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A Scaredy-CAT, a Hell-CAT, and a Skeptic Walk Into a Barn: Using Constructional Approach Training (CAT) to Address Behavior Issues in Horses and Win Over Skeptical Clients

May 8

9:00 am PT

This talk is eligible for CEUs from: CCPDT, IAABC, KPA


Behavior change is an individual process, not a one-size-fits-all event – no matter the species an animal behavior consultant is working with.

When working with horses displaying behavior problems, behavior consultants must have knowledge of and experience in using a variety of techniques to address the behavior, depending on the needs of each individual. To further challenge a consultant, the horse’s owner may be skeptical of ‘newfangled’ behavior modification techniques. This skepticism may require that a consultant take additional steps to shape an owner’s behavior in order to achieve success.

Constructional Approach Training for Horses (CAT-H) is a technique that can be useful for addressing both horse and human behavior. For example, horses who display fear-based, escape behaviors meant to either increase or decrease proximity between themselves and a stimulus respond well to CAT-H. It can also prove to be a valuable technique to shape the behavior of human clients: it doesn’t initially require the use of training tools such as clickers or food pouches which may be novel, and thus threatening; in practice, elements of CAT-H may feel familiar, and thus ‘safe’; clients don’t generally have any pre-conceived, negative perceptions of CAT-H or its efficacy.

This presentation will discuss the use of CAT-H to address behavior issues such as fear and aggression in horses, as well as the benefits it can offer in shaping the skeptical client’s behavior.

Presented By:

Lauren Fraser, MSc, CHBC

Lauren Fraser, MSc, CHBC, (she/her) is an experienced horsewoman, who has worked professionally with horses since 2006. Prior to her current specialization, Lauren taught riding and horsemanship and trained horses.

Lauren holds an Equine Science Certificate (with Distinction) from the University of Guelph and obtained her MSc in Clinical Animal Behavior (with Merit) through the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. Lauren’s dissertation research examined the behavior of horses subjected to forced ‘laying down’ during training.

Lauren is a Certified Horse Behavior Consultant (CHBC) with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) and is the IAABC’s Horse Division Chair and a member of the application review committee. She is also a practitioner member of the International Society of Equitation Science (ISES) and a Fear Free® Certified Professional.

In addition to helping horse owners address behavior problems, Lauren presents educational events and lectures on horse behavior to a diverse audience: monthly workshops for horse owners, online courses for veterinarians and other equine professionals, and guest lectures for university equine science programs. Lauren is also a freelance journalist, writing articles and press releases about horse behavior and training for various publications and scientific conferences.

Lauren currently owns four horses: an Arabian gelding, a half Arabian gelding, an Andalusian mare, and a Paso Fino mare who is 13.1 hands tall and can jump 4’6″ from a standstill, given the ‘right’ antecedents. She has not yet told her husband, but Lauren plans on acquiring a mule as next year’s birthday gift to herself. While she grew up riding English, Lauren currently rides Western and enjoys multi-discipline training. She particularly enjoys starting horses under saddle and teaching cooperative care behaviors. Lauren’s greatest personal training accomplishment to date has been teaching her husband that time she spends with her horses equates to better quality time with him. In light of this, she is hopeful that the mule news will be well received. When not with her horses, dogs, or husband, Lauren can be found mountain biking, lifting weights, or shopping for new trucker hats.

A vocal proponent of shaping behavior using positive reinforcement with all species, Lauren particularly enjoys working with ‘crossover’ horse trainers and owners who are transitioning from traditional or natural horsemanship backgrounds, and who are interested in incorporating evidence-based, low-stress techniques to help them achieve their training goals.