How Food Puzzles helped Rita the Unapproachable Mule

In this blog I shared how I was plateauing in clicker training Rita. Rita is still unapproachable at this point, however we made great progress in the weeks I’ve been training her!

Only two weeks ago I started to realize that I was starting to plateau in training. I didn’t see progress anymore, something that is a clear sign of heading towards the end of a dead end street. You need to turn around! That’s hard because you have to let go of your approach and that can be a psychological threshold for a trainer!

How the Food Puzzles helped

Read here how the food puzzles helped decrease stress and increase learning. One of the milestones was that Rita stepped on the mat! Not once, but multiple times! I couldn’t bridge it (that would be too stressful for Rita, see this blog), but the fact that she offer this totally new behaviour multiple times is a huge leap forward!

Key Lesson Mat training

The HippoLogic Clicker Training method I teach 6 Key Lessons, basic behaviours for horses, so that you can easily train complex behaviours in the future. For Rita I thought Mat training would be too advanced, but she proved me wrong! She stepped onto the mat multiple times. Only because I shifted my focus from Results (and using bridges (Clicks) and Appetitives (food rewards to reinforce the desired behaviour) to Relationship (how can I make her feel more comfortable with me).

The other milestone: another new behaviour

The other thing Rita surprised me with was that she picked up the cloth that I hid food under! For a moment I feared it was unintentional and made her spook, but luckily that didn’t happen!

This tells me so much, that I can use in her training:

  • She’s learning and her mind is opening up. She offers new behaviours! Which is great news for her further training process
  • She doesn’t spook as much by items that are unexpectedly moved by herself as the ones that are moved by humans (still working on that)
  • She’s not afraid of items she moves deliberately (has control over)
  • She’s way less stressed with the food puzzles, so bridging and offering food is off the table in near future training sessions.

Trick training

Trick training can be another approach to get an animal engaged in training (again). The fact that Rita loved touching the mats with her lips and stepping onto them and that she took the cloth in her mouth, gives me plenty ideas of keeping her engaged in training.

Control as Appetitive

Also, if she can use tricks as a way to communicate and initiate interactions with humans, that would give her a powerful tool in hands! Then she’s more in control and in a more positive way than using her flight to keep control over the situation. Now she just runs always if she doesn’t want to engage (and she chooses musts often not to at this point).

Giving your animal Control (over their body’s, the trainer, the situation) and choices, you give the animal powerful tools. Tools that help build trust where there is none and ways to communicate. This will decrease overall stress in a traumatized animal and enhance their welfare. This is what I’ve seen over and over working with traumatized animals and the power of positive reinforcement. Let me know if you want me to elaborate on that. I’ve plenty of experiences to share about this topic.

Join Our Supportive Clicker Tribe!

I hope this blog gave you a valuable insight. Please share your eye-opener in the comments! I love your feedback!

Are you inspired and would you like to get personal coaching in a group? Do you want to have access to online clicker training courses and a fabulous, supportive R+ community, then join our HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy. Check out the link!

Or book a free assessment and learn which one of the 6 Key Lessons for Trainers you need to focus more on, in order to get the results you want. Book here

Happy Horse training!
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc., founder of HippoLogic

Join us!

HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy transforms horsewomen into clicker trainsters

R+ Movement Training for Overweight Horses

Teach your horse in 3 simple steps forward movement at liberty. Use positive reinforcement (R+), so that moving becomes appetitive! Stop struggling and running along when you exercise your horse at liberty! Let your horse do the movement! Show him that it pays off. Teach him to love it, so he’ll offer active walks, trots and canters.

Step 1

Teach your horse to move around a cone!

Advantages are plenty:

  • No need to build a Reverse Round Pen
  • No lengthy set up and clean up time
  • No running along with your horse (after all, he’s the one that needs the exercise, right? ;-))
  • No target stick that becomes a crutch and difficult to fade out

How to do it

Reinforce the slightest try. In this video you’ll see, that the start won’t look anything like the goal behaviour at all! Be patience! This is not negative reinforcement where you can almost see the end goal behaviour immediately!

Step 2

Teach your horse to Leave the Cone Alone. Not only teaching him to ignore the cone, but also to leave the cone. And be good with this!
When you taught him that, you can teach him to go to the next cone, and the next.

How to do it

Reinforce the slightest try. Don’t be afraid to click and treat plenty. Especially in the beginning! Until your horse gets the idea.

You’re building Confidence with your clicks! And you give your horse Clarity with your clicks! Both very important to build a bond with your horse in the process. Win-win.

Step 3

Add cones: two cones, three and then four.

Once you have 4 cones you can shape your square into a rectangle. I call it the (HippoLogic) Reverse Rectangle. I took the Reverse Round Pen idea just one step further. This makes it easier for the horse, and … no clean up time!

Advantages of working your horse in a Rectangular shape:

  • Creating straight lines to move along, are much easier for your horse than to keep moving in circles (which is very hard and unnatural)
  • When it’s easier for your (overweight) horse, it’s probably way less aversive as when the exercise (going around in circles) is hard
  • The short sides gives you plenty of opportunity to reach your horse to feed him
  • Corners will help make your horse use his inner hind leg and balance him
  • Corners will help teach your horse to use his body well
  • Alternating a corner with a straight line will allow your horse to relax after a bend. This makes exercising easier and more appetitive than working on a circle or small square.
Train Your Horse to OFFER movement with R+

Join R+ (movement) Training for Overweight Horses Program

Is your horse overweight? Did the vet recommended: No more treats!” or “More exercise” to get your horse in shape? Join my R+ for Overweight Horses program. We’ll address your biggest struggle in getting your horse to move with positive reinforcement. You can only join after a personal conversation, so I can tailor this 2-week online coaching program towards your horse, your situation and your needs! You can book a call here.

If you want to get better at things like:

  • Building duration in exercising your horse with R+
  • Getting your horse in shape and lose weight without a crash diet
  • Creating fun in movement training so you don’t have to keep running along

This is for you. Check out the information page here!

Sandra Poppema, BSc

Founder of the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy

Sandra Poppema BSc HippoLogic Clicker training coach

5 Reasons to make a Dream Board for Your Horse Today

Many horse women tell me “I can’t trail ride, because my horse is herd bound and therefor it’s not safe to take him out.” Or they tell me they don’t know how to help their herd bound horse overcome his separation anxiety. It breaks my heart to hear when people have totally accomplishable dreams and yet they can’t make them happen. Here’s how a dream board can help you!

Make Your Dreams Happen

The only way to make your dreams come true is to have a clear vision of what you want. This sounds like an open stall door, and it is.

I always say: “If you want to go somewhere (accomplish something) you need to know where you want to go. ‘Anywhere’ is not a place on the map.”

Reason #1: A Dream Board will help your brain focus!

When you make a Vision Board you create your personal road map for your equestrian dreams!

By making a Dream Board you make the decision: this is what I want! The moment you do that, all kind of amazing things happen in your brain!

With making a decision about what you want, you put this in your unconscious mind. Now that part of the brain will go searching for ways to get it! It’s really cool!

When I was in high school I fell head over heels in love with a boy in my class. He had an oldtimer car, a white Lada. Whenever I was biking though the city I wished I ran into him.

I thought it was a special car, since I never saw one before… Every time I saw a white Lada, my heart made a little jump: Is that him?!

Amazingly, suddenly the whole city was full of tiny old, rusty white Lada’s! They were all white! (That’s because my brain was’t looking for yellow, green or silver ones).

Kyra, a wild horse born in a nature reserve

Put your brain to work! Pick a goal, but be specific! Don’t look for “Lada’s”, look for a tiny, old, white rusty Lada with a specific motor sound!

Pick your ‘destination’ and be specific! Give your brain a treasure map: That’s what I want! Your subconscious brain will help you find it!

When I made my Dream Board when I was a little girl, I wanted to ‘tame a wild horse’. Impossible right? I lived in The Netherlands, a very tiny country with lots of cities and people.

Yet, when I got an offer to get a horse that was born in a nature reserve, and was actually wild, I jumped on the opportunity!

I never tamed a wild horse! But, because I recognized this was one of my wildest dreams, I decided to say Yes!

It still was very scary to take on this responsibility, to be honest! I did it and that’s how I got Kyra! She was super herd bound and positive reinforcement training turned out to be my solution. Kyra became a confident horse that I could take out on trails. Safely! Without a bit!

Reason #2 A Dream Board is a Visual Tool (and your brain loves pictures!)

Have you ever noticed that your brain works in pictures? Yes, the voice in your head is a sound and uses language, but really your brain loves pictures.

When you think of your horse, you see him in front of you. You know how his manes feel, his warm neck when you stroke him. You can remember the smell of his warm breath on your face. How he lifts up his head in the pasture when he hears your voice…

Did you ‘see’ your horse when you read this? That’s your brain making images!

When you collect images, they’ll become powerful reminders!

Making a bucket list and writing it down works, too! By writing in detail what you want, your brain will create the image for you.

But finding a picture that symbolizes what you want, is even more powerful! A pictures says more than a thousand words!

When you want to trail ride but your horse is currently very herd bound, you might envision what could happen. Maybe you’re afraid he’ll rear, buck and run back…

But when you put pictures on your Dream Board that represents safe, fun, calm and controlled trail riding, it looks like this:

You get more of what you focus on.

You decide: fun and happy trail rides? Or scary ones? Most people focus on (have an image of) the scary things that could happen and things they want to avoid…. Focus on what you want! Your Dream Board will help you do that!

Reason #3 Making a Dream Board is fun!

Making a Dream Board for your horse is FUN! You can let your imagination run free! With the internet you can easily find images (no more magazine clippings!) that suits your dreams perfectly!

See what others have on their dream board in our Academy! How they are making their dreams come true and how they do it. Get inspired and expand your mind of what’s possible for you and your horse!

Reason #4 Create a powerful Reminder of Why you have a horse

Once you have your dream board ready, and you’ll place it where you can see it on a regular basis, you have a powerful reminder why you got a horse in the first place! To enjoy! To have fun with, to enjoy nature or to love and be loved.

Reason #5 It makes your life Easier!

Once you have a Dream Board or Vision Board for your Equestrian Dreams, it will make it your life easier. When you exactly know what you’re looking for you can easily recognize and find:

  • The right boarding facility (adjacent to trails or the beach, where you can enjoy being in nature with your horse)
  • Your dream horse. When you really want to ride, you won’t end up buying a rescue that you can’t ride. But when you want to develop a deep relationship with your horse, that same rescue horse might be the perfect choice for you.
  • A mentor or coach that can help you accomplish what you want. If you want to train your horse yourself, you’ll find someone that can coach you to do it. If you’re really specific and want to train your horse with clicker training find someone that can help you do that!

Start Today

Now you have 5 very good reasons for making a Dream Board for you and your horse, why not start today? I would love to see your dream board! If you’re on Facebook please tag me!

Do you want to do this in a group? Join our workshop. The last Saturday of September we’ll start the Clicker Training Academy year off with making a Vision Board for our Horses for the coming year! Because I know how powerful having your own Dream Board is, and how much it will help to make your dreams come true, it’s a invaluable tool for your clicker training.

If you would like to join our workshop Dream Board for Your Horse, book a call with me. Here’s my calendar.

Join Our Supportive Clicker Tribe!

I hope this blog gave you a valuable insight. Please share your eye-opener in the comments! I love your feedback!

Are you inspired and would you like to get personal coaching in a group? Do you want to have access to online clicker training courses and a fabulous, supportive R+ community, then join our HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy. Check out the link!

Or book a free assessment and learn which one of the 6 Key Lessons for Trainers you need to focus more on, in order to get the results you want. Book here

Happy Horse training!
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc., founder of HippoLogic

Join us!

HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy transforms horsewomen into clicker trainsters

Do you really need to stop giving treats in training when your horse needs to lose weight?

Is your horse overweight? Did the vet tell you to STOP FEEDING TREATS!? You know your horse needs to lose weight and get back in shape, but How to do this without treats?

Why stopping giving Treats is a good idea

It seems like a solution to stop offering your horse treats when he’s overweight, right? If you’re giving your horse lots of dense-calorie treats without asking him to burn them off, it’s probably a good idea to stop giving those.

Take a good look at what you consider a treat: Is it calorie rich? Is it nutrition value low? Or is this just the common human approach of “treats”?
We -people- usually mean candy or other low nutrition value/high calorie foods. Right?

If you’re using real treats like peppermints (although how much calories would all the peppermints in one training contain?) are they really having that much impact on your horse’s obesity?

Or can you influence his weight with changing his management? Usually decreasing hay or grass intake and minimizing dinner grain portions have a much bigger (pun intended!) impact on your horse’s weight!

If your horse turned into a Mugging Monster, you can turn that around quickly!

Why stopping giving Treats is a bad idea

When we train horses (R- or R+) we still need to reinforce the desired behaviour from time to time. If we don’t, and the behaviour is not intrinsically reinforcing, the behaviour gets extinct.

Traditional trainers need to use their whips, sticks or ropes once in a while (depending on how much of a threat the aversive still is) to keep their horses in line. ‘The horse needs a little reminder,’ is what they say.

Same goes for positively reinforced behaviours: we also do have to remind our horses (with a treat!) what we want from them (movement).

We need to do that to keep motivation high! Whether that’s in R- or in R+. Or we’ll lose it.

When we clicker trained our horses to exercise and offer movement (walk, trot, canter, jumping, gallop), we still have to offer a treat with enough value, once in a while to keep their motivation high. That’s why it’s a bad idea to stop giving treats to (overweight) horses in training.

If you’re a clicker trainer and you suddenly stop giving treats as reinforcement, you’ll disappoint your horse. He’s expecting food rewards. When he doesn’t get them he can get demotivated! That’s another big reason why stopping with treats is a bad idea.

You can experiment with other reinforcers: things your horse will value. When you get more behaviour (movement) you’ve successfully reinforced your horse to move. When you get less behaviour or sluggish movements or a slower response time to your cues, you know you weren’t actually reinforcing the behaviour and you need to find a better appetitive!

Read my blog about How to Move Your Horse with A Click

Healthy Treats for Horses

Most of my clients find it a challenge to find healthy treats for their overweight horse. Part of it is our own mindset. We usually value “healthy treats” way less, than unhealthy snacks! That’s human thinking! We need to shift our minds!

Start thinking how a horse thinks and how he sees the world. Horses eat about 16 hours a day. That’s their nature! Therefore they will always be hungry (to a certain extent). They love low calorie/high fibre foods! That’s another huge difference between us and a horse!

Ideas to keep training with treats (the smart way)

  • Training a horse with treats, means we can use (normal, healthy) foods to motivate them in training!
  • Take the amount of food (calories) you use in training, out of their daily ration. That way using treats in training won’t contribute to weight gain
  • If you’re horse doesn’t get dinner grain/pellets/ use, alternatives. Here is a list of over 30 options for treats in training.
  • Add interesting options to the low calorie/high fibre foods in training, like cinnamon added to soaked beetpulp, r adding a few sunflower seeds in the low calorie food rewards etc
  • Balance the calorie denseness of the treats with the amount of movement (calorie burning) you ask your horse to do.
  • The more you train (and the better your horse understands what he needs to do), the less food you need! So when you train your overweight horse to move and you need a lot of food reinforcers, knowing that this won’t be lasting forever helps!
  • Once movement/exercising gets intrinsically reinforced (‘runners high’), the less external reinforcement (treats) your horse needs!

Join R+ (movement) Training for Overweight Horses Program

Is your horse overweight? Did the vet recommended: No more treats!” or “More exercise” to get your horse in shape? Join my R+ for Overweight Horses program. We’ll address your biggest struggle in getting your horse to move with positive reinforcement. You can only join after a personal conversation, so I can tailor this 2-week online coaching program towards your horse, your situation and your needs! You can book a call here.

If you want to get better at things like:

  • Building duration in exercising your horse with R+
  • Getting your horse in shape and lose weight without a crash diet
  • Creating fun in movement training so you don’t have to keep running along

This is for you. Check out the information page here!

Sandra Poppema, BSc

Founder of the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy

Sandra Poppema BSc HippoLogic Clicker training coach

How to become even better at Clicker Training Your Horse

Our environment influences our behaviour! We all know that and use that fact all the time clicker training our horses. How does your environment benefit you?

We set up our horses for success all the time. We present a target (environment) to our horse, so he can touch it!

We teach our horses not to mug us when we’re training with food. The food in our pockets and our presence becomes the ‘On’ switch for Learning, for our horses.

Your horse starts to think what behaviour does lead to treats? They figure out in minutes that mugging is not the answer anymore.

After a few clicker training minutes your horse is already thinking “How can I influence my environment [the treats] with my behaviour?” . We changed the learning environment for our horses and helped him learn fast with positive reinforcement (R+).

You already know and experienced that the environment plays a huge role on the behaviour and learning process of your horse.

Yet, I still see so many of us fall back on negative reinforcement-thinking and therefore struggling hugely with using clicker training effectively. I’ll elaborate on that below.

Thinking mistake #1

This is when you get start thinking that clicker training maybe takes longer than negative reinforcement… NO!

Untrue! When you fall into this thinking mistake, it’s because you try to use positive reinforcement in a negative reinforcement environment! Or trying to use a tool in your clicker training that is designed for R-!

Have you ever consciously changed your own environment to enhance your clicker training? Clicker training can be unnecessary difficult and hard when your whole environment is set up to be successful as negative reinforcement trainer! It’s trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.

How to set YOURSELF up for success

Change your environment!


You’ve probably already done it in the past. When you

  • Went to a clicker clinic. You surrounded yourself with likeminded people and emerged yourself in positive reinforcement approach/thinking.

Do you remember how much you learned in just one weekend? That’s the power of your environment! It’s easy to clicker train your horse and to think of new R+ approaches when everyone else is giving you positive input and ideas! When you see other women clicker training their horses successfully, it inspires and gets your creative positive reinforcement juices flowing!

  • Watched videos about clicker training just before you went to your horse.

You’ve changed your (internal!) environment and it sparked ideas and motivated you to do the same.

  • Spoke with another clicker trainer, or a friend and you discussed your struggle. You got new insights of solving your struggle and got your momentum back.

By creating a distance (looking at your struggle, challenge or problem) from a different angle, it was possible to think of a different approach.

Sounds familiar?

What keeps you struggling in clicker training your horse

Often the answer is: Your environment!


Thinking mistake #2

When you try to use positive reinforcement using negative reinforcement training tools (environment)! You set yourself up for FAILURE!

Round pen

You use a round pen to exercise your horse with positive reinforcement and you can’t get your horse moving effectively and burning calories. Why is that?

A round pen is purposefully designed to chase a horse a-round! There are no corners to escape.

Have you ever noticed that horses find the corners of the arena when you chase him around? They change direction: they want to have a choice and try to influence their environment: your behaviour!

Negative reinforcement trainers struggled with that problem, so they took out the corners! They made the pen so small they could reach the horse at any time, in any place in order to apply the aversive (pain, the threat of pain/injury) effectively. They needed to reach the horse with their whip, training stick, carrot stick, the ‘extension of their arm’, rope or whatever tool they are using to make the horse move.

A round pen is designed to chase the horse around, without an escape. It’s designed to ‘teach’ the horse that there is only one answer possible: go forward until the trainer says otherwise!

Now, when you don’t realize that and you want (expect) the same result using positive reinforcement, you’re setting yourself up for failure!

You can’t be as successful in clicker training if you’re trying to use a training tool that is designed to create success with R-! You have to think of ways to design positive reinforcement tools and use the environment to support your training method. The person who invented the reverse round pen was well on her way!

Training tools, techniques and people

Choosing the right tool for the job is detrimental for you success! The better your tools, techniques and people you surround yourself with, the better results you get!

R+ Tools & Techniques

This is a part most clicker trainers do already really well: they use targets, mats, food reinforcers and bridge signals (click).

Do you have the support you need, to think more like a positive reinforcement trainer?

Thinking Mistake #3

Thinking you can change traditional horse people to see the benefits of clicker training… Fact is: you can’t change anyone! You can only change yourself. Trying to convince R- trainers of positive reinforcement is very hard and often impossible. Stop doing it, it will drain your energy. Instead focus on finding better people to spent your time with.

Surround yourself with Positive People!

This sounds like an open door! Yet, so many people surround themselves with unsupportive people. Then they tell themselves they can’t do anything about it, and back that up with an excuse (“There are no clicker trainers or barns in my area”). Now they’re really stuck! They get very unhappy, often even desperate. I’ve seen people seriously spiral down from there. They start doubting themselves or their approach. They start to think clicker training isn’t the best way. Don’t let that happen to you!

Are your barn people supportive?

One of my clients boarded her horses in a very traditional boarding facility. Old fashioned cowboy methods, like tying up 2-year old horses in their stall for hours to ‘teach them to be tied up’- kind of ways. It was very hard for her to clicker train her horses in that environment because the ‘norm’ was to be abusive and use coercion to get things done. They were not only abusive to their horses, but also to her!

They told her that she was a bad horse owner, not a real horse person and that she was spoiling and ruining her youngster with treats and soft approaches. That it was time to put a saddle on her horse and stop being a pussy.

No wonder, it was a struggle for her to clicker train her horses. She was always worried that she would run into other people at the barn. That someone would watch her and commented. Because they did… All the time!. I was horrified to hear how they crapped on her training. It was verbally abusive! Not supportive at all.

Do you avoid clicker training when people are around?

It was extra hard on her because she already was already a bit insecure (who isn’t sometimes?). She was relatively new to being a horse owner. She’s in her forties and bought her first horse only two years ago. She’s not a person ‘who grew up with horses’. And she was also new to clicker training. Still she did such a good job clicker training her horses! Her results spoke for itself.

If you have people in your environment commenting negatively on your clicker training and your approach, ask yourself how you can surround yourself with better people!

When my client became a part of my R+ community (the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy) she often expressed her mitigation of being in a supportive, uplifting and positive environment where people believed in her and her approach!

She leaped forward and developed her clicker training skills within a year. It was a joy to watch her evolve and she her improve her horses behaviours! Eventually she moved her horses to a different boarding facility.

Can you imagine how it’s like, to dread going to the barn every, single day? Can you see how this will interfere with your happiness of being a horse owner? How it will interfere with your clicker training? How this will prevent enjoying your horse and having fun training and riding? After all, we have horses to enrich our lives, right?

Change your environment, change your outcome

  • Use or design a training environment and tools that support and enhance positive reinforcement! For example use a reverse round pen (or even better the HippoLogic Reverse Rectangle) to exercise your horse
  • Change your internal environment (ideas, solutions, approaches) by watching clicker training videos and/or trainers or discuss your training with other positive reinforcement trainers before your training so that thinking like a positive reinforcement trainer becomes your habit.
  • Find a tribe that inspires you! They’ll be a daily reminder to keep going with R+!
  • Surround yourself with positive people, who support you and respect you and your R+ training! Let go of Debby Downers and Negative Nancy’s!

Join Our Supportive Clicker Tribe!

I hope this blog gave you a valuable insight. Please share your eye-opener in the comments! I love your feedback!

Are you inspired and would you like to get personal coaching in a group? Do you want to have access to online clicker training courses and a fabulous, supportive R+ community, then join our HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy. Check out the link!

Or book a free assessment and learn which one of the 6 Key Lessons for Trainers you need to focus more on, in order to get the results you want. Book here

Happy Horse training!
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc., founder of HippoLogic

Join us!

HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy transforms horsewomen into clicker trainsters

How to become a better Clicker Trainer and Friend for your Horse

using positive reinforcement makes you a clicker trainer

In my community I focus not only on teaching horse people to train behaviours with positive reinforcement, I specialized in transforming horse owners into clicker trainers. Most horse people don’t consider themselves ‘clicker trainers’, but I believe you are if you change the behaviour of your horse with positive reinforcement!

What do I mean by that? I focus not only on how to clicker train your horse, I help you develop the trainer skills you must develop, in order to become the best clicker trainer you can be.

Clicker Skills vs Trainer Skills

Clicker skills are the tools, the techniques, the method and your system in order to train your horse..

Trainer skills are the skills that the Trainer must develop in order to learn to think in a positive reinforcement way.

Developing Trainer's Skills will increase your success rate in clicker training your horse

Do you ask yourself:

“How can I solve this with R+? “

“How can I make this (this thing *I* want) a Win-Win, so I get what I want from my horse and my horse gets what he wants so we both feel good about it and it enhances our relationship?”

“How can I prevent falling back on R- (or P+/-)?”

“How can I improve so that I get better results or teach my horse faster and without frustration?”

I’ve thought very long about what it takes to become a really good positive reinforcement trainer and The 6 Key Lessons for Trainers are the skills that helped me and all my clients the most. I call them Key Lessons for Trainers, because they are your Key to Success in Clicker Training. You can train faster, get better, more reliable and predictable(!) results and the better you’re at the key Lessons for Trainers, the less you fall back on traditional training. The less you fall back on R- (because now you have R+ solutions and ways to train), the less guilt and the better your friendship with your horse will be.

The better your positive reinforcement Training Skills, the better your results you’ll get and the better the friendship with your horse will be.

Key Lesson #1

Principles of Learning & Motivation. This not only includes knowledge of the Learning Quadrant (R+, R-, P+ and P-), as you’d expect. There is more, like:

Learning Quadrant: R+, R-, P+, P-
  • HOW does a horse learn? How does learning takes place?
  • How does your horse learns best? What increases learning (a certain level of calmness, curiosity, rewards, experience (let them do the thinking) and so on)
  • What inhibits learning and how can you avoid it (too much fear, frustration, flight/fight response, boredom, lack of interest, fear of learning et cetera)
  • What motivates my horse in a positive way (appetitives)

And(this is the part most people skip):

  • How do I -as trainer and human- learn best? Do I like learning from video, practising, reading, conversations and discussions with peers. Do I like step-by-step instruction during my training sessions or do I want to have the theory and then practise on my own and have someone to give me feedback for improving and someone I can turn to to get support if I struggle.
  • How can I keep myself motivated? Lots of clients approached me because they lost motivation do keep figuring out things on their own and reinventing the wheel. Success is a great motivator: you’re training your horse and BAM! He has learned the behaviour you wanted! Great! Now, how to keep this in his repertoire (see above, how does learning take place and how to keep your horse motivated to perform the behaviour you just trained)?
  • How do I keep momentum in my horse’s learning curve? Most reasons that people get stuck in clicker training are easily solved, if they would know how. Find a brain to pick so you won’t have to put your horse and yourself to unnecessary frustration or boredom in training.

Another part of Learning is to take into account the natural behaviour of your goal species, your learner! Horses have different natural behaviour, lifestyle and learning styles than for instance dogs, who are predators. Once you know how to tailor your training to your learners natural behaviour, you can prevent so much struggle!

Unfortunately, most horse people believe in the myths they’ve fed us over the years (“Don’t let your horse win!” “Show him who’s boss” “Make him do it”). That you (still) believe them is not your fault, you assumed that the more experienced horse person/instructor was right… Unfortunately they were dead wrong, if they taught you to use force and coercion to get what you want from your horse.

Trailer loading: a struggle for most owners

Taking into account what you’re asking from an animal (horse) that is developed over thousands of years on plains, is a grazer and browser and uses flight and flight and numbers (herd animal) to survive to go into a tiny, wobbly space, where escape is not possible and also often without fellow herd members… No peripheral vision possible in a box with tiny windows!.

Yes I’m talking about trailer loading. It’s very unnatural and goes into a lot of their natural behaviour.

And most people don’t even think about that, when their horse refuses to go in… They label their horse as stubborn, dumb, stupid or worse.

I think it’s amazing that we can überhaupt train a horse to travel in a trailer, given his natural behaviour.

If more people would understand the Principles of Learning & Motivation in a way the LEARNER benefits, too, the world would be a happier place. Wouldn’t you agree?

How do I implement the Principles of Learning & Motivation?

Practise, practise, practise. Also: making mistakes, and learning from them and trying new approaches (thinking from what your horse would like, what he *can* do (what is species specific and easy for him). Another Key Lesson for Trainers is to Track Your Training and Evaluate it! More about that in another blog. 😉 That will help you actually implement Key #1 Principles of Learning & Motivation.

Most difficult thing if you’re changing from P and R- to more R+ in training, is to train yourself to ask yourself questions so you become aware of what you’re doing and what’s happening.

3 Most Important questions in Training:

  • Is my horse making an Away-From decision? If so, you’re using an aversive or there could be an aversive in the environment (horse is scared of the trailer, a dog barks and makes your horse fearful)
  • Is my horse making a Moving- Towards decision? He doesn’t want to go into the trailer because he rather eats grass (appetitive) or wants to stay with his friends (herd) and that’s the reason he doesn’t trailer load today.
  • What motivates my horse to do what he’s doing? (Not only an important question if he doesn’t do what you want, but also a very important question if he does do it! So *you* learn what he wants and can use that next time. If he rather wants to graze the grass next to the trailer instead of going into the trailer, how can you use that information to get what you want? How can you use grass to get him into the trailer? Can you think of ways?
Enhance the bond with your horse through positive reinforcement and building trust and a clear two way communication

Get support on your learning journey

I hope this article gave you a valuable insight. Please share your eye-opener in the comments! I love your feedback!

Are you inspired and would you like to get personal coaching in a group? Do you want to have access to online clicker training courses and a fabulous, supportive R+ community, then join our HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy. Check out the link!

Or book a free assessment and learn which one of the 6 Key Lessons for Trainers you need to focus more on, in order to get the results you want. Book here

Happy Horse training!
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc., founder of HippoLogic

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HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy transforms horsewomen into clicker trainsters

Milestones in Clicker Training with Rita the Unapproachable Mule

After a bit of plateauing in our clicker training last week I felt I needed a different approach. Usually there is always something to get excited about, and when I don’t get that it’s time to change my approach.

It can be quite challenging to think Out of The Box and come up with a totally different approach, if what you’re doing doesn’t bring you success anymore.

Plateauing could be a sign your learner might not be learning anymore (in the environment you provide),needs more repetitions or that -in Rita’s case- it’s too difficult or too stressful.

Because of that Rita wasn’t in ‘thinking mode’ anymore and no real learning was taking place. She might ‘learn’ I’m trouble, and that’s not my aim!

Repetition can be really beneficial but when you notice you’re getting the same result (instead of ‘better’ or ‘more’ or ‘longer‘), the repetitions have the opposite effect: learning stops. It also can get boring and predicable. As was the case with Rita. Learning stopped (I can see that in hindsight, but at the time it was difficult to accept that thought). She still wanted to go to the food bowls and (sometimes almost resultantly) ate her food rewards.

Food puzzles

When I asked a good friend, who is also an excellent positive reinforcement trainer for advice, she told me how food puzzles helped her. She and her fellow clicker trainsters were training pigs, but they where highly stressed and didn’t want to interact with humans. Just like Rita. That made it difficult to train them.

She told me food puzzles helped the pigs learn, get used to their attendance and their voices. It took two months. After that, they could easily clicker train other behaviours and made great progress.

I must admit I was a bit disappointed when she told me about the two months of food puzzles…. I’ve been training Rita for 2 months and although I made great progress so far, two months of (what almost seemed to me as “non-training”) sounded like ages…

A cheerful thought

On the other hand; LEARNING takes place! That thought really cheered me up again! And, when you can entice a mule (or other animal) to learn with appetitives (something they LIKE and want to have), you greatly enrich their lives and enhance their welfare.

Now, I could see how a simple food puzzle could reduce stress. Letting Rita discover the puzzle IS the reward, and no trainer (human) involved! And solving the puzzle leads to a food appetitive. Double bonus! I decided to try this! See video at the bottom of this blog.

My next Challenge: What makes a suitable puzzle for Rita

I decided to make the food ‘puzzles’ so easy, that it would be just enough challenge, without stressing her out. I wanted to ask my friend about her food puzzles, but then realized that food puzzles for pigs would be very different than food puzzles for a traumatize mule. Simply because they have different natural and species specific behaviours.

The food puzzle must be solvable by just using their natural foraging behaviour. Burying food would work as a nice puzzle for a pig, whos natural behaviour is to dig, but for a grazer/browser like mule, it would probably be too challenging…

I decided to keep my puzzles easy and low stress. I made different puzzles using items that she had seen before: food bowls, a target, a part of a bottle, a cone. Let me know in the comments if you’re curious about my food puzzles.

Milestone 1: Less Stress

The benefits of my puzzles are diverse:

  • No bridges involved, that stressed her out
  • No human that needs to approach her, to offer food rewards
  • No anticipation stress
  • PLUS: Learning was stimulated and immediately rewarded with appetitives
  • PLUS: Trainer keeps a large distance and isn’t involved in the process (other than set up)

How this will greatly benefit our further training

Now Rita is getting used to the food puzzles, and my attendance and my voice, learning takes place again. I keep talking to her while she’s exploring the food puzzles. The idea is that she’ll make a positive association with me, now I lowered her stress levels due to the changes I made.

Too much stress will inhibit learning. I noticed lots of calming signals and stress relief signals before I used my food puzzles. These behaviours have decreases significantly!

Biggest takeaway

My biggest takeaway from this experience is to Trust the Learning Process (one of my favourite quotes that my clients hear all the time). Thinking out of the box to benefit your learner (How can I make this more fun for RIta and less stressful for her) brings the trainer what she wants, too. Even when it doesn’t seem that way at first glance. Relationship before Results and the Results will follow!

That’s where a second pair of eyes or brain comes in so handy! Having someone to ask for advice was invaluable! It helped me get ‘unstuck’ in my training and make a turnaround in my dead end street I was in. It saved me lots of time and Rita lots of stress! Thank you!

Relationship before Results

At first, I had to let go of the idea of me getting Results. The results I was focused on were Key Lesson Targeting (since we made a good start with that) and approaching her (her personal bubble shrank from about 15 meters in the first weeks to about 3-4 meters)

The benefits of Key Lesson for Trainers #1: Principles of Learning and Motivation. When you understand what inhibits and what stimulates learning, you can change your approach accordingly. When learning takes place, you get (the learner offer!) different behaviours, which unlocks new approaches and ideas for training!

Other Milestones my ‘Relationship before Results-approach‘ brought me

The next blog I will elaborate on the other mile stones that the food puzzles brought us! I can’t wait!

What is your experience with plateauing in training?

Share your story how a different approach lead to better results in your clicker training. What happened that forced you to think out of the box and how did it help you? I would love to hear about your Out of The Box solutions that helped your horse learn better.
Did you need to put the Relationship first in order to get (better) Results?

Happy Horse training!
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc., founder of HippoLogicre you inspired and interested in personal coaching in a group or do you want to have access to online clicker training courses and a fabulous, upportive R+ community, then join our HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy. Apply today!

10 Benefits from doing HippoLogic Grass Training with your Horse (What…? Grass training?!)

What is grass training?

Teaching your horse with positive reinforcement to ignore grass in training, leading and riding. In Grass Training you teach your horse to leave grass with a Stop Grazing-cue, and a Grazing-cue. It’s easier than you think, as long as you’ll use the right approach and don’t use R- or P. grass training hippologic clickertraining bite

Benefits Grass Training

  1. Yummiest training ever for your horse! He will immediately pay attention to you when he understands there is a Start Grazing -cue. This will be the quickest learning of a cue.
  2. By giving your horse something she wants, you immediately have her positive attention!
  3. No more unsolicited grazing on trails! You can ride, lunge and train at liberty on grass without losing your horses attention! grass training Hippologic clicker training horses
  4. If you do fun stuff, your horse will trust you, looking out for your next visit. It’s a great foundation for friendship between you and your horse
  5. It will give you incredible results. You’ll notice how annoying and frustrating it was, once you’ve solve it.
  6. Your horse won’t snack on grass during at liberty work, leading or riding!
  7. Your horse will become easy to get of out of the pasture. Simply call his name.
  8. You both stop being frustrated while grass is available during riding or training
  9. It will improve your communication
  10. It will enhance to bond with your horse
Buy HippoLogic’s DIY Grass Training and get some fun and useful training time done.
Grass Training (online course)

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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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Join the Clicker Training Academy if you want personal support

What is the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy? It’s an online mentoring program for enthusiastic clicker trainsters, where you can learn to train every behaviour you have in mind with R+. We have a small, all-inclusive community in which students can thrive and develop.
  • Professional, personal positive reinforcement advice on your training videos
  • Super affordable
  • Student levels are novice to very advanced clicker trainers
Join the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy.

4 Reasons to start trailer loading today (with clicker training)

4 Reasons to start trailer loading today

Share your reason to teach your horse to go into a trailer willingly before you need it!


Founder of HippoLogic & the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy
Supporting horse people to Establish, Enhance & Excel Horse-Human Friendships with clicker training

How to talk to traditional horse people about R+ solutions for your horse

In this blog you’ll find tips and solutions to improve your communication with negative reinforcement horse people.

My 100 Clicker Question Quest #100clickerquestionquest

I’ m fascinated about the impact clicker training has on the life of the horse that’s been trained…

Have you ever asked yourself how the quality of life has been impacted when your giving your horse choices in training?

Have you noticed a positive ripple effect on your horse’s life since you’ve been clicker training him? I have seen this many times and in the most unexpected ways.

These questions were on my mind today. I was wondering: How can I get better answers? Is it to ask better questions? What questions are good questions? Then I started to wonder: What are other clicker trainers asking themselves?

100 Clicker Questions

Can I think of 100 questions about clicker training that are not How To-training questions?
I did. Then I thought, how about asking if I will ask YOU for clicker questions concerning the bond with your horse?

Have you ever asked yourself how it would impact your clicker training if you were able to ask different questions?

This is how I came up with my “100 Clicker Questions Quest”.


No real purpose, other than to come up with 100 Clicker Questions regarding horse-human relationships. Maybe it will help people think about positive reinforcement of lead to answers…I don’t know, let’s find out. Mayeb it will be fun, maybe it will be just another task…

I’ve come up with over 100 questions today (123 to be precise) and I noticed that the more questions I came up with, the better they became. That’s why I won’t share them just yet with you.

What clicker question is on YOUR mind?

What’s a question that has been on your mind since you started clicker training? Do you have a philosophical or ethical question?

What is one thing you’ve always wondered about equine clicker training or horse-human relationships?

Do you have a personal question about clicker training for me (other than a “How to train X,Y,Z..”)? Do you wonder about befriending your horse? Of a horse you don’t know yet?

Please share and join me on this fun quest

Would you like to share your question with me (use the comments!). I would love to hear from you.

I’m thinking of using these questions in my blog. I’ve put this out there, live in my Happy Herd Facebook group. If you’re curious about what questions your fellow clicker trainers have, hope over and find my Facebook LIVE post (hashtag #1000clickerquestionquest).

If you want me to acknowledge you and your question then please put between brackets how you would like to be referred to. For example [initials+ country], [first name only], [first name, country], [full name, city/country] etc.

I’m looking forward to your question! Sometimes the best questions don’t even have an answer… but they’ll make you think! I wonder what’s on your mind?


Founder of HippoLogic and the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy

Move Your Horse with a Click

How often are you adjusting your training in order to make it easier for your horse? If you want to avoid frustration for your horse, I bet this is on your mind all the time! But…

You can make it easy the wrong way and the right way.

Read on to discover if you’ve fallen into the pitfall of doing it ‘for your horse’.

Biggest mistake

The biggest mistake you can make in positive reinforcement training is that you reinforce “not offering behaviour”.  People do this often by ‘doing the behaviour for the horse’ in the hope the horse gets (copies) it.

Let me explain… This is a common pitfall I see many, many clicker trainers fall into. We often do this unconsciously because we still think like a traditional trainer. That’s what makes clicker training sometimes seems to give slower results. Or that it takes longer to teach a horse something new.

Fallacies in Horse Training

In traditional training (R-) you almost always ‘get’ the goal behaviour instantaneously: you give pressure and when your horse yields, you release.

Clicker training needs adjustment in the way of Thinking about training

You wiggle your training stick closer and closer and more forcefully, until your horse moves forward. Voila! You immediately get your end goal results: walk, trot or even canter within minutes.

It’s a fallacy to think we can use the same approach without force. We’ll show the horse what he needs to do and then click for it. If you’re one of those people, you’re not the only one. Go on YouTube and search for ‘reverse round pen’ and find dozens of clicker trainers that move as much or more(!) than their horses, when exercising their horses.

How to get movement with R+

The biggest difference is that in R+ (clicker training, positive reinforcement training) you only can reinforce the DESIRED behaviour when (or immediately after) it’s happening.

Therefor we need to get the behaviour first, so that we can offer the horse an appetitive to strengthen the behaviour. Something he wants to have and is willing to work for.

It’s a thinking mistake that when we tell the learner the right answer (trot), he’ll learn quicker. What you want to do is to help the horse figure out what you want and reinforce his decision to trot.

Teach your horse to move

Next time you teach your horse to walk, trot or canter or you’re watching someone teaching a horse to exercise with clicker training, pay close attention. Often, we want to make training easier by doing it for them, instead of teaching them to offer walk, trot and canter.

When a horse doesn’t start walking, trotting or cantering right away, people often try to ‘help’ their horse by showing them what they want. They move, their horse moves and click! They click the horse for walk, trot or canter, right?

Place yourself into your horse’s shoes

 I can’t tell you how often I see people make the mistake to click for ‘following’ (a target or the trainer), instead of clicking for offering walk, trot or canter. That’s exactly what you’re teaching the horse if you do this: you’re teaching him to follow the target or trainer. And this becomes the cue!

It’s the opposite of what you want. It’s very similar to what people do in traditional training: teaching the horse to stay passive and re-act only of the trainer is doing something. To me “training” is teaching, not simply “reacting”. It will take a bit more effort in the beginning of the training, but it will pay off tenfold later on when your horse starts to enjoy his exercises!

Who is successful? You or your horse

If you think you don’t do this, or haven’t done this, watch your training videos. It might surprise you what you’ll discover, now you know what to look for.

It can be very obvious or it can be most subtle: You might be the one moving first, just before you click. So you can be successful! Think about that: who do you really want to be successful? You or your horse? Most people don’t realize that they are setting themselves up for a pitfall that is hard to climb out of.

If you want to teach your horse to move by himself (building distance) or for longer (duration) you’ll run into trouble if you’ve clicked too many times for ‘follow the trainer/target’. The pitfall is that we’ve done the behaviour for them (we or our target stick moved), so they haven’t learned to take initiative when it comes to moving. Now your horse simply thinks that he needs to do what you do, because that’s been clicked and reinforced. How to reverse it?


In other words; we haven’t taught our horse to ‘make the decision’ or to ‘take action’ to move forward. Instead, we’ve fallen into the pitfall to ‘let us trainers/our target sticks do the moving and our horses do the following’.

If that happens you’ve taught your horse to stay passive during exercise training. This mistake can slow down your future training tremendously.

Recovering from this pitfall

We can fall into this pitfall in training almost every behaviour: we push our horse gently over so that we can take his leg up (and click) instead of teaching our horse to lift his own leg. We’re touching their legs with a target, instead of setting our horses up so that they will touch the target (and lift their leg in the process!).

Instead of teaching the horse to move on his own, we (or our target) moved and we reinforced our horses to ‘follow’ , instead of offering trot. Sounds familiar? (Go here if you want to learn to teach your horse to offer movement)

When you know better, you can do better

Instead of training your horse to follow you, you can start teaching your horse to walk, trot and canter without you running in front of him with a target. Then you’re teaching what you actually want him to learn. That will be a skill that your horse will enjoy the rest of his life.

Offering the right baby step!

Instead of making the behaviour easier by ‘doing it for your horse’, you have to think about a solution to make it easier for your horse ‘to make the decision’ so he will offer the behaviour (walk, trot, canter). You can use a target or mats to help you. Just don’t let these training tools turn into crutches you can’t do without. These are just tools for training. Your cue needs to become your most important communication tool.

Overcoming fear of punishment

Keep in mind that this (making decisions and taking imitative in movement) often has been punished in the past if your horse has been traditionally trained. They are not supposed to make decisions on their own or start walking. Therefor we need to encourage our horses for the slightest try to ensure them that this is what we actually want in our setup.

Teach your horse to think

When you reinforce taking initiative and making decisions over and over, clicker training will go faster than ever. You’ll get better results and you get the engagement of your horse that makes working together so pleasurable and fun. Win-win.

Need help or have a question how you can teach your horse to listen to your cues? Come and join the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy.

In the Academy I teach you the Principles of Clicker Training so that you can become an autonomous clicker trainer, enhance the friendship with your horse and do the things you really want to do with your horse.

HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy 

If you want access to many DIY online clicker training courses, free Clicker Challenges and get weekly personal feedback on your training videos join the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy

Send in your application today (click the link) so you can enroll the next time the doors open. Only once a month I open the doors, and only for 2 days! Don’t miss the opportunity to join a select group of R+ enthusiasts!

Exercising Your Horse With R+

Interested in learning more? A few times a year I offer courses and teach equine clicker trainers to exercise their horses with positive reinforcement. Most courses are online with personal coaching and feedback in a group, so everyone gets the best results possible. Contact me and we’ll have a chat.

Sandra Poppema, BSc

Go-to person for online equine clicker training

Teaching horse people to make training a win-win and bond with their horse so they can enjoy their time together.

Visit my website

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Join R+ (movement) Training for Overweight Horses Program

Is your horse overweight? Did the vet recommended: No more treats!” or “More exercise” to get your horse in shape? Join my R+ for Overweight Horses program. We’ll address your biggest struggle in getting your horse to move with positive reinforcement. You can only join after a personal conversation, so I can tailor this 2-week online coaching program towards your horse, your situation and your needs! You can book a call here.

If you want to get better at things like:

  • Building duration in exercising your horse with R+
  • Getting your horse in shape and lose weight without a crash diet
  • Creating fun in movement training so you don’t have to keep running along

This is for you. Check out the information page here!

Sandra Poppema, BSc

Founder of the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy

Sandra Poppema BSc HippoLogic Clicker training coach

Using Protective Contact in Clicker Training your Horse

If you’re not using protective contact in clicker training your horse, you’re missing out on great opportunities to improve your clicker training skills and to enhance the bond with your horse.

Read my latest blog about it:

Happy Horse training!


Don’t have enough time to accomplish your dreams

In my survey most horse people answered, to my surprise that they don’t have enough time to accomplish their equestrian dreams…. I find that so sad… I also wonder if it’s really time that holds them back.

Want to read more? Click here

Sandra Poppema, BSc

Go-to person for online equine clicker training

Teaching horse people to make training a win-win and bond with their horse so they can enjoy their time together.

Visit my website

My blog is moving! Don’t miss out on new articles about Equine Clicker Training

Hello my dear blog readers and loyal followers and visitors,

I am in the process of moving my blog to my own website

All new articles will be published there and one by one I will take blogs away from here and put a link to where they moved. In the meantime you can still read here a few hundred articles.  I’ve written over 300 blogs and I will be moving them manually so that can take a while. You may have seen this picture already:

I hope you will keep reading, sharing and following my blog on the new location: my very own website!

Please have a look around and have a virtual coffee. 🙂

It’s still a bit of a mess. I am in the process of a makeover.

Not being a very technical person this is a bit of a struggle so bear with me!

It’s a learning process and it WILL be beautiful once it’s finished. I am sure of it.

(If you have tips about improving my website email me at All help is appreciated!)

One thing to figure out is to make it possible to get new blogs into your WP reader.

For now I will email all new articles to my email list. You can join here and get my free clicker training course, too!

Sandra Poppema, BSc

Go-to person for online equine clicker training

Teaching horse people to make training a win-win and bond with their horse so they can enjoy their time together.

Visit my website

Grass Training Step 2

Find the Grass Training Step 2 blog here:

Start with Grass Training Step 1:

Grass Training Step 1

The blog you're looking for has moved_hippologic header

Read this blog on HippoLogic’s website. Click this link (and subscribe to the new blog):

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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.
Click HERE to buy  the HippoLogic Grass Training course grass training Hippologic clicker training horse Banner blog Follow my blog with Bloglovin

What goes on in Grass Training for Horses?

The blog you’re looking for lives now on my own website:

Don’t forget to subscribe to the new location! I will be adding blogs about equine clicker training weekly!

Happy Horse training!
Sandra Poppema, BSC

Get my free Clicker Training course on my website!

Teach Your Horse to Behave on Grass (Grass Training)

This article has moved to my own website:

Happy Horse training!
Sandra Poppema, BSc

PS if you’re going to visit my site, why don’t you join my FREE Clicker Training course!

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

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

Green horses

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

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

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

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


Here are some things that give clarity:

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


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

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

‘High risk’ behaviours

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

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

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

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

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

Here is how much clarity it gives

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

Bring a horse to the pasture safely

Here is another example that will help increase safety.

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Horse training!

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

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