Category: Behavioural science

Breaking News! Alexandra Kurland in Scotland June 2020

Alexandra Kurland will be in the UK in June to give a Scottish clinic in

Monymusk, Aberdeenshire,

on 27-29th June 2020

Please click on the links for further details

Alexandra Kurland is one of the foremost trainers in positive reinforcement.  She is the author of many books and 19 DVDs on this work.  Her background is in training horses and classical work but trainers of all species have benefitted hugely from her expertise.  Her speciality is balance for the horse and handler/rider.  She is on the faculty of many International conferences, WOOF, CLickerExpo, ORCA etc and gives clinics in both theUSA and Europe.

Places are limited and will be on a first come, first served basis.  There are a maximum of 6 horse places and 9 places for non-horse participants.  As with all of Alex’s courses, there will be rope-work, balance work, human-horse simulations etc so the non-horse people will be kept active, busy and fully involved too.

There will be an Introductions session on the evening of Friday 26th.  The introductions will take place in Nether Glenton, Monymusk, Aberdeenshire, Scotland at 6:30pm.  This will also be the venue for the 3 day course.

Places are limited and will be on a first come, first served basis.  There are a maximum of 6 horse places and 9 places for non-horse participants.  As with all of Alex’s courses, there will be rope-work, balance work, human-horse simulations etc so the non-horse people will be kept active, busy and fully involved too.

For more details and to book.

Building confidence

We work with horses.  Many are big powerful animals and can be intimidating to work with.  We may love our horses but fear is a big factor that can come into our relationship and is not to be lightly dismissed.  Fear often makes us aware of our own limitations and keeps us safe….hugely important.  Sometimes, however, our fears can be because of an old accident or incident with a different horse and may, to some extent be illogical.  Nevertheless, these fears are very real.  But we can help ourselves.

As part of her clinics and online course, Alexandra Kurland shares some wonderful simple exercises that help the rider/ trainer become balanced over the balls of their feet, free up the neck and show the benefits of bone rotations. They also help us open up across the chest and, as Alex says,” fill our own space”. They only take a few minutes but make a significant difference to the human bodies and so I also incorporate them in my courses.  They help us to become centred, grounded, stable and so, much more relaxed, comfortable and confident in our bodies.

When we got together in April, I introduced the Dorset clicker training group to Amy Cuddy….not in person, but via her wonderful TED talk. If you have a spare 20 mins at some stage, I can highly recommend spending them with Amy.  Not only is the information she gives us fascinating, but so is her own story of triumph over adversity!

Amy is a social psychologist who has studied the effect of body posture on our brain chemistry.  Standing for just 2 minutes in a “power pose” can increase testosterone and lower cortisol levels in the brain.  This is just enough to reduce anxiety and increase confidence to allow us to “fake it ’til we make it”.

wonder womanSo, what’s a power pose?bolt1  Well there’s the hands on hips, chin out, chest up, Wonder Woman pose. or the hands raised high in the air in the “I’m the winner” pose.  Just two minutes are sufficient to give the boost that is needed.

Abigail, one of the course attendees, had taken this away with her from the workshop and practiced each day as her horses had their morning feed.  She had found great benefits from this simple exercise, going to her horse in a much more relaxed and positive state of mind than previously.

So we added this to our daily routine with some great success….why not give it a go?

More ORCA Conference information

Katie Bartlett also attended the ORCA conference and shared her wonderful notes.  Katie has put all these together on her website Equine Clicker Training .  As well as the speakers whose work was described by Mary Hunter, Katie has also posted notes for the talks of Dr Jaak Panksepp, Alexandra Kurland, Phung Luu and some private talks by Barbara Heidenrich, Steve Aibel and ORCA students.

Dr Jaak Panksepp
Dr Jaak Panksepp

Dr Panksepp is a neuroscientist who studies emotions in animals.  I was very interested to see that part of his talk also focused on the importance of PLAY and fun in teaching and learning…..he is also the man who discovered that rats laugh when tickled!


Alexandra Kurland
Alexandra Kurland

Alexandra Kurland has worked with horses for many years.  Her talk was about helping your horse to overcome anxiety and allowing your hands to feel relaxation.

Phung Luu
Phung Luu

Phung Luu works with birds and on free-flight shows.  With birds, your training has to be truly excellent, or they can simply fly away!

Thanks Katie for all you hard work taking and posting notes!

Wonderful information

ORCAOver the past couple of months, there have been several international conferences with outstanding speakers.  Sadly I have not been to any of these but I am fortunate enough to know some wonderful people who have attended some of these conferences and taken great notes which they are happy to make available to a wider audience.

The first was ORCA 2014, The Art and Science of Annimal Training conference, held in Texas.  Mary Hunter whose blog is stalecheerios, has written several excellent reports on presentations by Bob Bailey, Ken Ramirez, Kay Laurence and Steve White.  (Clicking on the name will take you to each speaker notes)

Kay Laurence
steve white
Steve White
bob bailey
Bob Bailey
Ken R
Ken Ramirez

None of these are ‘horse people’ but the general philosophies and training that they use can by and large transfer across different species.  Steve White  and Kay Laurence are trainers of dogs (and their humans) while Bob Bailey and Ken Ramirez work with multiple species of animals

One thing in particular caught my eye….in Bob Bailey’s talk he suggested the following:

Ask yourself these questions for whatever you are doing:

  1. Are you having fun? Are you enjoying what you are doing?
  2. Do you want to have more fun? Do you want to keep doing this?
  3. Are you willing to pay the price for more fun?  That is, what are the consequences for what you are doing?
  4. Are you better off today than you were yesterday?  Meaning, are you moving in the direction you want to be moving in?

Having fun is such an important element for both motivation and learning.  Make sure that you and your horse keep enjoying what you do!!