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!

Dental Care for Horses

Tequila had massive dental problems, resulting in extractions. During post op care she should have had dental care including interdental cleaning and rinsing. But how to do that when the horse turns its head sideways as soon as the caring hands draw near to its mouth?

The answer is medical training.

There will be a two-step workshop at the VHS Bruchhausen-Vilsen, a theory part at the school on April 12, and a hands-on part on the Steigerwald Ranch, Ochtmannien, on April 26.

Training specialist for Equines

Joost Harenborg accompanied us at the very first seminar of the training specialist horse and captured the mood of this unique seminar format wonderfully.

Since the first series of the Training Specialist for Equines started in September, we have been proudly watching the progress of the twelve highly motivated trainers via our Facebook homework group. Now, we are looking forward to module 2 on November 25 and 26. The topic will be ‘signal control’.  We still have last-minute tickets for participants in the theoretical parts available.

FAQs trainer special eqine

Personal requirements for attendance

Can I participate only in the theoretical part?

Yes, of course. You can participate in and benefit from the theoretical part, and gain valuable insights by observing the practical training, listening to the explanations of the trainers and developing your documentational skills. We strongly recommend to rework the workshop’s topics at home.

A place for the theoretical part only costs €250 including VAT, freshly cooked lunch, drinks and snacks.

Is the Training Specialist for Equines for horse trainers only?

No, anyone who is interested in the scientific background knowledge of modern animal training and developing his/her training skills is welcome at the workshops.

What are the prerequisites for the workshops?

Currently, there is no common standard for trainers with positive reinforcement in horse training.

You should be familiar with the scientific background of classical and operant conditioning, e.g. the four quadrants, primary and secondary reinforcers, Matching Law, response cost, and so on (Viviane Theby’s ‘Verstärker verstehen‘ is recommended reading).

With regard to the practical part you should have already mastered basic training skills like good coordination of clicker and feeding, and be able to teach a horse a solid basic stance from which to start from.

If we have never met before under training conditions, I kindly ask you to call me prior to your application, so we can determine whether or not this training format is adequate for you.

Is it important to have already participated in the Chicken Camps?

No, this is not a prerequisite. However, a Chicken Camp background helps a lot when starting the TSE.

Organisational matters

The fee per two-day module is €360, which includes VAT, a freshly cooked lunch each day and snacks and soft drinks. You can find the details for each module with dates and rates in our online shop.

How many modules are there?

Each series of the TSE currently consists of ten subsequent modules. The first seven lay the foundation, and modules eight to ten deal with complex training tasks and a deeper understanding of the topics of the previous modules.

What are the topics of the modules?

  1. Training systems
  2. Signals and signal control
  3. Training plans and documentation
  4. Training criteria
  5. Behavioral chains
  6. Discriminational tasks
  7. Concepts
  8. –  10.  Recap and complex tasks

What shape does a module take?

In the modules, practice and theory units alternate. During the theory, the respective topic is discussed on the basis of the current tasks. We reflect on the previous practice unit, and talk about problems, solutions and insights. During the practical units each participants learns three ways: to train a horse, to assist as a co-trainer and to observe and document ‘from the outside’.

The workshops take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on both days.

Do I need to book all 10 modules?

No, you can choose whatever topics you are interested in. However, in order to receive the TSE certificate, you need to take part in all modules in the right order.

Do I need to book all modules in the correct order?

In order to complete the entire training, all modules must be completed in the appropriate order with horse. However, it is also possible to participate only in individual modules. In this case it is necessary for the participant to have acquired the knowledge and skills of the previous modules in another appropriate way. Therefore, you are required to consult with us prior to your enrolment, and, if necessary, submit a training video.

How long does the TSE take to complete?

The TSE stretches over a period of one and a half years, with one module every two months, respectively one double-modules every four months, depending on the format.

Can I switch between single and double modules?

Yes, of course, provided you stick to the correct order of the modules. We have already uploaded all dates for 2018 and 2019, so can go to our webshop and plan ahead.

Is there any difference between single and double modules?

No, there is no difference. You can freely choose the format that suits you best. The contents is exactly the same.

Is there accommodation on-site?

Yes, the Steigerwald Ranch has several rooms for rent with two shared bathrooms.

Successful learning by…

What does that mean: intensive coaching during practical units?

A special feat of the TSE is the presents of several training pros: The instructors Linda Veltkamp and Nina Steigerwald, as well as varying TOP trainers of the ‘Tierakademie Scheuerhof’.  Thus, you have a competent contact at any time and stage during your training for feedback and backup.

What do you mean by ‘homework’?

The homework is intended to further intensify and extend the skills of the respective module.

Training is a craft. This statement by Bob Bailey encourages us train as often as possible. The more often you put your knowledge into practice, the faster your skills will improve.

Homework is captured on video and uploaded to the group’s own Facebook group. This is used to reflect on short video clips from one’s own training and collect insights from the group. If you do not have a Facebook account, we will find an appropriate alternative.

I do not own a horse. How can do the homework, then?

In order to complete the homework you do not necessarily need to train your own horse. Ask around, if a friend or neighbour is willing to give you his/her horse for training. This creates a beautiful win-win-win situation for all involved.

My four-legged training partner in the modules

Do I need to bring my own horse?

No. If you come from a great distance or your horse is not a professional traveller, it makes much more sense to train with one of our horses. It is only €25 per day, and you have a professionally prepared training partner on-site.

In order to receive the certificate, you need to rehearse and video shoot the tasks from the respective modules at home.

What does my horse need to know to be able to participate in a module?

It is indispensable that your horse gets easily on a trailer, at home as well as abroad. It should know how to solidly stay in a basic stance (we call it ‘wait politely’) no matter where the trainer positions him- or herself.

If the horse has physical disabilities, we should talk about appropriate tasks beforehand.

Are there accommodations for my horse at the Steigerwald Ranch?

Yes, there are visitors paddocks available with electric fence and a three-meter distance between the adjacent paddocks. There is haylage for the horses, and, if the season permits, pasture access.

It lies in the responsibility of the owner to care for his horse, provide food and water, and clean the paddock after use. Please bring your own water bucket.

Paddock rent is €15 per day.

In order to have a stress-free training module you should only bring your horse, if it trailer-loads easily and calmly.