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PET Talk: Positive Training for Horses

Thursday, July 15, 2021
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Virtual (Zoom)

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Positive Training for Horses

Join Lessa Ritzma from Iron Oak Canyon Ranch to learn how to use positive training with horses!

There are just as many horse training techniques out there as there are horses, but the good news is that they all boil down to the same four quadrants of behavioral management techniques known as operant conditioning. The most well-known combination of these is positive reinforcement, but as a horse person, you probably deal mostly with negative reinforcement or negative punishment. Often, when Lessa tries to show someone how to solve their common (or even unusual) horse problem with positive reinforcement, she is met with resistance. "I don't want to have to carry cookies with me everywhere I go," or, "My horse nips and they don't listen to me anyway," or, "I've tried it before and it didn't work." But it doesn't have to be that way. You may need cookies to start with, but they aren't required-- and eventually they can go away. And you don't need to be a perfect or even super confident trainer-- anyone can use these techniques to have a better relationship with their horse.

In this talk, Lessa will briefly explain the four quadrants of operant conditioning and where more traditional and new-age horse training techniques fall along its spectrum. Then, she'll dive in-depth into positive reinforcement and the types of problems it can solve. She will showcase some real-world examples and discuss how to see interactions with your horse through an operant conditioning lens. Finally, Lessa will discuss how to be a more successful trainer, and where to find more resources.

Lessa will share visuals from real training sessions with her personal horses, including Buttercup, initially purchased as a lesson horse, but turned into a rehab project after she arrived due to defensive kicking from unknown vision loss. With positive reinforcement, Lessa is working through her defensiveness and giving her the skills to cope with her vision loss.

After a ten year career working as a zookeeper and exotic animal handler/ trainer, Lessa left to run her own facility, Iron Oak Canyon Ranch. Located in east San Diego County, her facility provides boarding, lessons, wildlife education, and animal consultations. With her horses, Lessa mostly focuses on ground work, liberty, and trick training, but these foundational techniques can lead to better rides, too.


This talk takes place live on Zoom! You will receive the link in your confirmation.

In the past, our in-person events were $10 to attend. This support has provided important funds for our life-saving programs. If you can, we invite you to pay to attend this informative virtual lecture.


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