A ‘co-operator’ can be a great help in training. I came up with this expression because horses can show cooperative behaviour with this device. Furthermore, it is incredibly practical, especially when checking and caring for your horse’s teeth – at least in the incisor area – that your horse’s head rests on the ground. What’s the point of it all, isn’t keeping still enough? Of course, complete immobility is only our “invitation” to the horse to become active at all and to perform the respective training step or stimulus. In my opinion, however, it makes a difference if a voluntary motor movement is carried out which is otherwise never done by your horse and which ALWAYS has the consequence of a stimulus. That this stimulus should always be such that your horse can respond to it by holding still and then being strengthened with click and feed is of course the basis of the training. With the decision “I put my lower jaw branches on the pad” your horse also chooses the following consequences of this action. Therefore I like to work with cooperation signals and cooperation behaviour.
Which conditions should a co-operator fulfil?
- You need a comfortable support for the horse’s head. If you take a gate or a piece of the fence, you can simply wrap a blanket or the like around it. Selina Köstl, a participant in the Medical Trainer training group, has taken a rubber horse. I myself use a lumbar cushion of the office chair, so there are no limits to your imagination. Whether the co-operator cushion should be raised at the side – I don’t know exactly. An advantage is a clearer recognition of the centre for horse and man. A disadvantage can be that you cannot reach the head so well from the side.
- A simple variation in height is highly recommended! Depending on what you want to train and with which horse – if you have several – even 20cm can make a huge difference for the cervical spine of your horse. In the following video I show how a too high cooper can have an effect on the muscles.
- Stability is elementary! Especially if you have misjudged your horse’s stability, it is possible that your horse leans on it a bit more and pushes forward. It may also be possible that the lower jaw branches pull the contact surface towards him. Remember that enormous leverage is at work! For me, the worst thing would be to work on building up trust and then this object would flap around and in the worst case it would hit the horse!
- The same applies to “protection against penetration”. We have equipped all our stainless steel horse rockers with this, even if it is not relevant for the statics. Horse legs have a life of their own! At the operator this means: There must NOT be a longitudinal or transverse strut in front of the front legs in such a way that your horse can get stuck with its hoof or fetlock bend in the event of a scratching or frightening movement! With the sack barrow I prefer, you can simply screw a thin plate in front of it. If you use scaffolding trestles, make sure you cover them up!
- If you are training with a halter, nothing should stick out of the co-operator in such a way that a part of it can get caught between the horse’s head and halter. Remember that even horse heads do not always move as desired. So make sure all corners and edges are well protected.
In the video below I show the construction of the sack barrow operator based on an idea by Maike Klein.
If you want to learn the use of cooperation signals in a well-founded way, I can warmly recommend the corresponding webinar from the Steigerwald.T Medical Trainer training series.
Now I hope you enjoy doing handicrafts and training! Let us help the horses to feel safer in this world.
How Medical Training has changed our relationship
I’m Katharina Röpnack and Medical Training is what I enjoy most right now.
What sounds like an advertising slogan is actually a very serious one.
To cut a long story short, I am a horse trainer and completed my training as a training specialist for horses with Nina. I am also a rocking trainer and medical trainer in training and have taken part in the chicken camp for beginners.
Besides my cool Shetty Hagrid I have a South German coldblood named Sir Quickly (18 years old). He is a sceptic: “Huuuu, the leaf on the ground could perhaps eat me…”.
Through the clicker training I have already been able to help him build up more self-confidence, develop more curiosity and be brave. So a power box by the wayside is no longer a scary object, but an object worth looking at.
The training with Nina as a medical trainer is totally exciting and full of knowledge to improve your own trainer skills. Simply structured and well thought out. Training on a scientific basis with clear goals. The “class” is friendly throughout and it is great fun to learn together. Due to the pandemic situation right now, the training has changed from face-to-face to online seminars. The big advantage is that I can always look at the recordings of the webinars and coaching sessions.
So in the training we learn how to help horses, owners and handlers to make the examination and treatment as stress-free as possible.
I started the training with motivation. First of all I had to find a co-operator.
What is that … a co-operator?
The horse learns to lay the lower jaw branches on a padded board. e.g. on a stand and to keep still. This is the cooperation signal. Only then do I start to perform a manipulation or a stimulus, for example lifting the upper lip.
As soon as the horse moves or raises its head, I stop the manipulation. I wait until the horse puts its head down again and holds still, thus again showing the cooperation signal, and if necessary I apply a weaker stimulus.
If the horse is able to withstand the stimulus/ manipulation, there is click and feed. In this way the horse can communicate with me. It shows its willingness to cooperate and tells me: I am ready.
Or even: “No, I cannot put my head down there. The last step was too scary, uncomfortable or hurt me.”
Surprisingly, my horse linked up very quickly what the job is. Otherwise it usually takes him a long time to process new impulses and trust them.
I never had a big problem with Sir. It was easy to give him a worming treatment, for example, under pressure or he was handy even when he was rinsing his tear ducts. When he injected, he bent one or the other needle, but drawing blood or 20 minutes on the drip, worked.
But my conscience hurt and my pity was very great. I felt that trust was crumbling and that next time his discomfort was greater. I didn’t want to exert any more pressure or compulsion. I did not want to make him feel at the mercy of the situation. If a tiger would voluntarily let himself take blood without sedation… then surely my domesticated horse would be able to do the same.
The medical training with the co-operator has opened my eyes once again with regard to voluntariness and the subject of “endurance” and has paved a way for us to even have fun. Here is an example:
I was ready and could fold up the upper lip of my horse and touch, scratch or tap the gums and also teeth with my finger.E.g. important for the capillary refill time; part of the general examination at the vet.
Now there was a situation where I had discovered a stalk between two teeth and wanted to remove it. So on the one hand, the stimulus lasted longer than the training step actually allowed and maybe it was unpleasant. So he moved his teeth, tongue and mouth and finally took his head from the co-operator. I stopped, of course, but was still full of ambition… the culm now has to get out of there. So I waited for him to take his head off again. Fortunately that happened. So I put my finger on his nose, thumb on his upper lip, lip up and then my finger towards the tooth… and the lip just snapped down. It was a very funny situation and I had to laugh out loud. In Sir’s face you could see that he apparently liked it too, that I was happy. The next time I was allowed to touch the gums with my finger again. But I adjusted the training step accordingly. So really only touch them briefly. Because he had clearly shown me that he felt that the toothpulling was too much for him. During the training session, however, I was still able to remove the stalk by training in small steps. This type of communication is so valuable and important.
Sure, I could have grabbed him by the halter and got the straw out of there quickly… but voluntarily, without holding on, without coercion and with the cooperation of my sceptic, it was worth so much more.
Meanwhile, Sir is muttering and is happy when I set up the co-operator. He really likes the training. Probably because he can decide for himself what he can stand and I listen to him consistently. He is allowed to say “no” and then I just have to think about how to build up the training so that he can say “yes”. And you get better and better. Creative ideas bubble out of my head much faster than before.
So it happened that during a photo shoot for an article about medical training I started the syringe training without further ado and within 10 minutes he learned to leave his head on the co-operator, I could squeeze the vein and press the syringe (without a needle) to the neck. This was not possible before without tension in the neck, white in the eye, kicks backwards or sideways. And these feelings of happiness make the training so wonderful.
Small-step training ensures success – success provides motivation and a good feeling. For horses as well as for people.
I can only recommend everyone to get involved in medical training. The horse not only learns how to undergo examinations and treatments without stress, but you also learn a lot about sustainable training and about the limits of each horse. You become creative and learn to help your horse to be a hero without saving it.
Luckily my horses had never injured themselves that much, that they needed a bandage. Last year however Wolfgang had a corium inflammation and needed a hoof bandage.. In a practical way you do that with a nappy and an armored tape. The noice alone, while tearing off the latter, causes many horses rather wanting to leave the place of happening. But luckily Medical Training exist! If we practice with our horses in advance, that standing still is worthwhile, even when weird things are wrapped around the body, then everything is quite easy in case of emergency.
Do you also want to put a bandage on your horse in a relaxed way? Then take part in our free toilet paper challenge.🧻 🐴 ⭐️#KlopapierChallenge meets Medical Training⭐️ 🐴 🧻You need: ✅ toilet paper✅ a horse✅clicker & feed✅ a(cellphone)camera✅ fun.
What looks like a pure pastime fun action at first sight, is a wonderful training field for positive reinforcement and Medical Training the second look. Running time: You’ve got three weeks to train. Let us participate in your training with videos in the Facebook group „Medical Training for horses with Nina Steigerwald“, ask questions, exchange ideas and have a look what others are posting.
The prizes for the winners will be announced around August 15th. We will state the exact date the week before. The prizes: 1st – 3rd prize: one webinar each of your choice from the Steigerwald.T-Online-Academy (worth 59€)🏆4th – 6th prize: once one webinar each from the series: Ninas Basics (worth 29€) The requirements: 🐴 At least wrap the toilet paper around head neck belly and one leg 10 times, while your horse stands still – all feet stay on the ground for the entire time you feed your horse yourself🐴 the less clicks the better🐴Extra points: The toilet paper stays in one piece –without crack ☝🏻- 🐴 even more extra points: roll up the paper again at the horse’s body, because of waste avoidance and further use. Will you take part? Then let’s take off together.
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