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?

Feuer und Flamme für Hühnertraining

Training atmosphere at the chicken seminar

Hühnertraining ist eine hervorragende Voraussetzung für die Kommunikation mit positiver Verstärkung. Hierbei spielt es keine Rolle, ob Ihr ein einzelnes Pony glücklich machen wollt oder einen ganzen Zoo.
Damit Ihr von den neuen Seminarformaten Steigerwald.T Wippentrainer und Medical Trainer optimal profitieren könnt, bieten wir Kombipakete an:
Hühnermodul 1 + Wippentrainer  für 999,-€ anstatt 1089,-€ und
Hühnermodul 1 + Medical Trainer 1. Praxiswochenende für 999,-€ anstatt 1089,-€.

Für viele ist es verständlicherweise immer noch nicht so klar, warum wir so gerne mit Hühnern trainieren. Zur Erklärung ist der Erfahrungbericht von Judith aus Münster sehr hilfreich:

„Hühner trainieren?! Na, du warst ja schon immer anders!“
Es hört sich zugegebenermaßen für die meisten Menschen zunächst kurios an. Viele, denen ich erzählt habe, dass ich „Hühner trainiere“ oder „Hühner clickere“, reagierten mit einem ratlosen „Aha….“
Ich erkläre es so:
Warum trainieren Fußballspieler? Um besser zu werden, um die körperliche Fitness zu optimieren. Der Spieler, der am schnellsten laufen kann, ist der erste am Ball. Und um die Reaktionszeit zu verbessern und die Technik, den Ball so weit und so gezielt wie möglich zu spielen. Der Spieler, der es am Besten kann hat die meisten Erfolge. Beim Üben eines Instruments, z.B. Klavier, ist es nicht anders: Ein Pianist ist nicht so erfolgreich und herausragend an „seinem“ Instrument, weil er so begabt ist: Er übte schon immer außerordentlich viel und sicherlich übt er immer noch täglich viele Stunden!
Nebenbei haben Fußballspieler und Pianisten gute Trainer bzw. Lehrmeister, die die Fähigkeiten ihrer Schüler mit Übungen gezielt verbessern!
Deshalb trainiere ich Hühner: Um besser zu werden als Trainerin!
Beobachtung und Timing sind wichtig, ebenso auch die Schnelligkeit. Und Hühner sind schnell, glaubt es mir! Training mit Pferden oder Hunden ist danach wie Training in Zeitlupe!
Es geht also nicht darum, eine „Hühnerdressur“ zur Auftritt-Reife zu bringen. Für das Hühnerleben außerhalb des Trainings ist es nicht wichtig, einen Kreis von einem Dreieck zu unterscheiden.
Mit dem Huhn „Formen unterscheiden“ zu trainieren ist für mich und meine Qualitäten als Trainerin jedoch eine wichtige Übung und verbessert meine Trainerfähigkeiten! Es gibt viele weitere Gründe, warum gerade Hühner hervorragende Trainingspartner sind. Neugierig? Ihr könnt es herausfinden!
Der Pianist übt und übt, um im entscheidenden Moment, im Konzertsaal vor Publikum, fehlerfrei zu spielen. Nur dann ist dem Publikum der „Hörgenuss“ garantiert und dem Pianisten der Applaus sicher.
Ich trainiere Hühner, um im entscheidenden, wichtigen Training, z.B. im Rückruftraining mit dem Hund oder dem Höflichkeitstraining mit dem Pferd keine Trainingsfehler zu verursachen. Je weniger Fehler, desto besser und schneller lernen Hund und Pferd!
Es gibt 5 Hühnermodule, die jeweils 5 Tage dauern. Das mag eine Idee geben, wie vielfältig und vielschichtig Training ist. Und welche Fähigkeiten auf Trainerseite so alle trainiert werden können.
Eine wirklich sehr sehr gute Trainerin sagte: „Ich trainiere nicht brillant, ich mache nur weniger Fehler als die anderen.“
Training ist keine Zauberei, sondern Handwerk! Und dieses Handwerk ist bei der großartigen Nina Steigerwald zu lernen und zu optimieren! In ihren Seminaren wird viel Wert auf das Wohlbefinden von Mensch und Tier gelegt. Und in so einer entspannten und komfortablen Atmosphäre, wie Nina sie zu schaffen vermag, sind persönliche Weiterentwicklung und Fortschritt garantiert! Ich werde auf Hof Steigerwald weiter üben, üben, üben!
Für ein „Reinschnuppern“ werden kurze Einsteigerseminare angeboten. Ich bin schon einen Schritt weiter und werde mich für das Hühnermodul 1 anmelden! Vielleicht treffen wir uns! Bis bald auf Hof Steigerwald!!!

Customer Feedback of Rocking Trainer Workshop 2019

Horse-rockers make you happy, and your horse, too.

I have often had the opportunity to look Nina Steigerwald, a pioneer of horse agility and gymnastics with horses, over the shoulder. So, I was all the more pleased that she devoted a whole weekend to a special workshop for holistic gymnastic training and therapy for horses with her special horse rockers.

The participants could familiarize themselves with the topic in advance, learning from two highly informative, free-of-charge webinars about whole-body and two-legged horse rockers and the necessary background knowledge.

Ernst Ferstl puts it in a nutshell when he states that

“The difference between theory and practice is in practice is much higher than in theory.”

That’s why most of the course took place on the well-equipped Steigerwald.T-Agility-Parcours with its numerable possibilities to train horses according to their current performance level. Five guest horses with none to medium rocker experience, from a 3-year-old mini Shetty to a 26-year-old Icelandic horse benefitted from two instructive and animal-friendly training days.

Rocking Trainer 2019

Ready, steady, go – rock! Of course, it was not quite that easy. For safety and physiological reasons, you first need to lay a solid foundation and develop movement and balance competence in the horse. Courteous waiting, safely mounting a limited space (mat) with all 4 (or 2) hooves on signal, correct axle alignment, shifting the center of gravity with firm hoof-ground contact, and again, safely dismounting from the mat are minimum requirements. We used several different types of gymnastic mats. As soon as a horse has mastered these basics it is ready to take on a rocker.

Starting with a fully stabilized rocker, the tilt angle was gradually increased. Even through the thick winter pelts of the Nordic races, it was easy to see how much the muscles and balance of the horses were challenged even by the slightest increase in instability.

Nina’s novel workshop concept of “speed dating training” was well received: all participants, regardless of their prior experience, became an active part of every training step. In each training session each of the participants trained for 5 minutes under the expert guidance of Nina. During this time, the bystanders were able to observe and receive valuable information on how individual coaching decisions directly affected the target behavior and, in addition, they assisted the coach by concentrating on the entire horse and help with valuable observations. Between change of coaches, the status quo was analyzed and the next training steps were planned to promote each horse individually, without overtaxing the animal.

Rocking Trainer 2019

One of the central elements in training health-promoting horse rocking is the so-called feeding point, which encourages the horse to make appropriate movements without physical or psychological pressure. This also requires some physical fitness of the trainers to be able to lure the horse into appropriately helpful positions. At the same time, a high level of alertness and lightning-fast decisions are crucial. The motto is “Click the horse and not the rocker”. The goal is either a dynamic rocking motion with a slight forward-downward stretch or initiating the rocking movement by a flexing of the haunches with plenty of abdominal muscle activity and appropriate top-line in order for a physiologically helpful joint, muscles and the nervous system stimulation.
Nina demonstrated with her own horses how these movements should look in perfection.

Particularly impressive was the development of Shetland Pony Wolfgang. I had been able to observe the very beginnings of his rocking career in the summer of 2018. Now the little guy proved a professional rocking specialist. He proudly presented a nearly perfect school halt to the amazed spectators, perfect with arched back, clearly set haunches and good load bearing. It was fantastic to see such a high performance level without the use of pressure or auxiliary reins, and have fun instead of stress.

One of the many highlights of this weekend was the opportunity to get on a rocker with a professionally trained horse and feel the rocking movements first-hand.
And even without horses, the numerous gymnastic equipment repeatedly invited people to climb onto them and find out how much balance, coordination and muscle activity is required on such a device, and how the joints are gently mobilized at the same time. There’s no experience like first-hand experience, is there?

This instructive and very motivating workshop was rounded off by wonderfully sunny spring weather and culinary delights from the farm’s kitchen. Of course, the traditional pancakes and the liqueur made from eggs from the farm’s own clicker-trained chickens were part of the show as well.