I thought I’d share some interesting words from Alexandra Kurland this week for the blog:

Well-Prepared Companionship

Most of us have had a tough winter. With the extreme cold this winter it’s been hard to work with our horses. This post is a reminder that little things add up. Even when we can’t ride the joys of clicker training are still there.

I’ve just come in from the morning play time. If anyone tells you the horses are just working for their food, they have never met a clicker-trained horse. Robin, my hay vacuum, keeps an eye on my progress through the morning chores. He knows my routine. When he sees that I am almost done, he leaves his half-eaten breakfast and goes into the arena. If I am too slow or I don’t seem to be getting the hint, he comes and gets me.

This morning we had a wonderful session. My goal with these sessions is not to produce a finished, polished performance, but to have fun with my horses. Well-prepared companionship is the perfect way to describe our time together. In clinics people come with their clicker stars, and they want to know what’s next. They have a beautifully mannered horse, with a rich repertoire of behaviors to play with. What is next is just that – play. Enjoy the relationship that you’ve built.

This morning after some very pretty trot work, Robin found a spot to lie down, and Peregrine and I went over to join him. I wish I’d had a video camera running that could zoom in on the three of us. Robin, lying down next to me, had his head practically in my lap and Peregrine was nose to nose with him. We started doing body part targeting: ears, chin, forehead. I’d ask them each to target an ear to my hand. Both horses would offer me an ear. Chin targets – I’d have Robin cupping his chin into my left hand, Peregrine into my right hand. Forehead – they’d dip their heads to my waiting hands.

Well-prepared companionship.

Fierce Robin has learned that he has to share with Peregrine. Threatening Peregrine and telling him to stay out of HIS space, away from HIS person, is not how this game is played. The more he lets Peregrine share his space, the more treats and attention he gets from me. And Peregrine has learned that it’s safe to come in close and get treats even with Robin right there. He won’t be driven away.

This understanding has been developed over a long period of time. It’s grown stronger since we’ve moved to the new barn, and I can work with them together in the arena. The results of this well-prepared companionship are moments like this where we can all three be so vulnerable and yet the trust is there. I can sit on the ground feeding treats out of my pocket, and both horses can share in the play.

Peregrine eventually left to have a roll of his own and Robin and I decided it was time to get up. We’d had a good play. They headed off to finish their breakfast, and I went in to the tack room for a cup of tea. We often think of advanced training as something big and dramatic – a gorgeous warmblood doing tempe changes, or a quarter horse galloping into a sliding stop. Sometimes advanced training sneaks up on us in the form of these treasured moments when you can sit with your beloved horses and share in a quiet moment together.

Alexandra Kurland

Well-Prepared companionship
Fri Mar 28, 2014 2:56 am (PDT) . Posted by:
“Alexandra Kurland”