by Jelena Kallay, Vagabond Positive Animal Communication, Croatia.
I had an amazing opportunity to attend the second Equine Clicker Conference in England. I came back home with fully charged batteries and full of positive thoughts. I am pretty sure I am not the only one! So my thought is, if we feel great when we have positive experiences for sure it must be the same for animals. From my experience with working with them, it becomes very obvious that it works for them too, just from observing their behaviour.
How can we tell that experience is positive? Well they “tell” us through their readiness to cooperate willingly, relaxed body and facial expressions, and from their desire to have more of what was happening.
For me personally, clicker training is a philosophy. Yes there is science behind it, but side effects that happen through using positive reinforcement and marking the desired behaviour, are amazing. It enhances our relationship, our mutual understanding and respect, and it changes for better the animals’ perspective of learning, of us, and of the environment where such positive experiences occur. For me that is precious.
It’s about learning, understanding and feeling.
It should not be just about working with the animal. It should also be about respecting the species, the individual animal, discovering motivators, understanding the whole story and finding the best way how to help that animal either understand something, learn something, or feel better about something (all three things actually fuse with each other).
Clicker training is great for making what we want from animal clearer. Therefore, our communication becomes more fluent and through that we prevent or minimize frustration in animals – frustration of not understanding what we want from them. Horses are highly sensitive creatures and making our communication clear, easy and not invasive is important. I guess lots of positive reinforcement trainers have experiences where clicker trained horses (animal) start to open up more and relax more in situations that used to be stressful for them.
Sharing in the Conference experience. Conferences are a great place where we can talk about such experiences, listen and watch what more experienced trainers are sharing, and learn from each other. It should never be about who is more successful in getting results.
During this conference my expectations were met because the atmosphere was as it should be in my opinion. The accent was on joining forces in thinking of more ways how can we make lives better for the horses. How to be better trainers, teachers, and horse owners. And it should always be about horses – their welfare, health, mental state, safety and happiness.
It was all about the relationship with the horse, really. It was very obvious from all the live demos and presentations that everyone had the same guiding line – achieving and developing a great relationship with the horse we are working with. Whether we work with the horse from the ground or while we ride him/her. In addition, that the horse’s emotions (and rider’s ) are as important as the results we are trying to achieve.
I think we all went home with the same understanding that patience, understanding, listening and watching what the animal is telling us, and how he/she is feeling are all part of positive reinforcement and clicker training. And that is so much more than just putting science into practice.
Another great aspect of attending conferences, is not just being among many people who think alike, but getting to know them and making new friends. Same happened to me during this conference and I am so pleased that I met so many exceptional people, and most of all we had lots of fun!!
Jelena runs her training practice in Croatia. She’ll be participating in the On-Line Conference as one of our blogistas. Check out her website: www.vagabond.hr