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Episode 168: Dr. Michaela Hempen Pt 2: Crossover Horses and Emotional Baggage


This is part 2 of our conversation with Dr Michaela Hempen. I began this series by saying that this is our Holiday present to all of you. In Part 1 Michaela shared the details of the research project she’s been conducting on cribbing. The subject of that study is a quarter horse mare named Blondie.

Just when Michaela was reaching a critical stage in the study, Blondie’s owner decided he wanted to sell her. Through the generosity of many in the clicker training community Michaela was able to buy Blonde and continue on with her study.


It was a good investment because Michaela has been taking what she learned from the cribbing project and applying it to other aspects of Blondie’s training. You may not be dealing with a cribber, but you could well have a horse that came to you with a lot of unwanted baggage. That was certainly the case with Blondie. Michaela was discovering some huge-crater sized holes in her training.


Blondie said no to just about everything. She said no to haltering, to leading, to saddling, to bridling. Michaela could have done what her previous owner had done - just ignore the pinned ears, the swishing tail, the snapping teeth. He could ride Blondie. He could make her “behave”. We’ve all heard it - “Oh she’s just being a mare, she’s just testing you. You just need to show her whose boss.”


But that’s not the relationship Michaela was looking for, nor does it produce the kind of ride she enjoys. So she took Blondie out of the command-based world. She’s been offering her a very different training connection. How you go about doing that is what we’ll be exploring in Part 2 of our conversation with Michaela. This second present that we’re about to open as we look at the saddling project.

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