Over the years I noticed that a lot of positive reinforcement trainers (clicker trainers) are often feeling a bit alienated. They can’t really talk about their (baby step) step successes or share their difficulties at the barn. We use weird tools like fanny packs, clickers, target sticks, mats, round pens where the trainer is in the pen and the horse runs free on the outside and so on. Let’s be honest: the majority of horse owners are not yet ready to try force-free, reward-based training and riding.
We, clicker trainers, often feel a bit uncomfortable around the more traditional or natural horsemanship people as well. Why?
First of all: we are not born with a R+ key and even if we were, we have learned not to use it. We all have been where most people still are: forcing the horse in order to achieve your goal. Sometimes the goal is just as simple as “He has to listen” whatever that may be.
Second of all: people really want to hear your quick fixes, but lose interest real quick if they learn that clicker training involves changing your own attitude towards horses and training. Most clicker trainers give up on convincing others: it just doesn’t work if people are not willing to look at what they have to change in order to get a better relationship with their horse.
Most horse owners are not really interested in how they can make life easier for the horse, they want to know how they can get to their goal. Quickly. Too bad, because in my opinion it is much nicer to have the same goals as your horse. It feels much more harmonic if I know my horse is working willingly for or with me because there is something in it for her too.
Anyway, as clicker trainer it is often hard to find a like-minded accountability partner nearby, or just someone to reflect your training with. Someone to share your training problems and solutions with, someone who understands what it feels like when your horse just put one foot into the trailer that day, someone who can understand that this was a huge step and knows that you and your horse will get there. One day. Together.
With all this in mind I started a ‘Happy Herd’ in Burnaby, BC, Canada. A platform for positive reinforcement animal trainers with monthly meetings with a different theme each time.
I hope to create an environment where horse lovers can share their stories, their successes and their difficulties. A place where we can learn from each other, encourage each other (we all have frustrations, novice as well as experienced trainers) and where people can find an accountability partner to stimulate them to reach their equestrian goals with their horse. Where they can find like-minded people and maybe even make friends in real life. A place where you don’t have to defend or explain your training method over and over. No need to be a professional trainer or seasoned clicker trainer, if you are willing to learn and share, you are welcome! My goal is not to grow big, my goal is to grow strong and to have fun and feel supported. The Happy Herd is a good place to be if you are interested or using reward-based methods to train your animal. Stepping out of your comfort zone is always easier if there is someone to hold your hand?
I started my Happy Herd (where people and horses can be equally happy) group on Facebook. I am organizing our first meeting this month! I am so super excited!
I already had people in the UK and Australia asking me if they can start a Happy Herd in their country. Of course, I would be honoured! Yes, that would be awesome if there started a global movement of Happy Herds. That would make me HAPPY! This is a wonderful New Years resolution for 2016.
Take a look at our Happy Herd.