EQxpressionists – Conversations with Individuals Modeling Horsemanship as an Artistic Practice

A book by Kali Vanagas
Volume 1 – Interviews with Kim Sturgeon, Cheryl Glen, Ivy Schexnayder, Kim Gould-Wende, Karen Clouston, Joyce de Vos, Julia Thut, Les Freeman

EQxpressionists is a book about playing with horses as artistic expression. Featuring interviews with seven progressive trainers from around the world, EQxpressionists questions what makes horses special to people, how we can create good relationships with our horses, and how we can develop a horsemanship practice that is fuel for life. Those interviewed share their experiences training horses for showing, trail riding, and demonstrations. From Classical Dressage to trick-training, the individuals featured are sure to inspire.

EQxpressionists encourages readers to imagine their dream horses and digs at the question, “How should we work with our equines so that they can truly be the horses of our dreams?”

An insightful extract from the book, from well-known clicker trainer Kim Sturgeon, about some lessons she’s learned:

Tell us about a mistake you made with a horse that we can learn from.

The biggest mistake I made with my horses was believing that a single approach to training (such as negative reinforcement vs. positive reinforcement) is sufficient. I now believe any horse trainer who does not commit to learning as much as possible about all four quadrants of operant conditioning, understanding which popular training methods utilize which quadrants, and developing the skill of knowing how/when to apply each, is ultimately cheating his/her horse and limiting their relationship.

Horses are unbelievably forgiving but also unbelievably intelligent and complex. Even a great trainer can easily spend a lifetime developing a deep relationship with one horse. Every animal must be approached as an individual. Good training technique is important, but knowing when and how to apply particular principles with each individual horse in order to achieve optimum results – now that is an art!

What challenges have you encountered with Tempo since her stall-rest and how have they affected your relationship with her?

Tempo has always been very opinionated and strong-willed. From early on, and still today, she tosses and shakes her head a lot, at us, at the other horses, at objects… even, it seems sometimes when watching her from inside the house, at thoughts in her head that only she can see/hear. She tests boundaries. She hates to be still. As a coming 3 year old, Tempo is now playing some pretty serious dominance games both with the other horses and with us. By using clicker training to teach Tempo that she can make decisions and that she has the freedom to control her environment, she has become quite confident in initiating pretty aggressive dominance play with us. So, I have had to go back to some of the tactics I learned in natural horsemanship to “renegotiate” the need for respect (from her to me) in our relationship.

Mostly what this has meant is that I do now use escalating pressure with her when I want to make a certain behavior (such as charging, striking or kicking) EXTINCT. I still do not use escalating pressure for training behaviors I want, but rather to stop behaviors I never want to see again.

This book is 200 pages crammed with insight, lessons and experience and well worth the read. 

Buy it here or visit the PonyPros website.

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