Clicker-Trainer list on our Steigerwald.T website

Training with positive reinforcement is finding more and more enthusiastic fans.
For many people it is becoming more and more important to respond to the needs of their horses and to use this form of communication in training or in normal interaction. Some people still strictly refuse to feed a horse at work and then that annoying clicking frog… I felt the same way many years ago. The problem is that sometimes you see real deterrent examples of the use of feed praise. But a method should not be equated with its poor use! Just because there are predatory knights, biscuit monsters, ADHD horses and snapping crocodiles, it does not mean that clicker training automatically leads to these results. This only occurs when serious mistakes are made in timing, signal control, choice of food, criteria, training steps, etc..
For a harmonious path in clicker training it makes sense to have experienced guidance. We all know it from riding: While doing it, you notice, if at all, the mistakes the horse makes. What you could have made smoother, clearer and more understandable for the horse is simply not noticed. That’s what riding instructors are for. Fortunately, there are now more and more Clicker instructors who are there for people and horses in the German-speaking world and offer professional support during training. They have all undergone intensive further training and have dealt with the wide field of “learning” in theory and practice. Some of them are even already in Viviane Theby’s network of TOP trainers. Important courses, in which the training of the human being is in the foreground, are the training specialist for horses, the chicken modules and the seesaw trainer. Since this year the training to become a Steigerwald.T Medical Trainer has been running and the participants have already been able to help many horse-human teams to cope with the respective treatment problems.
To help you and your horse find a suitable and competent companion for your common path in clicker training, we have created a trainer list on the Steigerwald.T site. It is constantly being expanded and supplemented. We are looking forward to a harmonic way together!


Medical Training works wonders in the relationship

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?

cooperation tool for medical training
cooperation tool for medical training

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.

medical training with cooperation tool
injection training with cooperation tool, photo: Lena Kriebel

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.

Katharina Röpnack

Toilet Paper Challenge meets Medical Training

Toilet paper around horse head

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.

🤩 Free Facebook group “Medical Training for horses with Nina Steigerwald”:
🎓 Online-Academy: Training animal-friendly | horse bouncing | true horse agility | clicker training | medical training
🛒 Shop Training & Therapy Equipment
Community: Are you already a member of our free Facebook group? If not, feel yourself warmly invited to join!

Steigerwald.T New Year’s Eve Challenge

The Steigerwald.T New Year’s Eve Challenge
For almost four weeks now, people have been making funny, strange and creepy noises in the presence of their horses. They often attract incredulous shaking of the head or even criticism. I would like to explain once again what this challenge is all about.
In learning theory, the phenomenon of generalization is described by the fact that conditional reflexes and behavior arise not only from the original stimulus that triggers the reaction, but also from triggers that are similar to it. The Pavlovian dog, for example, also begins to salivate when the tone of the bell has a different frequency range.
In order to prepare our animals for New Year’s Eve, we can work with various noises, smells and visual stimuli so that they remain more relaxed during the fireworks on the critical evening – in some areas days before. When horses have stress, when there is a fireball and we don’t want to ignite rockets for training purposes, generalization helps us and them to cope with this task.
Cow bells, dog barking, tools of all kinds (hairdryer, cordless screwdriver, welding machine, compressor, circular saw, jigsaw, mixer, blender, drill hammer, etc.), engine noises (car, tractor, wheel loader, Bobcat, yard loader, moped, motorcycle, harvesting vehicles), the human voice or musical instruments are possible acoustic stimuli that we can use in training.
Optical stimuli have a stronger effect on flight animals in the dark than in the light and the factor smell/smoke is also an element that we can approach step by step during training.

Applied practically, it can look like this: “Behavior is driven by its consequences”. If my animal behaves calmly during the presentation of the corresponding stimulus, the consequence of this behavior is something pleasant. Stimulus – stop – Click+Feed. Thus it combines the actually aversive stimulus with a tasty affair. But how do we get there that this stimulus is answered by standing still? By getting closer and closer from a feel-good distance. A squeaky balloon right next to the horses ears often put them on the run. A distance of five metres, may be good to endure. Squeak-stop-click-feed-one step closer- squeak-stop-click-feed-one step closer- squeak-stop-click-feed-one step closer- etc. At some point there comes the point where my horse raises his head strongly, widens his eyes very much or snorts. At this position I repeat the stimulus until my horse can show a calm behaviour again. In the ideal case it starts to grumble when perceiving the sound and tells us that the stimulus is so positively connected that it triggers joyful expectation.
Distance, stimulus intensity, direction and predictability are the keys with which we gain access to the horse and pick it up where it can still be quite relaxed. This is important because it is the only way to strengthen the calm that we ultimately need on New Year’s Eve. So find the right stimulus to pick up your horse and amplify any desired response to noise, flutter or glow.
It is not for nothing that behavioural therapy is a popular and frequently used tool in psychotherapy to treat phobias. Some horses may not have a “real” phobia, but I see it as my task to give even those candidates who “only” walk around with their eyes open and don’t dare to touch their hay a more relaxed turn of the year.
In our Facebook group “Horse-Agility and Clickertraining” you will find many creative examples of the Challenge participants. Of course I’m also there with Wolfgang, who is much more relaxed now.
On Tuesday, December 17, at 7 p.m. you will get a free webinar with a detailed overview of the training methods and special features. The link to the webinar will be added here on Monday.

Medical Training: Cooperation Signal

Training animal friendly

When training is about potentially unpleasant or even painful procedures and manipulations on the body of our animal, we have to be particularly attentive.

A good training plan helps to visualize the individual training steps, to observe the behavior of our animal in constant comparison, and to react accordingly. The so-called cooperation signal is a great help for humans and animals. The idea is as simple as it is powerful: Only if my animal shows the appropriate signal I will start the procedure. No cooperation signal – no execution of what my horse considers uncomfortable.

The training is clearly structured: First, I teach my horse the behavior of the cooperation signal. This might be, for example, a lowering of the head, the touching of a nose target, a neck or ground target or, as for the mare Tequila, a feach.


For example:

  1. The horse lowers its neck – I touch the neck for a second – the horse is holding still – click+treat
  2. Repeat five times.
  3. The horse lowers its neck – I touch the neck for 2 to 4 seconds – the horse is holding still – click+treat
  4. Repeat five times.
  5. The horse lowers its neck – I touch the neck for 2 to 4 seconds and pinch its skin a little – horse is holding still – click+treat
  6. Repeat five times.

This means I get a direct feedback from the horse after each cycle on how the horse felt about the previous cycle. As long as the horse gives the coop signal, I receive the horse’s “go” for the next step. If my horse starts to hesitate or even quits showing the coop signal, I know that I overtaxed the horse and should adapt the next training steps. After that I offer a small aid to trigger the co-op signal, go back a few steps and apply a much lower stimulus, then click and treat again. Remember: the Great Moment of Truth always comes after the treat! If the training setup was solid enough before, I can get my horse back into the game and gradually forward to the area that initially got me a “No.”

The following video is about cooperation for mounting. Please note, the mare has received no riding training before.

Marengo’s Training Camp – Homeward bound

going for a walk

The highlight of Marengo’s seven weeks at Hof Steigerwald was to be a hike home. Sounded like a good plan, but if both participating humans are blessed with a heavy workload, it was also very ambitious. Marengo’s owner Nadine and I had 4 days available for the trip. According to the omniscient modern technology it would amount to a 106 km tour. Because our horses would be travelling with us on the trail with an average 10 km per day over gravel, pebbles, concrete, and sand, we were curious how far we would actually get. For my Shetty Wolfgang it was the first hiking tour with an overnight stay, for Marengo it was the second.

It was a hot summer’s day, during the midday heat not a bit of shade for quite a long time. What a blessing to finally enter a forest! But there the next challenge awaited us: Gravel! In order to cross streams, we were forced to stick to the main traffic routes and squeeze along the narrow sloping curbs, sometimes half a meter below street level. However, Jupiter’s paws testified to the current state of those streams. Poor boy. We picked apples, pears and plums from trees along the roads. Oh, how I like the feeling of being so well cared for! Although a little early for the season, we were treated to spontaneous nerve training sessions by passing corn choppers and agricultural machinery. Ralf and Monika Meyer from the Coldewey 2 farm near Sulingen gave us a warm welcome as they had already done when we stayed with them eight weeks earlier.

The next morning, the ponies stood on Ralf’s home-made horse scale. Wolfgang still should lose another 20 to 30 kg. Marengo had lost about 80 kg during his stay at Hof Steigerwald! Afterwards, we continued through moor gravel. And it is hot, mercilessly hot. We pass through a beautiful landscape, find blackberries, and a truly wonderful place for our midday rest. Side roads are blocked with traffic because the federal highway is closed. Finally, we feel grass under our hooves again 😉. During a break we decided to cut the day’s hike and go only a little further. Another corn chopper comes along to test our nerves, after which we are rewarded with a breathtaking view over North German heathland. Then Marcel brings our equipment for an outdoor night camp. I can only encourage everyone to indulge in the experience of a night under the stars with the background noise of chewing horses and circling crickets. This falls definitely into the category “Chicken soup for the soul.”

After the luxury of a fresh cup of coffee we continue our way. Newly purchased map shows a way that does not exist, alternative path found, gravel again, a beautiful landscape, and – you guess – some more gravel. Finally another copse, an ancient path, enchanting atmosphere, green and silent. We pass some farm houses and consider to ask for a night camp – if it was not broad daylight. On the edge of the moore our last order for a shadowy spot: Lunch break. While we keep looking at the caterpillar excavator a 500m away and pondering how quickly we would be able lead the ponies out of the way into side path, we were hit by a challenge a different sort: a bunch of peat-cars rattling by, all the while we fed our ponies non-stop to glue them to the spot.

After that adventure came the most beautiful part of the hike. Pure nature, sandy soil under your feet and hooves…pure bliss. When we got back to civilization it actually started to rain. After another short break we needed to go only a little bit further, where our wonderful husbands picked us up with the teams and brought us home. I’m soooo glad we set out! The beauty of this story is: If Marengo did not have trouble loading in the first place, I would never have come up with the idea of taking a few days off, virtually right after my Open House day and directly before next week’s seminar with Bob Bailey.

Wolfgang and Jupiter have grown even closer to my heart in these three days. There is never that much intensity in the relationship with an animal during everyday life. So, let us always look at the good things to come!