My first equine behaviour course was the Equine Behaviour Qualification at the Natural Animal Centre (NAC), run by the amazing Heather and Ross Simpson, ahead of their time by about 20 years or more; I’m still seeing “new” ideas about behaviour and training now, that they taught on their courses in 2004 and earlier. That was the start of my career as an equine behaviourist, running it alongside my bumbling civil servant day job.
Then I realised that if I ever wanted to achieve my life’s dream of being a Clinical Animal Behaviourist, I’d have to go right back to the drawing board to get a degree in a subject that would let me be a provisional member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC). I chose Psychology. What did I find on that degree? That every module except cognitive covered material I’d already learned at the NAC. Including attachment theory, learning theory, neurobiology, theories of emotion, attention and memory. Quite amazing.
Then on to a Masters in Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare, where I specialised in equine behaviour which would not have been possible if I hadn’t already had the knowledge, understanding and skills I’d developed at the NAC. This course covered counselling and communication skills, yes, you’ve guessed it, already started at the NAC and continuing because by this time I’d started my training as a psychotherapist.
After all the knowledge bit, time to apply it as a provisional member of the APBC to work towards submitting my case studies to achieve full membership and the coveted professional title of Clinical Animal Behaviourist. On the way I successfully achieved Certified Horse Behaviour Consultant with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. My APBC case studies passed their rigorous assessment and I’d arrived at where I wanted to be, the culmination of a decision made back in the very early 1990s, when I first heard about the profession of Clinical Animal Behaviourist.
All this achieved because of what I learned on my most influential animal behaviour course with the NAC.
But the NAC influence didn’t stop there! I’ve now embarked on a PhD in horse-human relationships, looking at the concept of “The Good Life” and sustainability in sport and leisure horse riding.
I’ve always said the NAC changed my life and it’s true. It changed my horse’s life too; I learned to train him in a different, more easeful way and changed his management regime in ways that fit his “horseness” and gave him a better life.
Are you an NAC graduate? What memories do you have of working or studying there?