James - Animal Behaviourist - White Lake, MI, USA

Kelly James

White Lake, MI, USA


Animal Behaviourist

Work History

Riding Instructor

Private Practice


Horse pictured in banner

The horse pictured in the banner photo was an OTTB i rescued off a girl who was relentlessly abusing this mare and had destroyed her back and shoulder from riding her roughly and incorrectly on a crooked foot. the mare was in pain, would not eat and was covered in saddle sores and was skin and bone. I have spent the past 3 years doing corrective shoeing on her foot and working her carefully so as to rebuild the muscle and strengthen her shoulder and back. I spent the entire first year working on trust and desensitization and simply took my time with her. I now have her schooled and finished in jumping, dressage, speed, and western pleasure. She has not come up lame for over year now and seems to be much stronger. her personality has gone from panicked and nervous to calm and confident. I can now hop on her bridle-less and work patterns.


Worked with a horse with extreme aggression issues today; he was notorious for striking, biting and kicking at his handlers. I met him through the gate of the round pen then went inside with my training stick (an extended plastic pole about 3/4' around) he immediately showed signs of aggression and i asked him to move his feet for me, he objected with a nasty stare and warning head toss. i asked again until he began to come at me. i asked him to respect my space with the stick putting pressure on his nose and he turned away from me. i continued to pressure him to move his feet and when he did as i asked i took the pressure off. now that i had him moving around me i asked him to stop by partially stepping in his path and raising my arms. I "opened a door" for him with my right arm to ask him to change directions and he opened his mouth to grab hold of me. i reminded him again of my space with the stick and calmly asked again. he obliged with an angry face but all the same did as i asked. I continued that until i got a fluid consistent response from him. I then attached a rope halter to him and a 12 foot training lead with a leather popper on the end. i opened the door for him to move out to my left and swung the rope at the other end. he ignored me and threw his head so i began to gently tap the rope against his side, increasing pressure until he gave and moved forward. i walked at his shoulder in a small circle in the middle and then when i decided to, stopped. and wiggled the rope, increasing the intensity in which i wiggled it until he slowed and came to a stop. he should now face me. i ask him to face me because i want him to look to me for the next direction. horses are herd animals and create a stronger bond and highly respect the herd leader. If this position is not assumed, they will assume that position. Once he faced me and reasured him with a "goodboy". i wiggled the rope, gently at first and increasing intensity until he took a step back, then i reward with release of pressure. I want him to respond to gentle aids instead of anyone hauling on his face all the time because that increases anxiety in an animal especially one such as a horse. I always rate a horses leading obedience on a 0-10 scale. 0 being the horse with follow you around and stay right beside you whether you're standing or running with a lot of slack in the lead. whereas 10 is a horse that is dragging you all over the place and you need to yank the heck out of his face to get any response out of him. With this rating scale in mind i want the horse responding at 0. but you can never get to a 0 if you don't start at 0. meaning the first initial time you ask your horse to do something you must ask with minimal pressure and slowly increase until he responds. I repeated this exercise with taz until he was fully responding and was entirely relaxed with my position as leader. he began to give me my space and consistently kept an ear cocked towards me. he eventually dropped his head and began licking and chewing which are signs of relaxation. at the end of his session i asked him to stand and he did and turned to face me. i approached him and rubbed him all over his entire body then took the halter off and let him be. he already began to show signs of contentedness and displayed much less aggression. his training will of course need to be continued but within the next couple sessions i will incorporate his owner into the exercises so as she can practice them and establish a leadership with taz.

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