About HippoLogic

Help horse owners to connect to their inner wisdom and teach them the principles of learning and motivation, so they become confident and skilled enough to train their own horse in an effective, safe and fun way. I always aim for a win-win in horse-human relationships. ♥ I do this by offering online coaching, video consults, online courses, HippoLogic Clicker Challenges, my blog and my eBook. http://clickertraining.ca https://www.facebook.com/hippologics

Grass Training Step 1

Here is step 1 in your free mini course Grass Training. If you want to join our in depth online course, then click here. There’s still room for you.

Biggest pitfalls in Grass Training

Do you know the biggest pitfall most horse lovers fall into, when they want to teach their horse manners on grass? They use negative reinforcement or punishment to train it .

Pitfalls in Grass Training

They don’t do this on purpose. And hey, to be honest: I’ve fallen into this pitfall myself!

This is what happened:

  • I held the lead rope extra short so my horse couldn’t reach the grass, if he pulled he’d feel pressure. Especially with a rope halter. Yes, it can hurt when they dive strong and quick into the grass and yet … he would dive into the grass the next opportunity he got! 

So no real training (behaviour modification) there. Only prevention. And only as long as I kept the lead rope tight!

What else did I try?

  • Yes, I wiggled the lead rope when my horse took a bite until he’d lift his head. In training terms this is P+ (positive punishment: adding an aversive in order to decrease a behaviour (the grazing)). This tactic hasn’t given me long lasting results…. You? (In the course I explain why this won’t work)
  • I mixed these together with a click and treat for good behaviour.

It still didn’t work. With these techniques I never gotten long lasting results. Only very short -in the moment- results and my horse seemed to forget the whole spiel already after our ride. So frustrating!

Therefor I didn’t had the confidence to trust the process of pure R+ (positive reinforcement) until…


I started to be really precise and take a good look what was I doing that was R-, R+, P- and P+ in my training? I let go of everything NOT R+ and …. I got really, really good results!

This was a difficult process, but since I’ve been through this myself and helped hundreds of people do it, I can do this very efficiently now.

So don’t fall into the pitfall of using R- or P+ in Grass Training. Not even a little bit!

Step 1: Start using only Positive reinforcement and TRUST the process!

  • Click and treat for desired behaviour
  • Use high (enough) value appetitive to reinforcer the wanted behaviour
  • Start small: make a shaping plan to help you start small

In the course I will explain in more detail how you can shift to 100% R+ and why you will get long lasting results.

I also share 6 other reasons people are not successful in teaching a solid Stop Grazing-cue and what you can do to change them.

What do you think is your pitfall in Grass Training? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Happy Grass Training!

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.

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What goes on in Grass Training for Horses?

Are you a tiny bit curious what happens in HippoLogic’s Grass Training?

Here’s what people asked me in the course:

‘If my doesn’t respond to the click I tap with the lead rope, is that OK?’

asked one of the participants in my Grass Training course. This is such a great question! I understand where it’s coming from and I was glad she asked.

The answer is ‘No’. Don’t mix R- (negative reinforcement) or P (punishment) with R+ (positive reinforcement) in Grass Training. You want to keep Grass Training 100% positive reinforcement if you want predictable and solid results quickly.

‘It’s Autumn here and almost Winter, can I start Grass Training’?


wanted an Australian clicker trainer know. Yes, and it’s actually the best time to start!
Why?

Because the grass you’re competing with (over your horse’s attention) is not as enticing as super lush, sweet Spring grass.

You can start lying the fundamentals now of this important training and you’ll reap the fruits when you need them! In the course I will teach you how you can setup your Grass Training without grass. 

‘My horse is on a strict diet and can’t have much grass. Is this training for us’?,  


Yes, and it’s actually the best course for your horse! In Grass Training you teach your horse a solid Stop Grazing cue with 100% Positive Reinforcement, so that your horse will choose NOT to graze.

Especially when your horse has EMS or is overweight you get into endless tugs of war with your horse over grass, right? What if that stops? What if your horse will ignore grass by choice? Wouldn’t that make everything more fun? It was for me!

Why R+ actually works so well I explain in the course. I also teach you how to setup your Grass Training without grass!

I don’t clicker training my horse, is this still for me?

Everything that is trained in this course will be trained with 100% positive reinforcement. If you have a strict policy against working with treats this is not for you.

If you had bad experience with training with treats but your ready to give it another try (under professional guidance and with clear step-by-step instructions) this could be right what you need.

The upside of this training is that it doesn’t interfere with your regular training. If you decide that you don’t want to use food rewards for other training, that’s OK. This will still work.

What can I expect from the HippoLogic Grass Training course?

After this course, which comes with two whole weeks of personal online support, participants:

  • can train Stop Grazing and Start Grazing-cues that work!
  • understand why everything they tried before didn’t lead to long lasting results
  • know what to do in order to get predictable, positive and long lasting results

Get the online Grass Training course for the early bird rate before May 28, 2020!

-> Only 48 hours before the price goes up! <-

Don’t miss out on a good deal! This 69 dollar price for 2 weeks of online support will never come back!

The aim of this course is to teach you how you can train your own horse so that you can enjoy your horse more when you trail ride or have to lead him near or over grass without getting into a tug-of-war.


What is included?

  • Step-by-step instruction videos
  • Written instructions
  • Detailed Shaping Plan ‘Grass Training’
  • Practical printouts that will make training easy
  • Two weeks of personal online support! (Get this course before May 28, 2020 and get a 30% discount)
  • Life time access to the course materials and all future updates! Happy Horse training!

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
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Teach Your Horse to Behave on Grass (Grass Training)

Grass is growing everywhere (if you live in the Northern hemisphere 😉 ) and frustration is building up:

  • In horse owners for being pushed over and pulled when grass is in sight and in
  • horses because they want grass but it’s never without being pulled or shouted at.

Some horses like this game of “get-a-bite” and never will give up: this is just how play and reinforcement works for them. The bite is their prize! They will get it on an intermittent schedule (sometimes it works, other times it won’t) so we create a really strong pulling behaviour in our horses!

5 Benefits of Grass Training

  • Your horse follows you when your leading him with slack in the lead rope and ignores grass (he won’t even try)
  • No more frustration because your horse is being naughty or behaving like an ass (which is just another equine!)
  • Your horse will trust you more because you give him clarity: To Graze or Not to Graze
  • No more feeling like a failure. Now it will be clear to anyone that you’ve trained your horse well.
  • You’ll be proud and enjoy your horse more!

What I’ve tried (and didn’t work)

I’ve been pulling on ropes, using rope halters, ‘punishing’ my horse for unsolicited grazing (it’s not punishment if the behaviour doesn’t decrease🤣) and trying to avoid grass patches all together. Which is hard if grass is growing in your arena and liberty work will be out of the question during Summer months.

I tried it all: keeping the lead rope short, wiggling the rope, pulling and jerking (not proud of it) and later offering target sticks calling and using Kyra’s name and giving other cues.

Nothing gave me long-term results when grass was available, until I used clicker training.

Sandra Poppema

What worked

This only gave me short-term result. Sometimes only 5-second results, to be honest! Nothing worked long-term until…. I switched over to 100% POSITIVE reinforcement to teach my horse what I wanted.

Grass training works! If you use 100% positive reinforcement. ~ HippoLogic #grasstraining

Grass training when your horse is on a restrictive diet

The year after my grass training Kyra got laminitis and she needed to be on a strict diet. From a full day on grass to restricted soaked hay. That was hard for both of us. I had to exercise her (hand walking) to help her lose weight and the only place was on the road. With juicy grass growing next to it! I was worried…. And you know what? She didn’t push me over to get a bite! She didn’t pull on the lead rope to gorge on the grass. She was an angel! My new method paid off!

‘The Grass Trained Horse’:

  • Listens to his name and comes to you in the pasture
  • Can be lead on grass with slack in your lead rope
  • Can be ridden on grass without causing blisters on your hands
  • Is amazing at liberty training in Spring and Summer when greens are growing in or along your arena
  • Won’t snack leaves on trails
  • Doesn’t dive into grass when you get him out of the paddock or pasture

HippoLogic’s Grass Training

Since then I helped dozens of horse owners implement my way of grass training and they all got results. The relationship with their horse improved (no more frustration and anger even before riding started) If you want to join us in the HippoLogic Grass Training, we start in June again let me know.

Get started yourself: Grass Training (blog with video and step-by-step plan)

Or join me in an online grass training course. Click the link to get free tips https://mailchi.mp/04323b1356e8/grass-training We start June 5th

Questions about Grass training?

Book a free discovery call with me and get some advice what your next step in training will be.

Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
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riding on grass without frustration or grass diving

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Advantages of an ‘End of Training’-signal in Clicker Training

Most horses get super excited when they get introduced to positive reinforcement (clicker) training. They literally won’t stop. They are always ‘on‘ and in training mode. This can be very exhausting for the owner (and for the horse too).

Green horses

When horses are new to clicker training they get appetitives for things they do (the desired behaviour). Therefor it’s understandable that they will try go get a treat by offering the desired behaviour. They are training you.

If you don’t give them what they want and expect, it can cause confusion in your horse and even frustration. He doesn’t understand that just a minute ago he lift his leg and he got a click and treat and now he lifts his leg and gets ignored or maybe even shouted at! ‘What’s going on?’ the horse wonders.

You horse doesn’t understand that training for Spanish walk is wanted and desired in the arena, but when you walk in front of him at the grooming place it’s undesired. What? It’s the same behaviour!? Why doesn’t he get the same response?

What’s clear to us, might not be clear for our animals. Try to see it from his perspective.

Clarity

Here are some things that give clarity:

  • Use a clear End-of-Session-signal. This indicates: ‘No more clicks can be earned from now on.’ Stick to it! Be consistent!
  • Using a unique end of session signal for a break or indicate the end of the training session gives the horse the security that he won’t miss out and he can relax.
  • You can use an end of session signal in between training sessions too, so your horse can mentally take a break and relax a few minutes.
  • Some horses even need a start-session-signal at first. Some horses think that if you’re in sight, a training session is starting. This can be confusing for your horse. A start session-signal can be calling your horse’s name or simply say: ‘Pay attention.’

Safety

Clarity also increases safety. If your horse exactly knows when a lesson is in session, he will learn quickly that offering behaviours is a desired action and they will be reinforced.

He also learns that offering his latest trick or behaviour after your end of session-signal will never leads to clicks.

‘High risk’ behaviours

If your horse knows this, and they learn quickly when behaviour will be reinforced (in a session) and when it won’t (outside training hours), you can safely train more ‘high risk’ behaviours.

A ‘high risk’ behaviour is a behaviour that can be dangerous if it’s performed unexpectedly. If you train Spanish walk and your horse will offer that front leg up in the air when you’re standing in front of him to lead him, chances are that you’ll be hit by his flying leg.

Same goes for training lying down: you don’t want that behaviour offered spontaneously when you’re riding! Right?


If horses know the end-of-training signal, they know his vending machine is closed, no matter how many quarters (behaviours) are thrown into it. It’s empty. It won’t work. They will safe these behaviours for training sessions.

Of course it’s best to put behaviours on cue as soon as possible, for clarity and safety reasons. However, tn the learning process there will always be a short period when a trained behaviour is not yet confirmed and on cue. An end-of-session signal will help keep you and your horse safe.

Here is how much clarity it gives

In this video you see I end our training by giving Kyra an end of session signal. Putting my empty hands up and say ‘All gone!‘ indicates ‘You’re free to do what you want to do. You won’t miss out on clicks and treats.’ I knew she wanted to roll so badly but she wasn’t doing it because a training session was going on.


Bring a horse to the pasture safely

Here is another example that will help increase safety.

In the past I’ve had bad experiences with traditionally trained horses that run off immediately when released in the field. Sometimes you don’t even get a chance to take off the halter safely. Other horses even kick and bolt in order to get their freedom. Very dangerous!

To prevent such behaviours I give a treat after I release horses in the pasture. In the beginning they get a treat before taking the halter off and after taking it off. Later in training I give a treat only after I take the halter off and get out of the pasture. Instead of running off they will linger in the hope for a treat. Then I fade out the treat.

In this video Kyra didn’t want to leave me, so I gave my end-of-training-signal. That’s when she realized that she wasn’t missing out on reinforcers (food or attention).

It’s clear how powerful that end-of-training signal is. My horse that almost nevers runs in the pasture.

Any thoughts or questions about using or introducing an end-of-session-signal? #justask

Happy Horse training!

Sandra Poppema, B.Sc
I help horse owners create the relationship with their horse they’ve always dreamt of and get the results in training they really, really want.

Sign up for HippoLogic’s emails (they are free, full of goodies and joining comes with a reinforcer) or visit HippoLogic’s website and discover my online courses and our Membership Mentoring Program, the Clicker Training Academy, that will change your life.

Weekly online Clicker Classes and Clicker Coaching

Have you ever wished you could have weekly clicker coaching the way you can have a weekly riding lesson? I have…The more I think about it, the more enthusiastic I get!

This is what I am thinking. And I would love to hear your thoughts!

Weekly Live Clicker Coaching Sessions

Online, over Zoom. It can be a group session or there can be one person in the hot seat. Whatever people want! Another idea I have is this:

Weekly Live Classes 

About a topic of students can choose. This will be online too so it doesn’t matter where you’re located.

For example a lesson about riding with the clicker or a specific question about that. Replays will be available, so no one will miss out on a lesson!

I would love to hear what I can help you with. What would you like?

Why I think this is a great idea

When I am in Facebook groups or on fora I always see the same questions popping up. That’s why I started this blog, to help horse people that want to learn about clicker training for horses. By the way moving my blog to my website soon. More about that later.

I’ve written 343 blogs and I am thinking that it’s would be even more fun to help people in online live lessons to implement training solutions. Since most of us are home now this would be a great way to keep in touch with like-minded people.

I know from experience that knowing the theory and executing it in real life can be a challenge. So that’s what I want to include: support implementing. I am already doing this in our private Clicker Training Academy Facebook group. 

As riding instructor I saw my students every week or every other week. They improved their skills in an ongoing flow and they had amazing breakthroughs! Sometimes it was a ‘small thing’ like discovering the feeling when the inner hind leg stepped forward so they could improve the influence of their seat. Other times it was a huge milestone: going for a trail ride for the first times on their own horse, by themselves!

Being coached on a weekly bases, leads to accomplishing milestones in training.

It doesn’t matter if it’s big or small all these breakthroughs helped people move on when they plateaued in training! It’s so valuable to have an extra pair of eyes and experienced support on a weekly base available, wouldn’t you agree?

This is why I think this would be great:

➡️Learning in a group setting can expand your horizon quickly because you get so many new ideas from fellow students
➡️ Group classes are way lower price tickets than private coaching sessions. You will be surprised about the affordability: less than weekly riding lessons!
➡️Having a supportive community inspires and helps people come up with amazing new ideas.
➡️It can feel safe to learn in a group class because you can listen in without being in the spotlight. You don’t have to be on camera.

How you to sign up

I already founded the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy. In the Academy I offer monthly training themes and Clicker Challenges. Now I am thinking to add weekly coaching session or classes. These classes will be offered in the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy.

I am looking for a few more founding members. Founding members help shape the Clicker Training Academy. What kind of support would you like to have?

Would you like to become one of the founding members of the HippoLogic Clicker Academy (HCTA)? If so send me an email at hippologic@gmail.com and put in the topic line ‘I am interested!’ and I will send you more information.

✅ As founding member you will be grandfathered in at a special price that will never go up for you as long as you stay member!

✅ You can help form the HCTA! The Academy is still small you get a lot of personal attention and you can help decide about the weekly topics!

If you want to become a founding member, you will always have a special place in the Academy because it will be formed to how you want it to be! 

So if you want to become a founding member and think weekly live classes or coaching is a great idea you want to be a part of, send me an email (hippologic@gmail.com) message and I’ll send you more information! 

Happy Horse training!
Sandra

PS I am looking forward to welcome the founding members and get started! One of the topics I am thinking about to offer in the weekly classes is my “grass training” (teach your horse to ignore grass while leading). If you have an idea, I love to hear it! Send that email! hippologic@gmail.com

What can I train? F is for …

equine clicker training

What can you do with clicker training? Sometimes we are limited by traditional thinking or just need some new ideas. In this A to Z series, I’ll be sharing ideas for things to train. I’ve trained some, but not all of them, and will share links to resources for more information whenever possible. I hope this list inspires you and you can’t wait to go out and teach some new behaviors to your horses.

I’ll be adding to these posts over time when I have time and new material to share. In some cases, I have intentionally been brief because the topic cannot be covered appropriately in this format, but I wanted to mention it so you have more complete list of ideas for things to work on. If there is a topic that interests you, and you would like more information, let me know and I will consider writing…

View original post 5,108 more words

No #1 Tip for Equestrians in Shedding Season

In one of the Facebook groups I am in, I posted a video of all the hair Kyra is shedding and I asked: ‘What is your number 1 tip in shedding season?’

Get a vacuum

Lots of people replied with ‘shop vac’. For who don’t know what that is, it’s a heavy duty wet/dry vacuum. They are fairly inexpensive (cheaper than an equine grooming vac and also bigger). You can buy a curry (brush) to attach, so you can groom and vacuum the hair off of your horse at the same time.

I bought a curry for dogs since that was the only one I could find online. It’s a bit small with 3 inch diameter but it works great!

First I thought it was a bit snobbish to vacuum my horse, yes I admit. I thought this is only for people who want to be done quickly.

I can tell from experience: I’m spending more time with Kyra. She loves the shop vac! Since I don’t have to spent time raking and cleaning up after a grooming session that’s time I now can spent connecting with Kyra. With the shop vac I spent more time grooming instead of less, because it’s fun! It’s so rewarding to get all that hair off of her.

Shop vac are awesome in grooming your horse! Cheap and they work well wet and dry. They handle lots of sand and hair!

Training Plan to Introduce a Vacuum To Your Horse

I only needed three 5 min at liberty sessions to be sure Kyra would be good with the shopvac. This was my shaping plan in 3 steps.

I always try to incorporate 5 senses when introducing a new potentially scary object: vision (observe the scary object), then investigate the object with smell and touch (nose, teeth). They might want to taste it (licking) too. It’s all part of investigating. The sense hearing comes into play with unknown objects that make sound, like a vacuum.


1. Introducing “The Thing”

I let Kyra inspect and investigate it. Approaching, sniffing and engaging (as long as it doesn’t damage the shop vac) is all clicked and reinforced with medium to high value treats. Kyra is at liberty in the out door arena so she can determine the distance between her and the vacuum and determine her own pace of investigating and satisfying curiosity.

Then I walked around with the shop vac and I click and reinforce ‘standing still’. She’s at liberty and can move away if she wants. I make sure she stays under threshold and pay attention to her body language. I do this because later on I need to move the shop vac near her hindquarters, front and sides.

2. The sound

Repeat step 1 but now the shop vac is ON and makes noise.I click and treat generously so the sound only will be associated with good things happening.

3. The ‘Feel’ (suction)

Now the last part is to introduce Kyra to the ‘feel’ (suction) of the vac! Make sure the horse doesn’t get bad experiences. For me it was a bit scary when Kyra wanted to sniff the hose/curry. I prevented her nose to be stuck or sucked onto the tube/brush with my hand.

Beware of Static Electricity!

People also gave me a heads up about static electricity and using lots of Static Guard (a spray you can find in the laundry department of your supermarket to eliminate static). Kyra is already great with spray cans so that was not part of this shaping plan.

Click the FB icoon to watch Kyra’s video on Facebook.

Result

It only took a few sessions for Kyra to realize how the vac helps her to get rid of the loose hair.

She really enjoys the vacuuming and I use it as reward for behaving and cooperating while after changing the dressings on her infected hoof (see this blog).

In 30 minutes I get 10 times as much hair off of her than with currying manually! So it works GREAT!

Questions about how to train this yourself? Contact me (hippologic@gmail.com) I offer online horse training support.

If you have trouble introducing and using a vacuum with your horse you’re probably ‘lumping‘. I can help you make a proper shaping plan.

7 Reasons of why this is my no #1 Tip for Shedding Horses

  1. My Horse loves it!
  2. I don’t end up with dust behind my hard contacts (that really hurts my eyes)
  3. I spent more time grooming than cleaning
  4. No more raking after grooming
  5. No more hairs flying around ending up in your mouth
  6. About 97% LESS horse hair on your own cloth (just an estimate) that gets in your car and home
  7. My horse loves it. Oh, yes I said that already…

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
Get your free 5 Step Clicker Training Plan5-step clicker training plan HippoLogic

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10 Funny Horse Memes

  1. As equine clicker trainer this meme always cracks me up. I am very visual (a great skill to imagine how training will go) and I know lots of farriers out these are still very traditional.

2. About the gaits. I do love a great trot, who doesn’t? Love that they are in sync.

3. Growing up with Dutch as my first language I haven’t heard so many silly and ambiguous word jokes. So if you have a lame horse joke, leave them in the comments! Humor is the unexpected and I love those word twists.

4. I wanted to find the picture of the sign at a horse rental that says:
We have experiences horses for experienced riders, Fast horses for fast riders, Slow horses for slow riders and We have green horses for green riders. But I couldn’t find it.
This one is funny, too.

I once had a swan that LANDED on the horses head at night in the outdoor arena. Similar experience as below…

5. As a cat person I see the humor in this one! I love the smiles!

6.Again a word twist… And horses do think this!

7.Having a horse is a lot of responsibility and keeping them is hard work. We, equestrians, that have cold or muddy Winters know all about it. We’re troopers!

8.This one is about context shifts. Yes, we behave differently if we want to show off, an audience is often a context shift and still… we fall for it, right?

9. What do you wish to be?

10. I love this one because this never happens to me anymore! The other day I called Kyra and I got Kyra + her friend coming over to the gate. All horses at the barn love to engage with me because I have to offer something: the Magic of Clicker Training. Can you relate?

More FUN

10 Funny Horse Cartoons

10 Funny Horse Pictures

10 Funny Halloween costumes for Horses

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.

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Make a hoof wrapping in 5 easy steps

When Kyra stepped into a rusty nail her foot got infected. My barn manager taught me how she wraps hoofs that need to stay dry and clean.
The hoof putty was used to pull the infection and the vet gave me poultice pads to cover the wound when the infection broke through. So that’s instead of the putty.

Step 1: removing the nail

Step 2: Prepare

I gathered everything I needed to soak the hoof, dry it and wrap it before I started. These every day items are good to have in an equine first aid kit:

  • Warm water
  • Epsom salt
  • Rubber bucket to soak
  • Paper towels to dry
  • Iodine to disinfect
  • Hoof packing + rubber glove to keep hands clean
  • Poultice pad
  • Paper from a paper feed bag
  • Small diaper
  • Vet wrap (1/2 roll)
  • Duct tape (the outdoor is very heavy duty. Not in the picture)

Step 3: Soaking

In order to clean the entry wound as good as possible I soaked her foot in Epsom salt and dried it and put iodine on it. It wasn’t enough and got infected. Lesson learned.

Step 4: Preparing the packing

The packing needs to be kneaded and warmed up to form to the hoof. I used a plastic glove for that.The paper helps keep it in it’s place.

Alternative step 4

A few days later I used a poultice pad to put on the skin where the infection had broken through. These pads are nice an d thick and covered with a plastic layer on the outside.

They are decent size and I could cut them in 3 for Kyra’s hooves. So easy! I never had seen them before (no need).

Step 5: Wrap the hoof

I learned to apply 3 layers and if you do it right (and are lucky) it stays on for 24 hours. Kyra was outside in the paddock. Some days it stayed on, some days it didn’t. The duct tape is not sturdy enough. I used Kyra’s softride boots (meant for front hoof when she had laminitis) and a few days I later bought another poultice boot to cover it up.

  • Wrap the packing with a small size diaper
  • Use vet wrap to keep the diaper in its place
  • A layer of duct tape to reinforce and keep moist out

Space shoe is ready!

Now Kyra’s space shoe is ready. Only a few more pieces of Duct tape to cover up the vet wrap.

I learned so much this week. I was grateful Kyra already is really good with soaking, holding her foot up and wrapping. Preparation for emergencies is smart! You never know when you need it. I taught Kyra to keep her foot in the bucket with clicker training. I also gave lots of reinforcers to keep her foot up.

Next day….

Next blog

I hope this was useful. Please leave a comment!

In my next blog I will talk about how you can administer larger amounts of oral medication (like antibiotics) without spilling it. I learned a nice technique to do that this week. So many learnings for me this week.

What have you learned out of emergencies at the barn? I bet you have a tip that for other horse lovers.

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
 
Get your free 5 Step Clicker Training Plan 5-step clicker training plan HippoLogic

 

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5 Useful Techniques to prepare your horse to Vet Visits

We hope this never happens, but it does. Horses get into accidents, fights, and other trouble. If you’ve been long enough around horses you know that crazy stuff happens. No matter how careful you are… Equine first aid is a necessity for all horse owners.

Rusty nail

Kyra stepped into a 2 inch (5 cm) rusty nail on Saturday. She was lame and I discovered the nail when I rinsed the mud off hr leg and foot with cold water. It wasn’t in her foot all the way, but a good 1,5 – 2 cm. Not straight upwards luckily.

Hoof wrapping

When the nail was out (I just pulled it out) immediate relief from Kyra. Then I got a quick lesson in hoof wrapping from my barn manager. One of the perks at boarding out and have experienced horse people around.

Vet care training for horses

I have had “vet care training” since day 1 in my training program. Kyra came wounded to me. So she could already be hosed off, put her foot in a bucket with water and lift her legs.

You don’t want to start training these kind of things in an emergency!

Vet visit

When the vet came Kyra behaved so nicely. When she pushed on the wound Iused the open bar/closed bar technique and Kyra really appreciated it! She didn’t fight although it was very clear she was in much pain! She didn’t kick and let the vet do her work. Wow, that’s such a great feeling! Safety for everyone involved and the best treatment (because the horse lets the vet).

Be prepared!

Prepare your horse before you need it! Trailer loading, rinsing off legs (up until 10 minutes), injections, training for calm behaviour and standing still for longer periods of time (up until 10 minutes) are very helpful!

Useful techniques in vet care training

Techniques you can use for vet care training:

  1. A tiny bit of moulding/molding can help teaching your horse to stand in a bucket (rubber pan). It can be hard to free shape it so that they step into the pan themselves, especially with their hind legs.
  2. Duration. In vet care procedures ‘duration’ is so important. In our minds 10 seconds seem very short, but we also know when we are in the dentist chair without freezing and the drill drills 10 seconds, it’s suddenly ver, very long. Since horses don’t know when we stop with unpleasant procedures it’s even more difficult for them. They really have to trust you!
  3. Start button behaviour. Teach a behaviour so the horse can indicate: ‘I am ready.You can do what you need to do now.‘ Eg teach them to touch a target.
  4. Stop button behaviour. Teach a behaviour so they can indicate ‘Stop the procedure.’ You can teach them to touch a different target than you use for the start button behaviour.
  5. Open bar/closed bar. This is a great technique if the horse is not clicker trained or not prepared well enough. It also helps in quickly building duration. You ‘open the bar’ as soon as the behaviour starts. For instance putting the hoof into the bucket of water, holding up their hoofs for dressing or farrier work. When the horse pulls back, you let go of the foot (if possible!) and stop feeding: you ‘close the bar‘. You ‘open the bar‘ again and start feeding as soon as the horse offers the desired behaviour. The reinforcers must be high enough value to make it worthwhile. If you’re building duration a food reinforcer that they have to chew on long(er) is a good choice. Eating also distracts from the procedure and if they stop chewing with food in their mouth it can be an indication of increased stress or worry.

Make a good hoof wrap out of duct tape

In the next blog I will show you how I make a ‘space shoe’ out of duct tape and other items to keep her foot clean and dry in the mud. I took lots of photos and made videos of our training. Here is one of Kyra’s space boot the next day. It kept well in the mud.

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
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Things to Consider Using Treats in (Clicker) Training Horses

There is much to consider when you’re serious about positive reinforcement training and want to use treats. This is not the occasional sugar cube I am talking about.

Let’s see what’s important in clicker training your horse and choosing the right appetitive or food reward.

Value of the reinforcer can change over time

Value of reinforcers can change so I keep that in mind too. Kyra loves to work hard for hay cubes in Winter, but in Summer not so much.

In Spring and Summer I often use dandelion leaves or simply freshly plucked grass. Kyra has EMS so she won’t be full time in a pasture anymore. That’s why a handful of juicy grass will always be high value for her.

Low sugar grass pellets (simple to use and cheap to buy in bulk since it’s a ‘dinner grain’ type of feed) will do year round for Kyra.

Occasionally the value ‘wears off’ and I will mix in a few sunflower seeds or different kind of dinner pellets I get from other people, to make the reinforcer more interesting and less predictable.

Home made treats: cheap, easy and sugar free

I also bake my own treats (find the DIY home made horse treats recipe here) and it’s easy and cheap in comparison to store bought treats. You can choose the flavour, too. I usually make them with lots of cinnamon or tumeric (both anti inflammatory). All horses seem to like those flavours. People love the cinnamon ones and are fairly disappointed if I tell them no sugar is involved. 😉 The smell is soooo good!

Healthy vs Unhealthy

One thing to consider is the amount of reinforcers you use. If you would put all the treats you use in a day in a bucket, how much do you think that will be? The amount of all sessions added together.

If you use 10 reinforces per day and you choose apple pieces, that would be 2 apples or 1 if you make the pieces really small. If you use 15-20 per session and train 3 sessions a day that will add up.

So ‘healthy’ is one thing to consider. I used to feed handfuls of grass pellets in the beginning of Kyra’s training, when I was in the phase of taming her. She was born in the wild and untouched when I got her. She didn’t eat anything she didn’t know: no carrots/apples, commercial treats in the wild!. She only wanted to eat hay and grass pellets.

How much reinforcers do you use?

So I had to use lots! When I realized how much pellets I was actually using in just a 5 minute session, I was shocked. I calculated I used 1,5 to 2 scoops of pellets a day. Full scoops! I fed handfuls per click so it went really fast. Kyra was still very scared of me at the time and had hay available at all times, so I didn’t have much choice. She choose her hay from the net over hay from my hand in the first few days.

This was a lot, for a yearling, so I reduced the amount I fed after a few days by making the sessions shorter and the breaks between sessions longer so I wouldn’t overfeed her. She also had made great progress in accepting me nearby. Once I could feed smaller hands of pellets I could decrease the overall amount significantly.

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
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More articles about using food reinforcers

Easy treat ideas for clicker trainers

3 Reasons to use treats in training

Clicker training 101: Tips for Treats

Is your horse mugging you?

Is Your Horse Mugging You?

What is ‘mugging’, you say? Mugging is all behaviour your horse uses to get your attention (negative or positive) and/or all he does to get treats or his food faster

Other common names for ‘mugging’

There are many ways your horse can get your attention. When it’s in an undesired way we -horse people in general- call it:

  • ‘Mugging’
  • ‘Begging’
  • ‘Attention seeking’
  • ‘Impatience’
  • ‘Dominance’
  • ‘Aggression’
  • ‘Food aggression’
  • Disrespectful’
  • ‘Naughty’
  • ‘Treat crazy’
  • ‘Give-me-treats-behaviour’ or
  • ‘Jackassery’ behaviour.

Symptoms of mugging behaviour

What does the behaviour look like? It can be different for each individual horse. Here are the most common ways horses use to get attention (in good and bad ways). They use these because it pays or paid off in the past. It’s learned behaviour with a function for the horse.

  • Pawing
  • Pushing me with his head
  • Nudges me with his nose
  • Sniffs my pockets or hands
  • Moves his head up and down
  • Bites
  • Tries to untie himself (at the grooming area)
  • Vocal (nicker, whinney)
  • Kicks his stall door
  • Grooming
  • Bucks
  • Strikes
  • Weaves and shakes head
  • Rears and swings his hind end towards you

What to do about it?

Some people call it ‘cute’ until it becomes annoying. I think many horse people learned to ignore the problem because they don’t have a way to deal with it. They tried punishing or re-training but didn’t succeed and gave up. And people are taught to deal with it in the wrong way, ineffective ways that is. When I started out riding they warned me not to use treats. That it would be ‘bribing the horse’ and turn him into a treat crazy horse. They told me to ignore it (why that doesn’t work, I will teach in my mini course if I decide to create one) or punish it. Punishment will seldom work if you love your horse (I will address that in the course too).

Best way to handle it is to teach a replacement behaviour. One that is safe, cute and clear.

I can use your help

I am currently doing market research to see if horse people would be interested in an online course to stop your horse from mugging you. If you have a ‘mugger’ or don’t have a mugging horse I would love to hear from you.
Would you be willing to answer these 10 questions and help me? <- Click here to go to the questionnaire. Thank you in advance.

How I address mugging

I teach all my clients (equines and humans) Key Lesson ‘Table Manners for Horses’. I call it Key Lessons because these principles are the key to success in positive reinforcement horse training.

Key Lesson Table Manners

I choose ‘Table Manners’ because like human etiquette it’s something we have to learn! If you put a table full of veggies, soup, rice, cookies, dessert and candy in a room and let some toddlers go, it’s highly unlikely that they will all sit on a chair, wait until the food is served to their plates and use their cutlery to eat. No they will just follow their natural behaviour, which is go to the most attractive food (or edible) on the table, grab it with their little (unwashed) hands and start enjoying! Just like children we have to teach our horses what ‘we’ consider ‘desired behaviour’. Or what about this cat… naughty or not taught well?

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
Get your free 5 Step Clicker Training Plan.

Easy Treats Ideas for Clicker Training Horses

Are you curious what other people use as reinforcers (food rewards) in training?

I like dry, chunky reinforcers that are easy to feed and keep my pockets fairly clean.

Easy to use are ‘dry’ food such as:

Choosing the right reinforcer: don’t be afraid to test and change
  • Alfalfa pellets
  • Grass pellets
  • Alfalfa cubes*)
  • Timothy cubes*)
  • Timothy/Alfalfa cubes*)
  • Chaff
  • Carob
  • Oats
  • Black sunflower seeds (high calorie! Can be mixed in with lower value pellets or hay cubes)
  • Home baked treats
  • All commercial dinner pellets/dinner grain (nutritious and low sugar in comparison with commercial treats)

*) Warning: Pay attention to the hardness of the cubes. Some kind of cubes are really hard and need soaking first. Horses can also choke in them if they are not chewed well. A good way to test hardness is to see if you can break the cubes by hand. Other cubes are so dry and concentrated they become very voluptuous when dehydrated. Horses can get thirsty after eating them dry. Provide water.

Dry, but slower to deliver/take out your pocket/let your horse eat from the source

Freshly plucked grass can be a really good reinforcer
  • Handful of fresh grass
  • Handful of dandelions leaves
  • Handful of hay
  • Thistles (Kyra likes the flowers and leaves)
  • Blackberry leaves

Moist (and usually a bit more messy) reinforcers are:

Apples and carrots are high value food rewards for most horses
High in sugar and usually high in value: apples and carrots
  • Carrots
  • Winter carrot: sticks or chunks (not slices!)
  • Apple pieces
  • Pear pieces
  • Banana
  • Cucumber
  • Celery

Other reinforcers that you can use are:

Messy but good value and healthy

Some people use Cheerios as treats in training
Soaked beet pulp or dinner grain make good reinforcers
  • Soaked beet pulp
  • Soaked bran
  • Other dinner mashes

Unhealthy treats (usually high value)

Some people use Cheerios to train their horse
  • Cheerios (even ‘low sugar’ ones) and other breakfast cereal
  • Commercial horse treats (usually loaded with molasses/sugar)
  • Tic Tacs (small, which can be good and strong taste)
  • Mints
  • Sugar cubes

High value vs low value

The choice of reinforce depends on the horse, time of year and behaviour I train. Sometimes it’s also just plain practical: what do I have?

I always aim for the lowest value reinforcer. It sounds cheap, but the lowest value is still high enough to keep the horse engaged and willing to work. So for the horse it’s great. It’s easy to go from low to medium and high value, but going down in value can be risky. I usually use food that is meant as ‘dinner’ for horses: cheap (it comes in 15-20 kg bags), healthy (balanced nutrition value) and handy (dry, easy to hand feed).

What do you use? Do you have tips that I can add here? Share them in the comments.

More about Using Treats in Training:

Train Your Horse to be Safe around Food and Food Rewards

The value of your rewards

3 Tips for treats in Training

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
Get your free 5 Step Clicker Training Plan.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Horse, Stop Mugging Me!

The biggest fear of using treats in training and what hold most people off is the fear of The Mugging Horse. What can you do about mugging and how can you prevent it?

What is mugging

Mugging is when a horse demands a treat or attention by pushing you with his nose, trying to help himself to the treats in your pocket, kicking the stall door to get attention. Just to name a few symptoms.

What most people don’t understand is that they encourage their horse to mug and almost always reinforce it! All this happens even to people who really hate mugging horses. Why is that?

Principle behind mugging

Horses ‘mug’ because it leads to a reward! That’s it!

‘But I yell at my horse to stop if he kicks the door! I never allow this behaviour.’ Even if you run over to a horse that kicks their stall door (even to smack or shout at him), he gets what he wanted: your attention!

It’s not about what you think, it’s about what your horse thinks! If he -the learner- feels he is rewarded (you came over) he will do the smae behavioru again next time he wants you to come over.

I reinforced my horse to nicker to me if she wants me there. I like that and it’s not so destructive as kicking doors. It’s also available in the pasture, where there is no door to knock on.

Know your learner!

If you want your horse to stop mugging, put yourself in his place. Ask ‘What’s in it for the horse to behave like this? What am I giving (attention, treat, something else) that he wants from me (maybe even to lure you away from that horse)?

So what is his reinforcer? If they mug you for food, it’s the treat they get. Even if it’s denied 4 times before. That even made the mugging only stronger!!

Turn the tables

Use the reinforcer he wants for the behaviour you want! If your horse want attention, give him attention when he does something that is more desired and preferably also incompatible with the undesired behaviour (mugging).

Kicking doors

Give door kickers attention when they stand with 4 feet on the floor. That is incompatible with door kicking. It’s hard, because your horse is silent when he behaviour well! So that is something you have to train yourself to do! And everyone else in the barn.

What not to do (biggest pitfall of people):

Ignore the horse? No!! Not giving a treat when your horse mugs is called extinction. You’re trying to let the behaviour go extinct because it has no use, it doesn’t lead to what he wants. This will only work if you and all other people will never, ever give a treat

Since that is almost impossible, this won’t work. As soon as one person gives a treat when the horse asks for a treat, you have reinforced the mugging with your variable ratio reward schedule. In other words: you made the behaviour stronger!

Punish the horse? No! Punishment is to decrease a behaviour. I understand that people want to decrease the mugging behaviour but there are main 2 issues with punishment.

  1. The punishment needs to exceed the reinforcer by far in order to stop the undesired behaviour! The pain of the punishment must be stronger than the good feeling the pushished behaviour leads to. Eating (food) is a survival behaviour and therefor cannot be punished enough to let it go out of the behaviour repertoire. Same might be true for attention: heard animals need eat other and need to be seen by their group members. If you will smack a horse hard enough to never eat a carrot out of your hand, he will be very conflicted if he loves carrots. He will find other ways (trying to get carrots from other people).
  2. With punishment (which is scientifically speaking purely meant to de-crease a behaviour) you won’t give your learned any information what you want him to do. So that leads us to what the solution is:

Solution for mugging horses: how to stop mugging

The best way to approach mugging in horses, whether it’s for attention or food, is to teach them what to do. Teach them desired behaviour that is incompatible with the undesired behaviour! Then reinforce the new behaviour with that what the horse really wants! A carrot? Attention?

  • Desired and incompatible behaviour can be standing with 4 feet on the floor
  • Looking away from your pocket (they can’t push you or grab food out of your pocket if their muzzle is nowhere near your pocket)
  • Teaching your horse to keep a distance is incompatible with mugging
  • Teaching your horse to keep his lips closed and muzzle relaxed is incompatible with mugging
  • etc

Prevent mugging

If you start clicker training and reinforce behaviour with treats or food reinforcers be clear to your horse about your expectations. Reinforce ‘Table manners‘ right from the start. Click the link to find out more.

Fear of working with treats in training

solutions for treat crazy mugging horse with clicker training

Not starting to click with your horse is because of the fear of creating a ‘monster’ out of your horse that only will be focused on the food. That is true for maybe the first few sessions, but almost all horses learn within the first 10 minutes that it’s not about the food. It’s about the behaviour they have to perform (that leads to food).

They learn clicker training is about them, making a choice. If we are clear what we want them to choose (Table manners over mugging) they understand quickly and cooperate eagerly. After all, there is something in it for them, what they really want!

Clicker training done well turns your treat crazy horse into a well behaved, well mannered horse that is eager to work with you.

Learn more

I can talk for hours about this subject! There is so to learn. Go to my website if you have a treat crazy, mugging ‘monster’ that you want to turn into an eager friend that is polite and well mannered when treats are involved.

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
Get your free 5 Step Clicker Training Plan.

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Does Clicker Training Your Horse Leads to Confusion?

When you change your training approach, you step outside your comfort zone. You know you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone if you feel insecure or confused. Another sign is that you get different results, hopefully BETTER ones!

What you need is to replace your confusion with clarity. How you do that, I’ll explain in this blog.

Lets see how you can recognize confusion. You might think right away: ‘I am never confused!‘ I understand how you feel and that’s a normal reaction. This is what confusion looks like:

  • When can I stop clicking?
  • Should I stop riding now I’ve started clicker training?
  • How do I start?
  • Should I click more often?
  • Should I always end with a jackpot?
  • When should I raise my criterion?
  • Am I using the right treats?
  • Can I still use my training stick?
  • Does my horse understand the cue?
  • How can I know if my horse really knows my cues?
  • Do I need to keep clicking for trained behaviours?
  • Shall I use different treats for different behaviour?
  • Is it a coincidence my horse did so well right away?

3 Steps to deal with confusion

  1. Information
  2. Decide
  3. Action

More information

Where can you get more information?

Contact me (see below) and watch the webinar about 4 Main Road Blocks almost All Clicker Trainers Hit and subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Decide what you want

Do you want to learn more about how you can teach your horse to listen to you? Feel confident? Get results? What do you need, in order to get that? Who can help you? If you don’t know someone at the top of your head, what else is possible? What about an online course or coaching?

Decide what you want and make a decision.

Decide to say ‘No’ to what doesn’t serve you, to focus on the top priorities (which can bring you back to #1: More information). The more clarity you have the sooner you accomplish what you want. It saves time and money, too. How?

If you’re being vague and say things like ‘I just want to ride better‘ you can find any instructor that will help you. But are you getting better? Depends in what…. If you say ‘I want to learn lateral gaits‘ or want to ride with positive reinforcement, you’ll notice that suddenly most coaches you ask are not qualified to fit your goals. Choosing the an instructor that help you reach your goals, saves time and money spent elsewhere. It’s a lot of fun working on what you really want!

Action!

Once you made a decision about what it is you want and need, need have to take action! Otherwise nothing will change!

Only Action leads to Accomplishments ~ HippoLogic

How can you take action? You can start to book a free discovery call with me and I will give you clarity. Take action and book your appointment now.

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
Get your free 5 Step Clicker Training Plan.

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Reasons why horses won’t lie down in Trick Training

If you’ve seen the post I wrote about Teaching Your Horse to Lie Down, you’re inspired to get training started right away.

It’s great fun to see your bond reflected in your horse doing an amazing trick like this. Of course your horse must like it, too! That’s why I teach this wih positive reinforcement and give horses a choice to do it.

If they say ‘No’ it’s great feedback to check why he doesn’t want to.

Reasons a horse refuses to lie down

  • The surface is too hard, too wet, too cold, too muddy
  • Your horse is not relaxed. Calm him down first
  • He’s exciting about something else happening
  • He’s not liking what you offer him, so the behaviour is not reinforced
  • He’s in pain and can’t do it
  • He has not yet learned to lie down on cue

In my online Trick Training class I share how you can solve these. I also teach how you can train your horse to lie down step-by-step. You can join me in a live webinar February 16, 2020

OR…

You can enter the giveaway and get a chance to win a FREE seat in this webinar (if you can’t make it that day, I have other times too).

ENTER giveaway

Happy Horse training!

Training Webinar Teach Your Horse to Lie Down Good luck!

Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I help horse owners get the results in training they really, really want with joy and easy for both horse and human. I always aim for win-win!
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‘Rules’ vs ‘Principles’ in Horse Training (this might be eye-opening!)

When people learn to interact with horses it usually starts with riding lessons or they learn from a seasoned horse person. You’ll learn the ropes, which usually means the ‘rules’ of how things are done. Then one day, you discover that the rule doesn’t apply anymore… Why is that?

Why Rules Not Always Apply

Over the years you already might have learned some rules don’t work for you or the horses you work with. Why is that?

Why rules in horse training not always work

Because when you’re focused on the rule, you miss the principle behind the rule. That’s why it’s not working. Learn the Principle and you discover the Gold!

It’s like Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day (rule), if you teach him how to fish (principle) he’ll never be hungry.

What’s the Principle behind the Rule?

That’s what I’ve been working on the past 3 decades and that’s why I can lead others to success in horse training. I don’t work with rules, I teach clients principles. They are way more worth, because it sets them up for life!

Examples of Rules that Not Always Work

These are rules that apply to some or maybe even most horses, not to all horses!

1. Horses will work for carrots.

My horse Kyra was born in a nature reserve and foals learn to eat what moms and other herd members eat. In nature horses don’t feed on carrots because they don’t grow in their habitat! Kyra literally had to learn to eat carrots, apples and man-made treats. Foals who are born at a barn have already learned that what people feed you is edible.

So what would be a principle behind this rule? The principle is that the receiver determines the reward (read: appetitive).

Some horses like to work for carrots, others prefer grain, grass pellets or something else. As trainer you have to figure out what motivates your horse.

You know that not all horses can’t be lured out of the pasture with a carrot. The carrot is simply not appetitive enough in those cases. More principles could be at work why the horse won’t come and how to determine that, is a whole other topic.

Still people are asking on the Internet: ‘What treats are best for in clicker training?’ The answer is… it depends on the horse and the situation. Appetitives can change in value.

If clicker training doesn’t work, it’s because people don’t apply the Key principles of Learning and Motivation, they try to apply ‘rules’ ~ HippoLogic

The rule people hear is:

2. “Pressure-release will make the horse do what I want”.

Look at people that have trouble loading their horse into a trailer. They apply pressure, they apply release and still the horse is outside the trailer.

In training it’s about the timing (learning happens when the aversive stimulus is released) and also about the strength and direction of the aversive (if the trailer is more aversive than the applied pressure, the horse won’t go in) or if an appetitive stimulus outside the trailer is stronger than the applied pressure the horse won’t go in. It’s about how the learner experience the aversive stimulus.

When I started to figure out the principles at work behind every rule in horse training things changed quickly. My clients got better results and problems were solved quicker and with less struggle.

3. Heels down, hands low, back straight, chin up!

This is what I was taught in riding lessons for many, many years. It didn’t make me a good rider at all. These are rules, the principle behind it (that they never taught me in the riding school), is to sit in balance.

When I took Centered Riding lessons I learned how to sit in balance. I learned that balance starts at the position of my pelvis: tipping it slightly forward it created a hollow back, legs that went backwards, heels went up and hands that were moving very much in order to keep my balance.

When I had my pelvis slightly tipped backwards, I rode with a curved back, my legs were in chair seat (before my point of gravity) and my chin was down.

Only if I kept my pelvis in ‘neutral’ (this is where your balance starts!) I was able to keep my legs in the right position, my back straight and could move with my horse instead of being before or behind my horse’s movement.

Only when I keep my pelvis in ‘neutral’ I can move with my horse. I am balanced, my hands can become soft because I move them in the rhythm of the movement of my horse’s head instead of my own body. My legs become still (in relation to the horse flank movements) because I don’t need to squeeze them in order to keep my balance. I became confident because I felt safe! That’s when I became a good rider.

Now you can see why these rules started: heads up, back straight and so on. They want to solve the symptoms of an unbalanced rider. Unfortunately they don’t work (how many times have you heard them!?) because they don’t solve the problem (balance). The principle of riding does: where does balance in a rider start? Right, in the pelvis! And that’s why it’s called ‘centered’ riding.

Want to Learn More About the Key Principles of Positive Reinforcement?

I you want to know more about the Principles (HippoLogic’s Key Lessons), join me for a free webinar in which I explain the 4 Main Reasons People get Stuck in Clicker Training (and solutions).
Spoiler alert: I will talk about principles!

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
Get your free 5 Step Clicker Training Plan.

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Why a good start is important. 5 Tips to start clicker training your horse

If you have not yet started clicker training your horse, here is a good way to start. Start with Key Lesson (your key to success) Table Manners.

Table Manners for Horses is similar to etiquette for people: we don’t use manners naturally, they are learned behaviours. Just like we teach children to use knife and fork and sit with our feet below the table and wait our turn, we can teach our horses safe behaviours around food and treats. We also don’t walk into other peoples houses (strangers) to see what’s in the fridge, right? Our horses are not suppose to check what’s in our pockets either.

Clear criteria

In order to start clicker training well, you need to have clear criteria in your head. What do you want to reinforce and see more off? What behaviour would you like to eliminate from your relationship (biting, mugging, being pushed etc)?

Focus on what you want, is the most important in equine clicker training. That’s what you want to see more of and that why you need to be prepared to click for ~ HippoLogic

Teach Your Horse to Behave Around Food: 5 Tips for Horses

Here are the criteria I like to teach horses who are new to positive reinforcement training:

✅ The horse needs to take the food off of the hand gently and calm: lips only and no teeth. No grabbing or moving super fast towards the food as if there’s a fear to miss out. That could be dangerous.

✅ The horse must learn to wait until the food (treat) is served to the lips and don’t move towards the food (the pocket with treats or hand that’s feeding the horse).

We -people- don’t go to the kitchen in a restaurant either so see where our food is. No, we wait patiently until it’s brought to us. We don’t start eating or grabbing the bread when the waitress still holds your plate. We wait until the plate is put in front of us before we start eating calmly.

✅ Only expect a treat after the bridge (click) and not at random.

Just like not every plate the waitress carries is for you. Only after you ordered you can expert food.

✅ The horse must be relaxed and in a calm state. Ears forward or relaxed to the side. This in combination with a closed muzzle and relaxed lips makes a friendly face. His must learn to trust the treat will come.

Just like in a restaurant you are polite and friendly to the waitress, not looking angry at the waitress when she bring the food to the table. You say ‘Thank you’ and smile.

✅ Make sure your horse is not hungry. In many restaurants you get or can order some bread and butter to change your hangry-ness into a better mood. Do the same for your horse: provide hay during training or train after a meal.

Horses are different than us. They are designed to eat 16 hours a day, so they will eat after a meal. If train when your horse is hungry, you’ll create problems that can be very hard to un-train, like grabbing the food and even biting.

Make sure positive reinforcement is a real win-win: win for you and win for your horse. Treat well ~ HippoLogic

;Read more about starting clicker training here.

5 Tips for Trainers

The criteria above mean also that the trainer also needs to have a few good habits.

Clicker training is not only about training your horse. You-as trainer- need to develop good habits, too. ~ HippoLogic

  1. Click first, then take a treat. Don’t make ‘pre-loading’ a habit or your horse will only focus on where your hands are. That really reinforces mugging
  2. Always deliver the treat to the mouth, so that your horse never has to look for the treat. Teach him that he can trust you to give it to him
  3. Make the food move to the horse, not the other way around. If you encourage your horse to move towards the food you easily reinforce the undesired mugging behaviour
  4. If you drop a treat, immediately present a new one. The one on the ground can be ignored, taken away if it’s sandy or be a bonus. If you or your horse drop treats often, use bigger treats
  5. Start with medium or low value treats (grass pellets, moist hay cubes) and not with high value treats (usually the sweet ones like carrot, apple and store bought treats)

What’s your biggest take-away from this blog? Use the comment below. undefined

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
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‘They Said’, Warnings about Clicker Training Your Horse

Did “they” tell you:
->> your horse would become dangerous by feeding treats?
->> you’ll turn your hores into a mugger?
->> it doesn’t work for all horses, all people, all breeds?
->> your horse will never work for you again without treats?
->> it’s all about the treats and not about YOU?
->> you’ll spoil your horse?
->> that you can’t train everything with R+?

What did THEY tell you?

***Share your story in the comments****

What do you say?

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
Get your free 5 Step Clicker Training Plan.

What have People Told You About Clicker Training Your Horse?

When you tell people that you clicker train your horse you get (well meant) ‘advice’ not to do it. What makes me sad is that most often that advice is coming from people that:

1) Haven’t tried it and have zero experience in what the process is like.

They base their opinion on what they think would happen to them. Keep that in mind next time you hear a warning about positive reinforcement horse training. If it’s a warning, it’s based on fear or wanting to protect you (because they are fearing something bad will happen). The opposite is also true: if people are enthusiastic about it, it’s because they get amazing results and they would love to see you experience the same!

2) Have tried it and base their opinion on their experience. If you keep that in mind, you know how well that went… Just like when people want you to try it: it’s also based on their experience.

What have people told you about clicker training your horse?

I asked on my Facebook page. This is what people said they were told:

  • It doesn’t work with a particular breed, age, etc
  • You’re making a beggar out of your horse
  • Your horse only likes you because you have treats 
  • He’ll only do what you want so long as you have treats
  • I’m bribing my pony and teaching him to bite
  • Causes them to bite
  • It’s using bribery to get respect
  • Than horses will work only if we have food and they’ll become very dangerous

What have you heard about clicker training your horse? Share it in the comments below and ask yourself what the other person’s experiences are and what they fear.

How to handle critique?

Then there’s people who have no problem pointing out what’s wrong with your training, or worse, with your horse. It feels like an attack if you know you’re in the middle of a process or maybe even at the beginning and what they see is not the goal. It’s just a stepping stone.

We all go through that, no matter how well of a trainer you are: the start, middle and end of a training process all look different. So if someone base his or her opinion on what they see, it might not be on what you get at the end. You can explain that what they see now is not the end goal.

Another way is to hear people out. The secret of people is that they all want to talk about themselves. If someone is voicing their opinion about your way of training, simply ask “How would you do it?” That’s it. Let them talk…. You’ll be amazed what you’ll hear. It’s fun.

Happy Listening!

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.

Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.

Get your free 5 Step Clicker Training Plan.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin