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Andrew and Pip

Andrew and Pip

You have probably heard of the first four: Alexander Nevzorov with his Nevzorov Haute Ecole, Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling with his Akedah International school, Carolyn Resnick with her Waterhole Rituals and Chuck Mintzlaff with his Friendship Training. But who is this creature called Pip and what is that name doing in a list of horse gurus? And why do we turn to these horse gurus for guidance? What have they got to offer us humans anyway, if anything at all? And if they do, what is in it for the horse? Oh and just by the way, does the horse have a role in all of this other than as the recipient of what might just be questionable human wisdom?



Indeed, questions … lots of them. And they start the moment that you feel there must be a different way to be with horses. I recall the shock of awe and wonder that raced through me when I first saw Alexander Nevzorov flying through the air astride that noble black horse, Kaogi, with nothing but a cordeo and a saddle in the way of tack. And then I saw him snuggling his head between the upturned hooves of the mare, Lipiza, as she lay on her back beneath him. That is what really did it for me. The sheer joy of the moment has remained etched in my consciousness. It was a turning point and it occurred in the latter half of 2007.

Alexander Nevzorov and friends in action

Until then I had merely dallied with horses over much of my life. Now I discovered a passion and I simply had to know sooner than as soon as possible what I needed to do to achieve the same magical connection with a horse. Where do I start? What do I have to do? How do I get to share the joy that I see in the eye of a horse which is freely expressing itself with a human but without the instruments of force and pain? Questions, lots of them….


Horse gurus

Answers … I needed them but there was no one around who could provide them. Vicki and I were living in Australia at the time and there was not a single person whom we knew of either personally or otherwise in the country who could help us find the answers. So we went to source. In this case Nevzorov. We ordered his videos and visited his website, and were fascinated by what we read and saw. Vicki immediately joined the Nevzorov online forum but I was reluctant and did not. Vicki had found her horse guru but I had not.

Hempfling and the little chestnut gelding, Janosch

Shortly after, someone introduced me to Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling. I ordered Dancing with Horses, the book and the video, and read and watched both over and over again. Again there was a human astride a horse but this time without any tack at all. And it did not stop there. Here was a human who went for walks in the forest with his horse just as he did with the dog that accompanied them. They connected with each other, the horse and the human, and there was magic between them. The horse was the little chestnut gelding, Janosch, and the joy he shared with his human: that was exactly what I was after. I had found my horse guru.


Choosing a horse guru

So why did I reject Nevzorov and accept Hempfling as my horse guru? Essentially, the reasons for both represented two side of the same coin, or so I thought at the time. In the first place, Nevzorov publications presented Alexander and his teachings to the world in the manner of a religion. The evil equestrian establishment was exposed and condemned in exquisitely vicious prose and images, while salvation was announced in the form of a horse revolution replete with a new messiah at its helm. Anyone questioning the gospel of Nevzorov as interpreted by his wife, Lydia, was excommunicated from the fold and branded a heretic. The result was massive unrest and at one point in 2008 all but a handful of the students in the Nevzorov international online school left en masse in protest at what they believed to be hypocrisy within the Nevzorov church.

One of the websites resulting from the breakaway from NHE

One of the websites resulting from the breakaway from NHE

I did not doubt the message preached by Nevzorov against the horrors inflicted by the equestrian establishment on horses but it seemed to me that no matter how gloriously eloquent Alexander Nevzorov was when he splashed his venom across the printed page, his was an attitude that was simply going to harden resistance to what he stood for rather than achieve his proclaimed goal: a revolution in the way we humans treat horses.

The second reason why I could not find my niche amongst the Nevzorov flock lay in their insistence on what appeared to me to be a single method, namely, haute ecole, that is, high-school dressage. For a start, the discipline did not appeal to me other than as something beautiful to watch.


Another of the websites resulting from the breakaway from NHE

Another of the websites resulting from the breakaway from NHE

Then again, I doubted whether every horse would be suited to it. It seemed to me to be an approach based on one size fits all, be they horses or humans,  and as such completely missed the point. The last time I looked we were all individuals with highly varied needs and requirements, both horses and humans.

Hempfling was quite the opposite. He simply set out what he stood for and left you to make up your own mind as to whether you wished to follow his approach or not.  In addition, he proclaimed that horses were individuals and each required treatment specific to its nature. Faced with such an alternative the choice of a horse guru was simple and straightforward.


Other horse gurus

Along the way I encountered other horse gurus. There was the inevitable Pat Parelli, whose reliance on domination I soon rejected but to whom I am grateful for helping me learn to feel safe with horses. In 2008 Stormy May released The Path of the Horse, a video documentary telling part of her story and exploring the work of some of the more well-known humans actively promoting a new, horse-friendly way of being with horses. Apart from Nevzorov and Hempfling, it also featured Mark Rashid, Linda Kohanov and Carolyn Resnick. I recall shying away from Mark Rashid because of the bits in the horses’ mouths, keeping Linda Kohanov at bay for fear that she was floating on an airy-fairy cloud, but being fairly open to Carolyn Resnick, as she seemed to have both feet firmly on the ground.

 Carolyn Resnick’s approach

In fact, I was so open to Carolyn Resnick that Vicki presented me with one of her online courses as a birthday present one year. I downloaded all the video and audio materials but there was something about her whole approach that left me paralysed, with the result that I abandoned the course. Resnick was not shy to proclaim that hers was a method that would succeed with every horse. This one-size-fits-all approach also seemed to be evident in Chuck Mintzlaff’s Friendship Training, which I learned about soon afterwards, reason enough for me to reject both his and Resnick’s Waterhole Rituals. Again and again I found myself returning to Hempfling’s approach. It seemed so intuitive, although I had difficulties with the elements of domination that kept creeping in. Then during the past year I discovered that all was not what it seemed. There appeared to be a major discrepancy between what Hempfling propounded in his latest book, The Horse Seeks Me, and his numerous promotional videos on YouTube, on the one hand, and what was actually happening on the ground, on the other.


And then there was Pip

So when Pip finally came into my life at the beginning of April this year, I found myself turning to a collection of resources for ideas rather than a single horse guru. By that stage I had also received numerous comments (on the blog or in private emails) urging me to abandon the search for a horse guru and to start learning from the horses. To hear this sounds trite and very frustrating to a human in search of the magic wand that is going to create this magical relationship with the horse. And it sounds as trite and frustrating to hear that, once you have this magical relationship, all things become possible. I stomped my foot at this and I know other humans who have done the same.

So I went to Pip with all my resources and my very best intentions. I wanted to help her adjust to life free of the need to perform mindless dressage exercises urged upon her with instruments of force. I wanted to be a friend and support to her. I wanted to help her learn to carry herself properly and eventually a rider as well. In short, I had an agenda and, as I write, I’m very conscious of the fact that all of the preceding sentences begin with ‘I’. Where was the horse in all of this? At the time I did not ask this question. Now that I look back, it does not surprise me that Pip had very different ideas.


Pipped by Pip

And so I started out on my programme for Pip’s future development. The first step was to help her calm down. For most of her fifteen years Pip had been used as an accessory to various riders’ dressage egos. Although this had eased somewhat under her previous owner, Pip still managed to demonstrate the difficulties she experienced with such a regime and to protest against it. Her protest took the form of going into a fast, mindless, frenetic trot or canter whenever she felt under pressure, during which any communication between horse and human was impossible. In addition, she was often hyperactive and nervous. She lacked self-confidence and was at the bottom of the pecking order in the herd.

Pip and Andrew

Pip and Andrew

Although I had an agenda, I tried to be as calm as possible with Pip and to inject all the joy that I could muster into my time with her. Our exercises in the manège are generously interspersed with walks in the forest and not overly frequent grooming sessions (grooming is not one of her favourite activities, rolling in the sand is). This has paid off for both of us. Pip has calmed down considerably, she has a bit more self-confidence, she is building up her core muscles and her stress attacks are far less frequent. As time has passed, Pip has also taught me to start listening to her and to be prepared to abandon any agenda that I may have had in mind. Pipped by Pip, I have had to fire the boss in me and to re-evaluate my entire relationship with this lovely mare. What is more important: my agenda for Pip or my relationship with her?


Back to nature

In the lead-up to the NHE International Seminar which Vicki and I attended in September (see At the Interface of Horse-Human Interaction) I re-read Michael Bevilacqua’s book, Beyond the Dream Horse: A Revealing Perspective on Attaining a True Relationship. In the chapters entitled The First Hint, The Magical Forest and A Brief Respite (pp. 46-60) Michael tells the story of the development of a relationship between him and a three-year old Appaloosa, whom he had been asked to train by a woman and her daughter. The first hint of the depth of the relationship which he and the horse were developing came, when the horse, anxious about being separated from his stable mates, broke loose one day while Michael was taking it for a walk. It galloped off but stopped suddenly about 60 metres further on and looked back. When Michael called to the horse to return to him, it did, the last thing which he expected it to do.

Michael Bevilacqua and Commanche

Michael Bevilacqua and Commanche

Months later in the spring, as horse and human were making their way through the forest, the horse edged against a flower-covered bush allowing the fresh growth of spring to brush against his face. He was exploring the scents and flowers of the forest for the first time. Taking his cue from the horse, Michael suddenly became aware of nature in the form of the wilderness through which they were passing. He had come to take it so much for granted, looking but not seeing. The Appaloosa showed him that and refocused his awareness on their common heritage. Instead of simply continuing the training, Michael led the horse back to the bush of flowers and they ‘went off to explore a completely new world off the beaten path … with me on foot’ (p. 58).


The relationship

This experience had a profound effect on Michael Bevilacqua akin to an epiphany of awareness. He describes this effect as follows:

It is a day that I shall never forget. This horse had helped me to clarify and crystallise my own feelings and view of what a relationship with a horse could be – should be. I had been on a distant, parallel path of standard horse training. That horse, that day, pulled the intellectual veil away from it, pulled me closer to him and allowed my true voice from within to surface. (p. 58)

Not long after, the mother decided to take the horse away to a ‘proper’ trainer. One Sunday she and her daughter arrived accompanied by a horse transporter with 25 years’ experience. The man could not get the horse onto the trailer. Before matters got worse, Michael offered to help and calmly led the Appaloosa onto the trailer to the utter amazement of the girl. Without the relationship between horse and human, no amount of training would have been enough.


Pip on horse gurus

Through his book, his monthly articles and in person during the NHE International Seminar in Canada, Michael Bevilacqua has helped me to become aware of the path down which I have been travelling. He has done this not by presenting himself as a horse guru – as he said to me in Canada, ‘I’m just a guy living at home with horses’ – but by decrying the need for one, helping me instead to see that the answer has been inside me all of the time. It is not about moving a horse in a particular direction and in a specific way. Anyone can do or learn to do that. It is about listening to your horse and what your horse is challenging you to become.

So what has Pip been telling me? And what is she asking me to become? Is it that my mare wants me to do what Nevzorov insists on? Does she want me go the Hempfling way? Could it be that Resnick is her preferred guide for me? Or could it be Mintzlaff or the next best horse guru that comes along? This is not to say that we should not turn to such people for guidance but Pip is not looking for a horse guru, so why should I. Pip just wants a human who cares, a friend and carer.


Pip, my friend

Pip goes into an auto-piloted bout of hyperactive frenzy when she feels under pressure, be it at liberty in or out of a picadero or with a rope around her neck or attached to a halter on her head. When released into a 70 by 30 metre arena with absolutely nothing on her she can be overwhelmed by a fit of anxiety at the sight of nothing more than another horse, which causes her to move up and down at walk, trot or canter. The only way that I can establish contact with her at moments such as these is by being emphatically but joyfully present for her. Calmly, firmly and with absolute commitment to my equine friend, I reduce the space which she covers without touching or approaching her until she is standing in a corner before me and the light finally comes on again in her eyes, she sees me again, and we connect. She visibly comes to rest when the rope links us again almost like an umbilical cord.

Michael Bevilacqua and friend enjoying a good read

Michael Bevilacqua and friend enjoying a good read

For a long time now I have been aware that having a close relationship with a horse is a prerequisite for a human to achieve anything meaningful with such a creature. So what is different now.

Since my return from Canada and my time with Michael Bevilacqua, Cloé Lacroix (the dean of the Nevzorov Haute Ecole international school) and all those wonderful people with whom Vicki and I were privileged to share such a special time, I have taken a major step and it is this. In the past the achievement of a meaningful relationship with a horse was merely the prerequisite for carrying out my agenda with that creature, and as such was secondary to that agenda. Now I have abandoned that agenda in favour of that meaningful relationship. It is truly everything and whatever you achieve with your horse flows from that. I have decided first and foremost to be a true friend to Pip. A relationship of joy is everything. Whatever happens then is fine, whether it is playing, training, riding or simply brushing up against a flower-speckled bush in the forest together. It really does not matter with a friend, does it?

Andrew and Pip practising the first steps towards collection on the ground



As though to emphasise the lesson that he has fleshed out from within me (the true art of teaching – see Bridging the Unknown), Michael Bevilacqua has given the new German version of his book a different title from the original English one. Translated, it is this: Friends for Life: An Honest Partnership with Your Horse. Enough said!


29 Responses to “Nevzorov, Hempfling, Resnick, Mintzlaff … and Pip”

  1. Glenn Wilson says:

    Hello Andrew
    This blog shows me that you have taken not one but a couple of BIG steps.

    The first one (which has allowed the second one) is the moving on from the ‘Klaus’ thing. No tirade (subtle or otherwise) against him and his treatment of horses and humans. Such a pleasant relief. I guess that just proves that time heals all wounds.

    The second one is the realisation that there’s no such thing as a ‘horse guru’. There are people who are further down the horse journey than you or I are and they are prepared to share that knowledge and experience with us (for a fee most times). But everyone’s perspective is different and so what they see and how they relate to the horse (and life) will be different from how you or I see things. But they can and do help us along the path that is horses.

    And then there is the horse. In this case you write about Pip and the relationship that is developng. What better teacher could you have about Pip, but Pip herself.

    And the next question could be: Why? Why do we feel a need to be in horses’ lives? Why do we feel a need to develop a relationship with them and not, for example a sheep or a bird?

    I’m still trying to figure that one out.

    All the best from sunny Tallangatta Valley


    • Dear Glenn, I would like to respond to your question at the bottom.
      There could be different answers to that one. Here are 2 possibilities
      1. Perhaps we can ‘read’ a horse better than a sheep or a bird.
      2. Perhaps the horse has chosen to play that part in our lives, although from the outside it might look as if ‘WE are feeling a need to develop a relationship with them’.

      My favorite is the second option.
      Warmly, Geerteke

    • Andrew says:

      Dear Glenn

      It is really good to see that you are still accompanying us on our journey, as it were.

      Still, your conclusion that I have taken a couple of ‘BIG’ steps is somewhat at odds with my awareness of what has transpired. To my knowledge, this blog has never featured a ‘long, angry speech of criticism or accusation’ (the online Oxford Dictionary’s definition of a ‘tirade’) directed against anyone.

      Presumably you are referring to some of the criticism that I have levelled against Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling’s approach to horses and humans from time to time. The omission of such criticism is a ‘pleasant relief’ to you, proving that ‘time heals all wounds’.

      If it were as simple as that, I would be tempted – on the basis of current circumstances to which I am privy involving people whom I care about but which must remain confidential for the time being – to launch a tirade against the man at this very moment which would be exponentially more vicious than any I may have been capable of in the past. Yet it is never that simple, is it?

      All that I have done in this post is omit the type of balanced comments (criticism and praise) that I have used to refer to Hempfling in the past, for the simple reason that I was explaining how he featured in the development of my relationship with horses in the past. Interestingly, this is the same approach to other ‘horse gurus’ which has drawn as much disapproval from Ian (see below) as it has earned approval from you.

      You ask interesting questions: Why do we feel a need to be in horses’ lives? and Why do we feel a need to develop a relationship with them and not, for example, a sheep or a bird. I can only try and answer this question for myself.

      The reason for both is a changing one. Initially, I only really embraced a relationship with our horses about five years ago, when I realised that it was possible to be safe with them and to develop a relationship that could potentially bring out the best in both them and myself. Journeying down the path towards that – by keeping, managing, caring for, spending time and interacting with horses – has helped me to start bringing about profound changes within myself and my approach towards the world and other creatures to which it is home. In short, by helping horses to be healthy and happy, I have become healthier and happier. It may be possible for another human to achieve something similar with a sheep or a bird but it is simply not my experience, most probably only because I have never tried it.

      Enjoy the sun in Tallangatta Valley and take care!

  2. Laraine says:

    just wondering who got the reward you or Pip re the carrot I mean only saw you taking a bite… what a beautiful horse, funny how our four legged friends enter our lives.

    • Andrew says:

      Dear Laraine

      Indeed, who got the reward? If there was one?

      Yes, the video only shows me taking a bite, so it would seem that I am getting the reward. Normally I bite off a bit of carrot and give it to Pip. However, I have it on reliable authority, that this can only work as a reward, if the treat is given immediately. I fear that the delay between Pip’s response and my presentation of the carrot effectively prevented it from serving as a reward.

      Hugs to your four-legged creatures.

      Be well!

  3. Dear Andrew,
    I have read your post this time with interest. As always, actually. At the same time I do not know exactly what more to say than to agree with you that meeting with the different ‘guru’s has led to figuring out what it is that one really wants with a horse NOW.
    It has to do with finding a new equilibrium, I guess.
    In that new equilibrium allowing the horse the space it deserves. The space it has chosen to occupy. The space it needs for the task it has chosen to fulfill.

    On the path of finding that new equilibrium we attract what we radiate/desire/are in need of.
    In other words: if there is still some ‘bossiness’ in us whilst the mind has commenced on the road of change, this ‘bossiness’ will still attract other ‘bossiness’. A wellknown universal law.
    There will and can be different degrees of ‘bossiness’.
    At first seemingly resonating with our vibes to then after a while starting to feeling ‘sour’ and being dropped again. In search for something else or new. The so-called search for the truth. Not yet knowing/realising that we already have the truth inside of us. But still having and holding on to the conviction that someone else knows more and/or better.

    This clip “Lakota Story of the Stone” is selfexplanatory

    And so step by step we shall find our own path.
    This means, of course, that no one path is better or worse than another. Everyone has his/her place on this earth. Every single animal – in the wilderness or in the civilized world – makes a choice where to play a role of importance. The importance being it seems supporting us humans to ‘wake up’.

    If we do not need a so-called ‘guru’ that is fine.
    It is just as fine as those who do need a ‘guru’.
    Eventually we shall all discover in our own time that our own personal ‘guru’ has been waiting for us to be discovered. For that we shall have to ‘wake up’. Once ‘woken up’ we realise that our most valuable ‘guru’ has always been inside of ourselves.
    Every time we meet a ‘guru’ in the outside world and there is a feeling of a kind of recognition, this is our inner ‘guru’ using the other person as a reflection medium for us to experience. Once the experience of reflection has taken place the time has come to move on. On to the next experience.

    Over time we shall start realising, that we are the other.
    A ‘guru’ who is aware of this phenomena will inspire us to discover our own ‘guru’.
    A ‘guru’ who is aware of this phenomena will let go off us as soon as such an opportunity arises.
    A ‘guru’who is aware of this phenomena will know we are his teacher as well.

    @clip horses and Alexander Nevzorov
    0.21 here there seems a slight uneasiness within the horse – also look at the changed position of the ears – could be the cameraman in the bushes(?) – AN stays calm and assertive – the horse decides to continue.

    The total of this AN clip shows horses that are perfectly happy and in harmony with whatever they are ‘performing’. They are 100% in agreement with what is being asked from them. This doesn’t have to mean that on the pure physical level it is always that easy. However, on a ‘soul’ level these horses seem to be totally dedicated. And in tune.

    With some of the KFH clips where I had a look at (see your previous blogs) this has not always been the case.
    That is interesting, isn’t it?!
    Still it would not be fair to compare as both men and their horses travel different pathways.

    @Clip Janosch and Klaus F Hempfling
    This horse feels totally dedicated to KFH – he enjoys very much being with this man.
    Still when I take a look at Janosch’s energyfield a lot of disturbance is being shown.
    Because of Janosch’s dedication and the connection between him and KFH, Janosch has become part of their collective consciousness/awareness. And as it is in Janosch’s interest ‘to keep KFH on his feet’ Janosch has chosen to carry part of KFH’s ‘burden’. Whatever that ‘burden’ may consist of.
    When momentarily returning this ‘burden’ to KFH, Janosch presents himself as a very happy-go-lucky horse. Actually he seems to always have been a very happy-go-lucky horse although to the outside world he presented himself as ‘hard to get’. If I remember correctly Janosch was described in one of KFH’s books and/or DVDs as being ‘autistic’?? Was this beautiful horse reflecting?

    I don’t know if Janosch is still alive – presumably not.
    I don’t know if KFH took Janosch with him when he left Spain or, if not, what Janosch died of.

    @pictures horses and Michael Bevilacqua
    There is a ‘feel-good-thing’ about the pictures with MB and the horses

    @picture and clip Pip and Andrew
    For some reason, Andrew, my gut feeling tells me this time to not respond to the energy coming from this picture and the clip – I don’t know why – perhaps you do.
    I have waited a day, but the feeling hasn’t changed.
    If, however, you wish me to put on paper what the energy fields of both you and Pip have to say I am perfectly happy to do so.

    Be well both Pip and you.
    Love, Geerteke

    • Andrew says:

      Dear Geerteke

      I do so appreciate your analyses of the various video clips I post. It helps to focus the eyes and the mind.

      Thank you for offering to describe the energy fields of Pip and myself. There is no need to do so, of course, as I was present at the time, not only physically.

      Be well!

  4. Glenn Wilson says:

    Hello Andrew
    So much of what you have wrtten in this post mirrors so much of my journey to date. Including the gurus you were, or were not, drawn to.

    Discovering horses, seeking a “different way” with horses, looking for a “guru” to show me the way and give me the answer, finding that guru, realising that gurus are just stepping stones and helpful guides but not the answers, coming to understand that it is about me and the horse, and now working on (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) letting go of my “agenda” – how ever well intentioned – to achieve that depth of relationship I seek with my horse.

    It is an exciting, inspiring and revealing journey isn’t it!

    Thanks for sharing

  5. Somehow you always bring new nuances into your posts, Andrew although even talking about the same story. I was attracted by the first picture, Andrew and Pip, because of Pip’s beautifully arched neck. What a wonderful horse compliment. Andrew is really getting places, I thought.

    And so I followed your train of thought – really enjoying the videos for the most part. Then came:

    “Resnick was not shy to proclaim that hers was a method that would succeed with every horse.”

    I thought that wasn’t fair, for I have followed Carolyn’s blog for years. And she stipulates certain basic conditions to be able to follow her method. So often have I noticed that she advises ‘students’ to find the right horse and, thus, that certain horses will NOT be suitable, depending on the ‘person’.

    You also write off Linda Kohanov in a single sentence as having her head in the clouds – floating on an airy-fairy cloud – which also seems over the top, given the pains she has taken to substantiate her findings. In terms of how horses read people and their reaction to them, I have found from personal experience that what she says is largely spot on – you know, the in/congruent thing.

    And so we get to ‘Andrew and Pip practising the first steps towards collection on the ground’ basically clicker training (with fingers) and carrots. I thought you were supposed to be learning from the horse, rather than inducing your vision of what she should be doing. This seems a contradiction – the cupboard love approach. Of course, this is valid and quite classical operant conditioning – behaviorism pure and simple – a method for all horses that would seem not to respect the individual and everything that you have been against. As I see it, if you continue along this path, you will lose sight of your horse (again). You will miss the precious insights that the horse is able to bestow on you. Michael learned it by chance when his horse taught him to look on the wild side… this is something far beyond training … but maybe you are not into immanence – or archetypical equine wisdom so aptly described by Linda, in my modest opinion. In short, you have returned to the basics and controlling your horse basically. So the arched neck was just for a carrot and not because she was communicating her love for you, wasn’t it? Andrew you are a disappointment: I was hoping for much more… and still do:-)

    • Good morning Andrew
      I woke feeling that my response above was too blunt and possibly hurtful, given your concern and care for horses – it seemed that you had taken up a single method for all horses, something that you had argued against. Nevertheless, I know how highly intelligent and sensitive you are and that you would do nothing that you felt went against the well being of the horse. Hence, please accept my sincere apologies for my tactlessness.

      Horse beams


    • Andrew says:

      Dear Ian

      Oops, I sincerely apologise if I have offended you. This was most certainly not my intention.

      Nor was it my intention to write off anyone, least of all people, such as Carolyn Resnick and Linda Kohanov, who are helping humans build liberating relationships with horses. My comments about all of the ‘horse gurus’ I mentioned should be read in the context of the choices that I made at the time, as I decided whom to look to for guidance and whom not. I should have made this much clearer. My decisions as to whom I chose not to look to for guidance say more about me than the individuals to whom I closed the door at the time.

      I am not personally familiar with clicker training nor am I consistent enough to be particularly successful at operant conditioning. Those that seem to know advise that a reward must be immediate, if it is to serve as one. If the video is a true reflection of what happened at the time, then I fear that I am not quick enough for any positive reinforcement to be effective.

      Laraine says that it looks as though I got the reward and not Pip. Perhaps I will need to make it up to her with another carrot. She seems to like them. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that she is a horse.

      As for Pip’s motives for arching her neck towards me. That is her concern, not mine. I was merely encouraging to arch her neck down in the vertical. There you go: another bloody disobedient horse. Oh, Pip!

      Be well!

      • Re: Linda Kohanov and your comment about her ‘floating on an airy-fairy cloud’ Yes, that did get my back up, but if you read her books or talk to her that is hardly true. We were discussing recently how she managed to re-socialize Merlin a very aggressive and angry horse, indeed. What it took for her to confront him couldn’t be any more down to earth! How she turned that horse’s life around is a very touching and beautiful story with a happy ending. Few people in the world could have done that – and one of the secret ingredients an extremely high level of vulnerability, which could have so easily cost her her life. In sum, ‘the floating on an airy-fairy cloud’ notion you came up with, may be what is called ‘assuming beginner’s mind’ – a very helpful state if you want to get to the bottom of something.

        • Andrew says:

          Dear Ian

          That was my impatient view of Linda Kohanov at the time. It was only two weeks ago that I started reading The Tao of Equus for the very first time.

          Perhaps one has to be ready for certain influences.

          Be well!

          • The really captivating thing about Linda is that she explains openly and honestly her experience with horses – her work is a gold mine about horse behavior and how it relates to people and what we can learn about ourselves and improve on. The story of Merlin appears in her follow-up work, Riding between the Worlds.

            I hope you will feel, and be, as enriched by her work as I have and much, much more, connecting with your horse in ways yet to be imagined – the Tao of Equus.

  6. Re:Michael Bevilacqua and friend enjoying a good read – Carolyn Resnick ritual one, sharing territory, isn’t it? The key to her method – even if this part works for any horse:-) Sharing…. sharing space, sharing perspectives as fellow beings. It is hi-lighted in the Alpha mare perspective – super grannie wisdom, in my opinion. I tend to characterize it as feminine or maternal energy, which can be amazingly powerful. It is, in my estimation, the grounding or earthing force that may ‘connect’ the autistic child; that is allow him/her to be in a position to start communicating in a balanced way as demonstrated in the Horse Boy. But, of course, although the effect may not be so dramatically obvious, the same thing can happen for any of us. We begin to see the light, you might say…. this is diametrically the opposite of operant conditioning, which can be applied to both child and horse and seems to overlook the innate wisdom in either of the parties. No, I am not a proponent of watching anything jump through hoops. It may be ‘clever’ but it is meaningless and above all lacks dignity.

    But my horses aren’t even bothering to push me off my soap box – futile words when there is so much to experience directly.

    So ends this Saturday afternoon reflection…

    • Andrew says:

      Dear Ian

      It has clearly been a thought-provoking Saturday afternoon.

      If the Nevzorovs of the world are to be believed, it would appear that there are some horses that enjoy jumping through hoops or something similarly challenging and demanding, provided that it is requested with dignity and respect, and that the horse is able to walk away from it at any time.

      Perhaps it occurs as a result of operant conditioning or at least one manifestation of it, namely, positive reinforcement, where praise and encouragement serve as a substitute for treats. Personally, I do not really care what it is, as long as both horse and human are trully enjoying the moment.

      Be well!

      • Thanks for your replies. I guess then it comes down to the way we view respect. It seems I am overly sensitive about seeing anyone click their fingers at someone else. I had no problem with Klaus marking time with a stallion, though. Of course, in clicker training, the click has come to stand in place of the reward, so it is unnecessary to follow it with the latter.

        I guess, I became traumatized (or horrified) about all this years ago on learning that Skinner actually put his own son in a Skinner box. Perhaps, his son enjoyed the experience at the time, but I have always felt very strongly that that is not the way to treat a (human) being. And so it is that I see Skinner Boxes in all shapes and sizes wherever I go… and have at times – to my dismay – found myself an integral part of them.

        Anyway, shades and shades of meaning that horses seem to enhance even more in my case. They make me care… a lot … but as you have observed, that doesn’t mean we necessarily know what’s best for them and even ourselves – we ‘feel’ our way forward, making intuitive guesses and, with persistence, get lucky.

        • It seems I spent half the night thinking about you and Pip, Andrew:-) What occurred to me was the idea that Pip has been trained using this approach in the past, for she does seem to respond to it:-)

          I think clicker trainer came into its own, training dolphins who may have heightened our awareness in terms of the power of a click. Nevertheless, we remained at the beginning, it seems, and, as far as I know, have deciphered very little of ‘their’ language.

          When it comes to the sound, we have been clicking, clucking and kissing at horses for a very long time. Presumably, the horse has learned to understand us although it isn’t a part of its own repertoire. I admit that I am taking something of a ‘purest’ line, but I have a predisposition to communicating with the horse in horse terms. That is to say, as the horse may see us as a horse, it will respond to our horse gestures. Quite simply, if you want the horse to drop its head, you drop yours, etc. Of course, the horse may not immediately imitate you but rather understand the meaning behind it – to stay calm and that there is nothing to fear.

          Wishing you a carefree Sunday with Pip


          • Andrew says:

            Dear Ian

            Just back from a session with Pip. I think she is trying to let me know that sometimes my energy is way up in the clouds, when a whisper would suffice.

            There are some who argue that we should try and communicate with horses in ‘horse terms’. There are others, such as Michael Bevilacqua, who simply communicate, relying entirely on their authenticity, intent and intuition. For example, to call one of his horses over, he simply calls the horse to come while inviting it with his hand, something a human might do with a friend.

            To be quite honest, I do not particularly care what approach is adopted, as long as there is communication and both horse and human are happy with how it occurs.

            Give your horses a carrot from me … but don’t click. 🙂

            Be well!

        • Andrew says:

          Dear Ian

          As I understand it, once the required behaviour is achieved, one can also dispense with the click and rely on some other more subtle clue.

          Clicking my fingers before starting the flexing exercise with Pip was actually designed to do nothing more advanced than to get her attention. I have never done this as a cue for getting her to flex.

          Be well!

  7. Heather says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Just wanted to comment on your remark of clicker training. As you know I have been exploring this this year – it started as a suggestion from Marta Williams for Magnum – and went on from there. Just wanted to say – and I’m certainly not expert in this – but from what I’ve read – you do not have to necessarily be fast with the treats – it is the click – or whatever you use to mark the behaviour where you have to be precise – and then of course they know a treat is coming….. however I’ve also used clickless treats – and now I am exploring CAT-H for Magnum – constructional approach training for horses – particularly for fearful, abused or wild horses – as it seems the clicker training can bury the fear a horse may have – as they want the treat so will bottle up the fear – CAT-H is like a cognitive behaviour therapy for horses and is a relatively new theory but was originally developed for aggressive dogs by Prof. Rozales Ruiz and his team. But the key to using it for horses is that you need to give complete control to the horse – and it can be as slow as watching grass grow! But already I have seen changes in Magnum – so I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

    So I’m busy gaining knowledge in these areas – but also always stay in touch with my boys with my animal communication. And they have all told me they love the clicker! In fact as they eat – even though they have the same things in their feed – if they know I have treats, they will often stop and perform a behaviour to get the treat – must be much more fun than just eating out of the bucket!

    I’d love to be able to attach a picture taken of Ducati two days ago on a short ride in our forest – but not sure if I can do this to your blog. This is the horse that I was advised had no purpose on this earth and really it would be better to shoot him.

    Okay – sounds as usual Andrew you are discovering many things and getting many people to think about various things. Well done for exploring the horse world so thoroughly!!!!


    • (You raise some very interesting points there, Heather, if I may say so… and I expect Andrew will wish to comment.)

    • Andrew says:

      Dear Heather

      Thanks for the information about clicker training. I rely in part on Wikipedia, which has this to say about the timing:
      ‘At the exact instant the animal performs the desired behavior, the trainer clicks and promptly delivers a food reward or other reinforcer. One key to clicker training is the trainer’s timing; clicking slightly too early or too late rewards and therefore may reinforce whatever behavior is occurring at that instant. The saying goes, “you get what you click for.”‘

      Then again, I would not bet my life on the reliability of Wikipedia.

      It sounds as though you are making great progress with your horses. If you would like to publish anything about them on the blog, just let me have the content (text, images and/or videos or links to same) and I will be happy to include it in a post. You could even do a guest post, if you like. Perhaps you could explain your experience with Clicker and CAT-H training.

      About the advice you got to shoot Ducati, because he supposedly has no purpose on this earth, you wouldn’t want to say who gave you that advice, would you and where? 🙂

      Hugs to Peggy and your mob.

      Take care!

  8. Heather says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I will reply to your comments shortly – but someone just sent me this – and I thought you might be interested to read it.



  9. Heather says:

    Hi again Andrew,

    I was just commenting on your sentence
    ” Those that seem to know advise that a reward must be immediate, if it is to serve as one”

    All I was saying is that the click has to be immediate if it is used as the marker for the behaviour that will earn the treat – rather than the treat being immediate – however of course, it should be relatively prompt. At present my mechanics are still a little clumsy. So your Wikipedia reference was correct.

    Re Ducati and discussing clicker/CAT-H – I will send an email with some photos of Ducati!


  10. Cyndi says:

    Wow, Andrew, I can’t believe how much your journey sounds like mine, even the ‘gurus’ you mentioned!!

    Although I live in Canada, I still haven’t made it to one of Michael’s seminars, but I sure hope I can someday.

    Thank you so much for such a wonderful post.

    • Andrew says:

      Dear Cyndi

      It is lovely to hear from you. I suspect that we are far from being alone in making such a guru-filled journey. Perhaps it is time for us to loudly proclaim the advent of the real guru (oneself) and the route to that guru (through the horse).

      Be well!