Me and BootZ

Bay Area Equestrian

Christine Amber

Trainer / Clinician
Gilroy, Ca
408 888 8703

Last edited May 21, 2010
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Some Related Links and Sites  

American Association for Horsemanship Safety, AAHS

    Bay Area Horse Net

This site is for the greater San Francisco Bay Area.  It has free ads for horse related businesses.  It is a very informative site.

West Coast Rubber Recycling

Rubber Mats and ground rubber for your arena.  If you would like to see this footing call me and stop by, or call Cameron Wright, at :

West Coast Rubber Recycling
1501 Lana Way Hollister, Ca 95023
. Tell him Christine referred you!!
UC Davis Center for Equine Health
Auburn University Horse Behavior and Training , the home of my friends, neighbors and clients, Harry and Cindy and Cameron and Stewart

A letter to Chistine Amber from Dr. Sue. McDonnell from Penn State.Delivered-To:
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Date: Fri, 10 Jan 2003 08:32:30 -0500
To: christine amber <>
From: Sue McDonnell <>
Subject: Re: loved your ethogram & a question/opinion

Thank you for your kind comments on the ethogram. I was especially pleased to read that you enjoy having the references.  In trying to make this book user- friendly for non-scientist horse enthusiasts and professionals, yet solid academically, there had to be some balance on how many references.  It  was a challenge to reassure the publisher that there are horse people who would also like (or at least not be turned off by) references.
On your questions about training, I have to say I have never heard these concepts articulated so openly or unapologetically.  Your thinking about human horse relationships, particularly the pet vs working animal relationship, seems so truly liberated from the traditional horse training dogma.  I agree that some trainers and some disciplines in general enforce compliance to the point that horses do seem to lose their personality, or they fail in training. Certainly some of the disciplines come to mind immediately--for example the western disciplines that celebrate the head-hanging horse that remains unresponsive to the envrironment other than the handler. My opinion is probably tainted by fairly sickening descriptions from proud trainers of how that state of learned helplessness is achieved in horses with "too much personality." But other than a few examples like that, I probably don't think of the usual high levels of training as necessarily brain washing in a negative sense. It seems sometimes people and horses have relationships that have a combination of the "pet" and "highly regimented cooperative working" interactions. Horses do seem to have the unbelievable ability to comply with "unnatural" requests and suppress natural urges in specific situations and yet retain an interactive spirit.  Much of my clinical work is with stallions, and they are a great example of being able to learn when to suppress the urges and perform for us and when to let loose. 
It does seem sad that unnecessarily negative and inefficient methods are still used (and even taught in the name of natural horsemanship) to achieve compliance or highly regimented training. 
Do you follow Shawna Karrasch and On Target?  She's my favorite example of a popular technique to shape horse behavior in an all-positive and fun interactive method---no spurs, no punsihment at all, probably no negative reinforcement.   

At 09:22 PM 1/9/03 -0800, you wrote: >Hello Dr. Sue, >I got your new book over Xmas and it is so great.  I have your >Understaning.. book also.  I have an MA in Psych so have always longed for >the lit study and citations that you provided. Thx so much. > >I keep a small herd of horses in as natural setting as I can offer >them.  There are no stallions just geldings and mares.  I muck their >pasture daily so it is a great time to watch them when they aren't >expecting feed.  I see so many of the behaviors in your book.  My geldings >play all the time.  My one gelding roles his eyes alot as you >describe.  Now when I see them play fight and threaten with kicks or making >little nips at each other, I have a more formal way to classify what I >see.  It is just so great. > >My question / query of opinion is as follows.  If you have any time to >reply with thoughts I would be very honored. >In my horse work (which is what I do now) I train people and their "pet" >horses.  They are not "show" horses, but are pets.  I make this distinction >because of the  rigorous training / conditioning / "brain washing" that >goes into the automaton behavior of many "show" horses.  For me and my >clients, safety is the bottom line, we don't expect our horses to be >perfect at tasks, but rather to try what we ask.  So, in training, I am not >as consistent at trying to shape their behavior unless the issue has to do >with human safety.  The horses here are really appreciated for their >differences in personality, I think. > >I am thinking you are familiar with the term "resistance" >as it is commonly used by many current >trainers.  There is much to-do about eliminating all the resistance.  It >seems like the resistance is more their individualness.  It seems that the >horses who have had "all the resistance" taken out of them have sort of >been brain washed. > >For example, The lowering of the head routine, practiced by many trainers. >My gelding will lower his head when asked, but it seems to me by his >reaction or resistance that he really does not prefer me to brush just >behind his ears.  He lets me, but his reaction is he will raise his >head.  It is not a safety issue, he is just avoiding something.  If I >pull/release... and persist, I could make him lower his head while I brush >it, but given a choice, he resists a little.  So, I figure he is telling me >how or when he would rather not be brushed behind his poll.  He's not rude >or rough about it.  If I have to vet him, he will lower his head if i  ask >him.  I don't think this is "resistance" but rather showing his "preference" . >So... my question is what your opinion is about the training of "show" >horses that allows no room for variation.  Like a western pleasure horse, >or a reining horse or top level dressage horse.  They are often trained to >such a level, do you think it does "brain wash" them and take away their >personality. > >One more example then I'll stop.  I went to a 5 day clinic with a top >trainer. I won't mention his name.  His timing was exemplary.  If the >horses resisted he used quite a bit of spur and alot of  repetitive bending >as a consequence for unwanted behaviors.  Many of the horses in the clinic >were rude and disobedient, for certain.  My horse is not rude or >disobedient and so this guy liked him alot.  I worked my horse harder in >those five days, he sweat more >(me too) in those days than when he worked at home.  He may sweat hacking >out because he likes to go, but we don't generally drip sweat in the arena. >He did that week. >When I brought him home, he seemed changed.  He didn't play for long time, >and I was really afraid that I might have some how stripped him of his >"pet-ness". >Time passed, and eventually he went back to being his self.  But, it really >made me feel like I didn't want to "numb" him into oblivion.  A little >naughtiness was who he was, a little resistance tells me what he likes and >doesn't. > >Any opinions or thoughts would be greatly welcomed and appreciated. > >thx > >ca > >Christine Amber > > >                 or > > >408.888.8703 > > Sue M. McDonnell, PhD Equine Behavior Lab University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine New Bolton Center, Kennett Square, PA 19348 USA 610-444-5800 x2221   FAX 610-925-8124

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© Christine Amber, MA, 1998 - 2008


Site Description
Equestrian is a small, personal and horse training business and riding club in Gilroy, Ca. (South San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley) where owner/trainer Christine Amber trains horses and riders. Equestrian Training's focus is teaching adults and teems about, caring for, riding , keeping and owning horses as well as developing safe, strong, and sensible riding skills.  You can take  private riding lessons in English or Western Riding. You can join the riding club which emphasizes horses as a lifestyle that encompasses exercise, recreation, fun and a significant time commitment of three rides or group lesson a week.   Equestrian Training's horse training focuses on foundations that develop safety, relationship, willingness, obedience and balance in an athletic horse.