Positive Reinforcement Based Training Information

This page has been set up to be a resource for training help. The links reflect the belief system of the folks at SYA and we will be continually updating. Please check back regularly and if you think you have a found a link that belongs on this page, please email our webperson Lyndsey Lewis. Thank you!

Good training starts with an understanding of behavior science. Modern zoos and aquariums all use behavior science and reinforcement based training with their animals. It's not called 'dolphin training' or 'tiger training' but instead it is all simply 'animal training'. And long ears are animals too! We don't need a seperate method for our long ears. If learning theory works for every other animal on the planet, then I assure you it will work for your long ear.

Of course there will be differences in the BEHAVIORS we teach our animals but the METHOD we use will be the same. Behavior is best built in small steps with reinforcement for the smallest try.

Because we also need to make sure that all basic needs for safety, exercise, companionship and nutrition are being met while training, we will try to include links that can help with these areas. You can also check out our Info page and our general Links page.

Also check out the facebook page Positively Donkeys and Mules.

Save Your Ass Longear Rescue
Reinforcement Based Trainers

Kris Renee Murphy - consultant and instructor

Click here for PDF on Handling Feet

Sola Wolff - equine trainer, consultant and instructor

Positively Donkeys and Mules
Positively Donkeys and Mules.
This group is to provide information and share thoughts and ideas about humane, positive training and the general well being of donkeys and mules.

Empowered Equestrians facebook page.
Empowered Equestrians.
Great Equine group with the focus on reinforcement based training.

Save Your Ass Longear Rescue
Behavior Science Resources

Susan Friedman - Behaviorist
Behavior+ Works
Dr. Susan Friedman is a psychology professor at Utah State University who has pioneered the application of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to captive and companion animals.

Karen Pryor
Karen Pryor is a behavioral biologist, a pioneering dolphin trainer, and an authority on applied operant conditioning—the art and science of changing behavior with positive reinforcement.

Australian Equine Behavior Centre.
Horse training and behaviour modification center where clear knowledgable training replaces the ill-informed and ethically questionable notions of dominance & respect.

Equine Research Foundation - Learning Center
The purpose of the Foundation is to further scientific and public knowledge about equine learning abilities, perception, behavior, training, care and welfare and, thereby, improve human-horse interactions. All studies are noninvasive and rely on positive reinforcement.

Save Your Ass Longear Rescue
Basic Care

Donkey and Mule health facebook page.
Donkey and Mule health.

All Natural Horse Care

Paddock Paradise

A Training Story

Save Your Ass Longear Rescue

I adopted an elderly pony mule in March of 2010. I named her Anna Mule. She had been passed around some before I brought her to my house. At one point in her life she had a partner and they drove around the country side pulling a cart. Her partner was mistaken for a deer during hunting season and was killed. I don’t know if Anna saw this happen, but I do know that she was given away more than once after her team mate died.

When I brought Anna home her feet were long, her hair was coarse and her ribs were showing. I had the vet come soon after I had her and we discovered that her teeth were so long she had created ulcers in her mouth. I had wondered why she chewed so differently from my other horses. She stood like a trooper while he filed them down. We did not need to sedate her for the work to be done. I wormed her and had her feet trimmed. For all of this she was fantastic. She never gave me any trouble.

I had purchased a harness for her and was waiting for my father in law to finish fixing up an old cart. I was so excited to have a good driving mule. While we waited for the cart I hooked her to my stoneboat a couple of times and had her move some hay and help me clear some brush. She was just as I expected very good at this work. We went for long walks in the woods, she crossed streams, climbed over wood piles, and she seemed fearless of all I asked of her.

Before the cart was finished it was time for spring shots for everybody. We did the two minis that she lives with first and then the vet went to give her a shot. I was not really paying attention as she had been so good for all her other treatments I thought this would be easy too. When she felt the needle go into her for her coggins, she went straight up in the air and then spun around and took off with me dragging behind. Somehow my vet was able to get enough blood drawn for the coggins. We then tried to give her a rabies shot.

She was so fast it was amazing. We tried with two people holding her, with her in the stall, out of the stall, but she could get away from us every time. Then I made my fatal mistake in our relationship. I let my vet talk me into using a lip twitch on her. It did not work; she struggled so hard she got out of that and my friendship with her ended on the spot.

At first she was just hard to catch, I could not get near her face with anything. Then I could not even go up to her to pet her sides. Then she would not even stand near me when I was with the other horses. This created huge problems when it came time for worming, hoof trimming and vet visits. She has really bad Uveitis in both eyes and on sunny days I like to put a fly mask on her for comfort. That was impossible, which meant her eyes would get runny and be very sore. She is now almost completely blind in both eyes.

I have read every mule training book I could find. I followed Steve Edwards around at the Equine Affair in Springfield MA, hoping to get some glimmer of hope that I could win my friend back. I spent time with Buck Wheeler at Horse Progress Days in Indiana hoping that his gadget the Stabilizer would do the trick. Nothing I did worked. She got so bad that the only way I could catch her was to chase her into the small stall and then get a rope around her neck. Then one day I could not even do that. I knew I had to try something new.

I found a clicker that we had in the house for the dogs. I never did use it to train my dog, turned out he was afraid of the noise, but I thought I would give it a try.

I went out in the morning and rather then put her feed in her dish I put it in a pouch on my hip and worked on getting her to know that the click noise meant she was about to get food. At first I would just click and treat, click and treat. Once she was comfortable with that I would touch her on the neck and click and treat. I worked up to doing that on both sides. I could not touch her face and I could go no further than her withers. By the third day I could put her fly mask on. By the 5th day I could put her halter on.

Every day we start with the clicker and some food. She will now let me clean her feet with her just ground tied. I can walk around her in both directions; I can brush her with my hand all over her body; I can lift her feet and hand them to the farrier and she will stand while he trims them, she will not let him pick them up on his own. And most importantly I can stroke her nose. I know in the world where mules are being used for dressage and combined driving and hunting elk in the wilderness this does not sound like much, but when you lose the complete trust of your mule it is these little steps that make it all seem like maybe just maybe we can get back to putting the harness on and hooking her to a cart again.

Jean Nichols Cross