Behavior analyst uses skills to better train horses

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AUXVASSE - A horse trainer is taking her skills as a behavior analyst and applying them to horses. This fundamental way of training is fairly new to the horse training community and works to rehabilitate horses with bad habits and strengthen skills starting from the beginning. 

"Being a behavior analyst primarily I was working with adults and kids with disabilities. There's some behaviors that we want to increase, some we want to decrease, some we want to maintain, and it's the same thing with horses," she said. 

Horse owner and trainer Nikki Tiesing opened Forever T Ranch one year ago to begin this journey of becoming a full time horse trainer. She began taking in horses from the public, working on rehabilitation with them, and also doing lessons for the public one year ago. Because of the similarities in horses and humans, she said she was able to be successful in building a strong fundamental relationship. 

"I started working with friends' horses, and they were seeing success, and then it was after I was seeing success in my own horses and they were happy with their horses," Tiesing said. 

Fundamental training using the idea of working from the base is a newer type of horse training. Tiesing emphasizes her use of this technique while training the horses. 

"I try to talk a lot about principles and the training that I follow, and just let people see first hand what it looks like from beginning to end. And I say end, but I don't think that horses are ever really finished," Tiesing said. 

In addition to her in-person training at her ranch, which is on family grounds, Tiesing posts videos to Facebook to show people real time progress. 

"I kind of say this is where we are, this is what we're working on, and this is how we're working on it," she said. 

Tiesing usually has repeat clients with multiple horses, which reinforces her beliefs and values in fundamental training. She said the one thing she really stresses with clients is mentality. 

"I want the horse mentally present with me, and I want the horse to mentally be a willing partner in what we're doing. I'm all about teaching the horse the right thing, rather than making them do the right thing," Tiesing said. 

Jetta Heath, who is a repeat client of Tiesing, said she's noticed a huge change in confidence for both of her horses. 

"My Missouri fox-trotter was very anxious, and she's much more calm now. My draft horse was learning some bad habits, probably from my own lack of experience, and so therefore she's taught both of us how to work through those issues," Heath said. 

Heath has even seen progression in skills with one of her horses. 

"My Missouri fox-trotter now knows how to do barrels, and she feels confident in doing that, and Nikki took her in and had to teach her the fundamentals first," she said. 

Tiesing's fundamental training has been proven successful for ten horses, including some of her own. She's even had trouble giving up horses after she's "fixed" them. 

"I call the place Forever T Ranch because it's on family ground that will stay in our family for forever, and it's kind of became a dual meaning because also the horses that are purchased into Forever T Ranch are gonna stay at Forever T Ranch," she said.