On the 14th September 2016 I attended the ABWAK Wild Equid Training Workshop held at Hill livery in Bristol run by Terri Hill and Shawna Karrasch.
Too be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect and was just exciting by the idea of meeting the Somali and Zebras!
I was welcomed by friendly faces and a table full of food, tea, coffee etc. Just what I needed after a journey spent mainly sitting in traffic!
I soon got chatting to the other participants on the course, whom were mainly zoo keepers and all had very interesting story’s to tell.
We then sat down to a talk led by Shawna for a couple of hours, but to be honest I could have listened to her all day. Her passion for all animals welfare and well being was so inspiring and she had so much experience and knowledge to share.
We were then all given our own clicker each to keep and a tub full of chopped carrots and were taken to see the Zebras!
We were introduced to the 4 Zebras and 2 Somalis and an accidental Zebra cross Somali whom had very interesting features!
We split into 3’s and my group worked with Diesel the Somali to begin with.
He was very nervous to begin with, Shawna had explained to us we must bridge (click) the first movement that the equid makes towards the target to begin with. So something as little as an eye movement is enough to begin with, and eventually over time you ask for more, until their nose is touching the target.
Diesel progressed really well, but was a little suspicious of the feel of the tennis ball. So we progressed to wooden targets hooked on the fence. Diesel was much more confident touching these and he was soon touching each target I pointed at straight away.
After a very satisfying lunch Shawna showed us how to begin teaching clicker training from scratch and demonstrated on a livery horse whom had never been clicker trained before.
I was surprised how quickly the horse was able to link the clicker sound to a reward. Shawna first taught him to move his head away and then trained him to touch a target, all within half an hour!
We were then all sent back to practice our techniques with another Equid. My group picked the lovely Zebra stallion ‘Forest’.
Forest was very willing to participate in the Target training! We were able to do more complex training with Forest, such as moving the target to different areas and holding it higher so he has to reach up to it.
I was really amazed how all the equids really appeared to enjoy the training and the interactions with people.
After we had finished, Terri led the session on aromatherapy and showed us the correct techniques and how to tell if a Equid likes or dislikes a certain smell. I was amazed how each horse we used liked or disliked different oils. Terri explained to us the animals know what they need, and will pick the oils they need, so each day they will pick different according to how they are feeling.
I had such a good day, learnt so much and didn’t want it to end!
I have used the techniques with my own horses with extremely positive results. They love the aromatherapy and go away extremely relaxed after a session!
The target training has been really good fun to teach and they really enjoy their training sessions, even choosing to leave their haynet to come and do some target training!