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.

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

InterHorseFair – 4 weeks 3D online horse fair

InterHorseFair 2020

On the 11th of December the InterHorseFair opens its virtual doors for the first time.
An online horse fair…… Who would have thought it possible? This time last year I would at least not have expected to be represented online at horse fairs. The live fairs were too nice. The contact with people, the expert discussions and the exchange among like-minded people. I have always enjoyed these times very much. In 2020 everything will have gone differently than planned for most of us.

Out of necessity, Arien Aguilar and his team launched an online horse fair in spring, in a very short time. With an overwhelming response! I think it is fair to say that it was a complete success. Looking, shopping and training from the comfort of your own home is very trendy. In my opinion, the huge advantage of an online horse fair is that it is horse-friendly! No transport stress, no tight, loud boxes in full stable tents and no noise in the exhibition hall itself.

Now, many online congresses, challenges, online workshops and zooms later, the digital possibilities seem more and more familiar to us and we have come to appreciate this option.

From 11.12.-08.01.2021, the Equimondi team has once again provided the equestrian world with the opportunity to watch a veritable firework display of great trainers, workshops and demonstrations from the comfort of their own homes. Very comfortable without having to travel, searching for a parking space and queues in front of the ticket office. You can book your ticket here.

Of course we at Hof Steigerwald are part of the event. Our themes: Horse seesaws, True Horse Agility, Medical Training and learning behaviour/clicker training.

I will also be speaking about Medical Training at the 1st international virtual CONGRESS ON EQUINE HEALTH.

Will we see and hear each other?

speakers of the congress on equine health

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
www.motivierendes-pferdetraining.de

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!

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.

Horse Rockers and Medical Training at the Pferd und Jagd

meet Nina Steigerwald at Pferd&Jadg

Horses seesaws and Medical Training at the “Pferd und Jagd”

At this year’s “Pferd und Jagd” Hof Steigerwald is represented at the Equimondi’s Horse Health Forum in Hall 26. We will demonstrate Medical Training and gymnastics equipment on-stage. At our booth in the Expert Village, we will share and discuss the Steigerwald.Ts: True Horse Agility, Training pet perfect, Training & Therapy equipment and paddock Trail.

On 6 December we will conduct a live demo of medical training at the symposium for horse health professionals in Hall 19 (Convention Center). And I have written an article for the exhibition’s magazine about this event with the veterinarian Ann-Kathrin Bäcker. Equimondi put together a great program featuring new insights, methods and therapeutic approaches. We look forward to seeing you!

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.