R+ uses the "seeking" side of your horse's brain. It is based on repeatable principles of behavior science; you will understand how and why your horses learn.

Traditional horsemanship is based on the "avoidance" part of your horse's brain. It is a negative reinforcement model (pressure-and-release, abbreviated "R-").

Your horse will do one better; they will TRUST you. All good training (R+ or R-) depends on reading your horse's body language; you MUST recognize when your horse is comfortable v. aroused/anxious. With R+, the horse learns how to make you provide a resource (food). With R-, the horse learns how to make you remove a threat (pressure).

With R+, your relationship with the horse is based on the fact that, in the past, you have provided food. With R-, your relationship with the horse is based on the fact that, in the past, you created pressure.

You are the source of the food.  The dominant member of a pair is the one who gets first access to a limited resource.  With R+, you are dominant because you control the resource.  With R- training, you are intimidating because you create pressure; you're not dominant, you're just a bully.

Behavior science is the study of how behaviors evolve over time. That knowledge is applied to change the baseline behaviors of your horse: desired behaviors occur with reliable frequency; undesired behaviors are eliminated. A horse is always a horse; their priority is to feel safe and free from threats. Behavior science shows you how to help your horse feel safe.

Behavior science begins with changes that occur outside of your horse's body. These changes include when food arrives, when pressure is released, and what environment your horse generally lives in. Behavior science CANNOT fix biological issues inside your horse's body.  For those, you need a veterinarian!

Mertens Mammals is owned by an equine veterinarian with over 22 years of experience in medicine. Horses cannot proceed with learning unless they are pain-free and in good health.  With Mertens Mammals, the first part of any training plan is a veterinary exam to ensure that physical issues are addressed first.

Each horse is unique! But most training plans fall into the following arrangement:

  • Barn-visit evaluation with a Mertens Mammals veterinarian, to assess current health and behavior of your horse and discuss goals and expectations.  If necessary, heath issues will be addressed prior to start of training.
  • Subsequent barn-visits with your dedicated Mertens Mammals behaviorist, up to 4 x/week. This will include training of both you and your horse.
  • Monthly progress checks with your Mertens Mammals veterinarian.
  • Most training plans are complete within 3 months!