But if you are interested to know more, I invite you to follow the link at the bottom of this page and I will take you further into my world …
My professional background: I have doctoral degree in veterinary medicine (FU Berlin) and MSc in Equine Science (University of Edinburgh) which I followed with the sole purpose to carry out a MSc thesis under guidance of Jesús Rosales-Ruiz (University of North Texas) on the environmental control of crib-biting.
Since 2013, I am one Alexandra Kurland’s coaches of her online course which I have translated to German and published in 2016. I have organised a number of workshops with Alexandra Kurland in Germany and Italy, many of them in combination with attending Anja Beran’s International Workshop. In 2019, I hosted the first Clicker Training and Behaviour Science Summer Camp with Alexandra Kurland, Jesús Rosales-Ruiz and Mary Hunter, and since 2020 I am also a regular presenter. In 2021, Alexandra Kurland invited me to co-teach some of her Stay-At-Home Clinics.
My work with horses is based on four pillars that inform each other:
- Clicker training
- Classical dressage
- Feldenkrais method
If you you are interested to know more but prefer listening to reading, I suggest the following podcasts to which I was invited over the years: Equiosity (episodes 27, 28, 83), Horses for Future (episodes 6,7), Friends on Horses, Knackfrosch & Gummistiefel and Pferdegewieher–
My goal is to help people build a wonderful relationship with their horses based on kindness and care, considering emotional as well as physical balance. The method I am applying is clicker training on the foundation of an ethic that respects the wellbeing of the horses and their person. I am driven by the curiosity of a scientist in exploring questions that are both theoretical and practical. With a similar curiousity, kind and without judgment, I aim at finding balance, elegance and ease of movement in horse and human.
To understand better how I work with horses and what I teach, you need to know who taught me. The following individuals had, and still have, a great influence on how I approach training.
In 2010, I began learning about clicker training from Alexandra Kurland. When Alexandra published her online course in 2013, she invited me to be one of her online coaches. In 2016, I published the German version of that online course. Alexandra is my mentor whose advice I value immensely. We meet several times per year which is always a highlight for me.
Anja Beran has also a great influence on me. I admire her not only has an excellent rider but also her insightful teaching and kind, generous and passionate personality. I met her the first time in 2011, when she organised the first International Classical Dressage Workshop at her beautiful barn. I was so impressed by her work that, in 2012, I travelled across the Alps with my horse Asfaloth for one month of daily lessons. In, 2013, I was lucky to get a training spot for my youngster Graya and Anja started her under saddle. In 2018, she would meet Graya again during a weekend clinic in Italy. I can’t get enough of watching Anja and her first rider, Vera Munderloh, ride. I visit them several times a year.
Alexandra Kurland and Anja Beran are my heroines, my “gold standard”, if you will. I am fascinated by the combination of clicker training and classical dressage and these two women are, to me, the very best in their field. In first sight, it may not be obvious but the work of both of them is connected, complementary. The pieces fit together like a Ravensburger Puzzle (another key datum: I am a born and raised Ravensburger).
Anja Beran shows me WHAT I want to achieve and Alexandra Kurland teaches me HOW to get there.
My training is based on what I learn from Alexandra heavily influenced of what I see Anja do. But that’s not the whole picture.
There are a few more mentors who are teaching me a lot and who influence my training approach:
Jesús Rosales-Ruiz, Professor of Applied Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas, who supervised my MSc thesis and continues advising me, as well as Mary Hunter, likewise a behavior analyst, animal trainer and real expert in explaining complex scientific principles to non behavior analysts, such as myself.
Nathalie Van Cauwenberghe, my instructor in the Feldenkrais method. She has a background in classical dance and rhythmic gymnastics at Olympic level and is passionate about graceful movement in balance. She has helped me immensely to improve me body awareness and made my communication with my horses more efficient and fluent. She is not a rider herself but thanks to her teaching, my seat improved far more than any riding lesson I ever has.
I will describe in more detail how each of my mentors influenced my work with the horses.
But first I want to tell you why I ventured into clicker training in the first place although, initially, I was very sceptical. Read here why I continued anyway…
“Anja Beran shows me WHAT I want to achieve and Alexandra Kurland teaches me HOW to get there.”
~ Michaela Hempen