Blog of the Year – Emotions and Training

To finish off 2016, we’re all looking back at the year and choosing our favourite CT blog to watch again!

I’ve chosen Rachel’s video about the SEEKING system – the emotional system in the brain which we trigger when training our horses.  I really enjoyed the whole series on the emotional brain systems but this first one starts the ball rolling.

As most of you know, I started doing positive reinforcement training back in the eighties working with marine mammals.  The primary objective in the training was to minimize tension and frustration.  These was unpleasant for the animal and could both lead to aggression so was to be avoided in all circumstances.  In order to do this we had to ensure that the animals were relaxed and free from frustration.  We wanted them to choose to be with us and to engage in the training without any coercion.  This means we were dealing with creating happy emotions. 

As marine mammal trainers, we always talked about ensuring the physical as well as emotional well being of our animals.  The rub here is that the scientific community was far from recognizing emotions in animals at that time.  As professional trainers were to stay in with the science, so we didn’t discuss this goal as an emotional journey.  But it was!

As I transitioned into horse training, I made the assumption that everyone understood and was cognizant of the emotional state of their horses.  So when I started seeing the tension that was being created in the horses being trained with positive reinforcement, I was a bit stumped.  It was when my friend Dr. Helen Spence who was talking about Jaak Pansepp’s work, that it began to really dawn on me that the emotional state was a new concept for the horse training world.  Yet, it is the most important element.  I have always said, “training the ‘stuff’(behaviors) is easy, it is getting the attitude right that is the tricky part”.  Again, this all boils down to emotions and the science is now supporting this idea. 

In addition, this new scientific information supports what I have been seeing for decades.  This anecdotal experience was consistent and I could predict what was going to happen down the line, but I couldn’t give a solid explanation for what was going on or why it was happening.  I had my theories but I knew the science on the subject was not available at that point.  With this exciting new direction in neurobiology, we are now starting to truly understand our horse’s brains and how they work.  It is a very exciting time for us and our animals.

Rachel does a terrific job of explaining how your horse’s emotions affect your training. She explores what makes horses curious, enthusiastic and happy to learn. It’s the first in a series of 7 videos exploring the full range of your horse’s core emotions. This is the science behind Connection Training that shows how a great emotional connection is the key to your training success.

You can watch all the videos in this series here:



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1 thought on “Blog of the Year – Emotions and Training”

  1. Pingback: Emoties bij je paard, zo zit het! - Positief Paard

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