There are so many myth in the horse world it is hard to choose where to start debunking them. Since I have seen several advertisements on Facebook with videos of horses at liberty and instructors talking about ‘freedom’, ‘connection’, ‘positive training’ or ‘friendship’ while carrying a whip directing a horse with a swishing tail and a lot of tension in its body, I will start with the whip (it-is-an-extension-of-my-arm) myth. Read the rest of this entry »
Now you are going to find out how old I really am! In the good old days (I am talking about last century) you learned the ropes from an old horseman. Here are some rules I learned and still follow.
Bailing twine & hay
Let’s start with some good habits around bailing twine…
#1 Only cut bales open that lay on the ground, not the ones on top of the stack. The stack become a mess in no time with all the loose hay.
#2 Always cut the bailing twine NEXT to the knot, never somewhere in the middle. It will be useless if the knot is in the middle of the string. If you cut it next to the knot it will be much easier to pull away the string from the bale.
#3 Always carry your own pocket knife to cut bales and put it back in your pocket immediately after each use. Never leave it on a bale of hay.
#4 If you don’t have a pocket knife, use a baling twine to rub through the one on the bale. See #2, this will not work if the knot is in the middle of the string. A pair of scissors attached with… a piece of bailing twine to the designated wheelbarrow for hay will do it’s job too.
#5 Always put the bailing twine direct into a designated place: a nail on the wall or tie it together and put it in the garbage right away. Bailing twine that is lying around is a hazard.
#1 Sweep, sweep, sweep. Sweep before you leave the aisle to go to the arena, sweep before you leave the barn and sweep whenever your horse drops something.
#2 Don’t forget to sweep in your horse’s stall where you put his hay or under his net so he can also eat the hay that has fallen onto the ground without ingesting bedding or worse – manure.
Always keep the barn clean
#1 Clean up after your horse. Sweep the aisle after grooming, especially in Spring when your horse is shedding. Do it right away, before you forget.
#1 Put tools in their designated area right after use.
#3 Never, never leave your tools (broom, prong, bedding fork or shovel) in the stall when mucking stalls. Not even for a moment. Even when the horse is not in his stall at that time, you never know when he is coming in. When you forget about leaving tools like a rake or bedding fork in a stall it can be very dangerous when the horse comes in.
Always check all the stall doors after leaving a stall and again before leaving the barn. Just make it a habit.
#1 Am I the only one that has a high standard of the water buckets or water fountains? My standard is: if I would make a cup of tea with that water, it is clean enough for the horse to drink. If I don’t want to make myself tea out of that water: scrub the bucket/fountain! Horses have much a better nose than we do. So maybe they don’t see the gunk in the bucket but they will smell it for sure!
#2 Never leave a hose running unattended. You might think you will remember, but the reality is: you probably have your attention on something else that seems very urgent until you hear the water running over the bucket. Happened to me so many times. Now I plan it and do a chore nearby so I can keep my eye on the hose too.
#3 Always provide enough water. Some horses drink small amounts, some drink lots. Just provide more than enough water. Horses can get colic if they don’t drink enough water with their food intake. Keep that in mind. One vet bill can be higher than the yearly water bill.
#1 Always pile up the manure at the back end of the pile and stack it neatly so there can be as much as possible in there.
#2 Only put compostable items on the manure heap. No bailing twine, no plastic, no nails of horseshoes, no stones et cetera.
#3 If you have cold feet in winter, just stand on the manure dump for a while.
What good old fashion habits have I forgotten to mention? What were the pet peeves of your horsemanship mentor?
Are you inspired and got interested in personal coaching with me or do you want to sign up for the next online course ‘Set Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them’, please visit my website
Here are some barn hacks that will make your life easier at the barn in winter. This winter is one of the coldest in Vancouver, BC, Canada since decades. We had a lot of snow too. Not the nicest weather to work in if you work at a barn.
#1 The joy of using de-icers
I have discovered the joy of de-icers in water buckets for horses. The only drawbacks are that you need a power point nearby and they are expensive with $70 – $100+ apiece. If you can use them, they are definitely worth it.
The horses had to get used to them, some horses preferred the icy water above the warmer water at first. It took some horses up to a week to get adjusted to the weird things in their bucket. But it is worth it!
All the horses had access to water due to the de-icers. Something very important for horses that are already compromised with a body score of 2 or 3. I work at the SPCA, so most horses are not (yet) in the best shape. If you feed more hay, see tip #7, horses need more water. If they don’t drink enough they can get colic.
It also saves a lot of time, not to peck ice out the buckets multiple times a day. Frozen buckets are more likely to break.
#2 Insulate your water buckets
For some farm animals de-icers are a hazard. For instance bucks and goats with horns. We put their buckets into a bigger bucket and insulate the space in between with straw. You can also use shavings or whatever bedding you are using. As long as it holds air and provides insulation. If the water bucket is outside, find a spot out of the wind. This is not foolproof, but every bit helps.
#3 Don’t provide warm water in order to prevent it from freezing
Don’t provide your horses with warm water in their buckets. Warm water can freeze even quicker than cold(er) water. This is called the Mpemba effect.
#4 Provide more bedding for the horses
I find flax the best bedding, but only if you use a really thick layer (15 cm or more). Take out only the manure and leave the wet spots as they are. The bottom layer becomes stable and provides warmth and good insulation. Don’t poke around in the wet spots as the ammonia will come free.
This kind of cleaning will work with other bedding materials as well, although flax absorbs moist the best. Better than shavings (too dusty) or straw (this will be very heavy to remove after a while and doesn’t make a soft bed).
#5 How to deal with slippery ice patches after spilling water
You can put some bedding on it (shavings work well) or use some Stall Dry (or cat litter). If you have an arena with sand, keep a wheelbarrow with sand in a spot that doesn’t freeze at night so you can use the sand.
#6 Stay warm at the barn
The other day I read the best trick ever to warm your cold hands in a few seconds. Totally safe too. Just put your hand in your own neck (or someone else’s). I tried it on myself and it really works like a charm. It is only cold for a few moments in your neck but then your hands are warm. I read this tip on Pure Cottongrass, one of my favorite blogs.
Another great tip is to keep your head warm. Wear a toque or ear warmers. You don’t want to risk frozen earlobes. On the other hand, if you are working you will stay warm.
Wear lots of layers. Especially when you are working. Once you’re warmed up, you can peel of a layer.
#7 Make sure your horse stays warm
You are not the only one who wants to stay warm in winter. The best way is feeding your horse a lot of roughage. Slowfeeder nets prolong the time your horse eats, it keeps the hay clean (horses don’t waste it) and they are easy to fill if you use this trick. If you have really big ones it can even save you a feeding round.
In some areas the winters are so cold you have to blanket your horse. Do your research before buying a blanket. Make sure the blanket fits your horse properly.
And a no brainer: provide shelter from the elements for your horse.
#8 House-train your horse
Scooping poop in snow is like searching for Easter eggs (only equestrians will understand the happiness of finding manure in snow). If you house-train your horse to poop in a certain corner of his paddock or pasture you know the Easter bunny’s secret when it has been snowing overnight. A big pile of manure doesn’t freeze as quickly and is easier to remove than frozen, rock solid dung.
House-training your horse costs time but think of all the hours you save in the next 15-20 years if you can half your poop-scooping time.
#9 Snow shoveling made easy
Keeping the pathways you use often snow free is essential. Spray cooking spray or horse detangler on your snow shuffle to prevent the snow from sticking to it.
#10 Have fun!
Not really a hack, but still important. Have some fun!
Build a snowman in the pasture and stick lots of carrots in his head. Then let your horse investigate this weird intruder.
Take your camera with you to the barn and make dozens of snow pictures of your horse. Here in Vancouver snow is not a common thing in Winter, so I made sure I have enough snow pictures of Kyra to last a decade.
If your horse is used to driving, you might look into skijoring or letting him pull a sleigh.
Are you inspired and got interested in personal coaching with me or do you want to sign up for the next online course ‘Set Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them’, please visit my website
Yes, this will be a very shitty topic. Sorry about that. The topic is… house-training my horse. In May 2015 I started house-training Kyra. I am a lazy horse owner, so I taught her some tricks to make my life easier.
You can house-train your horse too: http://clickertraining.ca
I always, always reinforce Kyra with a treat if she poops or pees when she sees me. If I call her in the pasture and she doesn’t come to me, it usually means that she wants to relief herself first.
The beauty of clicker training is that I can use the bridge signal, the click (‘this is the behaviour I want to see more of, and your reward is on the way’) from a distance and then walk toward her of simply wait until she reaches me so I can give her a treat.
I also give a treat when she poops or pees in her stall before I take her out.
Time saving habit
I never have to clean up after her on in the hallway where I groom her. Kyra never has to poop or pee on the cement floor. That is also the reason why she almost never poops or pees under saddle, she already went. Win-win-win.
Other shitty goals
As you can read here, I taught Kyra to only use a specific area in the arena to poop in. The beauty of it is that she can clearly communicates when she has to ‘go’. She simply walks over to that corner and I wait until she has done her business.
She has learned to poop right next to the manure bucket, even when I am not around! This is due to the clicker training. She simply made a positive association with pooping in that corner.
This means I never have to walk around the arena looking for poop after a ride. I used to walk twice with the bedding fork between the manure and the bucket. It’s a good thing I don’t have to do this anymore, because I used to forget this. I used to think ‘I’ll do this later when I’ve brought Kyra back to the pasture,’ . Only to forget about it. Now scooping her poop takes me less than a minute.
Goal achieved? No…
No. Not yet… I would like her to poop in the manure bucket or wheelbarrow. Like I said: I am very lazy so this will save me another minute. Yay!
I must say I had to wait over a year for the opportunity to click Kyra while she was pooping and I had the opportunity to place the bucket or wheelbarrow right behind her in order to catch it.
I accomplished my shitty goal!
This week was my lucky week: I captured the behaviour twice! Shitty mission accomplished! I even have this on video, believe it or not!
Kyra has now been positively reinforced twice to aim for the manure bucket/wheelbarrow. I hope I can ‘catch’ it again. With the wheelbarrow that is.
This was my shittiest goal ever accomplished!
Sorry for the dirty story. If you’re not blessed with a visual mind, here is the video.
Visit my HippoLogic YouTube channel.
Next time a more decent blog.
Are you interested in personal coaching or do you want to sign up for the next online course ‘Set Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them’, please visit my website
Click with Your Horse: http://clickertraining.ca
Every rider, every horse owner and every trainer has experienced frustration at one point. I notice that some people are frustrated more than others. What to do about frustration? Take it out on your horse? Or try to prevent it (is that even possible)?
The people who I see struggling with frustration are the people who don’t have a clear plan when they are riding or training their horse. They don’t split their goal into tiny building blocks and work their way systematically through the process. They tend to move their goals (criteria) during training, so they have the feeling they never succeed. That would be the same as having ‘getting to the horizon’ as your goal: you will never succeed!
The 1 million dollar question
If you feel frustration stop whatever you’re doing and ask yourself ‘why am I feeling this right now’? These are possible answers:
- Are you asking too much of yourself?
- Are you asking too much of your horse?
- Are you comparing yourself with others (who might be at a whole different point in their journey with their horse)?
- Are you making your steps too big (‘lumping‘), are you discouraging or confusing your horse?
- Did you make (and write) a realistic plan before you started training/riding your horse?
- Are you positively reinforcing yourself and your horse enough to keep going?
- Do you give yourself and your horse enough time to process the training?
- Who is telling you that you have to accomplish ‘this’ (whatever that is) right now?
- Did you prepare your horse enough to this situation?
First of all: stop beating yourself up! It doesn’t help you and it only make things worse. Second: don’t beat up your horse. He can’t help it, he is just a horse. You don’t want to regret taking your frustration out on him.
If you feel frustration coming up, simply stop what you’re trying to accomplish and take a few moments to pause. Take a few deep breaths and ask yourself the questions above.
In order to prevent frustration make training goals and plan every step in the process. Make a good shaping plan and if you get stuck, pause and take another look at your shaping plan to see if you are lumping (skipping steps in the process to the goal behaviour). If you don’t know how to do this: ask help!
Frustration is not necessary!
Take baby steps in your training. Celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small! Don’t forget to write your goals and your achievements down: we have a tendency to forget or play down our own achievements! 😉 Start a training journal today!
You’re not the only one
We have all experienced frustration from time to time. If I see frustrated riders it reminds me of me a long time ago. When I was using ‘traditional training’ (which meant: there is no plan to follow) I used to be frustrated all the time!
I must say I almost never frustrated with my horse anymore and if I feel frustration coming up I know to deal with it before damaging my relationship with Kyra.
Change your focus
Changing my focus was a big help in preventing frustration. Instead of saying ‘no’ to my horse (and myself) all the time, I learned to focused on the ‘yes’.
Instead of saying ‘why are you always walking away when I want to mount, stupid horse!’ I learned to focus on the few seconds she could (and would) stand still and encourage this behaviour. Because I now reinforced my horse with treats to stand still, of course Kyra became very motivated to display that behaviour more and more! Shifting my focus from the ‘walking away’ to the ‘four hooves on the ground’ was such an eye opener!
Calling your horse names, will not give you a good feeling, even if it gives you temporary satisfaction.
Yes, it is easy to blame your horse and call him ‘stupid’ but be honest: Does it really give you a good feeling that you have a ‘stupid’ horse?
Wouldn’t you feel better about yourself if you had a ‘handsome and smart’ horse? I think that a smart horse can only be smart if the owner gives the freedom and opportunity to show how smart he really is! Don’t call yourself or your horse names. It is not encouraging or supporting for you or your horse in any way. Start feeling compassion for yourself. Be gentle: you are on a journey, learning is a process.
Last but not least
Never compare yourself or your horse with anybody else. We might be comparing our ‘worst’ with their ‘best’. They might be in a whole different stage of their journey. If they can do something you can’t, it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything right. It is just not a fair comparison. Ever.
If you want to see it from a positive view: you now know that it (whatever ‘it’ is), is possible. And… maybe they can even help you reach the same goal or point you in the right direction!
Focus on what is most important in the world: your own journey.
Are you interested in online personal coaching or do you want to sign up for my online course ‘Set Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them’ (EARLY BIRD OFFER $49 ends Jan 28th, 2017), please visit my website
In horse training we often have to be creative if we encounter resistance, fear, frustration or if something else is just so much more reinforcing than you. You have to be even more creative, if you want to come up with a force free and horse friendly training solution. Here are some tips that can help you become creative.
Occupy your conscious
Occupy your conscious so your unconscious can come up with a solution. Do something completely different. Go draw a horse or colour a colouring sheet. I made one for you, see the download at the bottom of the page.
Listen to yourself
Talk your training problems over with a good friend. When you hear yourself talk you can put things in perspective and come up with a solution.
If that doesn’t work, your friend might have a solution for you or you can ask yourself: ‘What advise would I give if it wasn’t me, but a friend with this problem with her horse?’
If you are not looking to solve a particular training problem, just download my colouring sheet and relax. Have some fun.
I would really appreciate if you upload your colouring sheet and show it to me. You can send me an email email@example.com or put a link in the comments below. I’m looking forward to seeing your creativity!
Are you interested in online personal coaching or do you want to sign up for the next online course ‘Set Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them’, please visit my website
Help spread the message and share my blog on your social media with the buttons below. Thank you.
Of course we all know how valuable a training journal is, I wrote several blogs about the subject. There is another powerful tool that gives you insight into your own training method.
Have you ever made a ‘cue list’ of all the commands you use for your horse? It can be very insightful to see.
The first time I made one I discovered I had two different voice commands for trot. My walk-trot transition had the voice cue ‘Trot!’, while I used ‘Whoa-trot’ or ‘Whoa’for the canter-trot transition. So ‘trot’ had already two different commands.
I know exactly how this happened, it was initiated by my pony. I started with using a ‘slow down’ sound before I cued for trot from canter. He started to anticipate on that sound and I anticipated over time to drop the ‘trot’ cue altogether in the down transitions.
How many cues do you use?
Another insight I got from this exercise was that I was amazed that my pony knew over 30 cues in total. My current horse Kyra knows even more than 30.
If you make a list (or use the download I made for you) don’t forget to write down where you are positioned in relation to your horse. Are you standing next to the left shoulder or right in front of your horse when you give the cue, do you use your hands, are you standing up? Your body language supports your voice commands.
If you think of your cues you can also see what voice commands sound similar or where your body cues might be the same. It is also helpful in coming up with new voice cues.
If you are running out of voice cues, start using cues in a different language. French, Japanese or Dutch.
Use multiple languages if you’re running out of ideas
When I got Kyra I started all her trick training cues in English. All the common cues were Dutch. I figured since we live in The Netherlands I wanted her to know the common cues like stand, walk, trot. I didn’t want to use Dutch words for her trick training so I used another language. My voice cues play an important role in Kyra’s training. I used to ride with horse and carriage and in driving the voice commands play a crucial role in communication.
Now we live in Canada and the standard voice cues are in Dutch, while the trick training cues are all in English. At liberty I use French voice commands.
How many cues have you taught your horse?
Download your FREE cue list (Riding-Groundwork_Trick Training).
Are you interested in online personal coaching or do you want to sign up for the next online course ‘Set Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them‘, please visit my website