Part 117 – Clicker Training at Cavalia Retirement Farm

The feature photo is of Bilbo who was having a break from the Cavalia show.  Bilbo is an  Ardennes or Ardennaiis breed.  He was the most wonderful horse and brought out smiles in everyone.  He loved his scratches!

The Cavalia retirement farm, which is no longer in operation,  was an hour or two from Montreal.  At the time – in 2015 – it was being run by Dominique Day who was the co-founder of Cavalia show.  Dominique had previously come across positive reinforcement training and Alexandra Kurland regularly travelled to the retirement farm to clicker train some of the horses.  Dominique and Alex now present Equiosity.

It was during this time that some of Alex’s clinics were hosted by the retirement farm – and the bonus was that there were many horses there and every participant in the course was able to have time with the horses.

Marla Foreman, who I had met on the Five Go To Sea Cruise several weeks earlier, was involved with the running of the retirement farm and care and training of the horses.  She is also one of Alex’s Click That Teaches coaches.  For these clinics Alex would invite some of her coaches and the groups were divided into threes.  This gave each small group a chance to practise things like rope handling, targeting etc.  At this course, Sue Bennett, another of Alex’s coaches, was there to help with the teaching.

I was so fortunate to share Marla’s house with Alex and Sue.  This led to some wonderful extra discussions each night!  During this clinic, Alex once again talked about balance and the importance of feeding position – I’m still reminding myself of this all the time!  She also talked about her six foundation behaviours, which are: Targeting, Happy Faces (ears forward), Backing, Stand on the Mat, Head Lowering and GrownUps are Talking (standing quietly beside you).  Each one is as important as the other and it’s important to cycle through these and build duration.

Once again, there was a lot to take in.  But for something to really sink in takes time – then it’s a matter of transferring it to the practical work.  It wasn’t until last year that I have really come to understand the importance of balance in both horse and human.  I had  watched Alex’s DVD on Shaping on a Point of Contact  many times – and I had been amazed at the difference in the horse shown in that DVD – but when it came to actually following through, I had a way to go.

And now, in 2019, I’m only scratching the surface about balance and all the positives!!  My food delivery is improving and my focus is on how the horse is standing – and I’m starting to learn what to look for when I’m moving my horse – finding that elusive ‘float’.

Here  are some photos of Danny – the photo with me riding him is from 2010 – I was oblivious – to clicker training, balance and the fact that his demeanor was so unenthusiastic.  The other  photo is from last year 2018  – working on him standing square and upright with clicker training.


Once again I’ve become sidetracked – talking about my new favourite thing – balance!

Back to the clinic at the Cavalia farm!!

We also did lots of hugging of horses!  Why?  Apart from it being a nice thing to do – Alex uses it to get comfortable around a horse’s head – and also it’s the start of getting ‘gives’ – small gives of the head and jaw to aid in more body work and riding.



We also watched Marla with two horses she was training, as well as each of us having time with several horses – practising rope handling.


And to finish off, some more photos of Bilbo!

The clinic was the last stop on my four week tour.  I had packed so much in,  learnt so much and made new friends.  But now it was time to go home – I had a lot to do!!





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s