Training Distractions, Cameras – and Hairdressers!

This morning as I start on another post, I’m greeted by a new editor layout in WordPress! Oh why can’t they leave it alone!! It has taken forever to post a feature photo – not because I couldn’t follow the new layout – but because it just wouldn’t post! I almost put myself into an extinction process as I tried to get a picture up there! Anyway, enough complaining! I know I will get used to it! On with the post!

While I’m unable to spend time with the horses as I continue to heal, I have time to ponder! I’ve spent more and more time thinking about these presentations I wrote about previously! 14. Science Camp – Errorless Learning by Mary Hunter and 15. Science Camp – Don’t Fight Extinction! – Jesús Rosales-Ruiz There was so much information to take in and I’m sure my brain is still processing it!

Recently I was looking at the video below. It was filmed a few months back at the beginning of our lockdown. I labelled it Training Mistakes as I continued with the umbrella when I knew Magnum was tense. Why did I? Because the camera was running and I wanted to record more footage!

So I’ve been thinking about that further (I have a lot of time on my hands at present!)

This is what is circling in my head – I’m learning all these wonderful things about a successful environment, clean loops, prerequisite skills, starting points etc. etc. They have helped me so much, especially to understand what is going on when I’m training……


How is a particular environment influencing ME – the trainer?

For example, in the video above, I knew Magnum was comfortable with both the environment and the camera…. but was I? The addition of the camera changed MY behaviour, not Magnum’s. My behaviour then caused the training mistake of continuing when I knew Magnum was tense.

Why did I behave like that? Is it that I felt pressured to capture ‘something’ that day? I have plenty of video footage – why was I pressured? I would say it’s habit and expectation! I had decided in my head I would get some video of Magnum and the umbrella, and I focussed on the goal, rather than the training process.

How easy is it to do that!!! I think of myself as fairly self aware and empathetic towards the horses, but still I can override that in a moment! At the time of this filming, I was taking daily videos which I then made into The Lockdown Series. I had the camera running as I went around each horse. I normally found something I could post.

The Lockdown Series was a little project while we were in lockdown. I enjoyed doing it – and on a positive note – spent more time with the horses. But at times the project dominated at the expense of the training. How easy is it to fall into that trap!

Taking video is a great way to learn. When I play my video back I slow it right down to see what is going on – I can look at the horse’s expression, my feeding position, rope handling, etc. So I recommend using video as much as you can.

I use a video camera, as I don’t want to take up space on my phone – or use up the battery. I can charge the camcorder separately and, yes, it does get grubby, but basically it’s now a dedicated horse training video camera! I also have a tripod that I can move around to various places.

But it always changes my behaviour somehow – even if I’m only taking video for private use. Running in my head may be thoughts like ‘Oh, I hope I got that on camera’ or ‘I should move the camera to a better light’ etc. Maybe if I had one of those cameras that follow you around those thoughts would disappear.

But apart from cameras, what else changes the behaviour of the trainer, rather than the horse? Of course, if you aren’t well – or in a hurry, it will influence you. Also if you train where there are many other people, it will affect both horse and human. I really congratulate everyone who trains at a boarding barn. I can’t imagine how difficult that is – even if you have supportive people around. It must be hard work and no doubt influences your behaviour.

All the above writing has fallen out of my head this morning and onto the page! So if I go back and look at the jumble, what am I trying to say?

I guess I’m telling myself to be more careful! I can set the horse up for success, but then I need to really check my own behaviour! Am I hindering or helping the training?

Maybe I need a checklist! Am I focussed on the process – or on another goal? Am I tired, anxious, in pain, sick, impatient etc. – or am I in perfect training mode? Do I have any distractions in the environment – am I going to be talking to others, taking a phone call, attending to another horse etc.?

I know we can’t always be perfect, but I think it’s so good to be aware of how you may subconsciously influence the training session. What is the right environment to set ourselves up for success?

We know that horses notice everything! They are so in tune! They know when we are anxious, distracted, irritated etc. And they know this before we know it!

I compare the experience of the horse with the distracted trainer to going to a busy hairdresser! You know when your hairdresser is rushing, when the goal is to get through the clients rather than truly focus on your beautiful head of hair! I’ve been to plenty of those hairdressers! I’ve been to some who talk to someone else while cutting my hair. I remember one time a particular hairdresser was so busy talking to the client in the seat next to me I had to put my hand up and interrupt so we could discuss what she was doing with my hair! I was so annoyed – needless to say, I never went back!

But of course our horses have no choice – they show us in other ways that we aren’t really focussed on them! And often that is not quite as polite as putting your hand up at the hairdressers!



2 thoughts on “Training Distractions, Cameras – and Hairdressers!

  1. This is such a great post, Heather!

    I agree with you. We often ask how the environment will influence our animal’s behavior. But, I think we forget to ask how the environment will influence our own behavior. What a great thing to think about.

    Liked by 2 people

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