April 4th – May 29th
This 8-week study group with Rachel really focuses on the theory and science behind Connection Training. As you gain a deeper understanding of how and why it works and how it can adapted, you’ll be clear and confident on how to train your own horse. The first few weeks follow the theory and principles, so it’s ideal if you can’t get to your horse at the moment or if you’ve already dived in with the practical lessons but want some more guidance on the theory behind it to improve your practice. The final few weeks will be looking at the practical lessons of training 7 foundation behaviours to your horse, where you get to put this theory into practice!
You will come away from this Course with a deep understanding of how horses learn, and specifically how YOUR horse learns and what approach will be best for him. You’ll discover the training options you have to motivate your horse and help him relax, how to build your communication and bond together and learn how the mechanics of training work with the emotional elements. We want you feel to clear and confident on how to train YOUR horse positively and effectively – this study group will give you that guidance.
This study group is freely available to CT Club members (you get access as soon as you join, so come and learn with us!). Each week, you’ll be given specific videos to watch and exercises to try (most are done without horses if you can’t currently visit your horse, though there are also opportunities to film your own horse for us all to assess the movement together if possible). There is a dedicated forum where you can discuss the topic with your fellow students and share your thoughts and questions. Each week, Rachel will follow the discussions, questions and watch your videos. She will record her answers and advice for you via either video or audio and will post that back here. This is a great opportunity to get guidance throughout the course, learn alongside others and get direct feedback from Rachel.
You can join the CT Club here. You’ll get instant access to all the Home Study Courses and this study group as soon as you join 🙂
Here's the Schedule:
Week 1: Equine Ethology and Learning (4-10 April)
Before you even start to train your horse, it’s important to understand the ethology of horses. That is, what their natural lives consist of. It’s also important to understand that all behaviours you see arise from underlying emotions. Understanding the emotions is the best way to understand the behaviour you are seeing.
Modern neuroscience has given us great insights into what is happening inside the equine brain and helps us to be more understanding and to make better training decisions. Rachel has created a series of videos which explore the emotional lives of horses and relate this to their ethology. Throughout Connection Training we refer to the emotional systems as described in these videos, so watching these will help your understanding of all our work too.
Week 2: Assessing Your Horse and Training Principles (11-17 April)
At Connection Training, we think it is vital to treat each horse as an individual. We don’t give recipes or formulae for training. In order to decide what’s the best approach for you and your horse, we have complied some assessment exercises so that you can work out the best way to begin. This depends on how anxious, fearful, curious or relaxed your horse is when you start. We recommend you follow the exercises in these videos in order to find the best way to begin, before you dive in and start training.
1. Assessing Your Horse
This is a practical exercise you can do straight away with your horse. It helps you to see how calm or excited your horse is likely to be when you introduce treats. It also gives you a great exercise you can use for enriching your horse’s life. Also, if you have a horse who gets over-excited by the training, it’s a great exercise to do before you train to help your horse relax and be mentally ready for training.
Week 3: Body Language and Emotions (18-24 April)
The ideal emotional state for training horses is when relaxation and motivation are in balance. In this state, your horse will be enthusiastic and focused on you, but without tension. However, it can be tricky to get there! These videos are all about increasing motivation or relaxation and show a variety of approaches and techniques for doing so with a range of horses.
Week 4: Targeting (25 April – 1 May)
How you use targeting can help your horse to find emotional balance in training and beyond. Once a horse knows targeting, he will want to play the game to get the reward. So you can, for example, just give the cue (e.g. presenting the target) when your horse is making steps towards being calmer. This then reinforces that emotional state and associated behaviours, such as being more focused on you. With repetition, this can help with all sorts of emotional issues such as zoning out, being too pushy, aggression around food and loads more.
These videos explain how it works in full and shows you the technique with a range of horses with some of the issues described above. There is also a full-length session with a horse who zones out when anxious which leads to bolting behaviour. You will see how we used targeting to help him stay more relaxed and focused on his owner.
Week 5: Clicks, Cues and Moving On (2-8 May)
Clear Cues for Communication: Cues are an important part of the communication between you and your horse, so understanding more about how they work will really give your training a boost.
How Fast Should You Progress? Once again, we’re looking at how horses differ in their training and don’t all follow the same programme! In this video, Hannah is introducing targeting to 2 different horses in a live lesson/demonstration situation. The two horses react totally differently to the training and the biggest difference between them is how quickly or slowly Hannah can progress with each of them. It’s important to move on and progress when your horse has understood the behaviour to keep moving forwards and to keep the sessions interesting for your horse. It’s equally important to go slowly and spend lots of time repeating lessons if your horse is confused or anxious. Tailoring the speed of training in this way to suit the horse is shown clearly in this video.
Week 6: Teaching Stand, Stay and Walk Together (9-15 may)
Building from casual connection time with your horse, these videos show you how to begin training your horse the CT way. The first behaviour we teach is just standing quietly together. This is important as standing still calmly and politely (especially when you have food on you) is necessary for handling our horses and it begins to establish a strong base of relaxation and connection in the training, too. Through this exercise, you’ll also be introducing the marker to your horse so that he begins to learn that it means, “yes!” and will be followed by a reward.
In Part 2, you’ll also learn how to ensure your horse waits quietly for his treat, how and when to use a barrier between you and your horse, adding in stroking and touch to your horse and what to do if your horse doesn’t want to be touched when food is present and begin to build duration in the behaviour, too.
These videos are an overview of the whole behaviour and will be trained over several sessions. Make sure you watch all of the units in this module (at least!) before you get started with your horse so you understand what behaviours to teach, how to adapt it for your horse and how to structure a training session to get you off to the best start when you do begin with your horse.
Week 7: Teaching Targeting (16-22 May)
What is Targeting and Why Teach It?
Targeting is teaching your horse to touch an object with his nose when you ask (actually, it can be any body part such as putting their ear in your hand to overcome head shy issues. However, unless otherwise specified, ‘targeting’ usually refers to nose targeting, which is what we’re covering here). It’s a really useful exercise because it teaches your horse to move towards something, which can then be used to help guide your horse in many other situations and to teach a wide range of behaviours. A few examples of how targeting can be used include leading, lunging, loading, freejumping, teaching ridden movements, despooking and loads more. It’s a fun behaviour to teach because it’s really clear for you and your horse and the process of learning it will further improve your horse’s problem-solving skills.
Week 8: Teaching Back Up, Stand on a Mark and Putting it all Together (23-29 May
Standing on a Mark (also known as ‘stationing’ or ‘foot targeting’) is teaching your horse to stand on a mat, board or low pedestal. This is a great exercise to further improve your horse’s problem-solving abilities and your training skills. However, it also teaches your horse body awareness as he becomes much more aware of his feet and what he’s standing on, it builds horses’ confidence to step onto new surfaces such as into puddles or onto a horsebox ramp and it can be used to improve your horse’s ‘stay’, standing tied, hoof lifting, freejumping and loads more.