Horse Behavior Chat

Some of you have already noticed the logo to the side of the HenCam page for my new endeavor, The Cooperative Horse. First off, big thanks to my good friend, Lauren Scheuer for the drawing that exemplifies what I want for my horses – engagement, confidence, and trust. Like my work here at HenCam, through the Cooperative Horse, I’ll be helping individuals with their animals, via my writing on the website, and also individually in person and by email, Skype, etc. In this, case, though, the animals weigh about 1000 pounds more than the hens!

I do reward-based training.

Tonka gets a peppermint

Tonka is getting a peppermint for a particularly nice canter.


This means that I look for the moment that the animal is doing something right, and I show my appreciation by giving a treat of some sort. Positive associations are built. Communication is clear. I’ve done this sort of training with dogs, goats, horses, chickens and even fish. Obviously, the reward varies by the animal, as does the environment that gives them security and comfort during training. So, before you can even begin asking for behaviors, you have to have a deep understanding of what motivates the animal. For that, it helps to study ethology – how they behave in their natural environment.

Research is being done of horses in established feral herds, and what is being discovered is transforming how we care for and train our equines. I’m working on an article about this for The Cooperative Horse website. I’ll let you know when it’s up. But, if you live in the Boston area, you can hear about it in person. I’ll be leading a conversation about horse ethology at a lovely little tack store, The Complete Equestrian Saddlery, in Bedford, MA. on June 30. Details are here. It’s free, and there will be cold drinks and cookies (made by me, in the shape of horses, of course.) I hope to see you there.


  1. I could not agree with you more. Bravo for a thoughtful and humane approach to the training and relationship you have with your horse. Amen.

  2. Hi,
    A few years ago, I had the opportunity to watch and participate in a day long workshop given by Monty Roberts. He was able to change a number of horse’s actions, overcome their fears, etc. with little or no conflict in a very kind and understanding way, all by being very tuned into how horses behave and perceive in their natural environment. I’m curious to know what you think of his philosophies and approach?

  3. Love your approach! When I was riding in the 70’s, I witnessed a lot of cowboy dominance mentality at rodeos and on group trail rides. I wish I could say that it didn’t influence my relationship with my horse but I was too impatient and ungrounded a teenager to even conceive that it was me that was stubborn instead of my horse. I haven’t ridden since then and am really enjoying hearing about your work with Tonka. You listen to your animals and show us how many ways the world is communicating with us. Truly inspirational. Thank you.

  4. teri – i have a question and son’t know how to go thru the computer to ask it – other than to ask it here. i have a family of friends who have just built a chicken coop and gotten a small flock of hens and they’re absolute beginners at it they probably have too many chickens for the size of their coop, might be their biggest problem but when it gets to that point i know what to tell them. in the meantime, the girls will be going thru the pullet stage and laying smaller eggs than usual – how long does that last until their eggs get to grown-up size??? appreciate any and all info j.c.

    • Hi Jean – there’s a button on the bottom of this page that says “contact Terry.” When you click on that it goes right through to my email. But I’ll answer this quickly :) As you said, pullets usually start off laying smaller eggs, and as they get into the laying season the eggs will get bigger. Some of that depends on the breed. I’d say on average it takes a couple of weeks, but I haven’t kept track. You’re right to worry about too many hens in the coop – they will have problems!