Episode #1: The Bob diaries...Positive Reinforcement from the heart of Los Angeles.
Updated: Dec 6, 2020
Before we start let me say a word about this diary…this is my experience of learning to work and use positive reinforcement methods to train horses. I am completely new to this method and have been under the instruction of Patricia Lincourt, an expert in the field of +R. The ‘diaries’ will be an a combination of my training sessions as a student and Patricia as the instructor. Where we can we will add images and video to hopefully make the lessons beneficial for anyone else wanting to use positive reinforcement training with their horses. This was also written at the height of COVID hence the face mask.
Episode #1: Meet Bob
Baron is a 16.3 Hannovarian gelding, his barn name is Bob. He’s big, beautiful and a blast to ride (when I allow myself to relax enough to appreciate it and herein lies the problem). Bob is 11 years old going on 4 and has an attitude of entitlement which I am just getting my head around. Bob is not the sort of horse I ever imagined I would ever ride again. Let me tell you why…
I’ve ridden for over 35 years and owned my own horses in the UK since 2008. My first two horses were warmbloods, Fero, a little pocket rocket of a Hannovarian gelding who was the love of my life but had to be sold due to a change in circumstances which meant I just couldn’t keep him any longer. When things stabilized I bought a Dutch warmblood mare, she was big, highly athletic and super opinionated about absolutely everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. She taught me a great deal but slowly chipped away at my confidence and after 4 years and many near misses she finally bucked me off, off breaking my nose in the process. I can genuinely say this was one of the most frightening equine related incidents of my life and I was so very lucky to be able to get up and walk away from it (all be it with a limp and the inability to sit down for a week where I had been kicked on my lower back). I decided this was one near miss too many and came to the decision to sell Zumaya before one of us was badly injured.
Luckily both Fero and Zu were sold to friends who still dote on them more than 10 years later (how lucky am I?). At that point I decided my warmblood days were behind me and I bought a four year old Welsh Section D pony who I completely fell in love with. He was stubborn and quirky but rarely dangerous and he restored a great deal of my shattered confidence. We hacked for miles on our own in the British countryside, did several hunter trials and one day events, show jumped and competed at entry level dressage. He was a little super star and I was totally smitten. However he also had ongoing soundness issues and spent many, many months either on lay up or being brought back into work after various forms of treatment. After several years of remaining sound he then developed a career ending injury which there was no recovery from and I made the heartbreaking decision to put him to sleep. I nearly gave up but then met a buckskin Connemara and decided to have another try and horse ownership (sorry remind me of the definition of madness again?!). I had about 12 months with Fairytale who I was just really getting to understand and enjoy before another change of circumstances meant I moved to Los Angeles and Fairy (aka Fluffytail) remained in the UK. He is currently living in horse heaven, retired for the time being in a huge field and there he will remain until I know how long I will be in the United States.
Hence I found myself in Los Angeles without a horse, disaster! This is where fate stepped in and I met Patricia Lincourt, owner of Lincourt Stables at the Paddock Riding Club. However, by this time I had not ridden for around 6 months and my confidence was back at rock bottom. That is; Rock. Bottom. Since then I’ve spent the last 12 months slowly getting confidence back and beyond all my expectations I am now working with Bob on a regular basis. I am astounded at this, genuinely astounded and it made me wonder if a diary of my ‘Bob efforts’ might be of interest to anyone who wants to build a relationship with their horse, especially for anyone who might be experiencing confidence issues. Every day I work with Bob he teaches me something new and I learn more about who I am. As with all horses there are good days and bad, and I expect this will continue every step of the way!
I will say that I have expert training and guidance from Pat and the team at Lincourt Stables who have been guiding me and so far and have provided me with a completely new way of appreciating and approaching training. You see Pat is an expert in Positive Reinforcement training methods, aka clicker training, aka R+ training. You might have heard of clicker training with dogs, well it works with horses too. In fact clicker training works so well with horses I don’t know why more people are not using it. We will endeavour to explain more about how we use this training method in a balanced fashion with the horses at Lincourt as we go through this diary. One last thing, since March, like most of the world we have been in a COVID 19 lockdown, which means that often I am on my own trying to ride, train and video all at the same time. Plus, I am in no way a content editing expert and therefore the quality of these videos might be a little (or a lot) inexperienced, I hope this will improve over time alongside my riding!
If you are interested in +R training or expert one on one advice with Patricia please contact us. We offer online and phone training for anyone interested who is not in the Los Angeles area.