“I knew that no one else in my geographic area had certification of any kind. I believed that certification might help me build my business.”
“I thought that adding dog training would help flesh out the income from horse training and riding lessons, which died down in winters in our area.”
Jane completed the KPA DTP program in July 2011 with Carolyn Barney in Massachusetts. Post-KPA, she happily provides follow-up to her three enrollment prompts above, reporting positive results. Jane found that there were no major “holes” in her training. “Alex is an amazing teacher, and offered me a complete set of knowledge and skills.” The KPA DTP program provided the “glue” that held all the pieces together, made many concepts more clear, and increased Jane’s confidence and fluidity in training. Completing the progressive KPA DTP program with dogs, Jane then translated new skills and knowledge to her work with horses. “On the drive home from each training weekend, my mind was spinning with possibilities of how to use the dog exercises with horses,” she recalls.
KPA certification is something that Jane is proud of and appreciates being able to add to her credentials. “The KPA program is respected by those well-versed in behavior. For others, including veterinarians and clients, I can refer them to the KPA website. My certification through the KPA DTP program is eye-opening to those who now realize that trainers should have legitimate education behind them.”
As projected, dog training has added to Jane’s training income. “When the snowy winds are blowing, I can still get in my car and help people with their dogs in a nice warm space!” Jane explains.
The most useful and illuminating part of Jane’s KPA course was the expanded tool set she could use in her work with horses. Thanks to Alex’s wonderful foundation, Jane didn’t find anything particularly difficult… “except my enthusiastic Jack Russell Terrier who could move faster than I could click!”
Jane has found that a good amount of horse training is simply practices handed down through the generations; some training methods are used just because they get the job done. “However, there is little to no understanding of why any of it works or what the unintended consequences might be,” says Jane. “We have a long way to go to catch up with the dog world.” While horse people seem to be more open to using clicker training for practical purposes (loading a horse into a trailer, standing still with a foot up for the farrier, improving ease of leading to and from pastures), Jane finds it harder to convince people to use it under saddle. She also reports, “Choice in training and recognizing emotional signals are pretty novel ideas to most.”
Jane is doing her part to raise awareness of positive reinforcement training in the equine world. (Additional help comes from the fact that “some ClickerExpo conferences now include a horse track!”) Jane offers monthly clinics at Bookends Farm where attendees can use her horses and ponies for learning. “My equines live under the clicker umbrella, so they are quick to respond and are wonderful teachers,” reports Jane. “They know how to offer behavior and they love to interact with people. When clinic attendees see this enthusiasm, it really changes the way they see their own horses.”
E-mails and photos that Jane receives from clinic attendees that show how folks have used the lessons to teach trailer-loading, stationing, leading, and fun games are communications that Jane enjoys and finds encouraging. Mostly content with these “baby steps” in advancing clicker training in the equine realm, Jane often remembers the truths within Karen Pryor’s steps of becoming a changemaker.
When it comes to training horses versus training dogs, there are similarities and differences that Jane sees. “Someone recently told me I should write a book on the topic!” Jane says that “the principles of operant conditioning are the same for both species: break things down into achievable steps, watch your rate of reinforcement, keep the animal under threshold, let go of the labels, and remember that body language is critical (our own as well as the animals').”
As far as dissimilarities, Jane believes that the difference comes down to working with distractions.