This is – Lets Get Started Part 4
So what does all this mean? As we head out together on this list, I would like everyone to keep a training journal. Now what do I mean by a training journal? The style is your choice. If you want to keep records of scientific data: number of trials, etc., that’s fine. That’s not what I do. I keep more of a diary style journal. My journals are not great reading. There’s lots of gushing over how wonderful the horses are, lots of shorthand references that serve as personal memory joggers. These journals are not intended for other people to read. In fact they aren’t really even intended for me to read again. It is the process of recording the sessions that is important. They are there to refer back to as needed. They certainly give me a sense of the time frames involved in various training projects. I know if I had not had the habit of keeping training records, I would never have been able to write the books.
The journaling process has also influenced the way I teach. I know that you can focus on a very small behavior, something that can seem trivial, such as a horse putting its ears forward. If you understand the process and follow through with it, you can turn that tiny behavior into the “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow”. Always, each time. Trust the process, it works. That’s what the horses teach us, and it is what the journals help to confirm.
So I’d like us all to keep a journal of some sort. Now this does not mean we are going to be sharing them here on this list. You can all breathe a great sigh of relief about that! For one thing, if we all shared our daily journal entries, this list would collapse under its own weight. We’d all be so busy reading each others notes, no one would have any time to train!
Journals usually aren’t great literature. They aren’t meant for reading. They are notes, memory joggers. But they do follow some rules. My rule way back at the beginning when I first started keeping track of training – and this was ages before I knew anything about clicker training – was that I couldn’t do anything with my horses that I couldn’t explain that night in the journal. I had to have a training reason for every action I took. That may not sound that significant, but it really is. It means that the entire time I was with my horses, there was the “journalist” sitting on my shoulder, watching and experiencing everything I did. I knew I couldn’t just get frustrated and whack my horse for no reason, because that night I would have to explain the training logic behind that action. It’s a great discipline, especially when you work by yourself.
I do all of my formal writing on a computer, but the training journal is still hand written. It is sitting to the right of my work space. Before I turn on the computer in the morning, I record the training sessions of the previous night. Some of you may prefer to keep your training logs on your computer. And the really computer savvy amongst us, may even want to set up training blogs, I will leave that up to each of you, but I would very much encourage everyone to keep a journal of some sort.