Sitting here in the Denver airport with a looooong layover before the last leg of my trip home. Spent the last few days working and lecturing at the Stamford Clicker Expo.
It was such a joy to see so many more people who are working to expand other people’s awareness and use of clicker training principles with their horses. One of the reasons I like to see horse people at Clicker Expo is because I’m confident they are getting information that is “vetted” by the scientific community. Vetting our information is important for me because I was misled in my Natural Horsemanship days with so much information that “sounded” right and “seemed logical” but was really just based on many ideas that someone thought of, but were untested and unsubstantiated. That experience was a big wake-up call for me.
I would like to think we in the clicker training community could avoid this pitfall but I think it will take work. There are many innovative trainers who are experimenting and sharing, but can we all share and still remain open to the light that might be shed on our methods once someone is able to test our ideas? Do we have the integrity to say “Oops, I might need to re-think that?”
Trust me, like many others I am always trying to improve my training and expand my ability, I want my horses to experience our contact as clear, concise and easy to understand.
I also know that I cannot practically speaking, have absolute confirmation of my horse’s experience when I’m training (well, OK, short of having some sort of electrode to his brain that confirms what he’s feeling.) HOWEVER, I do know I can learn to read the external responses of the individual’s behavior to the best of my ability, and based on the collection of this array of data, I can begin to create some overall signals that help me read my horse better and hopefully improve that individual’s life with me.
At the Expo I have found so many “go to” people, other speakers who have a varied background and can support this desire to keep my training out of the “fog zone” of untested assumption. I still find myself in awe of their collective knowledge. Susan Friedman, Kathy Sdao and Jesus Rosales Ruiz are some of my “go to” people when it comes to supporting, refreshing and updating my continuing understanding of the science. I love having these “reality checks” as well as lengthy behind the scenes chats.
Ken Ramirez is so inspiring. The man has trained more species than just about anyone and he always has a practical yet inspiring outlook on how to enrich and make our animal’s lives better. His application of clicker training principles is so diverse. This Expo we got to hear of his extensive project work with elephant conservation; it was touching, heartwarming and inspiring.
Sarah Owings and Laura VanArondonk Baugh are two other speakers with a wealth of experience and a way of presenting the material that makes these important distinctions so clear for people.
Another element that made this Expo exciting for me was the opportunity to co-present a lecture and lab with Eva Bertilsson and Emelie Johnson Vegh. These women are very dynamic, but their fun and dynamic nature is backed by incredible experience and knowledge. Our current project “Animals in Control” is a lecture we’ve given for the last 2 years and reflects a wealth of information. We were able to show video from multiple species, some gathered from our own training, showing the process of creating cues the animals give US that signal their readiness to cooperate in a process, procedure or training experience.
Every time I’ve presented this information I’ve had people come up to me and express how glad they were we presented it, how much more they want of this kind of information, how much they value the idea of giving the animal choice and how they want to learn more so they can incorporate the material into their own training. This is really exciting for me and I look forward to the opportunity to be able to teach ongoing classes on this way of organizing sound training principles.
Be sure to watch for announcements about this new course. Hope to see you online.