The Edward L. Anderson Jr. Award honors individuals who have helped translate scientific knowledge into practical training procedures, develop innovative new training methods and techniques, and educate others about the science of behavior and its application to animal training.
In February 2020 at our 12th annual Art and Science of Animal Training Conference, we honored Alexandra Kurland as the fifth recipient of the Anderson Award.
Alexandra has been a pioneer in the world of animal training. Her books, DVDs, clinics, and other resources have introduced hundreds of horse owners to clicker training and positive reinforcement training methods.
At the beginning of our award ceremony, Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz explained why we chose Alexandra as this year’s award recipient. Here is what he shared:
1) Alexandra is constructional. The methods that she teaches help individuals achieve better communication and relationships with their horses. She focuses on teaching people how to build desired behaviors, rather than eliminating or suppressing unwanted behaviors.
2) Alexandra builds balance. Dr. Rosales-Ruiz shared one of Alexandra’s favorite sayings, “For every behavior you teach, there is an opposite behavior that you must also teach to keep everything in balance.” Her training centers on the horse’s physical and emotional balance, which helps horses stay sound and healthy much longer than normal.
3) Alexandra focuses on foundations. She understands that a solid foundation is what makes everything else possible. Dr. Rosales-Ruiz pointed out that most people get distracted by the glitter. They want to do “advanced” training and teach all sorts of fancy behaviors. Alexandra teaches the building blocks that later make it possible for the horse and human to achieve advanced work.
4) Alexandra asks questions. She looks to her horses to see what works and what doesn’t work, rather than relying on her own opinion or the opinions of others. She also is constantly asking questions and exploring areas outside of animal training, which allows her to find new ideas and connections.
5) Alexandra has big ideas. One of her most recent initiatives, Horses For Future, tackles the pressing issue of climate change. Alexandra is working to equip horse owners with new knowledge and skills that will help horses, people, and the planet live in harmony.
Alexandra Kurland’s Award Acceptance Speech
After Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz presented Alexandra Kurland with the award, Alexandra gave a short lecture.
She started by acknowledging that she has not brought clicker training to the horse world alone. This has taken a community of individuals all over the world.
In her talk, Alexandra urged trainers to use the skills they have learned from clicker training to help create a healthier planet. As clicker trainers, they understand how to focus on what they want and know how to work in systematic steps to get there.
In addition, horse owners are in a unique position to help the planet because horses need land. This means that horse owners are caretakers for a lot of acreage. The potential they have for creating change and helping to sequester carbon is enormous. These changes can also lead to healthier pastures and healthier horses.
Alexandra introduced us to some of the subjects she has been studying recently, including soil health, biodiversity, soil fungi, regenerative farming, and pasture management. To learn more about these topics, you can visit Alexandra’s Sequester Carbon website.