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 and fateful 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!
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Wanting all horses to be trained in this way, Shawna started to produce teaching videos under her business On Target Training. She wrote her excellent book “You Can Train Your Horse To Do Anything” which was published in 2001 and has become a best seller for people wishing to learn how to be rewarding for their horses.
For over 25 years, she has travelled extensively, teaching at clinics and demonstrating her approach at Expos and shows, often using her own horses Mint and Bugs as the demo. subjects. She has been massively generous with her knowledge, answering hundreds of individual owner queries on her YouTube shows “Ask Shawna”.
Always, for Shawna, it comes back to you the student. How can she make it easy for you, fun for you and therefore fun for your horse, too. Look out for her infectious giggle on her training videos – take this joy to your training and you’ll have a great time and get brilliant results!
You can find out more about Shawna through her Youtube videos: