Training advice, inspirations, and motivations all found here.

#4: From Whales to Warmbloods

My animal training skills were developed during my 10 years of training marine mammals. It was a time of intense learning. I developed an extraordinary skill set. I was given university text books and then tested on the science. This ensured that I learned a lot about the science of behavior and how to utilize positive reinforcement on an expert level. But I also discovered that I was a behavior geek. 🥴 I honed my timing, I learned advanced techniques and how to really raise criteria while still keeping things fun. I had decades of experienced trainers all around me to help mentor me as an R+ trainer. 

When I moved into horses, 30 years ago, I didn’t have training experience with any traditional training techniques(R-). This means, for the horse world, I was functioning in a whole new way. I am grateful for my unique experience and that I did not need to undo any old horse habits. I was a clean slate. I also appreciate that early on, my ideas were embraced by John and Beezie Madden. I had a fabulous place to learn about horses, horse training and how to incorporate R+ at the highest levels of performance.

This photo is Orkid as a baby…well, a yearling, 😆 in 1989. 

The marine mammal industry was really the first to take the ideas of positive reinforcement from the text books and begin to put them into broad, practical application. R+ was used in some specialized and fascinating situations but it was relatively unknown. Marine mammal trainers are the ones to really experiment and get things figured out in all sorts of situations. Then R+ begin to infiltrate the zoo communities. Next was the world of dog training. And now here we are with horses. Each group has had to struggle to have the training to be understood and accepted. Every person who has been open to learning a new way of doing things, has served as an ambassador of this movement. Kudos to each and every one of you. 

As much as I learned while working with the marine mammals, I feel like my learning has increased by 50x. At every clinic, 

Jessie and I have the opportunity to help new horses and their people. We gain more experience and learn with each interaction. From year to year I can see how much more I have grown as I continue to question, learn and dig deeper. Even as I move forward, I still draw on the strong foundation that I learned so long ago. It’s hard to imagine where we will be in another 10 years of growth, but I look forward to it.

I’m so thankful for the people and animals that have brought me where I am today. I also cannot express in words how much I appreciate Jessie and her decision to join me on this journey….and her dedication.  Jessie has started 100’s of young horses so her experience is invaluable. Onward and upward. 


< Previous          Next >