Tuesday, July 13, 2021

CAT-H (You Need This in Your Life)

We’ve been toiling away during a very wet summer, which has limited my ability to ride in my grass dressage court(and Pivo Jet) and fully get Cruise going outside.  Things are good though, with Jet staying sound at Training Level and adding in touches of work from First and Second and me working on my position.  Cruise is being ridden inside 2 days per week, with some great basic work, and being ground driven all over the farm at least 2 times per week.  So all is good, just wishing for the rain to stop or for my sand ring to be magically built.  You know.

Anyway, this has nothing to do with CAT-H which came to my attention again when I listened to THIS Dressage Naturally Podcast episode 49 about getting your horse past fearful objects.  Some of the concepts seemed familiar and I remembered THIS Warwick Schiller video Desensitizing Using CAT-H which led me to THIS Warwick Schiller video A Mustang Mare That Spooks…. And folks the rabbit hole truly opened.

After reading a couple of articles HERE and HERE that explain the origins of Constructional Approach Training for Horses(dog training for aggressive dogs) my mind was truly blown.  To make a long story short, it is basically about fear thresholds, and giving the horse the reward it most desires which is distance from the object of fear after any sign of relaxation.  Instead of getting to even a low fear threshold you are looking for even a slight noticing from the horse of the scary object.  Things like not blinking, holding breath, slight tension or fixation.  As soon as you see that you stop(with your tool or approaching the scary object) and wait for signs of slight relaxation like eyes blinking, ears moving, head lowering, or the horse turning towards you.  When you get that sign of relaxation you take your tool completely away or retreat completely back from the scary object.  Rinse and repeat always staying just below threshold and at noticing.  Eventually (and quickly!) getting your tool all over the horse or past the scary object. By never getting to higher threshold of fear the animal learns that you are reading him AND by rewarding relaxation with retreat he gets the thing he most wants which is distance.  Then amazingly he relaxes and walks right by or doesn’t care about the scary object.  This is a powerful training tool folks.

I played with it this morning when turning out Jet.  Within 5 minutes he was walking head down, taking deep breaths and walking by the scary shed with a badger living underneath it.  He has never ever walked past that shed in hand without at least some sign of tension.  EVER.  In 5 minutes a done deal.  Excited to play with this more and then apply it under saddle.  More posts to come.


  1. Sounds like an interesting concept. I'll have to look into it more.

    1. I've been fascinated with the concept of different thresholds and how to take pressure off. Really interesting to play with ..