Cooperative Training: Carrington Equestrian Clinic with Experts, Shawna Karrasch and Jessie Hillegas
May 28, 2024
BY : Tisa Peek

SeaWorld marine mammal trainer, Shawna Karrasch, evolves to horse training. [Photo: submitted]

In the heart of North Dakota, a unique event is set to strengthen the relationship between horses and their riders. The Carrington Equestrian Clinic is welcoming renowned trainers Shawna Karrasch and Jessie Hillegas for a deep dive into the art of Cooperative Training. This approach, rooted in understanding, communication, and respect, aims to strengthen the bond between humans and their horses.

Learning from the Best: Shawna Karrasch and Jessie Hillegas

Shawna Karrasch’s journey began in an unexpected place—SeaWorld, where she developed her training techniques with marine mammals. This unique background gave her a genuine understanding of animal behavior, which she later applied to horses. Karrasch’s methods gained attention when she helped a dressage horse that had stopped jumping. Her friend Jessie Hillegas, horse trainer, recognized the potential of Karrasch’s approach and invited her to share her expertise.

Cooperative Training begins on the ground. [Photo: submitted]

“It’s about learning different techniques, keeping an open mind, and sharing experiences,” explained Holly Inglish-North Dakota equestrian. “The collaborative nature of their clinics encourages participants to expand their training toolbox without criticism. This does not create food-driven horses. When Karrasch educates, she really explains the neuroscience behind the horse’s thought process. The goal is to create (Dogmatic approach)—click and reinforce—good chemicals release in their brain. The goal is to fade the food when the goal is solid in the horse’s foundation of learning,” added Inglish.

A Personal Connection to North Dakota

The inspiration for bringing Karrasch and Hillegas to Carrington, North Dakota stems from the local equestrian community’s dedication to advancing their training methods. Two key figures in this group, Gabi Abud and Holly Inglish, have unique backgrounds that converge in their shared passion for equine education.

Holly Inglish’s journey began in childhood, riding horses with neighbors and tagging along with friends. After working in a pediatric clinic and raising five children, she sought a new mission that would fill her soul. “I loved seeing kids succeed at something they never thought they could accomplish,” said Inglish.

This led her to EquiScholars, a European program designed to make participants stewards of horses. This program resonated with Inglish, emphasizing ground-based horsemanship. “It’s all based on module-enrichment and learning about horses seeking systems and how truly intelligent horses are. The kids love it and find they are really successful with it,” Inglish explained.

Gabi Abud, originally from Brazil, earned a veterinary degree back home. After moving to North Dakota, she undertook an internship in Michigan to validate her Brazilian qualifications—which was challenged with red tape and expense. Her career path changed, but not her passion for horses. Abud’s formative and college years were marked by participation in Brazilian rodeos, an experience that enriched her understanding of horse behavior. “Horsemanship foundation in Brazil is very similar to the Cooperative Training methods. Understanding your horse before competing is crucial,” added Abud.

The Power of Positive Reinforcement

The connection between Inglish and Abud deepened when Inglish’s daughter’s horse exhibited severe herd-bound behavior. Abud saw an opportunity for intervention through Cooperative Training. “We started to understand his insecurity away from the herd. When we began positive reinforcement, we started getting somewhere,” says Inglish.

The transformative power of positive reinforcement, a cornerstone of Cooperative Training, became evident. “Each session was meant to be short. The goal is to analyze the behavior, let them step away, and be confident in what they are expected to do,” explained Inglish. This method not only addresses behavioral issues but also builds emotional intelligence in horses.

Horse Enthusiasts United in Learning

The Carrington Equestrian Clinic, facilitated by Inglish and Abud, presents an opportunity for the local equestrian community. It brings world-class training to North Dakota, emphasizing respect and understanding in horse training. “There’s a lot of potential for youth to benefit from this,” Inglish notes, highlighting the versatility of these methods, which can be applied to other animals such as goats.

Horse trainers, Shawna Karrasch and Jessie Hillegas, making their way to North Dakota. [Photo: submitted]

As Shawna Karrasch and Jessie Hillegas prepare to share their expertise, the Carrington Equestrian Clinic is an opportunity for innovation in horse training. This event is not just about learning new techniques; it’s about nurturing deeper connections and fostering a community where horses and their riders thrive together.

For more information visit: Carrington Equestrian Clinic on Facebook or


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