Reflections on 2022: Learning to see more hawks

I wrote this post at the beginning of January.
It has taken me a few weeks to find the time to finish editing it.
However, I still wanted to share it with you.

My horse, Apollo, lives on a ranch about 10 minutes from our house. My drive to see him takes me down a lightly-trafficked county road, with open fields on either side and the occasional cow.

These days, I almost always see a hawk on my drive to the barn. Sometimes, I see two and maybe even three.

Recently, as I drove to the barn, I saw a tiny speck in the distance on top of a telephone pole and immediately knew it was a hawk.

There’s a hawk in the photo below. Do you see it?

As I drove closer, I reflected about the hawks.

When I first started making this drive three years ago, I almost never saw a hawk on my way to the barn. Now, I see them all the time.

Are there more hawks?

I don’t think so.

Instead, I have learned how to see the hawks.

As I drive to the ranch, I know what time of day I am most likely to see the hawks. I’ve observed the types of objects on which they like to perch. And, I have identified several particular stretches of road that they seem to particularly like.

Animal training is a bit like looking for hawks.

When I was new to training, there were many interesting things happening that I wasn’t aware of. And, I know there are still probably plenty of details that I don’t see.

I think it’s important to take time occasionally to reflect on how our perspective has changed and to identify what we can now see that we couldn’t see before. For example, perhaps you can now see more subtle changes in your animal’s body language and balance. Or, new ways to shape a particular behavior. Or, why your animal didn’t respond to a cue.

As the new year begins, I’ve been thinking about some of the training concepts that I was playing with last year that I am now seeing with new eyes. For instance, my online students are helping me see new layers of detail in the interlocking interactions between teacher and learner that happen during reinforcement delivery.

I’m also fascinated by some of the new ideas I’m exploring currently related to shaping, chaining, conditioned reinforcement, and movement.

I’m planning to share some more thoughts about all of these ideas on my blog this year.

I’m looking forward to 2023. I know I’m going to see more hawks. I also know I’ll discover more about how learning works from my interactions with my animals, colleagues, clients, and friends.

I’d love to hear what you are hoping to see more of in 2023.

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