Steigerwald.T New Year’s Eve Challenge: Impulses and their control

Does your pet also suffer on New Year’s Eve? Do the unfortunate noise, the light stimuli and the stench trigger strong fear reactions in him? I have repeatedly read on Facebook about fatal colic or injuries at the turn of the year.

The good news is that this does not have to happen! You have a good deal of control over preparing your beloved four-legged friend for this event with its terrifying effects. Back in 2019, I launched the New Year’s Eve Challenge. Through the training of at least thirty different acoustic, visual and also olfactory stimuli, our animals learn that it is not so bad after all. On the contrary, through so-called operant conditioning, your pet may even have pleasant feelings when it hisses and bangs. This is because, unlike methods such as “pooping out”, the reactions of the animals are taken into account.

New Year's Eve Challenge - relaxed into the new year
New Year's Eve Challenge - relaxed into the new year

The procedure is as simple as it is captivating: You wave a balloon, for example. When your dog, horse or cat stays relaxed on the spot or lies down, you click and give him a little bit of food. Through the number of repetitions, the idea of “Wow, that’s worth it!” builds up in the brain. The perceived stimulus becomes an announcer of something good.

Now, of course, your pet may immediately flee at the sight of a wildly wiggling balloon and you may not even get around to rewarding holding still. Then the key is to reduce the stimulus. You can do this by putting more distance between you and him or, in this example, simply holding the balloon up. Believe me, there is always a distance at which your animal can control its impulse to move away from the stimulus. You can find out exactly how to do this in the Challenge webinar.

You don’t have to set off fireworks to train fireworks either. The Challenge process leads to generalisation. With sufficient variability and quantity of stimuli, your animal will put the firecracker in a drawer with everything that you have linked as pleasant in the weeks leading up to New Year’s Eve through targeted training.

New Year's Eve Challenge with dogs- relaxed into the new year
New Year's Eve Challenge with dogs- relaxed into the new year

It is said that behaviour is driven by its consequences. In the wild, our animals would move as far away as possible from fireworks because the consequence of flight is relief. And it is more than understandable that they want that relief so badly. As a self-confessed country bumpkin, I can only confirm this. But what if the relief cannot come because a fence or the walls of the home prevent escape? Faintness and fear are the result, the impulse to flee looks for another way, the animal is helplessly at the mercy of its fear and does not know what to do with itself.
Through intensive training, you offer alternatives to escape and help your animal to see the “civilised” world differently. Create pleasant consequences for relaxed reactions to a variety of stimuli. Always increase them so that your animal can still say “yes!” and accompany it on the path to self-efficacy.

Register here for the Steigerwald.T New Year’s Eve Challenge and receive valuable tips for your training and the support you need to give your pet a relaxed start to the new year.

New Year's Eve Challenge with horses- relaxed into the new year
New Year's Eve Challenge with horses- relaxed into the new year

And while we’re on the subject of giving gifts: I really care about the well-being of all animals, so of course I will reward your efforts for your darling! See “Special Callenge Bonus”.

What we can learn from chickens for horse and dog training

Why on earth would you train chickens?

Participants in our courses often receive a mixture of amused disbelief, coupled with scepticism as to whether this person is not taking their love of animals too far. Yet everyone who has had the opportunity to train with chickens knows: they are incredibly good teachers and train our interaction with other animal species bluntly and precisely!

We have different ways and possibilities of communicating and interacting with animals. Let’s look at the level of behaviour: What do humans want collies and cobs, huskies and Hanoverians, dachshunds and tinkers to behave and move together?

Words usually don’t get us anywhere at the beginning. So the human being does something, he moves in order to achieve a reaction from his animal counterpart. If this reaction is a desired one, your animal will learn over time what is worthwhile and what is not. The more precisely you can make your “requests” to your animal, the more likely you are to get answers that please you. Chickens, because of their speed, help you to distinguish right from wrong promptly. So you are more likely to be able to fine-tune your behaviour to your animal’s responses. The speed also results in a high repetition rate, which also means: many opportunities to improve. To see, decide and react more quickly.

Clicked chicken on the little seesaw
Clicked chicken on the little seesaw

In addition, there is the missing cuddle factor with chickens. Everyone is much more attentive with a foreign species and an unknown counterpart because you don’t fall into the “old married couple knows how the other one ticks” trap. Transfer the attention you have gained for small signals to your animal in everyday interactions and you will be amazed at how much better you can understand your horse or dog! And you will also be understood and perceived by them.

The chicken modules were developed decades ago by the great Bob Bailey and his wife. I am happy and grateful to have learned so much about learning as a participant with Viviane Theby at the Scheuerhof and to be able to pass on this knowledge today.

Two horses bobbing in front of the mountain landscape of southern France
Two horses bobbing in front of the mountain landscape of southern France

One of my passions that grew out of the chicken seminars is horse bobbing training. Equipped with the theoretical and practical skills from these seminars, it was suddenly possible for me to work out unusual, small and fine movements. The results and effects on the musculoskeletal system will convince any osteopath, riding instructor or physiotherapist. You too can teach your horse or dog what is good for it and what inspires you.

The pony Wolfang climbs on the 2 metre seesaw
The pony Wolfang climbs on the 2 metre seesaw

Start your entry into a completely new dimension of training now: Module 1 with the topics “Timing, Criteria, Reward Rate” will take place near Göttingen from 07 to 11 October 2022. There are still a few places available! Take advantage of the rare opportunity that I have to travel back to Germany for a few courses and register for Chicken Module 1 in the Steigerwald.T online shop.

Cooperation in medical training

nina horse injection coopertation

Today I would like to explain the topic of cooperation with horses in medical training and give you an insight into this form of training.

What does cooperation mean in dealing & training with horses?

“Uncertainty and helplessness versus self-determination”.

In many situations in everyday life with our horses we depend on the cooperation, trust and participation of our horses. In the life of a horse there are some scary or frightening moments and unknown situations. A very special unpleasant and difficult situation for many horses is the treatment at the vet.

It is tied up, possibly in pain. You, as his confidant, are agitated. In addition, there is the veterinarian, whose presence has often been associated with less than pleasant experiences for your horse in the past.

Your horse finds himself in a situation where he knows that he is in for acutely unpleasant measures and possibly also pain. The tension level rises and with it the stress hormones. Your horse’s instinctive behavior would be to flee or fight back. However, the more tense the muscles, the more intensely it will feel pain. Your horse is stuck in a vicious circle and the horse’s brain stores the situation under the heading “acutely bad”. Consequently, in the future, when it thinks it perceives indications of a comparable situation, it will react with defensiveness from the outset.

An animal-friendly way out of this vicious circle is to give your horse a say and control over the course of a treatment. In this way, he can actively give you his “okay”, knowing full well that it may become uncomfortable in a moment.

Your horse gets a say & self-determination and is willing to cooperate with you and the veterinarian. In other words, it cooperates and actively collaborates.

What goals do you achieve with this?

When we have worked out this willingness to cooperate in the horse, many fear and fright moments for your horse can be avoided. He does not store the visit & treatment of the veterinarian negatively and a possibly before always necessary sedation or nose brake is no longer necessary.

The bottom line is that everyone involved wins: your horse regains its self-determination, you gain more security and a smooth process, the vet gains an enormous reduction in workload and everyone together gains much more confidence in dealing with each other.

In addition, medical training does wonders for the relationship between you and your horse. Please have a look at this blog Medical Training works wonders in the relationship.

How you can develop this willingness to cooperate in your horse?

For exactly this development of cooperation and self-determination there is the so-called “Medical Training”. I have developed a whole training concept for horse owners, trainers, veterinarians and other professionals in the equine field.

This training is especially focused on health care and veterinary situations. You will learn methods to practice certain scary and frightening situations like the injection, a worming treatment, etc. and take away your horse’s fear of them.

In my Steigerwald.T -Online Academy, you will find a variety of educational content in the form of webinars under the section Medical Training.

With which you can build and develop this cooperation!

In medical training we work with cooperation signals.

A cooperation signal is a behavior established through reward learning that gives you information about your horse’s willingness to endure and even actively cooperate with subsequent manipulations.

The main use for cooperation signals is in the area of grooming or medical procedures. They enable your horse to control the course of such measures.

Thanks to the self-efficacy thus achieved and the positive link established through the training path, your horse can learn to endure the often uncomfortable, unpleasant or even painful procedures in the treatment in a calm and relaxed manner.

Examples of cooperation signals include assuming a certain posture or performing body targets with or without aids.

The most commonly chosen cooperation signals include:

  • the basic position
  • a hoof target (ground target)
  • lower jaw target on a cooperator (see photo)
  • stationary nose target
horse cooperation

There are many other cooperation signals, supporting tools and exercises in medical training.

If you want to learn more about Medical Training and get a taste of it, I have something for you in my store. The free webinar “Introduction Medical Training”.

In this webinar with me and veterinarian Samantha Krost-Reuhl, you will learn about the basics of medical training as well as the contents of the Steigerwald.T Medical Trainer training. In addition to the theoretical background, you will get an overview of the various possibilities of application on the horse as well as first ideas for your training at home.

In order to deepen and concretize these first ideas for the training as well as for your concrete questions, there will be the live webinar Cooperation in (Medical) Training | Live Webinar on 12.07.2022 at 19:30. Here you can register directly.

Variety in training with horse rockers – The rotary plate

With this blog I would like to introduce you to the Steigerwald.T turntable as well as its advantages for health-promoting horse rocker training.

A Steigerwald.T horse rocker in round or oval offers endless training possibilities for a full-body workout.

I have been using this innovative therapy aid and training device for many years. My very first turntable consisted of the edge of an old wagon wheel on which I had screwed planks and a rubber mat. From the bottom there was a stable screw supported by a hemisphere.

The second was made from an old cable drum from civil engineering 😅. In the meantime, we have practical and more manageable ones at our Steigerwald.T horse rocker shop.

On it, every movement opens up new incentives for more health through conscious movement. Fitness, mobility, safety – the turntable offers endless possibilities.

The charm lies in the variable simulation of tilting movements, which provoke corresponding balancing movements. A turntable can be used in as many ways as few other gymnastic equipment for horses.

  • Trains the deep muscles as well as the core muscles in the abdomen and back
  • Improves strength endurance
  • Develops cognitive and sensory-motor skills
  • Improves coordination skills and thus surefootedness
  • Strengthens concentration
  • Creates flexibility in the brain through new movement patterns
  • Perfect physical preparation for trailer rides
Variety in training with horse rocker

You should definitely introduce your horse to instability in small steps. After all, it has to cognitively process what you want from it. On the other hand, the many small muscles along the spine have to get used to their new task.

As preparation and for the introduction, I recommend my course “Starting with seesaw training” and then, building on this, the live webinar on training with the turntable on 30.05.2022.

In training you can encourage your horse with several options after getting used to it:

The compass needle: Your horse turns on the spot. Hoof by hoof, it finds its footing on the limited surface – or not, as each repositioning changes the entire balance structure. In this way, it learns to move on a small, unstable surface and to stabilize itself at the same time.

The rocker: Due to the absence of runners, you only have to be careful that there are no unsightly pock-pock impact moments. But if your horse stands on only one half of the turntable, you can train nice, even swinging back and forth. The same applies to rocking from left to right.

The king’s way: Your horse shifts his weight from the back to the front, to the right, to the back, to the left, to the front again… And this in a fluid loop, so that part of the outer edge always keeps contact with the ground and there are no floating moments. None of mine have got that far yet. But you have to have goals too 😉 .

The Shaker: Through a hula-hoop-like movement coming from the entire torso, the plate rotates a bit on its hemisphere. The plate is in a hover for a moment, but moves to one side. The longer the shake provides the rotational movement, the better.

The Buddhist: Your horse keeps the plate in balance as long as possible so that the outer edge does not touch the ground.

In this video you can see different training options with the turntable.

Would you like to teach your horse these highly interesting movements? The live webinar for the brand new training will already take place on 30.05.2022 at 19:30. Secure your place and register here.

The Motionclick Trainer Network

The Motionclick Trainer Network

Growing together with horses

My colleague Sylvia Czarnecki has launched an initiative: The Motionclick Trainer Network. It is an initiative for trainings based on positive reinforcement as well as for non-violent horse training.

With this we want to contribute to the spread of non-violent training.

“Clicking” is so much more than using a clicker and stuffing the horse with treats 😉

In particular, the network is intended to help people looking for qualified trainers and continuing education opportunities. On the Motionclick Trainer Network page, you also have the option to search for a qualified trainer in your area.

The quality of the trainers is ensured through an admission process based on the Motionclick network guidelines.

Our goal and vision is to promote the understanding of methods based on scientific evidence as well as to make knowledge about these training methods easily accessible and centrally available.

Have you always wanted to learn or start learning about these training methodologies? But you didn’t have the time, or a suitable trainer or information was missing? Or maybe you just want to have a look at the topic?

Terms like “feed point”; “reward rate”, “operant conditioning” you might have heard before but had no idea what they mean in training with horses?

For that, we members of the Motionclick Trainer Network have started an info series on Facebook and Instagram.

Technical terms simply explained. From April 1 to 17, we will explain important technical terms from clicker training in a short and crisp way.

With the series “Technical terms of clicker training simply explained”, you will receive a special technical term from clicker training explained by qualified trainers every day. Since every day a different trainer from the Motionclick trainer network explains a technical term, you have the opportunity to get to know the trainers of the network at the same time.

Through this series of “clicker training terms” and the content of the trainers, you get the opportunity to get a taste of the methodology and training forms, to acquire knowledge in “small bites” and to integrate them directly into your everyday life with your horse, to try them out or to test them.

Here you get high quality knowledge and this for free. So join us and follow us on Facebook and / or Instagram.

And if you should have missed a day, this is not bad. You can also read all the terms or contributions in the aftermath.

On April 18, we’ll wrap it all up with a podcast episode of fair.strength – positive solutions for training with your horse, where we’ll summarize all the terms once again.

We are very happy to offer you with this initiative the perfect opportunity to familiarize yourself with the training form of positivev reinforcement.

Steigerwald.T Seesaw-Trainer

Frieda on the the horse seesaw

The enthusiasm for horse seesaws is growing at an impressive pace. The many positive effects on a wide variety of horses and ponies mean that more and more equids are enjoying the benefits of a rocker. The Steigerwald.T seesaw models can be used in many different ways: Even simply stepping on or over them promotes the work of the deep muscles and is a real challenge for the coordination skills. However, if you want to achieve the best for your horse, it is worth working towards independent, flowing “seesaws”. This activity strengthens the muscles and, most importantly, gently softens the fascia. To do this, your horse shifts its weight rhythmically back and forth. And please do all this without bending the joints or using the neck.
Teeter training is complex, training teeter-totters requires good timing and a certain amount of practice. And this is where the Steigerwald.T seesaw trainers come into play: they guide you and your horse to muscle training with fun and understanding. To receive the certificate, practical participation on a weekend at Hof Steigerwald is a prerequisite. On both days, all participants train with horses of different levels of knowledge. From stepping on a confined surface to first instability, creating rocking movements, independent rocking wapps to Hanken flexion, everything is included. So you not only get a comprehensive picture of the structure and procedures in teeter-totter training, you also learn practically which pitfalls to avoid and what to change if things don’t go as planned. And that is quite often the case with horses in real life ? .
Then it’s a matter of training two “journeyman horses” and documenting the training by video and writing. Regine Witten from Plus-R Pferdtraining met the challenge with flying colours with two Icelandic mares. You can find the training sequences for 10 bobbing wapps for a click as well as from the first step to the hank bend on Youtube.
This year, Simone Mender from Simones Pferdetraining and Nadine Senekowitsch from Positv Fairstärkt have fulfilled the requirements and help interested and committed people train with the horse seesaws. We are very happy that even more horses will be able to enjoy seesaw training and congratulate them!

Physical pain and its impact on behavior

Frekjas first treatment

I am Svea and currently the trainee at Hof Steigerwald.

Frekja is an Icelandic mare and 14 years young, I bought her in April 2020. She has a lively personality and used to have explosive reactions out of nowhere. Many of her actions were blamed on Frekja’s character. Even I never questioned it. When I started to train her differently with Nina and she was accustomed to the herd, the “overshooting” was noticeable and we thought about ways to help her. We tried to get Frekja more in balance with a Bach flower therapy and good training. But somehow there was a permanent tension in my horse that was just normal to me. That was Frekja. An explosive horse. Physical causes for behavior did not occur to me.
The previous owner had her teeth checked every year. Apart from a few edges, nothing was ever discovered. Last year, on her scheduled dental check-up date, we were going to Hof Steigerwald. “No problem,” I thought. “Nothing has ever been discovered, so it’s okay if the check-up is after 1.5 years and not after one as usual.”
In May, Rebecca Pflug came for her dental appointment. I was really excited because I’ve never seen anything like this and I’ve never experienced a sedated horse. But Rebecca was great and after a few minutes into her treatment she discovered something not so good in my horses jaw: the upper first, right molar tooth was split transversely. A broken tooth in my horse’s jaw! That was the first shocking surprise. One possible cause: The first lower molar teeth on both sides were too long and had therefore put too much pressure on the upper ones. On the left side it was not sure if the first upper molar tooth was also broken or if it was just a wolf tooth that had placed itself strangely. In any case, it was clear: the broken tooth has to be removed.

Okay, what now? Since my horse doesn’t go well on a trailer, I wanted to hike back to Hamburg with her. The trip was planned for the end of May/beginning of June. One tooth has to be pulled, that’s only a small intervention, not that big of a deal for most horses, so maybe it can be combined? On the way home, we stop at the Ottersberg clinic, take a little break to recover, and keep on hiking. That was the plan. A crazy plan, but I’m still young and therefor still allowed to make such plans.

The operation was on 1 June. On the third day of our trip we arrived at the clinic and my horse was sedated straight away, because she didn’t feel comfortable in the treatment room and without sedation the first examination of the teeth wouldn’t have been possible.
It soon became clear that both teeth were broken. The other supposed to be wolf tooth was part of the molar tooth that had been broken into three pieces. After the X-ray, the next surprise: On the right side, there was a granuloma above the broken tooth. According to the vets, this nodular, inflammatory collection of cells had been growing for about 2 years. For this period of time a flammable process had been going on in my horse’s mouth, making the two teeth unstable and dissolving the roots. My horse must have been in more or less severe pain for at least a year. The surgery was scheduled for 1.5 hours.

Unfortunately, I was not allowed to be present during her operation. I was completely exhausted and organised a pick-up service for us, as it was no longer possible to walk any further. At 12 o’clock sharp I was standing in front of the treatment room, the trailer was already there and I am still incredibly grateful for my host Ulrike for her support and how warmly she took Frekja and I in.
The two of us sat in front of the treatment room, but still no doctor came out.
At 12.15 pm I was told that the operation would still take a while. The granuloma had moved in the wrong direction, they were still trying to remove it. Shortly afterwards I heard someone calling for help from the room, but I didn’t know what was going on. Terrible! At about 12:45 I heard people cheering in the room, and at 1pm I was finally allowed to come inside to see my horse. The surgery took 2.5 hours in total, there were 5 people there at the end, trying to remove the granuloma through nose and jaw. With success!

She was given an antibiotic for 7 days and painkillers for about 4 days. On Thursday we did the follow-up examination and changed the swab. Nina and Mario picked us up with Amadeus so that she wouldn’t have to stand alone on the hated trailer. When Nina saw Frekja for the first time after the operation, she noticed Frekja’s relaxed facial expression. On the second day without painkillers, I was completely panicking that she might still be in pain because she was so unusually calm. But when I saw her cuddling with Braunchen for the first time, I realised that she was probably pain free for the first time in maybe years.

Frekja has a much softer facial expression ever since the operation and also seems more relaxed in other ways. I am so happy and relieved that Rebecca saw these teeth and recommended to me the Ottersberg clinic. I felt very comfortable there and Frekja’s wounds are healing very well.

This story made me realise how important it is to have an annual and thorough dental check-up. Teeth affect so much and sometimes you don’t realise it as the owner. Frekja always cooperated, she was motivated, she ate. Nothing seemed to be wrong with her. There was just this general tension that was part of package deal, but the difference to now is enormous.

Please, please, please have your horses examined regularly!
I wouldn’t want any horse to go through such a thing. If I had taken the teeth more seriously, I could`ve helped Frekja much sooner.
Now, I’m going to focus on medical training. Fortunately, Nina has described all necessary steps for dental training in her new book “Medical Training for Horses” and in the webinar “Dental Training”. Because in addition to the broken teeth, Frekja also has cavities on two teeth and gum recession on her front teeth. Oh well, life with a horse never gets boring.

Have you ever had a bad surprise at a dental check-up?

Medical Training with the help of a co-operator

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.

Example of a co-operator as a comfortable support for the horse's head