Welcome to Connection Training, the place to connect with your horse.
We specialise in teaching positive horse training that is practical, effective and builds the relationship between you and your horse.
What We Do
Connection Training is for you if:
> You want to solve a behavioural problem such as loading or catching issues.
> You want to know how to make groundwork and riding as fun for your horse as it is for you.
> Your relationship with your horse is the most important thing
> You want to know how to use reward-based training with your horse that builds both relaxation and motivation.
Online in the CT Club and through live events, we teach horse owners like you all over the globe how to connect with their horse. CT is science-based but firmly practical – we want to show you how to train your horse to overcome your problems and achieve your goals in a way your horse loves, too.
We believe that horse training should be soft, gentle and fun for your horse. We know horses can love learning and being with their human, whether it’s on the ground or ridden and we want all horses to feel this way.
We also believe learning should be gentle, fun and supportive for YOU. We are inclusive, non-judgemental and welcoming to Members from all walks of Equestrian life.
Our approach is also focused on the practice of training. Although based in sound science and theory, we teach you how to use these techniques with your horse in real-life situations.
Who We Are
Connection Training is a collaboration between 3 international reward-based horse trainers and coaches: Hannah Weston, Shawna Karrasch and Rachel Bedingfield.
We have all worked in this field for many years around the world and are experienced in training horses and owners in every field from rescue horses to leisure horses to competition horses.
Soft. Horse-friendly. Gentle.
CT is focused on creating the best experience for the horse. We believe horses should love their time with humans, should enjoy their training and have their voice listened to. We focus on building positive emotions around you and the training, such as relaxation, confidence, clarity, joy and willingness. These emotions create safe, happy horses who are a joy to train, ride and handle.
Practical. Real-world. Effective.
BUT, it’s not some airy-fairy approach – we can help you actually get out there and make real progress with your horse in your situation whether that’s problem-solving, gymnastic groundwork or riding. We show real people and horses in our videos in the CT Club with plenty of different horses and their owners as well as us working with horses, so you can see exactly how to deal with a wide range of horses and responses (doesn’t it drive you nuts when an expert demonstrates how to train something with a horse who clearly already knows it? You’ll find none of that, here! The training is genuine and real-world).
Inclusive. Supportive. Positive.
We welcome all horse-lovers. If you’re interested in trying our reward-based approach and want to create a great experience for your horse while you work with him, we want you to join us! Bitted or bitless, shod or shoeless, companion or competitor.
You are welcome to join our Club of incredible members, who come from all walks of life, from all over the globe but they have this in common: They are supportive, inclusive, friendly, non-judgemental and BRILLIANT at offering genuine support and advice to each other.
Your Horse and You.
In CT, of course we focus on creating the best experience possible for your horse – we want him to be relaxed and joyful in his training. But, we’re called Connection Training, because it’s about the connection between you. We also care deeply about you and want you to feel supported as you learn. Our training videos really are step-by-step so you can see exactly how to approach each training challenge. Our forum is active, friendly, supportive and safe (we ensure it stays that way, though our members genuinely are lovely!). We offer live Q&A’s and Coaching to our members, where we love all kinds of questions (even the sceptical ones!) and can support you at any stage of your horse training journey.
Just like we create for our horses, we create a joyful and safe learning environment for the humans, too. We want you to love coming into the Connection Training Club, just as much as your horse will love coming to his arena for his training sessions.
Fun. Upbeat. Joyful
We genuinely all LOVE what we do. We love horses. We love to help people connect with their horses. We all live and breathe Connection Training and think we have the best jobs ever 🙂 We’re very smiley, friendly, fun and joyful (and a bit daft and goofy sometimes!) – learning should be FUN for you and your horse! There’s way too much ‘serious’ horse training going on, all hard work and perfection, which doesn’t tend to make you or your horse want to get right back to it. Time with your horse should be relaxing, amazing, fascinating and wonderful. This is how we approach horse training and people coaching.
What Our Members Say
If there was one word Hannah’s students would use to describe her training it would be: CREATIVE. Usually said with the accompanying “I would never have thought of that.” Hannah’s brilliance lies in coming up with exactly the right solution for that horse in that moment.
Which is all very well if you have Hannah standing beside you while you’re working, but how does that translate to online learning? Well, Hannah has put together the Connection Training Courses with many examples of real people training real horses, just as it went. That means that sometimes the video quality is a bit wonky, but the training results are always perfect. She’ll show you three different ways to train the same thing and then have another video on common problems and how to deal with them. And, if you still need another idea, just pop a question on the forum and she’ll give you one…or ten. And the ideas will keep coming until you’ve achieved success. Because that would be the second thing her students would say…”Hannah really wants me to be successful and she keeps trying as long as I do.”
Creating the Connection Training Club, with its complete suite of Home Study Courses to teach you to train your horse positively, has been a long-term dream for Hannah. She started planning it back in 2010, filling her wall with post-it notes, with all the courses and potential videos listed on them. In 2011 she launched Hannah Dawson Equine, with Clix College as the first version of what has become the CT Club.
During her teens, Hannah began to explore alternative horsemanship along with traditional British riding and competitions, including shows, showjumping and one day events. With Toby, she gained her Parelli Natural Horsemanship Level 2 at the age of 13 (the youngest in the country then) and rode at clinics with Lucy Rees, Marthe Kiley-Worthington and Jayne Lavender. She studied equine nutrition with Jane Van Lennep (Simple System), Saddle design with Les Spark (Free’n’Easy Saddles) and clicker training with Alexandra Kurland, who gave Hannah her first formal training in positive reinforcement horse training
In 2006, due to Toby’s ongoing physical issues, Hannah trained as an Equine Touch Practitioner, becoming a skilled and sensitive equine body worker. At the same time, she was training extensively with James Shaw and his tai chi for riding. This work helped both her own physical pain issues and improved the horses’ movement, too. She began to teach his work and to incorporate reward-based training into her teaching. Following her passion for healthy movement in both horse and rider, Hannah’s interest in Classical principles, body awareness exercises and the riders’ seat grew. In 2011-2014 Hannah audited 3 years of clinics with Philippe Karl, the famous French Classical Dressage instructor, who is passionate about healthy movement in horses. Hannah loved the results he obtained and his belief that all horses can (and should) learn great self-carriage via lateral work, engagement and jumping. Hannah then took these exercises to train horses to move brilliantly and applied reward-based principles to it to train horses classical dressage with choice, joy and plenty of targets! Hannah has also attended courses with Enlightened Equitation, Eleanor Mercer, anatomy dissections and stretching and mobilisation (for horses) clinics, as well as deepening her own body awareness through Tai Chi, Pilates and yoga. Watch Hannah’s story of her journey with Toby, her best teacher.
Hannah’s unique combination of skills complement each other brilliantly, giving her an holistic understanding and approach to horse training. It is all underpinned with Connection Training – using positivity, rewards and putting the horse’s emotions first.
Hannah co-founded the Equine Clicker Conference in 2012, with Rachel Bedingfield, bringing the world’s most prominent reward-based horse trainers together, both live and online, to share ideas and discuss approaches to this ground-breaking work. It was through this (in 2013) that they met Shawna Karrasch and they discovered a mutual approach and so the three of them pitched together to create this amazing resource for you and your horse.
Hannah has now taught hundreds of people how to train their horses in a fun and positive way. She loves to work with horse owners looking to create a great relationship with their horse, both on the ground and in the saddle, as well as with equine professionals such as vets, bodyworkers and behaviourists. She is also deeply passionnate about working with rescue horses and, along with her own rescue horses (see Rachel’s bio), she has worked with rescue centres for many years, too.
The thing that our students love most about Shawna is that she smiles ALL the time. You can’t go wrong with Shawna. Whatever happens in your horse training is just information, and the more things seem to go off plan, the more amused she seems to be. Perhaps because, things going off plan, shows potentials that you haven’t thought of yet. Or perhaps it’s just because Shawna loves teaching people and training horses so much, it’s all just more fun. So having Shawna guide you through your learning will help you to relax and enjoy it. After all, this IS your hobby isn’t it? The thing you do for relaxation? So it should be fun. And if it’s fun for you, chances are it will be fun for your horse too. And having fun…being at play, is the best emotional state to be in for learning, so it’s win-win all the way!
Shawna learned about the value of fun in learning and training back in the ’80’s when she started her career training marine mammals. There was no question that the training had to be reward based…you can’t coerce a sea-lion to do anything. But rewards come in many shapes and sizes, not only food, and creating fun and interest for these complex animals was an intrinsic part of having them happy and performing well. Shawna’s bright personality and inherent love of the animals meant that she was an excellent trainer, creating brilliant relationships with the animals. It meant she was also an inspiring teacher for new staff, too, passing on her knowledge and experience and always emphasising the happiness of the animal.
Shawna spent 10 years training marine mammals, gaining extensive experience of many species and studying hard to understand the science behind the practise. But it was a chance encounter that brought her into horse training. One day an expert show-jumper called Vinton Karrasch called by to see how this marine mammal training was done. Funnily enough, Shawna had not long since got interested in show-jumping and had started riding lessons, so the two of them began to exchange information and spend time together. Vinton invited Shawna to meet his colleagues, John and Beezie Madden, also top show-jumpers. John was curious if this reward-based approach could help with some of his horse training, particularly fear issues. Within one session, this horse, previously terrified if anyone even held a whip, turn into a horse who wouldn’t stop following a whip. John was convinced and, as Shawna and Vinton were a couple by now, invited them to come and work with his horses.
So Shawna’s introduction to horse training was right at the top of performance. John and Beezie were aiming high and Beezie is now a two-time Olympic Gold Medal Winner and the first woman to win the King George VI Gold Cup at Hickstead. Shawna helped lots of their horses to overcome fears and to learn to learn. But more importantly, she showed John and Beezie how to create motivation and relaxation in their top performance horses, which they have been able to apply to all their horses since. Which is probably the second thing Shawna’s students would say about her: that she empowers them. Her goal is to teach you the principles and set you free to train whatever you like, forever. She loves it when her students get the idea and run with it, the mark of a true teacher. John and Beezie certainly ran with it and can still be seen rewarding their horses’ efforts at competitions!
Shawna published her book, You Can Train Your Horse to Do Anything in 2001, teaching people how to use positive-reinforcement training with their horse.
Shawna is resident trainer at Terra Nova, the Connection Training Centre in the US. She can also be found touring the world teaching clinics and presentations on the power of reward-based horse training.
Connection Training is all about the art, heart and science of training and Rachel’s role is to bring you the scientific background which supports and explains the success of your training. Students say they love the way she makes science relevant to their daily training and how she expands the way they think about horses and their lives and happiness. She makes the difficult stuff easy and the dry stuff interesting!
From her original background in bringing new science, such as organic farming, into the farming world, Rachel became a “born-again” horse-owner in the late 90’s after buying Toby for Hannah (above), her daughter, and finding her passion for horses from childhood re-ignited. She immediately began to explore better ways of keeping and training horses. After studying the work of Monty Roberts and Pat Parelli, she formed the Natural Horse Group in 2001 with the aim of bringing the world’s best equine practitioners and thinkers to the UK. Rachel hosted courses with such luminaries as Marthe Kiley-Worthington, Lucy Rees, Pete Ramey and Jane van Lennep. Through her learning with all these people, she applied the latest science on equine ethology, nutrition, hoof care and training to her own horses, with excellent results.
At this time, she was involved in helping Abigail Hogg research her book “The Horse Behaviour Handbook”. Along with Abi, she started running courses in equine ethology and natural horse-care in their business, Horse-Centred Training.
In 2004 she started the Natural Horse Shop, bringing excellent forage -based feeds and other great new equine products into her area. She studied laminitis and equine metabolic syndrome at Lincoln University, focusing on the management of chronic conditions. She worked as an equine nutritionist during this time.
In 2006 she started to develop the UK clinics programme for James Shaw, who’s tai chi for riding is revolutionary. Her interest in James’ work began after a riding accident left her with a broken back. Looking for solutions to re-build her confidence and reduce her pain, she found James’ work and wanted to share this effective approach. For 5 years, she ran 3 courses/year for him, taking his work all over the UK and developing her own understanding and practise of riding in balance and with breath as the principle aid.
At the same time she started to train more formally in clicker training with Alexandra Kurland, and again worked with her for 5 years, being part of her prominent group of Yorkshire students who were leading the way in developing this approach. At this time, Rachel and Hannah had also just taken on some rescue horses who were in great need of both physical and emotional rehabilitation. Through reward-based horse training, they helped these horses overcome their fear and aggression and re-backed them successfully. They are all still part of their herd, though are retired now (you can see them starring in the 2017 Christmas video. 7 of these 9 horses in their herd are rescues). Through working with these horses, Rachel learned how to adapt the training to the individual you’re working with and why prioritising emotional happiness is the most important key to horse training.
Along with Hannah, she founded the Equine Clicker Conference in 2012, the world’s first gathering of people specializing in marker/reward training for horses. In 2013, they also included a follow-up online conference, so many more practitioners could present and students from all over then world could join in the discussions.
She was also a developer and coach for Hannah’s Clix College, which was the precursor to Connection Training, conducting online seminars, video tutorials and one-to-one internet coaching.
All along, Rachel has studied the scientific background to horse welfare and training, and travelled extensively to gain more education. She has attended many courses and conferences, with people such as Jaak Panksepp, Ken Ramirez and Lucy Rees. She has studied Jaak Panksepp’s work on the neuroscience of emotions in great depth and brings this knowledge of ethology and learning to the Courses in Connection Training. She has toured across Europe, presenting on how horses learn from a neuroscience perspective in joint seminars with Rachael Draaisma, author of the groundbreaking book, Equine Calming Signals and Language Signs.
Rachel also co-founded and runs Cortijo de Segura, the Connection Training Centre in Spain. She loves travelling and is delighted to be meeting her online students at her live clinics and seminars.