What do Dolphins and Horses Have in Common?

Quite a bit when it comes to Dr. Jena Questen, DVM, CertAqV, affectionately called Dr. Q by all who know her. Originally from Bailey, Dr. Q purchased Aspen Park Vet Hospital in 2017.  Dr. Q has a diverse background that connects horses as well as animals who live under the water.  She is a Holistic Veterinarian, Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, Professional Animal Trainer certified through the Dolphin Research Center, Life Coach for People with Pets, and one of the only Certified Aquatic Veterinarian’s in this part of the country.  She regularly sees aquatic pets at the clinic and has a room of fish tanks to care for them.  Dr. Q was the 2020 President of the World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association and in May of 2022, she was awarded the Colorado Small Businessperson of the Year from the Small Business Association.  What does all of this have to do with horses you ask?

Dr. Q is a lifelong horse enthusiast and part of her education included a degree in Horse Racing.  Over the last 20 years, she has spent her spare time rescuing, retraining and rehoming racehorses as well as mustangs and a menagerie of other animals.  Early on, neighborhood kids started asking about her horses and stopping by to see them.  Instead of turning them away, Dr. Q started free Horse 101 classes for the kids to give them a safe framework to get involved with the horses.

She realized that in their well-meaning interactions with animals, people inadvertently were teaching these animals negative behaviors, which resulted in the animals inability to find a forever home.  She asked herself what was going to be different about the ResqRanch? She decided that the best thing to set the ResqRanch apart was to concentrate on the education piece. Her goal is to get animals in and rehome them but also, “ to teach the proper way to interact with and train most importantly, these animals, so that these people would be able to develop really strong attachment bonds with these animals and then also, teach this to other people so that none of these animals would ever be rehomed ever again because of any behavior problem that might come along.”

Dr. Q (Left) and Horse 101 Kids

This is where the dolphins and her Professional Animal Trainer Certification and experience through the Dolphin Training Center comes in.  For hundreds of years, the psychology of how animals learn (and people for that matter), has been studied and scientifically documented.  Positive Reinforcement Training methods are scientifically proven and is the method that is used for marine and zoo animals.  The methods are clear and easy to teach to anyone.  Dr. Q states, “if you are not familiar with Positive Reinforcement Training (PRT), you are missing a critical piece of the puzzle.”

Target training and clicker training are two of the types that Dr. Q uses.  If you are not familiar with this type of training, you may have seen it when they are working with seals at the zoo or dolphins in a marine park performance.  Target training is a very clear way to teach a desired behavior as either the animal is doing the correct behavior or not, so it is clear for both the animal and the trainer.  When they do the correct behavior, they get a treat.  Clicker training is a natural accompaniment to target training as it clearly identifies the moment the behavior happens.  For example, the animal touches the target, hears the clicker at that moment and then gets a treat.

It has been eleven years since those first Horse 101 classes and at the end of 2022, Dr. Q purchased a new facility in Evergreen.  Named the ResqRanch, the 501c3 non-profit organization is the nation’s premier Positive Reinforcement (R+) Animal Sanctuary and Education Center.  In a convenient location near El Rancho, there is a lot of work being done to get the facility ready for outside participants. Fencing, lighting and trash removal is first on the agenda, followed by adding an arena, stalls, a veterinary and dog training facilities. Dr. Q plans to start opening the “gate” this summer for a variety of programs, classes, and workshops such as Summer Camp, Horses 101, Dog and Equine Training Classes, plus pop up events like nature walks and community bonding events.  The Horse Master Class is available for purchase on the website.

How can you help and find out more?  Go the YouTube channel The1DrQ and SUBSCRIBE.  Also, sign up for their email updates at ResqRanch.org.

Dr. Q is being featured as one of the clinicians at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo February 23-26 at the National Western Complex introducing Positive Reinforcement Training for Horses. Check the schedule and don’t miss the presentation.

Stay tuned to progress at the ResqRanch and consider if learning more about Positive Reinforcement Training with Dr. Q may help strengthen your relationship with your horse and be a missing piece of the puzzle with your training methods and interactions with horses, or dolphins for that matter!

Heather McWilliams © 2023