Dallas - like the champ he always is - walks carefree over the grate and up the four wide steps to the platform. Denver, starts to follow Dallas, but notices this strange grate and plants his feet. I squat down on the stairs (boo-boo #1) and give him a little pressure to move forward. He resists, so I let up on pressure to let him regroup. His head bobs down to smell the grate and I apply pressure again. He pulls back a bit but I “hold my ground” (boo-boo #2) and keep pressure to see if he will come forward. Sure enough - he caves into the pressure. But, did you notice boo-boo #1 was my squat? He caves into the pressure and jumps towards me. Practically on top of me. … Well… I was in shock. Lisa came over and took Denver so I could stand up and regroup.

Red in the face, I started to think, “there is no way I can handle horses!” I take Dallas from Lisa and she goes back at it with Denver. Remember that key that horses learn in pictures - that is NOT the kind of picture I want Denver using every time he sees stairs. Lisa takes him around the ramped sidewalk, back into the grass (careful to avoid stairs) and talks her way thru doing this again with Denver.

Keep moving, forward motion is always better. If he stops to smell the grate, which he thinks is a big black hole, let him, then turn around, regroup and head forward towards the steps again. Walk NEXT to him, say “step” and continue forward as if there is nothing out of the ordinary. If you are nervous, the horse will pick up on that. If they stop, turn around and try it again.

Low and behold, after giving him a second to smell the grate, turning around to regroup and walking towards the steps again; Denver took a leap over the grate and walked right up the steps. She continued this movement a few more times until the leap turned into a slightly elevated step. We end training on a positive note then walked back towards the trailer.


The Learning Curve

I am constantly learning! I don’t think I know near enough about how horses’ think or perceive the world. I do know for a fact - you can only get better if you practice. Learn from your mistakes, and create ground-rules for what to do in certain situations. Sure, I came into this with the least knowledge of all of us, but I think it has truly made me appreciate the bond I share with all the animals I have “started from the bottom” with. The relationship I have with Denver is quite a unique bond now, because we have made mistakes together and grown thru them. I’m thankful for my learning curve and hope to continue learning from each horse I have the pleasure of training with.

More Seminar Dates Announced

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 Our seminars are very popular and have been given great reviews by those who have attended. Since so many of you have asked for addition dates we have decided to put together a very special set of classes that will be held only here in Ohio.  

We are offering a specially designed class that will combine Level 1 and Level 2  with hours of hands on training and participating in an actual visit. These seminars will be held  here at our farm in Hamilton, Ohio. The classes will be small so that each student gets plenty of personal attention and the ability to practice what you have learned. The classes are limited to 6 students and you will be able to work with our horses for all the hands on portion, you will also be able to experience our specific training methods for both horses and handlers. While you are here with us we will do an actual visit, you will be able to experience first hand what its like with our trained handlers by your side. You will walk thru all the steps necessary for preparing the horses for a visit, going on a therapy visit and a post visit evaluation. Our desire is for you to get a full experience in animal assisted therapy and gain as much experience as you can. 

Miniature Therapy Horses Level 1

This portion of our seminars is key to understanding our philosophy to our program and how we approach all the training we do for horses and handlers. It is also created as a road map to help you walk thru the maze of question you might have in regards to insurance, setting up a visit, becoming a 501C3, training your horse, choosing a horse, becoming a handler, finding good products and a whole host of other needs. The Level 1 seminar will include a study guide you can take home that will contain pages and pages of all the information discussed in the lectures. The guide will allow you to follow along and take notes as well. we cover Level 1 Friday evening and into Saturday. 

 

Miniature Therapy Horses Level 2 

This course is designed to take all the information you gained in Level 1 and put it into practice. This portion of the seminar is hands on and will walk you thru the steps of choosing a horse, training your horse and preparing for the different levels of registration. It will also give you practical guidance when it comes to handling your horse for various types of visits. Both of these courses are key to our program and build upon each other. Taking these seminars will allow you to register your horse through our program free of charge. Level 2 will be covered Saturday with a visit for you to participate in and ending Sunday with more training and one on one training. 

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Dates for Seminars Level 1 &2  Hamilton, Ohio 

Aril 27-29, 

June 1-3,

August 27-29

October 5-7

We are excited to share our experience and expertise with those who are desiring to learn more about animal assisted therapy with miniature horses. We would love to have you participate as an individual or as a group. If you think this experience is for you or have interest, please contact us for further details. 

🦄 #TherapyUnicorn

We spent the most of our mornings and evenings training our horses (in particular, our unicorns) at the farm. Although they are usually a muddy mess, we have such a great time getting them out and working with them. Dallas is a true country boy at heart, and Denver always poses for the camera.

Denver & Dallas are often found at Miami University during midterms or finals, often with colored manes and unicorn horns. Students go nuts. When Denver & Dallas "strut their stuff" students will point, stare and beg their friends to come see us. The best part, many of these students laugh, smile, and relieve some stress while petting our ittybittyhorses. 

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We've talked with many students at Miami who explain their fears of horses, but don't feel the same intimidation with our horses. Others mention our visits are the highlight of their week. The best stories are from those that tell stories of struggles during the semester and feel a renewed energy to finish strong because of the joy they experienced when interacting with our mini horses. 

Our therapy unicorns create magical memories, especially for this sweet young girl. Her grandfather made her a promise years ago, and during this visit we were able to help him keep that promise. She was thrilled to meet a real unicorn and spend time petting, loving and walking with Denver. Her smile was contagious and her love of our unicorn was quite apparent. There is something truly magical when people of all ages meet our unicorns, and we are thrilled to be able to bring so much joy to our visits with these wonderful horses. 

Stay tuned….. one of our newest therapy candidates shows promising signs to be a therapy unicorn. Her sweet personality and enjoyment of human interaction has made her therapy training fly by. Keep an eye out for a new unicorn on the block, Kallie. She has already become a princess here at the farm, and will soon be a favorite for visits as well. 

 

Serving Others. Bringing Joy. Offering Hope.