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Full timetable and talk descriptions for the Positive Equine Conference 17th-30th October 2020.

Click here to find out how to access recordings of webinars

Jenny Eichner - Positive Reinforcement Introduction and Becoming Calm, Confident and Centred

Day 1

I’m looking forward to welcoming everyone to this conference on the Saturday night and kicking off the presentations! My presentation will be in two parts, firstly I will cover some of the theory of positive reinforcement training, including a brief overview of learning theory to give you a deeper understanding of some of the science behind the approach. Secondly I will talk about the human psychological aspect of horse training and how we can use information from human psychology to help us become a calmer, centred and more confident trainer, which in turn will help your horse become calm, centred and confident too!

Melanie S Watson  - Putting Relationship First

Day 2

Helping owners see how their horses could participate in everyday care from self haltering, foot lift, self tie etc through to training for cooperation in medical procedures.

Kate Blackmore - What does it take to convince 800 people that positive reinforcement is the way forward?

Day 3

Kate’s journey to improve the lives of horses has been nothing short of challenging: in the last 5 years she has not only had to convince 800 people involved with the charity that positive reinforcement is the way forward, but also, alongside the Conquest Centre, has literally and psychologically knocked down walls and barriers. With complete transparency, you will hear both the positive and the negatives and compromises made transitioning a business that runs over 250 equine related activities to +R. Both Kate and Conquest are committed to proving that higher welfare and lower adversity is possible within a working environment; what’s more, they include case studies of how horses have suffered under the strains of traditional methods, amplifying that +R not only enriches their lives but ours too.

Suzanne Rogers - First Things First… Before Training…

Day 4

Have you ever tried to learn something or work when you are tired, or anxious or hungry? We all know how important it is to set up the environment for learning or working for ourselves (especially in these COVID times) but do we do the same for our horses? Before we start training, we need to make sure that we set our horses up for success, and this is the subject of this interactive talk.

Sara Brittlegill - Pain or Pain in the Neck? PSSM and the Compromised Horse

Day 5

My presentation is centred around my retired appaloosa gelding, Dave (Kerney Moonshine). Purchased in 2004 to be the first horse I'd owned. There were always issues, he was not like any horse I'd ever known or handled. It took 8 years to get to the root of the problem, which is PolySaccharide Storage Myopathy, an inherited genetic disease. Fortunately there is a test based on hair, which gives a definite result in a week. The defective gene is dominant so always expressed if it is present. 

I began clicker training gerbils to sit on my hand in exchange for a sunflower seed, and it came in useful with Dave, helping me find what he was able to do comfortably. I hope this presentation helps you ask questions and find answers which benefit you and your horse.

Emily Kieson and Jessie Sams - Creating Conversations with Horses: Approaching Mutual Integrations with a Trauma Informed Lens

Day 6

When looking at horse-human interactions it is important to understand similarities and differences between species including social bonding and communication strategies.  Both horses and humans have species-specific communication and friendship behaviors and it is important to recognize both the human and horse roles in these interactions.   Therefore, we need to create a clear picture of how these tools operate under a variety of conditions including those related to operant conditioning and positive reinforcement training.  In order for a relationship to develop to its full potential, we must also take into consideration the role of stress and trauma, especially how our individual horses express themselves and what that means for creating mutually-beneficial relationships.  

Trauma informed care (TIC) is an overarching term used to describe an approach to treating and engaging with communities, individuals, and families that have been affected by trauma.  That is equally applicable to horses and other species.  At its core, trauma-informed care and a trauma-informed lens is an understanding of an responsiveness to the impact of trauma on an individual’s neurobiology and neurodevelopment in particular the neurological, physical, behavioral, and emotional effects.  A trauma lens can therefore help us create conversations and have mutual and reciprocal interactions with horses in and outside of training. 

Learning objectives – 
-    Understanding the basics of human communication and social strategies in order to understand ourselves in the horse-human interaction
-    Improving horse-human interactions and interspecies relationships through an understanding of the existing and emerging research in horse communication and social strategies.  
-    Increasing awareness of how relationship science fits into horse-human interactions
-    Understanding how research in trauma applies to domestic horses and horse-human interactions

We hope that after this presentation you will recognize the importance of developing communication and relationship strategies outside of your riding and training programmes.

Ben Hart - Using Positive Reinforcement for Solving Behaviour Problems, it's Not All About Food

Day 7

A question I have been asked a lot, is “can you stop a bolting horse with positive reinforcement?” This question exposes the reason it is difficult for most equine owners to believe positive reinforcement could be the answer to their animal's behaviour issues.

Food rewards can be powerful, motivating and well, positive! However, when food isn’t used well is can also lead to excitement, over stimulation, excessive pocket foraging and even aggressive behaviour. Perhaps that’s why many people are put off positive reinforcement training to solve problems because they have seen the negative power of food.


I want to explore how we solve problems with positive reinforcement, and why it is not about the food. If we want more equines to experience the benefits of positive reinforcement training for problem behaviours, the first hurdle we have to overcome is how people look at behaviour issues.

If you have a behaviour issue with your equine using positive reinforcement can actually enhance your equine partnerships while solving issues. Let me show you the steps that you can take to solve equine behaviour issues with positive reinforcement. You will learn the simple approach that will allow you to set boundaries with your equines using the power of yes, and if you don’t want to use food rewards you don’t have to.  

Rachel Bedingfield - The Many Uses of Protected Contact 

Day 8

Working with animals in protected contact, that is with a barrier between the human and the animal, is standard practise in zoos. The main reason is to create safety for people when they need to do husbandry work like hoof trimming, or injections. It is also really useful for giving animals full choice in joining in with the training or not.

Connection Training has pioneered protected contact training in equines with our "Around-A-Round-Pen" technique and in our close work with equine charities. In this presentation, Rachel will focus on three areas where working in protected contact can seriously improve the outcomes:
1. Working on husbandry behaviours with fearful, dangerous and naive equines.

2.Build connection by  improving the rider's self awareness on mind, breath and balance.

3. Enhancing your horse's performance using "Around-A-Round-Pen" liberty lunging.

By the end of this presentation, you will be inspired to see how you can bring more protected contact into your training and reap the benefits of this under-used technique.

Trudi Dempsey - Errorless Learning

Day 9

In the beginning there was trial and error learning; aka the hot and cold game. It came with extinction and its typical fallout of unwanted behaviour in the form of mugging, biting, disinterest and often slow learning.

Errorless learning is nothing new, its origins lie in the 50’s and even B F Skinner (commonly regarded as the father of operant conditioning/clicker training) said ‘errors are not necessary for learning to occur’.

In this webinar I will explore errorless learning and what it means for us when we teach our horses. How do we set up our environments to produce behaviour without the need for the horse to be ‘wrong’? Less errors in communication based on errorless learning techniques.

Rachel Steen - Your Horse’s Foundation for Training - Horsekeeping Practices to Maximize R+ Training

Day 10

When switching from traditional training to Positive Reinforcement Training, people often overlook the environmental factors affecting the physical and mental health of their horse.


We’ll take a look at simple ways to help your horse get the most out of your training time. 

Risë VanFleet - It's Only Natural... or Is It? Understanding Horses on Their Terms

Day 11

This presentation is designed to enhance people's ability to understand their horses from the equine point of view. It is based on the work of Tracie J. Faa-Thompson of north Northumberland UK and Dr. Risë VanFleet of Pennsylvania USA which focuses upon reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationships with animals, animal welfare and well-being, and the animal-friendly practice of Animal Assisted Play Therapy® (including Equine Assisted Play Therapy®).

Most people who have or hang around horses love them. The study of equines from both ethological and behavioural points of view has gradually changed the way that humans raise and train horses, moving in a more informed and positive direction. Still, there are those who apply anthropomorphic explanations to equine behaviour--they look at equid behaviour through the same lens they use to understand human behaviour. Unfortunately, this can result in misunderstanding followed by methods to alter behaviour that do not offer horses the best ways to live and learn.

This presentation briefly covers the importance of observation, the cautions needed with interpretation, and the value of understanding equine behaviour in the natural environment in order to understand "problem behaviours." It closes with the value of animal agency and choices, all of which are relevant to the effective and judicious use of positive reinforcment-based training.

Hannah Weston - Rewarding Riding for Horse and Rider

Day 12

Many of us want to ride our horses in a way which is healthy for them and enhances their life as well as ours. Hannah will cover many aspects of reward-based riding including:

- Preparing your horse for riding
- Staying connected and confident as you move from the ground to the saddle
- Understanding emotions and consent from your horse when riding
- Overcoming issues such as the big ones like bolting and bucking to the smaller ones like resistance, rushing and leaning.
- Training healthy, balanced movement in horse and rider

This presentation will help you to answer questions about whether your horse is happy to be ridden, how you can start using more rewards in your riding and how you can refine your ridden relationship with your horse so that you both look forward to your rides together.

Shawna Karrasch - Developing Impulse Control Using R+

Day 13

We will discuss the key role of Impulse Control through Liberty Leading and Reverse Round Pen. Having Impulse Control in your training toolbox helps the horse to take steps towards self-regulation and focus which in turns builds the right attitude. And as we know attitude is everything! Teaching behaviors is one step (the simpler one), it’s getting the attitude right that is the harder part.  Looking forward to discussing this with all of you!

Catherine Bell - Keeping Our Training Positive

Day 14

The last decade has seen a surge in the numbers of people wanting to train their horses in a more ethical manner, particularly via clicker training. However we are still learning a lot about the impact that clicker training has on horses and the body language of clicker trained horses often shows that the experience is not as enjoyable as intended. In this talk I look at the pitfalls we face when clicker training our horses and how we can overcome them, enabling our horses to have a good time. Not only does this process involve improving our training skills, it also includes knowing what to train and when to stop - addressing our own motivation is key in all of this.

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