6. Lakes, Cows…. and Ropes!

Back to our ‘rest day’!  After visiting the Stud Farm we went in search of lunch.  Michaela found a wonderful lakeside restaurant – just the place to spend a few hours in the heat of the day.  The temperatures were in the high 30s, so we were all feeling the heat.


We enjoyed good food and good company.  As a group – and as a group of clicker trainers, we spent time talking about what we had seen that morning and the obvious differences.  It gave us a small insight into the battle Anja Beran has to change a system that has been operating that way for such a long time.

Why was our group aligning so strongly with Anja’s work?  Because we could see the similarities.  The horse is held in the highest regard – everything else is secondary.  And we know what it’s like to be in the minority.  Clicker training horses is not something that is widespread – and is still looked down on in many areas.

After lunch we headed to Julia’s dairy to see how she was going with Snickers – her clicker trained dairy cow.  I wrote about Julia last year here –  4. Cows and Castles in the Bavarian Alps



Snickers has had a calf which she could keep with her – something that doesn’t happen on a working dairy.  It was a very hot day – and Snickers didn’t want to leave the barn – so we let her be and played with lead ropes instead.  Alex took the opportunity to include Julia in the lead rope exercises.

Alex’s rope handling is something that needs to be felt over and over until you have mastered it.  Because I don’t have anyone here in Australia to practise with  I always take the opportunity to absorb as much as I can.  The learning never ends.

We also practised just guiding a horse with body language.  How smooth could we be? – how clear?  Could we make it into a dance, rather than an awkward jumble of moves?  It was fun seeing how refined we could become!


I thought once again how each step needs time and lots of practise.  It’s our human nature to want to rush through.  Do we really need to perfect these steps?  Well, yes we do!  How small can we make the move with the lead rope?  How effortless can we make our body language?

I thought once again of how a horse needs just the smallest amount of movement from a rope.  Try yourself by pretending to be the horse, holding the halter like I am in the photo above.   Now shut your eyes and have a partner start moving up the lead rope.  Call out when you feel it and open your eyes to see where their hands are exactly on the rope.  Get them to try it firmly and gently – and feel the difference.

When we talk about rope handling it’s easy to conjure up an image of a cowboy pulling a horse around on a rope, or someone swinging a rope at a horse, or going ‘up phases’.  This isn’t the rope handling that Alexandra Kurland teaches.  She teaches an art form.

This example is along the lines of Anja’s work with bits, spurs and whips.  We have an image that they are all cruel.  But her work is also an art form.

I have a long way to go until I perfect this – but I’m working on it!  Here is a clip, which I know I have shown before – but it shows Magnum responding to my small touch on the rope – observe at 0.13.

I would imagine that Anja’s use of the spur – or movement on the rein is so minute – but the horse knows exactly what is being asked.

After a very full day we crawled into bed, to prepare for the next three days at Anja Beran’s.

More to come!



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