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submitted by Beth Bliss

Many of you have known member Jan Norman for years, and are aware of her successful use of Clicker Training with her horses. Some of you may have even attended her fund raising clinics at Brushriders a few years ago.

I hooked up with her in 2004 and started videoing her Clicker Training her foal, Amy. We now have produced 4 videos in the "Clicker Training Amy" video series. When my foal Ivy was born in 2005, Jan videoed my early work with her, and we produced 2 more videos, "Ivy's First Days" and Ivy's Next Days".

I saw a call for abstracts for the 2nd International Equitation Science Symposium that would be held September 19th and 20th in Milan, Italy. The work with our foals met 2 of the stated 4 objectives listed. I thought, "Why Not?" and proceeded to write an abstract to submit for their consideration., Jan thought "you're crazy!" but she put up with my notion. Low and behold, the first abstract was reviewed, and we were invited to revise and resubmit it to them. Our revised abstract was accepted, and we were invited to present our work in poster form at the symposium.

Here is the abstract as submitted:

Beth C. Bliss 1.  Jan Norman

1. Registered Nurse, Three Rivers Community Hospital

500 Ramsey,  Grants Pass, Oregon 97527

Horses are born precocial. They are pre-programmed by nature to learn many things immediately, for survival. We wanted obedient foals that were reasonably safe to handle. We documented, using video recording, how quickly our foals could learn a variety of behaviors using a marker sound that was consistently followed by positive reinforcement. We used a tongue click as a behavior marker. A verbal bridging signal was variably used. Initially, a friendly scratch or rub was the reinforcer. Both foals began to accept sweet feed as a reinforcer by day 10. Physical and verbal cues signaled for a behavior. No control group was used. One foal was targeting by day 6 and being bathed without restraint at day 9. At 2 months old, both accepted handling of all body parts, wore a halter, surcingle and butt strap, gave to pressure, trailered and targeted objects. At 4 months old both stood tied, lounged and ground drove. By one year of age, on cue behaviors for both foals included picking up objects, coming when called, urinating, drinking, sitting on a beanbag, side passing, backing, executing forehand and haunch turns, putting their head down, wearing a saddle, breast collar and crupper, and Spanish walking. One also jumps objects, lies down, and squares up; the other straddle walks logs, teeter totters, and puts her eye and ear in our had on cue. We have found no negative outcomes with these foals using this method when working within the newborn or juvenile horses natural physical capabilities based on age. They have become reasonably safe to handle and can be cued to execute a variety of behaviors.

With the help of Martin's Printing, we designed and they printed a poster for the symposium. Then we went to Milan to join 150 equine behaviorists from around the world. We thoroughly enjoyed the speakers and discussions presented each day and learned so much. Our poster presentation was well accepted and we were warmly received. You can see the proceedings at