How animals learn – 3 Day Course

Theory and practical  - for horse owners

Date:  July 1st – July 3rd 2014

Leader: Maxine Easey


This 3 day course can be attended with or without your own horse. The hosts’ horses will be used for demonstrations and teaching and all students will be able to watch training sessions with participants’ horses.

The course is an introduction to the science of how animals learn and its application to teaching horses using force-free methods.

Max’s aim is to give both horses and their owners more choice in their lives. She does this by introducing open-minded horse owners to ways of being with and teaching horses functional things that can dramatically reduce the amount of pressure to which horses are routinely subjected in training and handling.

This course focuses on the very basic building blocks of animal learning and how we can begin to apply them with horses, both on the ground and riding.

We discuss what is meant by learning and training. We look at the key ingredients required for any approach to teaching things that are beneficial to animals in our care. That includes the need for a deep understanding of the natural behaviour of the species, as well as the likes, dislikes and tendencies of every individual animal.

We look at how all animals learn by association (classical conditioning) and by experiencing consequences (operant conditioning). We touch on the basics of how animals can be taught to confident with their environment, how we can reduce their fears and frustrations and how animals can learn to control their own emotions (non-associative learning / habituation).

We will look at options we have for explaining to an animal what it is we want them to do – the art of communication - and at the pros and cons of each of those options. We use different scenarios and simulations to learn how to use those options for training behaviour.

We finish up by understanding how to put it all together and where to go next. We look at the basic process for teaching, how to put any behaviour on cue so that it is repeatable, and how to shape more quality or duration into behaviours by training each of the small achievable steps towards a more complex “finished” product.

The course is a mix of lecture, video, group and individual exercises and simulations interspersed with demonstrations and training sessions with horses.

Who is this course for?

This course is for anyone involved with any animal, but particularly with horses, and who wants a long term solution that involves a significant reduction in the use of pressure to communicate and motivate their animal partner.

This is for anyone who wants a relationship where the animal participates for what s/he has to gain, rather than because of the uncomfortable consequences of not doing so.

This is for anyone who is ready to come out of their own comfort zone to hear the truth about animal learning. That might involve some temporary confusion about new terminology, some regret about not having learned this before, some fear about whether you can change habits you have practiced for so long, some frustration if it takes a while for your animal to believe you.

This is for you if you are willing to let go of the idea that we must use pressure to motivate animals because you have been told that this is how they motivate each other. You will learn that humans have the ability to communicate with and motivate animals in ways that go far beyond that. This is for you if you have a strong desire to improve, to know more, to use more sophisticated ways of training that make use of the brainpower of the human.

This is for you if you are prepared to reconsider your current methods with an open mind. Expect some methods and ideas to be challenged and some completely overturned on the basis of looking at the natural behaviour of animals through the lens of the “laws of behaviour”. This is for you if you want to understand why some of the things you have been doing are not producing any improvement.

This is for you if you are in a place where your relationship and the way the animal feels about his or her life with you is the highest priority for you.

This is for anyone who wants inspiration and hope that it can be better and different if they are really willing to do things on the horse’s timeline.

This is for anyone who really wants to have more choice and to give their animals the best choice possible.

Should I bring a horse?

The application of the science of learning to horses that Max teaches uses force-free methods based on positive reinforcement and the use of systematic desensitisation and counter conditioning. All of these involve the use of food rewards initially. If you wish to bring your horse it will be on the understanding that you are willing to participate in using food as a way to kick-start behaviours. As time goes on, the need for food as a reinforcer for any specific behaviour is faded out, and food is then used occasionally to maintain performance. The very first thing Max teaches each owner and each horse, is how to work for food without mugging or becoming aggressive. If you have any concerns about your horse being trained using food, or your horse is presently on any kind of strict diet, please speak with Max directly before booking in to come with your horse.


£225 for the 3 days.

Super-students who have previously attended a 2 or 3 day course with Max anywhere in the country are also invited to attend at a “discount for dedication!” rate of £150.

Price includes all tuition, a post-course handout, light refreshments and use of the excellent Brandy House facilities.

Max also likes to have dinner at The Brandy House with as many students as can make it on the night before the course and each evening of the course

Accommodation, lunch and dinner can be arranged when booking. 


For further information and to book your place please contact Medina at the Brandy House or complete the form below

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