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

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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.
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How to … Keep-going

What is a keep-going signal (KGS), why do you need it and how can you teach it?

What is it?
_keep going signal_hippologicA keep-going signal is used to tell your horse that he is doing the right thing and that he should keep doing it in order to earn a click and reward.

Purpose
A keep-going signal can be very useful in building duration of an behaviour. Not all horses ‘need’ a KGS. Sometimes withholding a click will work, too. Just experiment with it.

A KGS can also be used as encouragement and signal that the horse has to keep doing what he is doing.

A KGS can help prevent frustration. Some horses will get frustrated if they don’t get a click soon enough and will give up. If they hear a keep-going signal, they will know that the click will follow.

A keep-going signal also helps you get more behaviour per click. So basically you click & reward less often. Which can make the clicks even more desirable for the horse, since he doesn’t get them as often anymore.

Working on stamina in trotHow do you train it
Horses are smart and they quickly learn to anticipate cues. They will learn that after a keep-going signal, that has no meaning yet, the click & reward follows.

Choose a word that you would otherwise not use in either training or speaking to your horse. Choose a word that can be extended easily.

Introduce the keep-going signal in a behaviour that already has a duration of a few seconds, so you have time enough to introduce it. Slowly you extend the time between the keep-going signal and the click:

Cue behaviour + keep-going + click & reward (repeat several times)
Cue behaviour + keep-going + 1 second + click & reward (repeat several times)

Cue behaviour + 1 second + keep-going+ 2 seconds + click & reward (repeat several times)

And so on. Make sure your horse doesn’t get too frustrated by the removal of the click. Later on you can also extend the time before using the keep-going signal.

Cue behaviour + 1 second + keep-going+ 1 second + click & reward (repeat several times)

With a keep-going signal you can help prevent the horse from getting frustrated, since you can indicate what he has to do to earn his reward.

Related post: Reward-based training is…

Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.

_Kyra_en_ik_hippologicWould you like to hear more about a keep-going signal or do you have a question about clicker training your horse? Click here to connect and I will be more than happy to help another horse-human relationship blossom.

 
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6 Tips to bond with your horse

In order to bond with your horse you don’t need magic, like this recipe. I believe that everyone who is dedicated tho their horse can develop a heart-to-heart connection with their horse. You don’t have to have a lot of talent.Trust

#1 Spent time with your horse
The more time you spend, the better you will know each other. It is not a prerequisite, but it sure does help. With spending time I am not only referring to riding. Think of other ways to spend time with your horse: hand walking, hand grazing, grooming, horse agility/groundwork and playing. The more time you spent in all kinds of situations, the better you will learn to know each other. You will learn about your horses’fears, what he likes and dislikes, if he is energetic, what attracts his attentions, how bold he is etc.

#2 Observe your horse
Learn as much as you can about body language and behaviour. Take some time to just sit and watch your horse in the pasture, in his stable or paddock. What does he do when he doesn’t know you are there? How does he interacts with other horses?

#3 Make horses and their behaviour a point of study
Horses and humans do have the same emotions, but not necessarily the same needs. Where we humans sometimes can have the urge to spend some time alone, for a prey animal that lives in herds is is not a safe thing to choose: to separate themselves from the herd. What do horses need in order to be happy or have their safety needs full filled? Do they like to graze in the sun, in the rain, the wind, snow. What bothers them? Are there specific insects that irritate him, how do you know? Does he have friends in the herd? How would you recognize that?

_hippologic_listening to your horse_clicker_training

#4 Don’t let your ego get in the way while training your horse
If a horse is not reacting the way you want him to it might not be because he wants to deliberately counteract your goal. The horse is not trying to “win”. A horse is a reactive and responsive prey animal that sometimes just reacts according his instincts or his expectations. Or he reacts a certain way because he simply thinks that is what you meant. Make yourself familiar with the learning theory. Be consistent and reward often. Never blame the horse if things are not going like you expected them to be. The horse isn’t thinking about that!

#5 Be fun to be around
Make sure it is rewarding for your horse to spent time with you. Try to be more reinforcing than the herd you take him from if you are doing things together. If he is in a stall most of the day, where there is not much to eat, where they are restricted from interaction or exercise you know what to do, see #3.

#6 Be yourself
Be honest with yourself and respect your own limits. If you try to act braver than you actually feel, chances are that you are doing things or taking risks you otherwise would not take. Making mistakes is part of life, but I suggest reducing the risk.

Don’t train or ride a horse you are afraid of. Work on that fear first. If you are afraid to be close to a horse, work with a protective barrier until you think it is safe. If you don’t want to trot, canter or jump with a specific horse, ride him in walk or just sit on him standing until you do feel safe enough to try it.

HippoLogic.jpgSandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I improve the human-horse relationships by reconnecting you with your inner wisdom and teach you the principles of learning and motivation, so you become confident and knowledgeable to train your horse in an effective and FUN way. Win-win for horse and human.
All my programs are focused on building your confidence and provide you with  a detailed step-by-step formula to train horses with 100% positive reinforcement.
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free) or visit HippoLogic’s website.
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Recipe for a Magical Bond

Have you ever seen people that seems to have a magical bond with their horse? I mean riders who can ride their horse without using visible reins or leg aids or even ride their horses around without bridle and saddle. Owners who can calm down their horse even in extreme situations, like when they are badly hurt or panicking. Horses that always like to go for a ride and come cantering or nickering to the gate to greet their owner.

Have you ever thought what you have to do, to develop that special bond, that creates a life long relationship with your horse?

In the books and magazines I used to read when I was a child, it all came natural to those people. They never had to work on their skills. I’ve always wished I could achieve the same. I don’t know if a part of it came natural to me and if so what part that would be. Maybe the only part that came natural to me was my interest in this magnificent animal and the ‘urge’ to connect with them. To work together, like a unity. Build a friendship with a horse. I think I found the recipe to achieve that magical bond.

Recipe to create a magical bond with your horse

Take two pounds of knowledge of natural behaviour and a pound of knowledge of a horses natural needs. Mix in a scoop of  learning theory. Put it in a big cauldron and let it simmer for two weeks on a low fire.

Take the cauldron off of the fire at full moon and add a spoonful of talent and two scoops of patience. Stir carefully until it is smooth and put it back on the fire until the next full moon.

Let the mix cool down a bit and pour in two bottles of common sense, a pinch of cautiousness, a pinch of dare, two table spoons of feel‘ and one package of anatomy (is often found in the same package as health care, put that in too if you have it). Let it cool down in the morning mist in a horse pasture.

When fully cooled, warm it back up with as much love as needed. Add sugar for extra sweetness. If you have some experience and or innovativeness, any amount will do, put that in too.

Pour in silver plated crystal phials. Share among friends while first the sunbeam touches your favourite horse.hippologic_sunset

Warning: Do NOT let any horses sniff or drink it!

Sandra Poppema

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DIY learn-a-dressage-test board

Memorizing a dressage test can be difficult. You can read the test over and over, but if you’re a ‘visual learner’ it helps to ‘see’ the test. In that case a dressage-test-board can help you.

With a dressage-test-board you can ‘ride’ the test on the board and make the exercises visual. I used to practise my tests on (many sheets of ) paper, but nowadays there is the white board. Yeey!

Supplies
White board
1 permanent marker (black)
3 white board/dry erase markers (blue, green, red)
ruler
plan with arena letters

DIY_dressage_test_board_by_hippologic_2015 Instructions
Take the plan with the arena letters as example. Draw a rectangle with the permanent marker on the white board. The long sides of the arena represent 40 meters, the short sides represent 20 m. Keep that in mind while drawing the ‘arena’, so the proportions long-short side stay 2:1.

Write the arena letters, start with C on the top short side. The order clockwise is C-M-B-F-A-K-E-H. The jury is always at C.

The letter X is in the middle of the arena, on the A-C line and between E and B. The letters G and D are ‘invisible’ and are on the A-C line, G lies between H and M and D lies between K and F.

You can also write down the dimensions with the permanent marker: long side 40 metres, short side 20 metres. F, K, H, M are 6 metres from the corner. B and E are in the middle of the long side, C and A on the short side of the arena. Once you’ve written down the dimensions, you can see how a 20 or 10 metre circle at B or E looks like.

Practising
When you have a dressage test you want to memorize you take your 3 white board markers and start ‘riding’ the test. Each colour represents a gait. It will help you visualize your test. Good luck!

Sandra Poppema

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practise_dressage_test_hippologic_DIY_board_2015

 

 

Best Basics: House-training for Horses

When I put a picture on Facebook of Kyra pooping next to the poop bin in the indoor arena, a lot of people asked me how I potty trained my pony.

_Horses_only_washroom_byHippologic

 

 

Clicker training

Kyra was already clicker savvy, so she knows really well that after a click of my clicker, she will get a reward. The click pinpoints the behaviour. In order to get more of the wanted behaviour, the best results are obtained by rewarding the animal while (s)he is doing the wanted behaviour or within 3 seconds after the wanted behaviour.

A clicker acts as a bridge between the wanted behaviour and the moment of giving the reward. So I didn’t have to reward her within or during the wanted behaviour, I only had to ‘bridge’ (click) during the behaviour that I wanted to capture and then bring her the reward. That came in handy at liberty.

Start easy

In the beginning my criterion was really low. In my mind I divided the indoor arena in two halves: the half with the poop bin (light green rectangle) in it and the other half.

Every time she needed to poop I asked her very gently to maintain gait until she was in the “proper half” of the arena if possible. Often we didn’t reach that half. Maintaining a trot was never possible, but at least she kept walking. A few steps.

It wasn’t really about maintaining gait, but more about making the wanted behaviour easy.

_house-train_potty-train_horse_hippologic

If she needed to go poop and we were in the half of the arena where the poop bin is located (green striped area), she was allowed to stand still to take her washroom break. Why? Because pooping while walking, trotting or cantering leaves a long trail of poop.

Like I said, I don’t like to waste time on poop scooping in the arena. On top of that I clicked and rewarded her with a handful of treats during pooping. She learned that pooping was rewarded sometimes, whereas other times it was not. It was up to Kyra to figure this out. And she did!

Raising my criteria

After a certain period I realized that Kyra was 100% of the time pooping in the half of the arena where the bin is located. That was a sign for me to raise my criterion.

I divided the “designated poop area” in half again (pink striped area). So now the space where I let her stand still to poop and click and reward her for pooping was about a quarter of the arena size.

After a while she discovered that the had to go poop in a certain corner of the arena. Every time I had the feeling that she “got it”, I raised the criterion and made the “allowed area” a bit smaller in my mind (dark blue striped area).

Correcting my mistake

The poop bin is located in the same corner where the shavings are stored. Kyra thought she had to poop in the shavings, which was an obvious mistake (yellow/orange area). After all, her stall is full of shavings where she poops in. So I began to watch her closely, because she usually pooped in the shavings when she was in the arena all by herself. This was a learning point and failure is the best way to success (I decided to ‘fail forward’ and adjusted my training).

Under saddle I could catch her going in the shavings one time and gently let her out of it. She only had to take one or two steps (towards the bin). Then she pooped next to the bin and not in the shavings. She had earned herself a jackpot. [read here more about -> “rewards and jackpots“<-] After a few times she learned that “in the shavings” wouldn’t get her a reward.

Goal

Now my goal is to let her poop in the bin, so I don’t have to clean up at all. Wouldn’t that be awesome? I’ll let you know when we get there.

UPDATE (Jan 2017)

Here is the sequence on this blog: I accomplished my shittiest goal ever! In which I tell you about how I taught Kyra to poop in the manure wheelbarrow. It even has a video! Go on and check it out!

What’s holding you back?

4 Main reasons people get stuck in training their horse (free training)

 Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.

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

Deworm your Horse in 6 Easy Steps

_dewormingcanbe_Years ago deworming meant stress for me and my first pony. Sholto was not really hard to deworm, but I had to be cautious. He could move his head down in a split second and sometimes that meant that I pinched the syringe in his palate. Or, I emptied the syringe while he was moving his head sideways and all the dewormer paste squirted in the air because the syringe was sticking out of his mouth on the other end.

When I started using clicker training my mind was focused on teaching Sholto tricks. It never crossed my mind to use clicker training to teach my horse things like ‘happily accepting a deworming treatment’.  For the World Equine Clicker Games 2013 I made a video about easy deworming with my current horse Kyra.

Targeting the syringe
Kyra had already mastered the key lesson ‘targeting’. So she knows that touching an object on my cue is rewarded. I started using a cleaned old dewormer syringe as a target.

Session 1: touch the syringe. Some horses have very negative associations with dewormers and for those horses ‘looking at the syringe’ could be the first step.

Desensitize the corner of the mouth
Session 2: In order to empty a dewormer in a horses mouth, you have to empty it at the back of their tongue. The easiest way to enter their mouth is in the corner, where they have no teeth. The horse must accept the syringe touching the corner of his mouth.

Accept the syringe
When Kyra accepted the syringe against a corner of her mouth, it was time to take the third step in this training process. Putting the syringe in her mouth. I use the verbal cue ‘open’.

I always let Kyra come to the syringe to test if she doesn’t think the syringe is an aversive.

Accepting a substance
Step 5 is getting the horse to swallow the paste. Often the paste is a surprise to the horse, so you can train your horse to be ready for it.

I tested first if Kyra would like applesauce. She wasn’t crazy for it, but she ate it. Good enough for session 4: accepting a substance out of the syringe.

I use a cue word to warn Kyra ‘something is coming’. I don’t want to surprise her with something with a bad taste.

The real thing
The sixth step of this process was the real dewormer. Because a lot of rewards were involved in this training, Kyra doesn’t have negative associations with the deworming syriche. The syringe is now associated with good things (clicks and rewards).

I never expected that it would become this easy. Now I can deworm Kyra without a halter and without any stress.

Every time before I deworm Kyra I start with a short reminder session with a few clicks and rewards.

Of course you can also try to put the dewormer paste in a sandwich and just feed it to your horse. I’ve seen that working with some horses, too.

Here is my One minute deworming video:

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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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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

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  • Where you’re now, where you want to go and which path is right for you
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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.

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DIY: a golden clicker

Today I am going to share a DIY project: How to turn a ordinary looking clicker into serious eye candy. After all, if you are a clicker trainer you’re using this tool daily. It might as well look pretty and reflect your personality.

Since all my tack is Havana brown with brass, I thought it would be nice to add a ‘Golden’ Clicker to my collection._DIY golden clicke_ hippologic

Materials:
– a clicker
– a pair of scissors
– a hobby knife
– golden duct tape
– glue gun
– trim
– wooden stick

Step 1: duct tape
First you measure the amount of duct tape you need to cover the ends of the clicker. Cut the duct tape with scissors. Don’t tear it, because the tape will get stretched and you’ll get wrinkles.

Then you measure the peace of tape for the middle of the clicker. Cover the whole clicker in tape and cut a small circle out above the ‘metal sound maker’, where the hole is. Carefully make some cuts in the circle, so you can fold in the borders nicely.

Then measure a little piece of duct tape to cover the metal ‘sound maker’ of your clicker. Stick it onto the metal. Now your clicker is covered in gold! Wow!

Step 2: Finishing touch
Use for the finishing touch some bling-bling trim and glue it to the sides of your golden clicker. Use only a little bit of the hot glue at a time. Use the wooden stick to press the trim to the clicker without burning your fingers!

Now your bling-bling eye-candy super-duper clicker is ready to use!

Tip_rearview_mirror_hippologic
If you think it is too beautiful to use you can hang it on your rear view mirror in your car. I find it the best place to store a few extra clickers. They always come in handy if you’ve lost a clicker.

Instruction video
Here is my DIY Golden Clicker video about this project.
I also have saved some of the bloopers, like my cat who jumps on the table, sits in my chair and more.

Share your ideas
Please let me know if you have personalized your clicker and how you did it. I am looking forward t_silver_gold_clicker_hippologico your creative ideas.

You can share yours in the comments below or place a link to your project.

Sandra Poppema

 

 

 

How I taught my horse to nicker at me

I’ve always wanted a horse that called me. The nicker**)  they use is often so heartwarming and soft. A warm welcome to their human. My first pony Sholto whinnied to me in the field when he came cantering to me. Here is a video of Sholto cantering and whinnying when I wistle to call him. 

Kyra never whinnied or nickered to me, until recently.

How did I teach her to call me? It was accidental, to be honest. In hindsight it took quite a lot of patience if I had to teach her on purpose. How did I set it up for success?

Kyra’s stall is in the back of the barn. I have a certain routine that starts with saying ‘Hello’ to Kyra and petting her a few moments. Then I open my tack locker and start the rest of the routine.

This winter I ran into my barn fellows and started to talk. And talk. And talk. If you have a horse, you know how this goes. If you’re talking about horses, it’s hard to stop.

Kyra couldn’t see me but she could hear me talking. That happened a few times.  Of course she wanted to communicate to me that I had to come. Since we couldn’t see each other she had to use a sound. I am happy that she is never been reinforced for kicking the boards.

So one night, while I was being held up in the front of the barn, she nickered to me. Of course I ran over and gave her a lot of attention.

A few weeks later, the same thing happened: I ran into my friend and we talked and talked and Kyra could hear me, but couldn’t see me. So she called me again. I captured the behaviour by bridging and giving treats. And of course my full attention. Jackpot!

It didn’t take long for her to figure out that if she is in the pasture, that she now has a way to let me come over to her. I reinforce it, because I like it.

 

**) See this list [-> click here <-] of all horse behaviour sounds to learn the difference between a nicker and a whinny

Sandra Poppema

10 steps to your dream horse

airs_above_ground

I dream about ‘airs above the ground’

1 Think about your dream

What would your ultimate dream with your horse look like? What are you doing? Who is involved? Are you excited (eventing) or relaxed (trailriding)? Take your time to figure out what your ultimate dream really is.

2 Set goals

What do you need in order to achieve your goal (see #1). What skills do you and your horse need? Make your goals S.M.A.R.T. SMART goals Hippologic

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement (e.g. dressage)
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress (e.g. dressage test level 1 with X points)
  • Assignable – specify who will do it
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved

3 Learn more about reward-based horse training

Reward-based horse training makes the results (behaviours) very reliable. Antoine de Pluvinel (1552 -1620) already said: “You can never rely on a horse that is educated by fear. There will be always be something that he fears more than you. But, when he trusts you, he will ask you what to do when he is afraid.” In reward-based training the horse is allowed to ‘ask questions’ and make mistakes. He will simply learn quickly because he is rewarded by something pleasurable when he ‘gives the right answer’. That makes the horse looks actively for the right answers. In other words: he will be eager to work with you and do as you ask.

4 Divide your big goals into smaller goals.

Make a list of all the behaviours your horse needs to master. Make for each behaviour a list with as many steps as you can think of to describe all the building blocks of the behaviours you want to teach your horse. The smaller the steps, the easier it is to achieve them. Think about your criteria: when are you going to the next behaviour? And write down what rewards you will be using. Remember: it must rewarding for the horse. It is the receiver that determines the reward, not the trainer. You might be reinforced by money, I bet your horse doesn’t care about it.

[-> click here to learn more about dividing big goals into small building blocks <-]

 5 Set up for success

Make sure the right answers are made easy for your horse and the wrong answers a bit more difficult. If your horse outsmarts you, change the setting. Remember: it is your goal to reward your horse as much as possible!

6 Start training

Try it and prepare to fail. Try again. Every time you fail is it just another step closer to your goal. Learning is a process. Not only for your horse, but also for you as trainer! Enjoy your journey. Keep notes, see #8.

_reinforcingscratch2

This is rewarding

7 Reward the slightest try from your horse

Yes it is time to reward! Ask again and reward his successes. His successes are yours! Go to the next step after 3 times. Increase the difficulty slightly.

8 Write down your achievements

See this post to learn about 4 easy ways to keep a training journal! [-> Click here <-]

9 Adjust training where necessary

And don’t forget to give your horse a break or holiday. My horse performs the best after a break. It keeps fascinating me how well a break works. I wish I could give my horse only breaks and still perform.

10 ENJOY time spent with your horse.

Smile! Make pictures, poems, write a blog and enjoy even more! Enjoy not only training sessions, but also spent some ZEN time together!

Sandra Poppema KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

How to become a better rider in ten minutes

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERANobody knows better than a horse lover how spending time with horses or going for a ride can settle the mind.

Stressed out riders

The reason horse owners choose a full boarding facility is often a lack of time or just because of logistical reasons. I watched riders who came stressed out, straight from their work to the riding school, go for a ride and leave the place so much more relaxed. I noticed that in a lot of these cases the rider vents his frustrations on his horse in order to release his own stress. Who ends up with a bad feeling? Exactly, the horse. And me.

_hippologic_rijdenIt was horrible to see. Why? Because suddenly I recognized this process in myself. I realized that when I was stressed out I did not have as much patience with Sholto as I normally had. My expectations were suddenly higher and I wanted him to react much quicker than normal. I took it as a personal insult that he ‘didn’t listen’ and that highly  frustrated me. Now I know that I didn’t have the right ‘tools’ in my ‘toolbox’ to drain my stress. Knowledge is a powerful tool!

Relaxed riders

Of course not all riders treat their horses roughly in order to get a better feeling for themselves. I also watched a lot of riders who when mounted, within a few minutes the stress seemed to evaporate. Horse and rider could enjoy their time together. How did they manage to do this?

Becoming aware is important

One day, about a decade later, I was very stressed and I was on my way to Kyra. Normally I get more relaxed during my 20 minute commute to the barn. Not this time. And I had a ‘schedule’ to work on. I don’t even recall what it was, but it seemed very important at the time.

__hippologic_breathe_feel_relax_enjoyI remembered not only being stressed about my personal life as a new immigrant, but also something in Kyra’s training caused frustration. I became aware of my stress and stopped the car before I arrived at the barn. I asked myself these questions: “Why am I so stressed out?” and “Can I find a way to calm down before I arrive at the barn?”.

Meditation as solution

I parked my car near the forest nearby Kyra’s barn. I got out and walked into the woods and took a few deep breaths. Then I found a quiet spot just off the beaten path and I decided to spent 10 minutes meditating. I set my phone alarm for 10 minutes and decided just “to be” and relax.

Breathing, becoming aware of the moment, being mindful about my body and environment. Just 10 minutes and it made a huge difference. I became aware of the smell of the forest. I saw and heard leaves falling from trees. I heard about a dozen different bird species. I saw unfamiliar little birds flying, I heard joggers, dogs, insects flying and ants working. I even felt a little breeze which smelled like the typical forest smell.

I became very peaceful and relaxed. I remembered the stressed out riders at the riding school, years ago and I realized that making progress in Kyra’s training was not the most important to me. My relationship with her is number one!

Time to enjoy

After only 10 minutes I felt like a whole different person. And when I arrived at the barn I had recovered my usual patience again. At first I decided not to train but only enjoy her company. After a while it felt good to try to repeat some exercises we were working on. This was one of my best training days with Kyra._zon_hippologic_kerstmis2014

This experience felt very spiritual. It takes me only 10 minutes to meditate and get in touch with my feelings and let go of any worries. It feels like magic and I can recommend it to every horse lover!

Become aware of the beauty around you.

More tips

If you didn’t meditate before riding, you can still do some exercises. Centered Riding method provides nice ones, like ‘soft eyes’, wiggle your toes in your boots, relax your tongue, and of course: breathe.

What is your way of de-stressing? Please share in the comments below.

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

I’ll make a special YouTube video if…

1000_likes_fb

My goal is to reach 1000 LIKES

This is a little How to-post. How to get more LIKES. My goal on my Facebook page is to get 1000 LIKES.

Yesterday I had 994 LIKES, so Kyra and I made a video to get those 6 extra likes. In the video I promised to make a special video if my page hits 1000.

You can watch the video here http://youtu.be/dthHxeAWB40?list=UUzrtvULAho40Cd6G147_mzg

Click the thumbs up button under the video if you like it. Thank you.

If you want to see my Facebook page, click here: Click here: www.facebook.com/HippoLogics

PS This is just a fun experiment. 🙂

Sandra Poppema

4 Easy Ways to Start a Training Journal

_water_hippologic_april2011

People think I have a really ‘easy to train’ horse. They say: ‘Kyra is so sweet’ when they notice that she is always so willing to work with me. Indeed, that is how it looks today.

My secret is to set goals and a prepare a step-by-step training plan. To keep me on track, I keep a training journal. If I get the feeling I don’t make progress, I just read back and I realize that I do make progress. This is really motivating.

Keeping a journal is a simple tool to make sure that you and your horse are developing in the right direction. The direction of your dreams!

Here are 5 ways to keep track of your progress:

1. Use an agenda and simply write down in a few words what you’ve accomplished every training session. Formulate it in a positive way. You can keep the agenda in your tack locker or at home. Make sure that before you leave the barn or as soon as you arrive home, you take 1 or 2 minutes to make some notes. Or use a mason jar, see https://hippologic.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/530/ This method is quick and easy. I’ve done this for years.

_Liggen

2. Keep a journal in Word. This makes it very easy to duplicate your notes to internet, adjust text and use a spelling control. Another advantage is that it’s very easy to import pictures into your journal. Using a Word file can make it harder to keep the notes short, but it is a joy to read back. It does take a little discipline, because after you come back from the barn you have sit down behind your pc immediately. It is amazing how quickly you forget about what you practiced 2 days later, if you can recall your training at all. Writing things down also helps you to think things through.

_weekend

Kyra, March 2012 (click to enlarge)

3. If you are not a writer, try one of my favourites: create a photo journal.  Every month I take pictures of my accomplished goals, like Kyra entering water (see above) or mastering the smile (picture on the right) . At the end of each year I select the best pictures of each month and I put the prints into photo album. I write the date and the goal next to each picture. This is the best way to show off share your progress with friends. An excellent choice for young and developing horses. You can see how they grow and change.

Training journal

4. Use Excel to write down every building block of your goal and simply tick off each baby step with the date. It takes a lot of preparation, but saves time on a daily basis. I started this when my friend showed me her really impressive Excel sheet. She wouldn’t share all her time consuming preparations with me, so this didn’t work out for me: I soon quit. Too much effort. You have to write down every training step in advance, in order to work properly. If you exactly know what you are doing, this is the way for you. Very scientific, not easy. Skip this one.

Gespot!

Kyra, May 2009 (click to enlarge)

5. Video your progress. This, my readers, takes courage! You have to film yourself when your work is still ‘work in progress’. To accomplish the first baby steps of a bigger goal doesn’t mean it already looks impressive. To me it does, because I know the basics are the most difficult. If the foundation is firm the rest will be peanuts. Soon. Take in consideration that you will notice that you are wearing the same coat for years, but if you have a grey it is really nice to see at least her coat changing every season!

Personally, I use a combination of all of the above, except number 4.

Please, let me know in the comments below which one works best for you!

Read here the article about How to use a training logbook in an effective way. It contains a free downloadable logbook.

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 to Create More Training Ideas

Are you running out of ideas what to do with your horse? Especially in winter? I am never out of ideas when I am with Kyra. I always have many suggestions what to work on.

How do I do that? Well, I make goals. Long-term goals and I divide those into short-time goals. Then I divide those into even smaller building blocks, which are my every day ideas to choose from. I write them down in my training journal and then I print out a list to hang in my tack locker.

When Kyra was a still a feral filly I had many little goals to work on every day. Coming towards me instead of jumping into a corner of her stall when I opened a door, touching my hand/target stick/halter, standing still while being touched and so on. These where obvious goals.

What about my daily goals after 5 years of training? Kyra is 6 years old now and  she is almost fully bomb-proof, very athletic and sensible and knows a lot of tricks. Are there any goals left for us to work on? Yes, plenty. If I get stuck I take a look at my long-term goals (10 year plan, 5 year plan, 1 year plan, 12 monthly goals) and I know what to do.

Every ‘dream goal’ has many ‘pillars’, take for instance a dressage level 4 test as one of my ‘ultimate’ goals. One pillar is a collection of all the exercises in that test (half pass, half pirouettes, collected walk, trot, canter, etc).

Another pillar contains all the building blocks to prepare a horse mentally for a competition. At a competition terrain there are many unfamiliar things happening, like music, flags, strange horses, white fences, flower pots and so on.

A third pillar could consist of all the building blocks required to make your horse a happy traveller. A fourth pillar could contain all husbandry skills, like standing still while saddling, braiding, or saddling in a strange environment.

There are hundreds of building blocks one can distill from just one long term goal, like riding a level 4 dressage test. If you make a sketch, it would look like this:

Example of How to Create Many Training Ideas by HippoLogic

If you do the same thing with one behaviour and divide it into very small baby steps, you’ve created a shaping plan.

A shaping plan for ‘targeting‘ can look like this:

Training steps in training plan by Hippologic

Sandra Poppema

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