Positive Reinforcement Trainer and Behaviorist
Shawna is a pioneer in the use of Positive Reinforcement Training with horses. Her powerful and humane behavioral training techniques are an eye-opening experience for equine professionals, competitors, and amateurs alike. She has produced books and videos, and traveled worldwide to teach the concepts of bridge conditioning and positive reinforcement for horses.
Shawna began her training career far outside the equestrian world, working with large marine mammals. Animals such as dolphins, sea lions and orcas cannot be coerced. Only positive reinforcement methods can be used to ask these magnificent creatures to participate voluntarily in activities with human trainers. (You may be able to force a horse onto a trailer, but just try it with a walrus!)
When introduced to the world of top equestrian competition, Shawna saw immediately how reward-based training could be used to engage the horse’s willingness in equestrian pursuits. A number of years ago, top trainer John Madden was so impressed with Shawna’s early results that the world-renowned training facility at the Madden farm became the testing ground for adapting Positive Reinforcement Training for horses.
By using Shawna’s Positive Reinforcement Training methods, Olympian Beezie Madden taught her famous show jumper Judgment (now Judgment ISF) to overcome his fear of water and go on to win the $1,000,000 CN International at Spruce Meadows, among many other international show-jumping victories. Beezie’s spectacular success over decades as a top international competitor on a series of great horses is a testament not only to her extraordinary talent and skill as a rider and trainer, but also in part to the reward-based training system that Shawna first developed on the Madden farm.
Shawna’s infectious enthusiasm, sense of humor, years of training experience and rapport with animals and humans makes her one of the finest positive-reinforcement trainers in North America.
Photo of Shawna (top) by Evalyn Bemis / @ebemisphoto
Dressage and Eventing Trainer, Terra Nova Barn Manager
For Training and Lesson information visit Gilly’s website Simply 3-Day and Dressage
Gilly Slayter brings her wealth of equestrian skills, education and competition experience along with her passion and energy to Terra Nova’s training program. As a professional, Gilly stays on top of the dynamic world of competition and training by participating in clinics and other educational programs, and maintaining challenging upper-level competitive goals for herself. She’s witnessed the power of using positive reinforcement to bring improvement for both horses and riders, and looks for the most effective ways to incorporate R+ solutions into traditional training techniques for dressage and eventing. With a deep understanding of the nature of horses, and her love of interacting with people, Gilly is an ideal trainer for students at all levels of experience.
Gilly began riding at the age of five, competed in FEI-level Dressage as well as FEI-level Three-Day Eventing, and earned her USDF Silver Medal for achievement at Fourth and Prix St.Georges Level. She competed at the North American Young Rider Championships as a member of the 1992 Area X Three-Day team in Bromont, Canada, and again in 1996 with the Region V Advanced Young Riders Dressage team at Temple Farms. Gilly went on to develop her own Advanced Level event horse, Simply Larry, purchased in 1995 as an un-started three year old.
Gilly was also a member of the elite USEA Developing Riders squad in 2003, and in 2011 passed the USDF L Judging Program with distinction. Created by the US Dressage Federation Judges’ Committee, this educational training program teaches judges to evaluate the correct training of dressage horses.
Combining a business degree with a lifelong familiarity with stable management, Gilly is our knowledgeable and responsive Barn Manager at Terra Nova. The well-being of the horses is her highest goal.