Rachaël Draaisma has always lived with and had a passion for dogs and horses. In 2002 she decided to make it her profession. Achieving several diploms and starting to work full time as a trainer and behavioural consultant. First with dogs, later with horses. In 2013 she completed the Turid Rugaas Internationals Dog Trainers Education.
Under Turid’s supervision she started to firstly study the horses’ levels of tension in response to a variety of everyday stimuli in a livery environment. Secondly she started to investigating if and how horses use relationship-managing signals in response to stimuli in their environment that they want to appease in order to avert conflict and maintain social relationships. They have chosen the term Calming Signals to refer to these signals. Video footage forms the basis of the study. Hundreds of videos of domesticated horses of various breeds in interaction with humans, or with humans in proximity of twenty meters, were analysed. The study lead to the description of 20 calming signals and to ten communication ladders that represent ways a horse may interact to stimuli around them. This study lead to the book Language signs and calming signals of horses and is published by CRC press in 2017. It has been translated to several languages, of which Chinese, Czech and Polish language are a few to mention. This study is ongoing. And Rachael keeps working on studying communicative signals of horses, with an emphasis on the calming signals of horses.
Another pilar of Rachaël’s working life with horses evolves around equine mental stimulation and scentwork. Rachaël developed an extensive method to do scent tracking with horses. Where she teaches horses to follow a footstep track so they can find lost persons, or food bags. Tracking has enormous advantages for horses, on their behaviour, their brain and body. But scent tracking with horses is also enriching for humans and can be seen as a new tool in enriching the human equine relationship. Rachaël develops tracking to a level that she uses it as a sole (primary) activity for horses. But offering mental stimulation as a method and Scent tracking is also a part of Rachaël’s work when working with horses who have behavioural problems.
Rachaël travels throughout Europe and the globe to give lectures, workshops or combined educational weekends about Calming signals of horses, and Equine mental stimulation and scentwork. China, Denmark, Poland, Belgium, Spain, Slovak, Sweden, The UK, the Netherlands are only a few countries she has visited.
Rachaël’s second book on Equine Scentwork is in the making.