The safest way to bring a dangerous horse to the pasture

When I was young and learned to ride in the local riding school, we sometimes were allowed to bring the ponies to the pasture. This came with a simple warning: ‘Always turn your horse to the gate before you take the halter off, so they don’t kick you.’

I still use that advice and teach it to others but there is more to learn about safety. Some horses run off, kick or bolt when released. How to handle those horses?

Horses that run off, kick and bolt

Some horses like to run off immediately and kick or bolt in the process. If you stand ‘in his way’, there is a chance that you get hurt. I’ve seen people deal with this problem by taking the halter off and shooing them away with it! I think the idea is to get them as quickly as possible out of their personal space.

I don’t think shooing away a horse that already has a tendency for bolting and running away will make a horse behave more safely.

On the contrary, it will add to his stress and he might anticipate the next time by shooing you away from his personal space. That is the last thing you want him to do, right?

Solution

There is a simple way to prevent horses from running off when you take the halter or lead rope off. You have to teach them that:

  • They won’t get chased or shooed away by you, and there is no need for them to run off or defend themselves
  • It’s safe and fun to stay a little longer with you
  • They can leave in a calm way, there is no need to rush

Incompatible behaviour

When a horse displays undesired behaviour, in this case dangerous behaviour, the simple solution is to teach them incompatible behaviour and reinforce that behaviour more.

An incompatible behaviour is a behaviour that simply cannot be displayed while doing another behaviour.

Step 1: What is the undesired behaviour?

  • Running off immediately with the chance of you getting hurt in the process
  • Turning around quickly and bolting when leaving
  • Keeping their head up and/or walking backwards so you can’t take the halter or lead rope off safely

Step 2: What is the cause?

Knowing what causes these behaviours is a huge step towards preventing them.

It can be learned behaviour: the horse has learned that the person will shoo him away and he anticipates by trying to get away before that happens. This creates a dangerous vicious circle that is hard to break when you don’t realize what drives the behaviour.

It can be a lack of education. I always teach my horses to turn around every time we go through a gate. One day I was leading a young stallion pony out of the arena. I didn’t realize that he had not yet learned to turn after walking through a gate. I wasn’t prepared that he simply walked straight out the gate, directly towards the barn.  I expected him to turn around or at least wait for me, but he didn’t, because no one had taught him that. I tripped and was dragged on my belly in the mud for several meters. When he finally stopped to see what made walking so hard, I could get up quickly and reinforce him for stopping. It was not the smartest idea to hold on, and I was lucky he didn’t panic.

It can be fear: the horse is afraid of the other horses or one horse in particular that approaches him. If he feels trapped because he is still on a lead rope that can cause him to panic and flee.

It can be impatience: maybe the horse is super excited to go to the pasture to have a good run. He simply can’t wait to stretch his legs.

Step 3: Work on the cause

If the horse hasn’t learned to stay with you until you cue him to wonder off, you can teach him to wait. If he hasn’t learned to turn around, teach him that this will be reinforced and that it’s worthwhile for him. Simply offer him a treat before you take the halter off and one after. He will learn to wait for his treat before he leaves. Better even is to use a bridge signal (a click) before you give the treat to mark the desired behaviour.

If he is fearful for the other horses, you have to find a way to distract or prevent the other horses from coming too close and crowd you.

If your horse is super excited you have to keep him calm and keep his excitement low so he won’t run off and take you with him in the process. You can train this easily with positive reinforcement training.

Step 4: Teach an incompatible behaviour 

In order to prevent undesirable and dangerous behaviours you can work on an incompatible behaviour and reinforce that more. Punishment the way we apply it, is usually not very effective. Teaching and reinforcing an incompatible behaviour is and will give you quick results, too!

What is an ‘incompatible behaviour’? A behaviour that cannot be displayed at the same time as the undesired behaviour. It takes a bit of thinking out of the box to master this skill, but it will bring you so much clarity once you can!

Incompatible behaviours: a horse can’t run off or kick when he is standing still (focus on reinforcing ‘4 hooves on the ground’), a horse can’t lift his head if he keeps his head low, a horse can’t bite with his mouth closed or when his head is turned away from you. He can’t be excited and calm at the same time! Teach him to be calm and focused on you.

Summary

Teach you horse to stay with you until you give him the cue that he can leave now. I do this by simply creating the expectation that there is something in it for the horse. I use high value reinforcers: super yummy treats or if a horse loves scratches and attention more, I will use those.

I start by reinforcing incompatible behaviours and work on the cause of the dangerous behaviours. I reinforce turning around after entering the pasture, standing still, keeping head low and after I take the halter off. Then I get out of the pasture before I give a clear signal that the horse can’t expect any more treats, my ‘end-of-training-signal’.

Then I fade out the treats slowly. I never totally quit forever with the treats because I want to keep us safe. A treat can also be just a bit of grass that you plucked just outside the fence, where the grass always is greener….

Related posts:

How to bring your horse to the pasture safely

How to get your horse out of the pasture effortlessly

Join our Community!

  • Are you looking for professional positive reinforcement advice?
  • Do you want an affordable program?
  • Do you want to turn your equestrian dreams into reality, but you don’t know where to start?

If you have answered ‘Yes’ to one or more of the above questions look into one of the online programs HippoLogic has to offer.

Join our community for online positive reinforcement training tips, personal advice and support in training your horse.

Shape the community

If you’re interested to become a member of the HippoLogic tribe, please tell me what you want in this short questionnaire. Thanks a lot!

HippoLogic.jpg
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!
Sign up for my newsletter (it comes with a gift) here: HippoLogic’s website.

Take action. Start for free!

Book a free 60 minute Discovery Session to get a glimpse of a new future with your horse. In this conversation we’ll explore:

  • Your hopes and dreams and goals so that we can see what’s possible for you and your horse

Key to Success in Horse Training
Your Key to Success
  • Where you’re now, where you want to go and which path is right for you
  • What’s holding you back so you can make a plan to get these hurdles out of your way.
  • At the end of the call I’ll give you some ideas and advice for your next step and if it looks like a fit, we can explore what it looks like to work together.

    Simply check the best time for you in my online calendar and click to reserve your free call today.

    Follow my blog  on Bloglovin

    How training horses can change your life!

    How Horse Training turned me into a Pollyanna

    Before I started my positive reinforcement journey I used to be bit of a Negative Nancy. I could always find something to criticize. I was most critical about my own accomplishments. I couldn’t feel satisfied about anything I did, especially when it involved riding. The only positive thing about my negative attitude was that I had a really keen eye for details. This made me a really good editor.

    Negative Nancy

    I really and truly believed that if I criticized myself it would help me become a better rider, horse owner, friend and so on. Sometimes I wondered why I wasn’t yet a better rider… but I could always think of something that wasn’t yet good enough to classify myself as ‘good rider’.

    negativenancy2I  didn’t understand that I made it impossible for myself to be satisfied, proud and happy about my achievements when I was only criticizing myself… I didn’t understand that what I was focusing on (my faults, mistakes and failures) grew. I couldn’t see that I was pushing myself forward on a downward spiral which was not at all uplifting or supporting.

    This slowly changed when I started clicker training my first pony. In positive reinforcement training you want to reinforce a (tiny step towards the) desired behaviour in order to get more of that behaviour. In other words you have to be focused on the things that go right.

    Focus on what you want to grow

    When you need to be ready for every ‘clickworthy‘ (positively reinforcing) moment, you start to focus on all behaviours that go well and are improving. It took a long time before this life changing attitude seeped into other parts of my life, but when it did it changed my life for ever.

    First I changed my language. I was lucky that I had a riding instructor that studied a lot and one of her favorite subjects at that time was neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). NLP describes the fundamental dynamics between mind (neuro) and language (linguistic) and how their interplay affects our body and behavior (programming) (source).

    The words you use tell a lot about how you think: I can’t…, I never could…, I always…, my horse always…, my horse never…, I will never be able to… and so on. Those were phrases I used a lot. Elma helped me change my wording and my attitude towards my own riding skills. Thanks Elma!

    Challenge

    Every time I was using a negative phrase or statement about myself I was encouraged to phrase it differently. It became a wonderful and challenging game. I decided to use it in my training journal as well.

    Up until then I always (well, almost always… ) focused on my faults (I wasn’t a good enough rider), my mistakes in training (too short, too long, not good enough and so on) and I often summarized my training as a failure. It was no fun to read back and I didn’t learn from it!

    Shift from self-criticism to self-motivation

    Things changed when I started to keep track of my accomplishments in clicker training. I wrote down what my criteria were and how I changed them over time. I was focused on what went right, improvements and our progress. I also learned to rephrase my common negative statements. I still  focused on what I could improve, but I phrased it in a a way that was encouraging.selfcritism cycle vs self motivation cycle Hippologic

    See, how I just said ‘was focused on what I could improve’ instead of ‘I was focused on my faults‘. Faults became ‘learning points’, failure became ‘experience’ and so on.

    How did positive reinforcement horse training change your life?

    _Kyra_en_ik_hippologicSandra Poppema, B.Sc.
    My mission is to improve horse-human relationships by educating equestrians about ethical and horse friendly training. I offer coaching to empower you to train your horse in a 100% animal friendly way that empowers both you and your horse.
    Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free) or visit HippoLogic’s website.

     

    How to drop the crop

    We all like to hold on to our beliefs and our familiair training aids. I know I do, even when I already know I never will use it. Here are some ways to drop your crop.

    ‘Safety’

    Holding on to your riding crop (carrot stick, training stick or lunge whip) gives us a feeling of safety and empowerment. We need our crop, just in case…

    But what if you don’t have a crop anymore. What would happen? Would you die? Yes, it can feel that way, but you (probably) won’t. Continue reading

    10 Winter Barn Hacks for Horse People

    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

    KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

    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.
    It is a good idea to offer horses that won’t drink luke warm water.

    #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 (some cat litter is made of clay and can become very slippery when soaked!).

    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 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 LOL). 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 enough roughage (fiber). 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_winter_hippologic.jpg

    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!

    _smile_tricktraining_horse_hippologic

    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.

    Read more:

    Join HippoLogic’s Facebook group

    Become a member of our Happy Herd on Facebook and get access to my Facebook LIVE’s.

    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

    Setting your horse up for success: splitting behaviour

    One of the biggest mistakes I see people make in horse training is that they don’t set their horse (or themselves) up for success. Once you know some basics about horse training, setting it up for succes becomes easier. A common mistake is not visualizing what the goal is and planning how to communicate it to your horse.

    _splitting-and-lumping-HippoLogic

    Splitting behaviour

    If you have a goal in mind to teach your horse, the first step to set yourself up for success is making a shaping plan. In your shaping plan you describe your goal, your starting point and how you are going to divide the goal into baby steps in order to built this new behaviour.

    Split your goal behaviour into enough baby steps and train every step separately until it is mastered before you raise a criterion. In this way you train (shape) your goal behaviour in a systematic way. Each baby step is in fact a building block of the desired behaviour. So far the theory.

    Splitting behaviour is not easy and this is a continues aspect to work on. Even me, after more than 16 years of experience with positive reinforcement training, I catch myself lumping behaviour. Why? Because every horse, every behaviour and every situation  is different.

    You can’t possibly know beforehand what your horse is capable off, physically or mentally. You only know that until you reach a  boundary. Also the training circumstances have a great influence on the learning capability of humans and horses. Teaching your horse something new in stormy weather is probably not setting yourself up for success.

    Lumping behaviour

    The most common mistake is that the steps trainers make are too big for the horse. This is called lumping. The horse doesn’t understand what is expected from him. When you lump, you simply have raised (too many) criteria, too soon.

    How to recognize lumping

    It is quit easy to recognize if you know what to look for. You know it is time to adjust your criteria or tweak the setting of your training if your horse shows signs of:

    • fear
    • frustration
    • disinterest
    • distraction
    • anger
    • shutting down

    Your horse can get disinterested in you and your training because he thinks he will never  earn a treat and simply gives up. Or he can get frustrated: ‘Why don’t I get that treat now, when I did this just a minute ago I got it.’

    Trainer

    This also goes for the trainer. If you feel frustrated, anxious, despair, anger or other undesired emotions, just stop for a moment. Take a break and take  few deep breaths. Get yourself into thinking mode again. Then figure out a way to split the training into more steps and start over.

    Lowering your criteria is not the same as ‘failing’, on the contrary: lowering your criteria in order to follow your horses (or your own) learning curve is setting your horse up for success. A side effect is that you will succeed quicker, too

    Mastering splitting

    I don’t think it is realistic to expect we’ll never lump behaviour anymore. It is part of the learning experience: split behaviour enough until you notice a bump in the road. This is when you know you’re lumping. Then you split the ‘lump’ and go on until you encounter the next bump. That is ‘learning’ and it is fun.

    Every time you notice that you’re lumping it is a sign that you have experience. Why? Otherwise you wouldn’t notice it and might try to solve the problem with a bit more tack, a whip or other ways to make the horse do what you desire. That is what most people do, I see this happening in the most experienced clinicians too.

    Here is a video in which you can see what splitting and lumping can look like:

    [Readers who get my blog via their email won’t see the video embedded. Sorry about this. If you want to see it, follow this link to my blog https://hippologic.wordpress.com]

    Science of learning

    I am grateful I have learned a bit about horse behaviour/body language, learning theory, learning processes and how to motivate a learner (human and horse). I don’t need to force my goals onto my horse anymore now that I have these tool of knowledge and experience.

    If my training is not getting me the results I wanted or expected I take a break and regroup. Sometimes my break lasts for a few day or even a week. It doesn’t matter. My horse doesn’t win, if I stop training just because I don’t know what to do at that moment. I am always aiming for a win-win.

    Force is never the (right) answer in my opinion. I treasure the bond with my horse too much for that.

    Related articles

    Setting your horse up for success: Context shift

    Setting your horse up for Succes: Short sessions

    If you think this is a blog that someone can benefit from, please use one of the share buttons  below. Or post your comment, I read them all!

    Or simply hit the like button so I know you appreciated this blog. Thank you!

    HippoLogic.jpg
    Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
    My mission is to improve human-horse relationships. I connect horse women with their inner wisdom and teach them the principles of learning and motivation, so they become confident and skilled to train their horse in a safe and effective way that is a lot of FUN for both human and horse. Win-win.
    Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and discover my online course Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Positive Reinforcement Horse Training.
    Follow my blog  on Bloglovin

    Interpretation of behaviour

    Today I visited a beautiful barn with some horses and a goat. I was invited into the stall where the goat lived. The handler had warned me that the goat sometimes headbutts.

    It was a friendly goat and she came up to me to greet and was well mannered. She stood in front of me, sniffed me and waited. I thought it was very polite, especially for a goat. They are, after all famous for their love of food and I was carrying pellets in my pocket. Then she kind of put her head gently in my hand. I thought that was so sweet…

    I am used to cats and horses, and I am not familiar with goats. Because she put her head in my hands I automatically assumed that she wanted to be scratched behind her ears. Of course I did what she asked. Let me rephrase that: of course I did what I thought she meant.

    The goat re-positioned her head, so a few seconds later I was scratching in between her long, pointy horns. As soon as I touched those horns I remember thinking: “Oops, Goats don’t like to be touched on their horns”. Humans are slow and animals are fast, so before I knew it I had accepted the goats invitation to play. Goat play involves a lot of rearing and headbutts. So she ‘attacked’ me. Ouch!

    Although she hurt my wrist, she didn’t use too much force. So I think it was just play. She only used a bit more force than I can handle or more than I like. I don’t like headbutts at all!

    I realized quickly that I had misread her invite to play for an invite to scratch her ears. I didn’t know what to do or how I could get her stop so I basically jumped out of her stall and quickly closed the door. She headbutted the door quite hard and I was glad the door was between us now. I think she was disappointed that I had left the game so soon. After her headbutting the door I turned around, because I didn’t want to encourage her behaviour in any way by giving her attention. I just didn’t know what to do.

     

    It did make me realize how easy it is to misread an animals’ behaviour if you have no experience with the species or have no knowledge about the natural behaviour of the animal. I thought about novice horse owners and how hard it must be to be around a large animal that you know nothing about and what you know is probably outdated. Sounds scary!

    Back to the goat and her headbutting. I suggested we give the goat a playmate or  a punching bag to play with. If she had a playmate or thing to play with she wouldn’t have to use humans as playmates. I hope it will work and will let you know if it works.

    Have you ever misinterpreted the behaviour of an animal and gotten into trouble? Share your story in the comments. Thanks!

    UPDATE: this goat is adopted and lives now among a lot of other goats. 🙂

    Sandra Poppema
    Follow my blog with Bloglovin

     

     

    How to change ‘bad behaviour’ in horses quickly

    There is one very effective way to change all horses that are stubborn, dominant, don’t listen, know what to do, but refuse to obey, know their job but don’t do it, are a wuss or are playing us.

    Circle of influence

    One solution
    What? One solution for so many bad behaviours? Yes!

    It is simple too. Change your attitude about the horse.

    How would that work? Well, if you label your horse as ‘dominant’ or ‘stubborn’ it sounds like it isn’t your fault, but it also sounds like you can’t influence it. But you can. You can influence his behaviour! It’s called ‘training’.

    You can only change things that are in your circle of influence. You can start changing your thoughts. If you change your thoughts in a way that can help you help the horse, suddenly there is no ‘stubborn’ horse anymore. If you can see that he is not stubborn, you can ask yourself questions like:

    Why did he do that?
    Was he afraid?
    What is his motivation? Is he getting away form something or does he want to go somewhere?
    What emotions did the horse displayed?
    How can I prepare my horse better next time?

    You have to take responsibility, which can be scary. The flip side is in this way you empower yourself! You are looking for things you can influence. Isn’t that great? In this way you train the horse, if he is successful, the trainer was too. Unfortunately it is not really accepted to brag about your success as horse trainer, but don’t let that ruin your pride.

    One of the things that I like in reward-based training, is that you have to take the horses’ perspective into account. His emotions, his behaviour and his motivation are very important. It is never the horses’ fault anymore and you never have dominant or stubborn horses.

    circle of influence

    Join our Community!

    • Are you looking for professional positive reinforcement advice?
    • Do you want an affordable program?
    • Do you want to turn your equestrian dreams into reality, but you don’t know where to start?

    If you have answered ‘Yes’ to one or more of the above questions look into one of the online programs HippoLogic has to offer.

    Join our community for online positive reinforcement training tips, personal advice and support in training your horse.

    Shape the community

    If you’re interested to become a member of the HippoLogic tribe, please tell me what you want in this short questionnaire. Thanks a lot!

    HippoLogic.jpg
    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!
    Sign up for my newsletter (it comes with a gift) here: HippoLogic’s website.

    Take action. Start for free!

    Book a free 60 minute Discovery Session to get a glimpse of a new future with your horse. In this conversation we’ll explore:

    • Your hopes and dreams and goals so that we can see what’s possible for you and your horse

      Key to Success in Horse Training

      Your Key to Success

    • Where you’re now, where you want to go and which path is right for you
    • What’s holding you back so you can make a plan to get these hurdles out of your way.

    At the end of the call I’ll give you some ideas and advice for your next step and if it looks like a fit, we can explore what it looks like to work together.

    Simply check the best time for you in my online calendar and click to reserve your free call today.

    Follow my blog  on Bloglovin

    Children and Horses

    Maybe a better title is “Parents and children in barns”. It is so normal to teach children “Don’t run in the stables, don’t pet strange horses and don’t walk behind a horse”. Does it help? I have seen so many times that parents, mostly moms, keep yelling the same phrases for years. Without results. Why would that be?

    I am not a psychologist but I did read a lot about Neuro Liguistic Programming (NLP). The brain works like this: it focuses on the most important piece of information in the sentence:  “run”, “pet” and “walk”. The brain has trouble focusing on the negative (the don’t), so the brain processes the rest: “…run in the stables”, “…pet strange horses” and “… walk behind the Bond bteween child and horse_hippologichorse”. Does that make sense? Do you see it happening? Yes, that is how the brain works. Do not think about an elephant. (I’ve always had trouble thinking of an pink elephant). A simple rule is: focus on what you do want to happen in the barn. On how you do want your child to act around horses.

    Here are my rules in the barn:

    1. Always walk in the stable
    2. Use your “indoor voice”. Horses have sensitive ears.
    3. Ask permission before feeding or petting a horse
    4. Ask: “Is it safe?” and wait for an answer if there is a horse you have to walk by.
    5. You can give the commands to our horse, but mommy click & treats the horse.

    These rules were wonderful for a 3 year old. Along the way, kids get more responsibilities and that means rules can change or other rules are added.

    Sandra Poppema
    Follow my blog with Bloglovin

     

    How to … Listen to Horses

    Have you ever had the experience that you followed your horses’ lead and you found out something unexpected?

    A story
    One day my clients horse was very obstructive. He wouldn’t let her mount, he kept walking away and when she finally managed -with a lot of patience- to sit down, he bucked. That was a bit out of character, so I asked her to dismount. The moment she did, her stallion immediately acted much nicer.

    I asked her a lot of questions: did she know why he was suddenly bolting? Could he be sore from the day before? Did something change in the herd? Could one of the mares be in heat? And so on. Alle the answers were ‘No’. We decided to check his saddle. In the meanwhile I asked if she had done something out of the ordinary. She said: I saddled him in the outdoor arena. I put my saddle on the (wooden) fence. We checked his saddle and we found a huge splinter/piece of wood in his saddle pad that was bothering him. We got rid of the splinter, saddled the stallion and all problems where gone instantly.

    We want friendship, partnership and to be a team with our horse. We always want the horse to listen to us. But shouldn’t we listen as often to our horse as the horse listens to us in a friendship? We are a team, right? Is your partner or team member allowed to vote or have a voice?

    _hippologic_talking to the horse

    First sign your horse wants to talk to you
    ‘Disobedient’. If your horse needs to tell you an important message, he always will act differently. That is his only way to communicate he needs to tell you something important. I put the word disobedient between quotation marks because I don’t believe in disobedient horses. I do believe they have good reasons not to please us, if they do. ‘Listening’ to your horse isn’t listening. It is observing your horse. He is not ‘telling’ you his message, he communicates it through body language and actions. Remember that.

    How to ‘listen’
    OK, I actually mean ‘How to observe, so you can get the message‘. First, let go of your own agenda! What!? Yes!

    Think about what you want from your horse when he is ‘not listening’ and he is trying ‘to speak to you’, then let your agenda go for a moment. You are not ‘losing’ anything when you give up your goal in that moment. You can only win. The horse wins. It will be a win-win situation. That will strengthen the team spirit.

    Focus on what your horse needs in that moment. Open your mind. Focus on what you know about horses natural behaviours and needs. He needs safety, clarity, health, his herd and so on. What do you see: Does he wants to flee, does he freeze, what does he wants to do if you let him? What clues is he giving you?

    Give your horse responsibility
    Let your horse ‘talk’ to you by giving him a bit more freedom to see where he is leading you. What does his strange behaviour tell you? Can you think of a reason? Focus on his needs. If he is bucking, check the saddle, the saddle pad, the girth, his back and so on. Does he refuse to go into the arena? Where does he want to go?

    Figure it out
    Try to think of reasons why he doesn’t want to do what you want him to do. Especially when he normally doesn’t act this way. What has changed since the last time you asked this specific thing you want him to do? Did you change something? Did you do something you normally wouldn’t do? Do you think this is related? Can you check that?

    Accept ‘not knowing’
    Sometimes you don’t know the answer(s). So you can ask your horse again to follow your lead. If he still doesn’t want to please you, follow your gut. Not your ego. Your ego can’t stand that you don’t know the answer to the questions ‘What is wrong, my dear?’, so it will urge you to make decisions that makes ‘you look right’ (make the horse obedient).

    Breathe, check in with your gut feeling. Just take a moment or two if you need to. Accept that you might not know the answer, sometimes you will never know. You only will know you did the right thing by listening to your horse and changed your plans or goal for that day. Sometimes you’re lucky and Captain Hind Sight makes it clear to you. Then you will be very pleased that you listened to your horse, not to other people.

    Examples
    I have hundreds of examples of listening to horses messages. What are your horses’ stories? I’d love to hear them.

    Related posts
    What to do if your horse doesn’t listen? (A question about Clicker training)
    How to build a relationship with our horse
    Recipe for a Magical Bond
    Keeping an open mind is a challenge

    If you think this is a blog that someone can benefit from, please use one of the share buttons  below. Or post your comment, I read them all!

    Or simply hit the like button so I know you appreciated this blog. Thank you!

    HippoLogic.jpg
    Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
    My mission is to improve human-horse relationships. I reconnect horse women with their inner wisdom and teach them the principles of learning and motivation, so they become confident and skilled to train their horse in a safe and effective way that is a lot of FUN for both human and horse. Win-win.
    Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a reinforcer) or visit HippoLogic’s website and discover my online 8 week course Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Positive Reinforcement Horse Training.
    Follow my blog  on Bloglovin

    Tips for buying your perfect horse

    I’ve seen a lot of tips and tricks about buying a horse, but strange enough none of them spoke about how your future horse will fit into your equestrian dreams and goals. What is the most important thing you wish you could do with your (future) horse? Have you thought about this at all?

    Emotions versus rational
    When people buy horses they are often led by their emotions instead of their wit. That’s ok. If you have examined your KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAdreams and thought about the most important features for your future horse, it is more likely that you will end up with a horse that is a good match.

    As riding instructor I’ve seen riders buying horses that weren’t a good fit for their dreams because they didn’t give their dream enough thought before they bought. They were excited to buy a horse and were just focused on buying “a horse”, not “a perfect match”.

    I would like to help you prevent this pitfall, because you can end up creating unnecessary (extra removed) obstacles to achieve your dream and become happy. So you don’t have regrets if you discover you had unconscious dreams that give you that unaccomplished feeling.

    What is your dream?
    Most equestrian dreams have seeds in your youth. When you grow up they stay somewhere in the back of your mind and you don’t realize that they are still there. “Are your old dreams still valid?” is another post about this subject.

    Maybe you discover that you’ve always have wanted to ride on the beach, but now you would enjoy endurance riding much more. Or you’ve always wanted a tall, high energetic horse, but now that your older you would be much more happy, safe and comfortable with a reliable, quiet breed.

    Ask yourself: What was my dream? And: What are my dreams and goals now?

    Does the breed serve your purpose?
    If you really want to make your equestrian dreams become a reality, take into consideration which breed would be more likely to serve your purpose.

    If you are a bit anxious and your dream is trail riding, I would suggest that you look for a breed that has comfortable gaits and an easygoing character. Think about choosing a gaited horse, for example the Paso Fino or an Icelandic horse.

    Read as much as you can about the breed, their history, their purpose in history, advantages and disadvantages. Visit breeders and try out a few horses to compare differences within one breed.

    Icelandic horses are small so that can be a nice feature, but some can be very ‘hot’. Does the size of the horse fit you? Does the breed fit your budget? Is owning a purebred very important to you or can you be just as happy with a crossbreed (remove with the same features)? If your dream is to breed or to win halter classes, owning a pure bred is more important than when your future horse is going to be a companion horse. All important questions to consider.

    Write it down
    Talk about your expectations and you dreams with a friend, so your vision becomes very clear in your mind (read about finding an accountability partner here). Prioritize your list. Is owing a beautiful horse more important than comfortable gaits? Are you prepared to compromise on gender? On colour? Conformation? Size? Breed? Purpose? Health?

    What would you do if you came across a horse with itch? Are you prepared to give the horse lots of extra care and blankets? What about laminitis? Do you think you can/would like to handle that? I think you can handle it, but what about all the worries that brings? Are you willing to deal with that? You will be worried if your fur baby is sick, don’t take this lightly.

    Don’t forget to write it all down. The best thing about writing your ideas down is that your subconscious will work on them.

    Buying with your heart
    Of course it will happen: you are going to look for ‘that special horse’ and it isn’t a match, but that poor little thing standing in the back of the barn… She is so adorable. Let’s have a look….KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

    This is where your list comes in handy. Even when you didn’t bring it, you will immediately know on what points you will have to compromise if you buy the ‘opposite’ of what you had in mind. The white mare instead of that buck skin gelding that is on your list. That is totally fine. Why? Because you make that decision deliberately. You might also see that she has a a lot of other features that are high on your priority list, like comfortable gaits or a gentle character.

    You will know that you will be very happy with this horse, even though it isn’t the perfect match on paper it will be in your heart.

    Sandra Poppema

    What to do if your horse is mugging you

    In clicker training we use often treats as rewards. Why? Food is a primary reinforcer and therefor it motivates most horses. Giving treats as reward or as ‘pay’ for a well done job is highly motivating for the horse. Treats are easy to dispense, it’s a quick delivery and small enough to fit sufficient rewards for one session in your pocket.__safety_hippologic

    One of my key lessons is to teach a horse how to behave around food and treats. What to do if your horse isn’t behaving very safe around food? Well, you can decide to find another reinforcer or better yet you can work on your horses behaviour. The first step is to make sure you are working safely. Getting mugged is no fun and losing a finger in the process is even worse.

    Work with a barrier between you and your horse until your horse is behaving safely around food. Polite behaviour around food is one of the Key Lessons in clicker training.

    Grabbing the treat
    Some horses turn to mugging because they have lost treats in the past. This may have been because the handler dropped the food or pulled their hands back as the horse was reaching for it. They have adopted a get it while they can attitude. Sometimes its a phase and they just need to be taught proper table manners again.

    Possible solutions
    Make sure your horse knows the rule: first a click then a treat.

    Only take a treat in your hand after the click. Never the other way around: take a treat, wait for the behaviour you want to reinforce and then click and treat. Always click first, then take and present the treat. This accomplishes three very important things which is why I repeat it so often:

    1. Your horse isn’t distracted by your filled hand and neither are you.
    2. Your horse has no reason to be nibbling or biting at you.
    3. With improper timing your hand reaching for the treat becomes the bridge instead of your click. Horses are incredibly perceptive and will pick up your behaviour before you realize it.

    Always bring the treat to your horse, don’t invite the horse to come and get it. Use a stretched arm and deliver the treat near his mouth quickly and calmly after the click.

    Deliver the treat directly at the lips of your horse, so he doesn’t have to be afraid he can’t reach it or he has to search for it.

    Exercises
    Speed up your RoR (Rate of Reinforcement). Click and treat as soon as your horse is keeping his lips still and is not displaying the grabbing behaviour. If he is not using his teeth to get the treat, you can present the treat in a closed first. Wiggle your fist if he nibbles your hand, click and open your hand immediately if he stops moving his lips/mouth for a second or if he looks away.

    Encourage (click) all the behaviour that you want: looking away when you put your hand in your pocket, keeping his mouth closed and lips still when you present a treat in a closed fist.

    Safety
    If your horse is using his teeth you can present the treats in a shallow food bowl or lightweight frying pan to prevent injury.

    _safe_horses_handfeeding_hippologic

    Some horses are better at taking large treats, eg big chunks of apple or whole (small) carrots to help reassure him that he gets the treat easily. Some horses will be encouraged to use their lips instead of their teeth if you give them smaller treats (grain). Try out different food sizes to find the one that works best for you and your horse.

    Try a context shift for example you can feed your horse from above. Hold a large treat high so your horse has to keep his head up. He’s probably not used to taking a treat from above, so he has to use his lips and thus preventing him from using his teeth.

    KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

    Have fun clicker training your horse and let me know how it goes.

    Sandra Poppema
    For tailored advise, please visit my website

    Follow my blog with Bloglovin

    Dangers of working with food (warning about Clicker Training)

    I always warn people that keeping a horse can be a hazardous business. I remember the day my best friend bought a beautiful young Frisian stallion and I warned her:”Be careful. Keeping horses and taking care of them can be dangerous.”

    Daily dangers

    The first day her finger got stuck between the stall door. And a few days later her other finger got caught in the lead rope while she was tying her horse. Well, it was her first horse, what can I say… Horses and or being around them can be dangerous.

    Clicker Challenge
    Yesterday I wanted to do some clicker training sessions with Kyra. I am participating in a Clicker Challenge on Facebook. The end goal is to position the horse 1 meter in front of a pedestal made of 2 little blocks of wood or stepping stones, give your horse a cue to mount the stones, let him stand for 20 seconds, reward and then dismount backing up.

    _cutting_carrot_hippologicAnyway, Kyra’s best motivator is food, so that’s the reward I use the most.

    Dangers of working with food as reinforcers
    I think everyone has heard about the dangers working with food as a training tool. Yesterday I got hurt for the first time!

    Myths
    I am not talking about the myths about using food as training tool, like ‘your horse will become pushy and will mug you‘ or ‘your horse will try to bite you in order to get the food’. We all know that this is key lesson #1 in clicker training: teaching your horse to behave around food. Here I am talking about something else. Let me explain.

    Pay attention
    I was preparing the treats. I wasn’t paying attention, which was my mistake, and I cut my thumb! Ouch! It was a really deep cut and I can tell you it hurt. Badly. It was bleeding and bleeding and wouldn’t stop at first. Arggg, I just had my camera set-up and was planning to video my training.

    Although the pain was bad, worst of all: it is my favourite clicker thumb, my left one.  Now what? Pressing a clicker with the top of your thumb hanging loose wasn’t an option. And although it wasn’t a very nice experience, I had to laugh a little at myself. I am always telling people that there is no danger in working with food as training tool… Now I am injured. Worst of all: by myself. Please don’t laugh.

    Warning
    Any way, I just want to warn you all: PAY ATTENTION while cutting your apples and carrots. Or be safe and choose grain, pellets or treats you don’t have to cut. Just saying… horse training can be a hazardous business. 🙂

    _danger_clicker training_hippologic

    PS I did train and used my right hand to click and feed. A bit ungainly but the show training must go on. Kyra didn’t care about my injury. I think she was just thrilled that I trained her anyway. Left or right hand, a click sounds like a click.

    Join our Community!

    • Are you looking for professional positive reinforcement advice?
    • Do you want an affordable program?
    • Do you want to turn your equestrian dreams into reality, but you don’t know where to start?

    If you have answered ‘Yes’ to one or more of the above questions look into one of the online programs HippoLogic has to offer.

    Join our community for online positive reinforcement training tips, personal advice and support in training your horse.

    Shape the community

    If you’re interested to become a member of the HippoLogic tribe, please tell me what you want in this short questionnaire. Thanks a lot!

    HippoLogic.jpg
    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!
    Sign up for my newsletter (it comes with a gift) here: HippoLogic’s website.

    Take action. Start for free!

    Book a free 60 minute Discovery Session to get a glimpse of a new future with your horse. In this conversation we’ll explore:

    • Your hopes and dreams and goals so that we can see what’s possible for you and your horse

      Key to Success in Horse Training

      Your Key to Success

    • Where you’re now, where you want to go and which path is right for you
    • What’s holding you back so you can make a plan to get these hurdles out of your way.

    At the end of the call I’ll give you some ideas and advice for your next step and if it looks like a fit, we can explore what it looks like to work together.

    Simply check the best time for you in my online calendar and click to reserve your free call today.

    Follow my blog  on Bloglovin

    5 reasons NOT to start clicker training

    Here are 5 reasons NOT to start with clicker training. Take a look and decide for yourself.

    Noooooo!!!

    1) It takes time to learn a new skill: you need to develop handling new tools (like a clicker, target stick and food) and a whole different approach to training and riding. Like: giving the horse a choice to work with you. What if my horse says: “No!” to me? Better not take that chance…

    2) You have to find out what rewards motivates your horse. And then let the horse   decide what he likes best. What!? The horse may determine what is rewarding to him?

    It is much quicker and easier not to think about this and motivate him with a little or a little more pressure and ignore that awkward feeling in your heart about it, isn’t it? After all, it is the result that counts, not how you accomplished it. Or… how would a horse feel about this, if he could?

    3) You have to decide what your goal is, then make a plan and divide it into as many steps as you can. Why not directly aim for the goal? I think I’ll_SMART take the shortcut, even though I’ve heard there are no real shortcuts in horse training.

    4) You need some kind of a training journal to keep track of your goals and cues, your achievements and then write it down as a positive statement. That takes more skills to develop…

    Do I really want to be more positive towards my horse and myself? Do I really want to film any progress and enjoy it later? Do I really need to discover my goals and achieve them?

    Cherishing a vague dream is much easier, you never have to make efforts to make it happen and the best thing is: you can’t FAIL! Ha!

    5) The relationship with your horse changes for the better: the horse becomes highly motivated to work with you. He will come to you in the pasture and will call out for you. He learns to trust you fully, because now ‘training’ equals ‘learning’ equals ‘fun’. ‘Trying’ will be rewarded and the horse will be very cooperative in order to find out what it is that you want him to do.

    Isn’t the  friendship with a horse overrated? Who needs a furry friend who can make your heart melt?

    Sandra Poppema

    _ogen2

    R+, reward-based training and how to apply it on ME

    Wow, the other day when I was walking my meditation walk in the woods it hit me! There is still something missing in my training own life and I discovered what it was… I was totally surprised. So simple and why didn’t I recognize this earlier?

    A few months ago I rediscovered EFT (Emotional Freedom Tapping) / ‘tapping’. I’ve been ‘tapping’ like crazy to change certain mindsets that are keeping me back.

    When I was walking in the beautiful rain forest near my house and became really settled down in my thoughts, I suddenly realized that I am still full of R- and Negative Punishment towards myself.

    I am ‘beating myself up’ mentally about all kinds of things in order to get those things done or done better, faster and so Rewards aheadon. Doesn’t work on me, let me tell you that, but I still do it. I tried this approach to train my horse, but my stubborn pony didn’t want to work for me, if I treated him like that: become better first and maybe you get some reward… later.

     

    Anyway, I started tapping on my inner critic and started to change my mindset to ‘reward the slightest try’ for myself to be a better spouse, mom, me, trainer, friend, blogger, business woman et cetera.

    Using Reward-Based training on myself gives me the complete opposite feeling from nagging myself about things. I now feel very supported and loved by myself. And… things get done now. With a smile. And a satisfied feeling, too. I found an upwards spiral! Wow!

    Focus op elke voortgang, focus on every progress

    This pic says: ↖ REWARDS – PUNISHMENT ↘

     

    Why did it have to take so many years to realize that I am still not applying R+ 100% on myself? Yes, I use it on my hubby, my son, my clients and total strangers with great results, but why was I not using it on me? Of course it is easier to see and appoint  progress in others than in yourself. I thought I did support myself, but when I was meditating in the woods I noticed that I was still criticizing me.

    I kept telling myself that I hadn’t not yet reached perfection to earn a compliment or reward. Of course, it is just a coping system I learned when I was little. But it is never too late or too difficult to change, right? Now I have found the right tool, like EFT, to help me change now.

    I can acknowledge every little step towards success in my process now and focus on that,Reward the slightest try instead of focusing on all the steps I have not reached yet.

     

    One step at the time and I am doing a great job! Well done, Sandra!

    Sandra Poppema

    Secret of succes is ...