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Ellen Ofstad

The first place I was an intern was atEllen Ofstadin Sweden. Here I learned a lot about the horse's body language and learning, especially clicker training. Ellen had both young horses and older horses, and I got lessons with horses at different levels.


There were many lessons in how the human can use his body language, position, direction and energy to influence the horse when it is loose. I learned how, with the help of my body language, I could control the horse both at a distance and up close, from a lunging position, a lumbering position and a lead position.


The very best thing is that when we use our body language correctly the horses understand us without having to be taught. Later, when I have worked loosely with horses early in the taming process, I found that they do not understand less of the training even if they are not handled by humans, they are very, very sensitive.

I think it's really fun to work with the horses loose, but it's even more important to know how our body language affects the horse when we're roped. Our position, direction and energy can steer the horse loose and if we have a rope on the horse, the body language will still influence the horse.


One of the things that often causes problems in handling on the ground is precisely that we say with our body language that we want one thing, but with ropes and whips we say that we want something else. E.g. horses that stiffen in the lunge can be the result of mixed messages. We drive from behind with the whip, hold the horse on the lunge with the rope, and send the horse out/ ask them to stop with our body language. This creates a lot of unnecessary conflict.


The other big topic Ellen focused on is learning in general, especially through clicker training. How to use rewards to tell the horse that you did something right there. She points out that it is wise to divide the training into many small pieces in order to best explain to the horses what we want them to do.


Focusing on what is right instead of what is wrong makes training much more positive and enjoyable. At the same time, when our goal is to show the horse what they need to do differently to do the exercise correctly, instead of correcting the horse in making mistakes, we become much softer and more polite in our signals.


I also received lessons in lunging, long reins and riding. In addition, we worked on training some of the young horses, trailer training etc.





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