It has become a cliche to say that someone has a unique perspective on a subject, but in Dominique Day’s case, that expression really does apply. Dominique was born in Montreal, Canada. Her love of animals began the way it does for many of us. As a child, she had the usual menagerie: cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, fish. No dogs, or horses - they came later.
At first, her career path did not seem to be taking her anywhere near horses. She studied marketing communications. That became the focal point of her career. Her marketing skills were put to great use in the early 2000’s when she co-founded Cavalia, a company that would revolutionize the use of horses in theatrical shows. What inspired her most in the concept of this show was the idea of giving the horse a full-fledged actor's place and staging it in a relationship of collaboration with the human, such as had never been done before, anywhere in the world.
For fifteen years, Dominique traveled the world with the show. She watched hundreds of professional trainers. Many were part of the Cavalia show. Others were trainers in the many show barns she visited. Traveling the world with Cavalia and overseeing the care of the several hundred horses that were either performing on the show or living at the Cavalia Training Center gave her an intense education in all things equine.
As she was constantly searching for better ways to train, care for, and live with horses, she discovered the work of a cadre of teachers - all of whom were advocates of science-based, positive reinforcement training. Alexandra Kurland, Dr. Susan Friedman, Ken Ramirez, Kathy Sdao, Dr. Jesus Rosales-Ruiz and Emily Larlham are some of the principle teachers and researchers who inspired her to learn more about this modern field of animal training. These are teachers and researchers who have dedicated their careers to applying behavioral science to the welfare of animals.
As Dominique discovered the tremendous possibilities of positive reinforcement in animal training, she began to explore the method with Cavalia's retired horses. These were a group of sixty plus horses who had completed their show career and were living in retirement at the Cavalia Training Farm. Beginning in 2011, all the retired horses were included in the program. Dominique enlisted the help of Alexandra Kurland - a pioneer in positive reinforcement training in the equestrian world. Together they oversaw the transformation of the handling of these horses.
Dominique saw first hand the effect of positive reinforcement. Dozens and dozens of horses whose handling was once reserved for experienced handlers only, became easy to manage even by novice grooms. Moreover, the horses showed a level of enthusiasm for their work that was far superior to anything she had ever seen before. It was a great demonstration of just how powerful positive reinforcement training can be.
At the beginning of 2018, she retired from the company so she could focus full time on this passion - to bring more understanding of science-based learning theory to the world of animal training, and to help give a voice to the animals we all care so deeply about.
Dominique is convinced that a real revolution in animal care is currently taking place all over the world. Positive reinforcement and a deep understanding of science-based training is giving us a whole new perspective on how animals learn and behave. It is significantly changing the relationship we share with them all the while dramatically improving their welfare.