Gretchen Carey, KPA CTP, Associate Director of Karen Pryor Academy (KPA), recently attended the first Ranch Experience—a 5-day course at the Karen Pryor National Training Center outside of Seattle, Washington. Here, Gretchen shares what it was like to experience this one-of-a-kind learning opportunity!
Q: What was your impression of the physical space of The Ranch?
A: The Ranch is beautiful and peaceful. There are stunning views of the mountain and fields; we saw deer in the evening in the pastures. It was really relaxing to be away from the city and immersed in Ranch life.
Q: Describe the rhythm of your week, as well as the experience of having so much time with the animals.
A: The course is a combination of lecture and time with the animals. We were out with the animals for a few of hours at a time and would then return inside for a few of hours of lecture. The schedule was the same in the afternoon. Typically, we would end each day with an enrichment activity for one animal group. We had group lunches and dinners on site, so each day is VERY full of training, learning, and conversation.
One of the perks of The Ranch Experience is being totally immersed in ranch life, including chores! Each day we mucked the donkey and alpaca area, prepped food for training sessions (carrots, celery, green beans), set up the goat stalls for evening recall, and cut brows for goat enrichment.
The enrichment activities were one of the highlights of the week. Taking the goats on a walk to forage in the woods, brushing the donkeys, and group-feeding sessions for the alpacas were all great opportunities to just hang with the animals.
A: Everyone loves listening to Ken lecture, but to have a small group experience with him was unbelievable. Feedback from Ken on multiple training sessions a day for five days—wow! Not to mention training conversations during lunch and dinner where Ken was more than generous with his time and experiences. Students had the opportunity to ask about real-life situations with their clients or jobs and Ken (and the other students) took the time to answer and give thoughtful advice.
Q: The Ranch Experience course is appropriate for any level of experience. How did the course customize the learning experience?
A: My class was comprised of an amazing range of people, from someone who had never held a clicker before to people who are certified trainers with their own businesses. One of the benefits of this course is that you can focus on the skills you want to improve through the different tracks you choose among. During lecture, everyone learns about the different tracks (Foundations, Zoo Skills, Group Training, Teaching and Coaching Skills, and Medical Behavior Training). However, for the actual training each student can focus on one track. Students also decide what behaviors they want to work on with the animals based on their own skills and on the animals’ skills.
Q: The Ranch is a living, breathing place. How do you see this course evolving in that setting?
Q: What were some of your favorite moments from the course?
A: Some of my favorite moments were getting to know my classmates and Ken during meals, seeing progress with my goat during the week, enjoying the peace of The Ranch, and the evening goat walks. Everyone really enjoyed the time with the animals: observing, grooming, feeding, and training.
Q: A recent attendee called The Ranch Experience an “education vacation.” Does that description sound right to you?
Interested in experiencing your own one-of-a-kind learning opportunity? Learn more about courses and seminars at The Ranch!