What goes on in Grass Training for Horses?

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

Here’s what people asked me in the course:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can I expect from the HippoLogic Grass Training course?

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

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

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

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

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

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


What is included?

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

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

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

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

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

5 Benefits of Grass Training

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

What I’ve tried (and didn’t work)

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

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

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

Sandra Poppema

What worked

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

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

Grass training when your horse is on a restrictive diet

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

‘The Grass Trained Horse’:

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

HippoLogic’s Grass Training

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

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

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

Questions about Grass training?

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

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

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4 Ways to Calm Your Horse Down

Do you think it’s impossible to teach your horse to relax? If you imagine it being like a “relax-button” that you simply have to press and your horse instantly relaxes like a ragdoll? No, not like that!

However, you can teach your horse to calm down and relax more, that he is in that moment that you need him to be relaxed! How? Training!

What is training

Training is teaching your horse to respond with a specific behaviours to a specific stimulus (cue). If you’ve trained ‘relaxation’ into a specific behaviour/context, you can recall that state of mind on cue.

We, horse people, do it all the time. Mostly the opposite of relaxation. Think of how most horses all respond and behave, just before breakfast. They are excited! They’re energetic and sometimes frenetic! That’s part of the behaviour that have been reinforced with a jackpot (their breakfast).

Reinforce calm behaviour

If you can excite them with food, you can calm them down with food. I have to say that before I used positive reinforcement I didn’t believe it could be done: teaching your horse to relax. On cue.

The only tool I had to calm down my pony was my voice. That’s what people told me to do. Oh, and to restrict his movement. How many times I’ve heard instructors shout: ‘Shorten your lead rope/reins/lung line!!’

When I was in a clinic with Shawna Karrash Kyra was very nervous, I was nervous and it was hard to calm myself down, let alone my horse. Shawna helped me to teach Kyra to calm down. That’s what we did for two days. I was looking forward to learn very advanced things and at first I was a bit disappointment we mainly focussed on calm and relaxed. I was looking forward to ride Kyra in this special occasion.

Key Lesson Patience promotes relaxation

Shortly after the clinic I moved Kyra to another property. It had a huge automatic metal gate at the driveway, which slides open with quite some noise and rattling sounds. It was there that most horses and dogs always spooked.

I decided to use my newly acquired relaxation skills to calm Kyra down when the gated opened and closed. I was glad I filmed the whole process because it only took 3 sessions to associate the rattling and moving of the gate with calmness!

It was then that the full potential of calming my horse really sank in! This was a powerful tool I now had, like a safety device!

Power of Key Lesson Mat training and Head lowering

Other examples are the self soothing power of mats (Key Lesson Mat Training) and Head lowering. I’ve seen that when clicker trained horses spook they often run to their mat. As if it’s a safety blanket. I’ve seen that they immediately calm down.

Key Lesson Head lowering also helps to calm your horse down and is an excellent way of measuring your horse’s state of mind. If he won’t lower his head, he’s might not be able to due to his state of mind.

Look what happens at 1:18 when Kyra spooks. Where’s she’s going! Now I use training deliberately to teach relaxation.

You can also help your horse to calm down by clicking and reinforcing calm behaviour and associate it with the object that scares them.
Watch these videos:
Kyra spooks at the giant ball
Kyra overcomes her fear for the mega ball (part II)
Fun and Games with the mega ball

4 Ways to use clicker training to teach your horse to relax

  1. Bridging and reinforcing calm behaviour
  2. Key Lesson Patience
  3. Key Lesson Mat training
  4. Key Lesson Head lowering

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
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Use Target Training for Horses two times more effectively

This morning I offered a free webinar Horse Training Mastery in which I explained how people can use the 6 Key Lessons, your keys to success in clicker training, to get maximum results in their training.

These are HippoLogic’s 6 Key Lessons for Horses:

  1. “Table Manners for Horses”
  2. “Patience”
  3. Targeting
  4. Mat training
  5. Head lowering
  6. Backing

Goals

At first these simple (read: not-complex behaviours) are your goals, but when you master them, that’s where the FUN part happens!

To me it’s magic because training these basic behaviour that make a great foundation, they really come in handy to teach other behaviours! Yes, you can use the Key Lessons for Horses as Training Tool.

For example, once your horse masters nose targeting, you can use the targeting as a way to explain gaits. Ask your horse to follow a moving target and click and reinforce “movement” instead of touching the target. That’s an example how you can use targeting as Training Tool to teach cues for walk on, trot and even canter.

In this video you can see how Key Lesson Mat training become my training tool to teach “Whoa” and “Walk on” . Because of the context (rain and wind!) I get a bonus: trot.

Aren’t mats a way better training tool than whips or training sticks? Click with your horse in training.

Strategies

Wait, there’s more! Once you’ve trained all Key Lessons and used them to teach other behaviours, your horse masters them well enough to use those Key Lessons as Strategies in your training.

How you can do that, I explain on Wednesdays in my free live webinar Horse Training Mastery- Bond with Your Horse in Training. Click here for more info and to register. For free.

Read more about HippoLogic’s Key Lessons (incl step-by-step training plans)

  1. “Table Manners” for Horses
  2. “Patience”
  3. Targeting
  4. Mat training
  5. Head lowering
  6. Backing

Key Lessons for Trainers

I also developed 6 Key Lessons for Trainers and just like the ones for horses they are first your goals. New habits to help you get insight in your training and to get a compass that leads to your goal.

No goal is too big! Dare to dream big. ~ HippoLogic

  1. Principles of Learning & Motivation
  2. Training Plan
  3. Shaping Plan
  4. Accountability
  5. Training journal
  6. Emotions in training (human and equine!)

Just like the Key Lessons for Horses, they start out as goals, then they become valuable training tools and eventually you can use them as strategies to help you excel in training!

I talk about those too in the free webinar.

How have you used targeting to teach behaviours?

Let me know in the comments if you’ve been using targeting to train other behaviours and inspire the readers. Click!

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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 make training a win-win.
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How to Teach your Horse to Lie Down

Do you want to teach your horse to lie down, but without the gimmicks like ropes or using force? You can teach Lying Down with positive reinforcement aka clicker training. This is how I teach clients this. Join HippoLogic’s GIVEAWAY to WIN! Click here to enter and win a free Trick Training Webinar Teach Your Horse to Lie Down Let’s talk about the benefits of clicker training your horse.

Benefits of clicker training (positive reinforcement)

You:
  1. Give your horse a choice: he is allowed to say yes or no without negative consequences
  2. Listen to your horse clickertraining.ca

    Listen to what your horse communicates

    Learn to listen to you horse. You can only reinforce the behaviour with an appetitive after he performed.  If he says ‘No’ to your cue, you have a great opportunity to learn from your horse. Every time you figure out why he said ‘No’ (they are hard wired to cooperate) and act on it, you’re building on your trust.
  3. Get to know your horse better. You need to know what appetitives reinforces him (what does he really wants to work for), you’ll develop a keen eye for behaviour in order to pinpoint (click) the desired behaviour and your timing will be impeccable. Where you can afford and get away with sloppiness in negative reinforcement, that won’t happen in R+. You get what you reinforce and it will be soon clear what that was.
  4. You built trust! You give your horse a useful and clear communication tool in hands with positive reinforcement. The better communication and mutual understanding you have, the better your relationship will be!
If you want to teach your horse to lie down on cue it helps to know his habits so that you can capture that behaviour. In my webinar I teach you exactly what you need to know to teach your horse to lie down on your cue. Plan your webinar date.

Here is an easy clicker training plan to train your horse to lie down without ropes or force

Clicker training is a training method that uses positive reinforcement. The ‘positive’ means -in scientific terms- an appetitive is added to strengthen the desired behaviour. An appetitive is everything the horse want and is willing to do an effort for. The click is meant to pinpoint the desired behaviour. After a few repetitions your horse will quickly associate his own behaviour with your click and that the marker is always followed by a appetitive, a treat. In order to provide clarity we will use a click of a box clicker to mark the desired behaviour, because that sound always is the same, no matter how you feel.

Timing

Timing is everything in clicker training horsesThe sooner the reinforcer (treat) is followed or even been given during the desired behaviour the sooner your horse connects the dots. This is not always practical and that’s why we use a ‘bridge’, the click, to close the time gap between the desired behaviour and the delivery of our reinforcer (giving the treat). The click also gives you, the trainer, time to get a treat out of your pocket and give it to your horse. The better your horse is clicker trained, the longer the time gap between the desired behaviour (the behavior that you want to see repeated) and the treat can be.

Trust

HippoLogic_trick training_clicker training _online coachingLying down without coercion can be a challenging behaviour to train because there needs to be a certain amount of trust between trainer and horse. It helps if you use high value reinforcers to train this behaviour. I use my own baked treats with cinnamon that all horses seem to value very highly!

5 Ways of Training Behaviour in Clicker Training

In positive reinforcement you can use 5 different techniques to train behaviour. These 5 methods all have their pros and cons, which I have written about in here.
  1. Luring (using a lure to lure the horse into a behaviour with a treat)
  2. Molding (also sometimes referred to as ‘manipulation’, is physically guiding or otherwise coercing a horse (or one body part) into the behaviour you want to teach)
  3. Targeting (touching a specified surface (e.g. a target stick) with a particular body part)
  4. Shaping (goal behaviour is achieved by splitting the desired behaviour into many tiny steps. Each step is trained separately (clicked and reinforced)
  5. Capturing (‘catching’ the end behaviour as it happens and reinforcing it with a click and treat)

What method do you choose

In order to teach your horse to lie down we can’t use luring effectively. Experienced trainers can use molding and use ropes to lift the horse’s legs in order to let them kneel and then lie down. This can be very dangerous; it takes great expertise to do it right and not fall into the pitfall of just forcing the horse to lie down by pulling a leg away so he gets down. Not friendly and it will not help in building trust! In order to use targeting skillfully in lying down I guess you could teach a horse to target his sternum so he will bring it to the ground eventually and as target the legs separately in order to bend them in the way they usually lie down. Not practical! In my webinar I share ways how you can use Key Lesson Targeting effectively as a training tool to help in training your horse to lie down on cue. There are two techniques left over that can be successfully used to teach your horse to lie down with clicker training: shaping and capturing.

Here is how you do it

What you’ll need: _treats_size_matters_value_matters_hippologicClicker, your horse’s favorite treats, a place where your horse is likely to lie down (soft surface like a sandy spot in the pasture or the arena)  Why teach it: It’s a way of measuring the amount of trust you’ve built and a fun way to test your skills as horse trainer. How to do it:  In my online trick training webinar Teach Your Horse to Lie Down I go into detail how you can use shaping and capturing successfully to teach your horse to lie down. In this blog I would like to give you practical tips, so let’s focus on capturing the behaviour. Prerequisites: Your horse needs to know what the ‘click’ means. Read here how you teach your horse the HippoLogic Key Lessons, you key to success in horse training.

Know your Learner!

hippologic train horse to lie down clickertrainingYou need to learn as much as you can about your horse’s behaviour and his habits. In the live webinar I give tips how you can learn about your horse’s habits and normal behaviour. In order to capture this behaviour you need to be prepared! Make sure you have your clicker and high value treats so that you can let your horse know right away what you want to see more of: lying down. You can capture this behaviour when he’s about to roll. Usually after a ride or a bath (in Summer!). You need to be ready to click and treat as soon as he’s lying down. Wait until he’s on the ground so that he won’t jump up right away when he hears your bridge signal to ask you ‘Where is my treat?” Another great opportunity is when your horse lies down to sleep. If you keep your horse at home you probably know what times of the day he lies to take naps and you can enter his stall quietly and give him lots of treats. I knew a horse that every morning after his breakfast, he lied down for a nap. Other horse’s lie down after lunch to take a well-deserved siesta. If you know when your horse sleeps, you can be at the barn at these times to capture the behaviour. Once you have captured this behaviour with a click and lots of treats you’ll notice he will be more and more eager to lie down when you’re around. Then it’s time to put a cue on the behaviour. You can say “Down” and point to the ground. If he lies down or rolls without your verbal cue you can give the cue quickly so he can be successfully earn a click. You want this behaviour on cue for safety reasons. More about that in the webinar.

Success tips

  • Start teaching lying down in Summer when it’s hot or in Winter when there is snow to roll in. Horses love to roll in the snow and this will be a perfect opportunity to click and treat him for lying down. When the ground is wet changes decrease to see your horse lie down.
  • Make sure you give your horse a generous jackpot after he lied down: keep feeding him treats until he gets up. You might have time for 1 treat or multiple treats. If you keep feeding for as long as he lies down, he understands that this behaviour is heavily reinforced.
  • For safety reasons: don’t sit or kneel down next to your horse. Bend over to feed treats or squad so you can stand up quickly if needed
  • Squad next to him, and never right in front of your horse. When horses stand up they put their front legs up first and you don’t want to be in their way.
  • Always squad down to the side where his back is, not where his legs are:
3 steps to ly down_horse_clickertraining_hippologic.jpg
  • Practice regularly in the beginning, but don’t over-train. I recommend three or four days in a row and then let it rest for two days. This will give your horse’s brain the chance to make the neural pathways that are needed (this is called latent learning). The brain is making a backup of the learned behaviour and you will most likely get better quality after a two-day break. Just like a weekend.
  • Don’t over ask. If your horse lies down once, that’s it for that day.
  • You can make the reward even more reinforcing if you use verbal praise to support your treats.
  • Once he offers the behaviour more often when you’re around it’s time to put a verbal cue on the behaviour.
Join HippoLogic’s GIVEAWAY to WIN! Click here to enter and win a free Trick Training Webinar Teach Your Horse to Lie Down Good luck!
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I help horse owners get the results in training they really, really want with joy and easy for both horse and human. I always aim for win-win!
Get a free 5 Step Clicker Training Plan.
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Join our group on Facebook where you can ask questions, interact with like-minded people and get support on your clicker journey. In the last quarter of 2019 I will do weekly LIVE videos in the Happy Herd. Don’t miss out!

Rehabilitating Horses with Clicker Training

Is that possible? Yes, it is! In my years working for the SPCA I trained many horses and barn animals with positive reinforcement (R+). Some horses needed to be rehabilitated mentally, some physically and some both.

I also taught employees and volunteers the basics of clicker training and together we trained the horses in order to make them more adoptable. These experiences helped me develop my own R+ training system and special tools that now help horse owners all over the world.

Using positive reinforcement to administer medication

Many of the horses at the SPCA needed medication when they were brought in: deworming and other oral medication like anti-inflammatory pills or pain killers. Some animals needed eye ointments or other wound care.

 

Using positive reinforcement in such situations was a real benefit. With coercion you might get it done once or twice before the animal smartens up and it becomes a struggle. The small amount of training time you put in with clicker training before or during administering medication, saves you time and effort in the future.

Building trust with R+

Using positive reinforcement also means giving a horse a voice and a choice in training. These things help building trust and a positive relationship with the animal. This also contributes to a positive view about humans in general.

Whenever a horse or other animal escaped everybody stayed relaxed. There was no chasing or shooing the animal back into his habitat. We usually used food or a friend to bring them back or sometimes we were just being patient. I really liked that way of handling animals. No screaming, no panic and we never had to corner an escaped animal.

We always joked that they where in a spa. The horses didn’t have to work, they got to exercise themselves in the pasture and they all loved their clicker training sessions.

Clicker conference 2.0

In 2019 I gave a presentation at the Dutch Clicker Conference 2.0 A New Way of Rehabilitating Horses in which I shared examples of rehabilitating horses with clicker training.  I’ve seen many benefits the use of positive reinforcement brings.

By listening to your animal in training you can spot problems early on. When my own horse got sore hoofs I noticed right away that she wasn’t as forward as she usually was. Kyra normally is really cooperative and when she is not, I know I have to investigate what is going on. The vet told me she had EMS (Equine Metabolic Syndrome) and laminitis.

Using R+ to rehabilitate a laminitis horse

I used positive reinforcement to exercise Kyra despite her sore hoofs. I hand walked her on the road.

A year earlier I taught Kyra to graze and stop grazing on cue and therefor I didn’t need to worry about the juicy grass next to the road. Yes, this amazed me too since she was also on a restrictive diet.

hoofshoes_boots_hippologic_clickertraining

Clicker training helped me to lift her feet (she didn’t want to lift her front hoof because it caused more pain in the other hoof she was standing on), helped me get her used to wearing hoof shoes and a grazing mask.

Positive reinforcement to reduce stereotypical behaviours

Some horses I worked with at the SPCA had stereotypical behaviours. Well suited environment (proper housing, management, care) in combination with clicker training helped greatly in diminishing those kind of behaviours.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I have seen horses that were weaving, cribbing or displayed other neurotic behaviour in training change. They stopped displaying their stereotypical behaviours in training and it greatly reduced altogether.

Although this is purely my experience I would love to see some research done on this. I think the horse world is ready to accept a broader view on positive reinforcement.

Conclusion

The more I work with R+, the more I see how much influence this kind of training really has on the animal. Positive reinforcement has more benefits than just training the desired behaviour. It can be a great way to reduce stress, restore and built trust and improve their welfare by offering the animal choices and ways to influence his environment.

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  • 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.

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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
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 youWhat’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.

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How to Teach Your Horse to do Crunches with 100% R+

The body worker/chiropractor came by for Kyra a few weeks ago. She wasn’t walking well and her back is swaying (sags). In this blog I share my shaping plan and point out most common pitfalls in teaching your horse to do crunches.

The equine body worker/chiropractor did great work by helping Kyra’s body relax and getting rid of some blockages. Our home work was belly lifts (abs). He showed me how to do it: by placing your fingertips (using your nails) at the sternum and pushing up.

Of course that worked… He explained it was a reflex. I believe it’s a response to an aversive, not a reflex in the biological sense of the word.

I don’t work with aversives in training, therefor I had to figure out another way to communicate that I wanted belly lifts from Kyra and I did.

I thought of which behaviours we already have on cue (standing square, backing) and used those as foundation for the belly lifts. Kyra now lifts her back about 2 cm on verbal and body language cue and she is getting better at it every day.

This video is session 4 and Kyra totally rocks! She even offers duration: she flexes her abs a split second longer, and that’s all it takes to start building duration, see video below.

Shaping plan

Kyra already mastered standing square (which is part of Key Lesson Patience) and also backing up (Key Lesson Backing). The Key Lessons in the HippoLogic program are the basics you can built all other behaviours on.

Here is the basic step-by-step plan (shaping plan) I used to train Kyra to free shape belly lifts (back lifts):

  • Standing square, weight on both hind legs equally divided (vertical balance)
  • Minimal weight shift to hind quarters
  • Add: flexing abs (belly lifts, back comes up)
  • Reduce: moving backwards
  • Add: head/neck position (Feeding for Position is a great help)
  • Add: duration
  • Add: repetitions

As with all shaping plans, each step can be divided into multiple steps and have to be trained over multiple sessions. Depending on the horse and trainer more steps can be added.

Pitfalls

Training without a system is setting yourself up for failure. Before you start, think about these common pitfalls and prepare yourself.

Shaping plan: Not making a plan before you start. What does the behaviour look like? What are my criteria? When do I stop? How long do I train? If you don’t think before you start, you have to think a lot more after you started. Reshaping a trained (reinforced) behaviour can be way more complicated and more difficult than training a brand new behaviour. A shaping plan prevents frustration in trainer and horse.

Timing: if you click too late, your horse thinks he has to back up. Click too early he thinks he just has to stand or do whatever he was doing (moving his head, tail, legs). Important to click the instant he starts shifting his weight backwards. It’s almost for clicking for ‘thinking to step backwards’.

Reinforcers: if you give your horse verbal praise or a treat he doesn’t value, you don’t get more of the marked (desired) behaviour. Find out what your horse loves to work for. If the wanted behaviour increases, the reinforcer was valuable.

Criteria: make sure you have small enough steps for your horse to understand what you wants. Make the criteria as clear as possible for yourself. Reinforce micro-movements in teaching crunches. Make criteria as clear as possible: eg don’t click for weight shifts while sniffing your pockets (go back and practise Key Lesson Table Manners first. This will safe time later. Don’t wait too long to click or you’ll have ‘too much behaviour’ (a step backwards, instead of weight shift). Goal is to lift the back, not (only) shifting weight!

Benefits of doing crunches

I think you don’t have to wait for your horse to get a swayed back before teaching your horse to do crunches (Pilates for horses, back lifts, belly lifts).

It’s a great way to strengthen your horse’s core muscles that will help him under saddle. Not only for riding but also to help him use his body in the best way he can. It keeps him healthy and strong and is a great way to create horizontal balance. It’s fun too! They learn to use their body’s in a way that benefits them and makes them more body aware.

In this video (session 6) you can see how much Kyra’s back lifts and how much it straightens.

If you need a bit of help with teaching your horse to do crunches, don’t hesitate to contact me.  That is what I do: helping equestrians get the results in training they really, really, really want.

Do you want to teach your horse crunches and don’t know where to start?

Book a free discovery call and I will help you figure it out!

_Kyra_en_ik_hippologic
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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crunches clickertraining hippologic

Tips to Measure the Value of Your Reward

I mean reinforcer. Not ‘reward’. It just sounded better. 😉 There is a big difference, let’s take a look at the definitions:

Reward
noun

A thing given in recognition of one’s service, effort, or achievement.
“the holiday was a reward for 40 years’ service with the company”

Synonyms: Recompenseprizeawardhonordecorationbonuspremiumbountypresentgift,
payment;

Informal – payoffperk;
Formal – perquisite “a reward for its safe return”
Reward
verb
Make a gift of something to (someone) in recognition of their services, efforts, or achievements.
Synonyms:

Recompensepayremunerate, make something worth someone’s while;

Reinforcer

A stimulus (such as a appetitive or the removal of an aversive) that increases the probability of a desired response in operant conditioning by being applied or effected following the desired response.

The purpose of a reward is a gift (end of story), the purpose of a reinforcer is to stimulate behaviour! Big difference.

Determine a Reinforcer

_Hippologic_rewardbased training_receiver_determinesFirst you need to know that it’s the receiver (horse) that determines the reinforcer, not the trainer!

Your horse will tell you if something was reinforcing.

There are only 3 possibilities:

  1. You get more behaviour: the appetitive or aversive was indeed reinforcing
  2. You see no difference in desired response:the trainer did not give an appetitive or aversive stimulus but a neutral stimulus
  3. You get less of the desired behaviour, your reinforcer was not a reinforcer but a punishment for the learner. The behaviour decreased.

Low value or high value reinforcers

Low value reinforcers will still increase desired behaviour (they are not neutral) but they don’t over excite or over arouse your horse. Your horse stays interested in your training and keeps paying attention to you.

_treats_in_training_hippologicHigh value reinforcers can help your horse to increase his own criteria of a certain behaviour because the value of the treat excites him.

The downside is that high value reinforcers can cause over excitement and/or overarousal. You want to avoid that because it will distract the animal from the behaviour you want him to offer.

Choosing the Right Value

In general you want to use the lowest value reinforcer possible, that still get you the desired behaviour. It’s still worth it for the horse.

Low value reinforcers will help keep your horse in ‘learning mode‘ and pay attention to the behaviour, not the food.

You can alternate low value reinforcers with higher value reinforcers or you can mix them to up the value and keep it interesting.

_carrot_reward_reinforcer_horsetreat_tips for treats_horsetraining_hippologicHigh value reinforcers can be well used when your horse is nervous, in pain or if something else (a distraction) is also highly reinforcing.

A better ‘pay’ can help him decide to offer the desired behaviour despite of his emotions or other attractive motivators that going on.

It can help your horse to choose to perform better if he knows a high value reinforcer will or might come his way.

Tips to Measure the Value

When your horse grabs the treat off of your hand, bites, moves his head very fast towards the hand that offers the treat or eats the treat very fast, the reinforcer is of high value. Other signs can be over excitement or arousal and concentrating on the food instead of the cues of the trainer.

When your horse sniffs the treat first or slowly eats it, it can be an indicator of a low value reinforcer. If your horse starts to refuse the treat during training it has lost it’s value and you need to stop the training session or switch to a higher value reinforcer.
If the quality of the desired behaviour will not increase (your horse doesn’t try other behaviours/increase criteria) your reinforcers aren’t high enough value.

When your horse stays engaged in your training, keep offering new behaviours and doesn’t show frustration or overarousal/overexcitement the balance of high/low value reinforcers is perfect. That might change over time or when your clicks get too predictable.

Behaviour is not static!

What are some low and high value reinforcers for your horse? How can you tell? Please share your stories in the comments and inspire us!

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If you think this is a blog that someone can benefit from or if you want to share this on your social media, please use one of the share buttons  below. I also love to hear your view on this subject, so please add a comment. I read them all!

If you don’t know what to say simply hit the like button so I know you appreciated this blog. Thank you!

Happy Horse training!

_Kyra_en_ik_hippologic
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I help horse owners get the relationship with their horse they really, really want and I teach them how they can get the results in training they dream of in a win-win way for horse and human.
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and discover my online course Ultimate Horse Training Formula.
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Two Tips for building ‘Duration’ in Behaviour

There are many ways to built on ‘duration’ in behaviours you train with positive reinforcement. I will give an example of building duration in stationary behaviours and building duration in moving behaviours.

General Training Tips

Set your horse and yourself up for success:

  • Make sure the horse understands the goal behaviour before adding the criterion ‘duration’
  • Minimize the distractions in the environment when adding duration
  • Make sure your horse is focused on you and interested in learning

Key Lesson for Trainers: Timing

In clicker training there is a saying You get what you reinforce. In practise it is often quite hard to recognize what behaviour you are actually marking with your click.

Only after a while -when you get a certain amount of the reinforced (marked) behaviour- it shows what you’ve been clicking for, according to the horse. If that was not what you intended, you have to change your timing.

Is your timing right?

If you have difficulties training for duration or other criteria ask yourself: What am I clicking for? A video will help you discover it.

Building duration in stationary behaviours

With stationary behaviours I mean behaviours when the horse is not suppose to move. Examples are: Key Lesson Patience, Key Lesson Mat Training, Key Lesson Head lowering.

Building duration in stationary behaviours can be done with increasing your Rate of Reinforcement (RoR): as long as your horse displays the desired behaviour you keep clicking and reinforcing. When the horse moves out of the desired position you stop clicking and reinforcing.

Timing of the click

The click must be timed when the horse does not move.

timing is everything_hippologicExample 1: when your horse is standing on a mat and it is difficult to built duration, are you really reinforcing ‘standing on the mat’? Describe your criteria and focus on what you want. Standing on a mat: hoof or hooves are touching the mat, horse has weight on his foot/feet.

If your timing is not correct, you might have clicked more often for ‘moving towards the mat’ or ‘moving away from the mat’ than ‘touching the mat’.

Both movement behaviours are present in pawing. If your horse paws the mat, are you really only clicking for the moment he touches the mat or is your horse already moving his leg and are you actually reinforcing the movement of the leg? If that is too difficult to time, start focusing on another criterion: ‘putting weight on the hoof that touches the mat’.

This is an example of the horse doesn’t yet understand the assignment. You need to teach him first to really stand on the mat (not just touching briefly) before adding duration to the exercise.

Example 2: as long as your horse stands ‘Patiently’ waiting next to you, you click, give a treat and when he hasn’t moved, you click and reinforce again. You keep doing this until your horse decides to try out another behaviour, eg moving forward one step and you stop clicking. Once he offers the desired behaviour again you start clicking and reinforcing.

Most horses will learn quickly that ‘not doing anything (else)‘ is very rewarding.

Next step is to withhold the click to built duration

When your horse offers the desired behaviour, wait 1 second (counting out loud can help you and your horse) then click and reinforce. Then you count to 2 before clicking and reinforcing.  Don’t train this in a lineair way and go from 1, 2, 3, 4 to 5 seconds.

Instead, alternate the duration and go from 1 second before you click to 0 seconds (click right away), to 1 and then 2 seconds before you click. Then do 1 second, click, 2 seconds, click, 1 second, click, 2 seconds, 3 seconds click, 1 second, click 4 seconds, click and so on.

Keep Going Signal clicker trainingYou horse learns that as long as you are still counting he must do whatever he is doing. If he moves before you can count to 2, you start counting from 1 again.

If you already have an established ‘keep-going’ signal, you can use that instead of counting out loud.

Building duration in movement

With building duration in movement I mean the behaviours when the horse is is suppose to keep moving. Example: Key Lesson Backing.

Timing of the click

The click must be timed when the horse does move._timing_hippologic.jpg

Make sure you click and reinforce the movement itself and not after the movement stopped or before the movement is happening.

Example: in Key Lesson Backing you want to focus on the movement. You start clicking for weight shift while that movement is going on. Then of one step with one hoof, one with two hoofs and so on. Once your horse understands the behaviour, you can build duration by clicking for the movement only.

Click ends behaviour

Please remember that click means also ‘end of behaviour’. So when the horse stops after hearing the click that is OK. He was moving when the click was happening. The click marks the behaviour.

Add a stop-cue

Once your horse has learned to keep moving, you need a cue to ask him to stop, because you won’t always keep clicking to break the pattern of movement.

_stop_cue_hippologic

You can ask for a incompatible behaviour in order to stop the movement you’ve been training. Don’t forget to reinforce that behaviour, too! In backing you can ask for ‘halt’ (cue ‘Whoa’) or ‘go forward’ ( cue ‘Walk on’).

More ways to built duration

There are many more ways you can built duration in a behaviour. What works for you depends on the animal, the situation and on your level of expertise.

This blog has no room to share all possibilities, I usually keep the word count around 500 and this one is already more than twice as long.

If you want to share your approach or training tips about building duration add them in the comments for everyone else to read.

Please share

If you think this is a blog that someone can benefit from or if you want to share this on your social media, use one of the share buttons below. I also love to hear your view on this subject, so please add a comment. I read them all!

If you don’t know what to say simply hit the like button so I know you appreciated this blog. Thank you!

_Kyra_en_ik_hippologic
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I help horse owners create the relationship with their horse and get the training result they really, really want.  
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and discover my online course Ultimate Horse Training Formula.
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Smart strategy to train a halter shy horse

Let me start by telling you that there are many ‘wrong’ ways and many right ways to rehabilitate a horse that has a halter or bridle trauma. Here is my story in which I share the wrong and the right strategy.

Problem_Haltering_haltershy_horse_hippologic

This is Punky. His problem was that no one, except the owner, could halter him.

You can see how that can be a daily stress for both horse and humans in a boarding facility, right?

Solution

The wrong way is to go straight to problem solving. That is what we humans like to do, it is natural to us and it has been reinforced all our lives that this is the way to do it.

That is exactly what I did…

dealing with problem beahviour_hippologic1

I started the ‘wrong’ way, which was pretty much what most horse trainers would do.

When I was training Punky, I thought I could skip my own Key Lessons and ‘just teach the horse to be OK with a halter’.

I thought just teaching Punky to target the halter would be the one and only step to desensitize him. I envisioned that the next step could be the haltering. Easy-peasy.

It was a bit more complex than that and I learned how valuable the HippoLogic Key Lessons really are. For all trainers.

We can’t skip steps because it is the horse who determines how many steps are needed, not the trainer.

solving problem behaviour_hippologic

How Key Lessons helped me train a halster shy horse

When I started out teaching Punky to target his halter, he became really excited about all the treats he was (in his mind!) ‘suddenly’ receiving.

Key Lesson ‘Table Manners for Horses’ (safe hand-feeding)

I needed to teach him Key Lesson ‘Table Manners for Horses’ in order to keep my fingers safe and to teach him that a food reward only can be expected after the click.

Key Lesson ‘Patience’

He started to mug me more and more. Again, I had to lower my criteria about his learning curve. I realized that I should have taught him Key Lesson ‘Patience’ (move his head out of my space in order not to mug me) before I taught him anything else.

Then, when I thought I was ready to work on ‘desensitization of the halter’ I noticed that he wouldn’t even wanted to come near a halter. Every time I wanted to halter him he put his head up to prevent me from haltering him.

Key Lesson ‘Targeting’

I decided to teach him Key Lesson ‘Targeting’ (nose and ears) so I could bring the halter near his body and ask him to touch the halter with his nose.

This wasn’t enough to halter him. Now he was OK with touching the halter with his nose and even putting his nose into the nose band, but he was still putting his head up and backing up when I wanted to pull the halter over his ears.

Key Lesson ‘Head lowering’

Therefor I needed to teach Punky Key Lesson ‘Head lowering’. Asking him to lower his head on cue turned out to be super helpful in giving Punky clarity about all I wanted from him:

  • Keep your head near me
  • Put your nose in the halter
  • Lower your head
  • Target the crown piece with your ears
  • Keep your head low so I can bring the crown piece over your ears and…
  • Keep your head down until I close the snap.

Lumping a common pitfall in training

In other words: I was lumping instead of splitting the goal behaviour. A pitfall all trainers need to beware of.

_hurry slowly_festina lente_hippologic.jpg

This was a valuable experience for me. Now I start all horses I train, teaching them my Key Lessons. No matter what I think they already can do or what I ‘think I can skip’. Building a solid foundation first, speeds up training instead of slowing it down!

Here is a video of haltering Punky, training day 4:

Here is a video of day 11, after I taught all the necessary Key Lessons:

Read more

How you can turn basic exercises as ‘Table Manners’ for Horses and ‘Patience’ into tools is discussed in part I.  Read here part II where you can learn how to use Key Lessons Targeting and Mat training to train complex behaviours. Read part III to learn how you can use Key Lessons Head lowering and Backing for advanced training purposes.

Please share

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

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

HippoLogic.jpg
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve human-horse relationships. I reconnect horse women with their inner wisdom and teach them the principles of learning and motivation, so they become confident and skilled to train their horse in a safe and effective way that is a lot of FUN for both human and horse. Win-win.

Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and discover my online 8 week course ‘Ultimate Horse Training Formula: Key Lessons, Your Key to Success’ that will change your life.

Benefits of Key Lessons in Clicker Training (3/3)

When you start clicker training your horse you might want to start with something fun and exciting. I call my basic clicker exercises ‘Key Lessons’. HippoLogic’s Key Lessons (Your Key to Success in Positive Reinforcement training) are not basic exercises, they are actual training tools. Important and versatile training tools.

In this series I will explain how you can use a basic exercise into a valuable training tool.

Key Lesson Hippologic

Key Lessons for Horses

HippoLogic’s 6 Key Lessons are:

  1. ‘Table Manners’ for horses (safe hand-feeding, waiting for food reward)
  2. ‘Patience’
  3. Targeting
  4. Mat Training
  5. Head Lowering
  6. Backing

From Exercise to Training tool to Success strategy

When you start teaching your horse the Key Lessons they are simply your goals in training, but once you master these exercises you can start using them as tools. They will help you train other, more complex behaviours.

Once you are using them as tools you will notice that they become your success strategy. That is what I teach in my online course Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Positive Reinforcement Horse Training. 

Key Lesson Head lowering

Head lowering is a very simple exercise to teach your horse to do, yet it is very helpful in so many situations. It can be useful in haltering and bridling tall horses, asking your horse to inspect a scary object on the ground or to help your horse to calm down.

__keylesson_head_low_clickertraining_1

Head lowering can also be a valuable tool if you have to lead your horse under something like a horse agility obstacle or a doorway.

It is helpful teaching your horse your cue to give him permission ‘you may graze now’ (Key Lesson Targeting comes in handy to teach him to stop grazing) or to let him stretch his neck under saddle or while driving.

A calm horse has no problem lowering his head or keeping his head down. This head position is associated with behaviours like grazing and exploring. Both pleasurable experiences.

One of the first behaviours a horse displays when he is in distress or gets nervous is to put his head up so he can see, hear and smell what is going on. If your horse doesn’t want to bring his head down it can be an indication he is not relaxed. Asking your horse to lower his head can help him calm down. Especially when it is taught with positive reinforcement and the horse has to decide himself to lower his head!

Key Lesson Backing

Backing might be less versatile than all the other Key Lessons, but it isn’t less valuable. Backing certainly deserves its place in the list.

Backing can make all kinds of situations more safe. For instance if you have to lead your horse though a gate that opens inwards it is very handy if your horse knows to back up on a simple hand or voice cue. What about unloading your horse from a trailer? I’ve been in situations where a horse didn’t want to or couldn’t back up and it makes it very hard to unload a horse, I can tell you.

_ keylesson backing hippologic clickertrainingIf a horse mugs or bites backing helps create space immediately between you and the horse. Then you can make a plan how to address the undesired behaviour. Backing also can be helpful in behaviours like teaching your horse to align with the mounting block or ask him to lift his hoof if he is standing on your lead rope.

Last but not least backing can be used as an agility exercise to strengthen his muscles under saddle or in groundwork.

 

Read more

How you can turn basic exercises as ‘Table Manners’ for Horses and ‘Patience’ into tools is discussed in part I.  Read here part II where you can learn how to use Key Lessons Targeting and Mat training to train complex behaviours.

Please share

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

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

HippoLogic.jpg
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve human-horse relationships. I reconnect horse women with their inner wisdom and teach them the principles of learning and motivation, so they become confident and skilled to train their horse in a safe and effective way that is a lot of FUN for both human and horse. Win-win.

Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a reinforcer) or visit HippoLogic’s website and discover my online 8 week course ‘Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Positive Reinforcement Horse Training’ that will change your life.

Benefits of Key Lessons in Clicker Training (1/3)

Not too long ago I wrote a blog about the ‘boring basics‘ which appeared not to be boring at all!

I realized that maybe some equestrians still consider basic exercises as ‘exercises’ or ‘basic’ while they are so much more. I consider HippoLogic’s Key Lessons (Your Key to Success in Positive Reinforcement training) not as basic exercises but as tools. Important and powerful training tools.

In this series I will explain how you can turn exercises into valuable training tools.

Key Lessons for Horses

The 6 fundamental exercises in clicker training that can become your most valuable tool are:

  1. ‘Table Manners’ for horses
  2. ‘Patience’
  3. Targeting
  4. Mat Training
  5. Head Lowering
  6. Backing

From exercise to training tool to success strategy

At first the Key Lessons are goals in training, but once you master these exercises you can start using them as tools. They will help you get other, more complex behaviours. Once you are using them as tools you will notice that they become your success strategy. That is what I teach in my 8 week online course Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Positive Reinforcement Horse Training. 

1. ‘Table Manners’ for Horses

This exercise starts out to teach your horse what humans see as ‘desired’ behaviour around food and food reinforcers.

HippoLogicThis exercise starts out to teach people to train their horse not to mug them and to be ‘polite’ around food. With ‘polite’ I mean the food always goes to the horse, never the other way around. Treats need to be carefully taken off of the hand with their lips, not the teeth. Only the treat is eaten, not the fingers and so on. Basically you just teach your horse not to forage for food. You train them to suppress their natural exploration behaviour.

Once your horse knows the fastest way to the treat (wait for the marker/click) you can teach your horse more complex behaviours, like going to his target when you arrive with hay or a bucket of grain.

2. ‘Patience’

In the exercise ‘Patience’ you teach your horse to stand next to you, with his head straight and his neck in a comfortable horizontal position. In this way your horse can’t ‘mug’ you (explore/forage).
‘Patience’ changes from a ‘simple exercise’ to a valuable training tool once you make this your horses’ ‘default behaviour’._keylesson_patience_hippologic

Default behaviour

Normally you put a cue to a behaviour once your horse masters an exercise. You will raise the criterion from ‘Well done: click‘ every time he displays the behaviour to ‘You can only earn a click after I gave a cue‘.
In a default behaviour you don’t use this criterion: you will reinforce the behaviour also when it is on the horses initiative.

Once ‘Patience‘ becomes a default behaviour and your horse is a well seasoned clicker trained horse, he will use this exercise in his communication to you.

He will display his default behaviour when he doesn’t know what to do or doesn’t understand your assignment or when he gets frustrated. He does this because he knows this behaviour will never be punished. He also learns it will almost never be ignored. So this becomes his tool to communicate with you.

In the next sequences I will explain the other Key Lessons for Horses. Read part 2 here and here is part 3.

Check out my webinar about this subject:

Please share

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

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

HippoLogic.jpg
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve human-horse relationships. I reconnect horse women with their inner wisdom and teach them the principles of learning and motivation, so they become confident and skilled to train their horse in a safe and effective way that is a lot of FUN for both human and horse. Win-win.

Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a reinforcer) or visit HippoLogic’s website and discover my online 8 week course ‘Ultimate Horse Training Formula’ in which we cover all 12 Key Lesson that will change your life and help you become the best horse trainer you can be for your horse.

Follow my blog  on Bloglovin

The safest way to bring a dangerous horse to the pasture

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

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

Horses that run off, kick and bolt

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

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

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

Solution

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

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

Incompatible behaviour

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

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

Step 1: What is the undesired behaviour?

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

Step 2: What is the cause?

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

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

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

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

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

Step 3: Work on the cause

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

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

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

Step 4: Teach an incompatible behaviour 

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

Related posts:

How to bring your horse to the pasture safely

How to get your horse out of the pasture effortlessly

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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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Teach your horse confidence

Are you tired of your horse repeatedly spooking over the same things? Are you getting impatient that he is still scared of object X while he has seen dozens of times? Do you think you and your horse’s lives would improve if you could teach him to just ‘get over’ it? Here is what you can do.

Responsive animal

First of all I would like you to realize that your horse is a responsive animal and when he is fearful he wants to survive and get away from the scary thing. He is not testing you, he is not acting as if he’s scared or pretending. He is not, he just responds to his environment and ‘acts’ accordingly to his instincts. The same instincts that kept the species alive for thousand and thousand of years. Watch the video below of Kyra and you can see she is not pretending. She wants to run away, but she also wants to explore what scared her. If she knows it is safe she doesn’t have to run away and use energy that she might need later.

Train your horse to have confidence

With positive reinforcement you can easily teach your horse to target an object with his nose, that is called targeting.

verjaardag2011 022

Targeting new objects

Once your horse knows how to target and he has experienced over and over again that he is getting something wonderful when he does, he wants to target more objects. He now knows from experience that targeting brings him good stuff: a click (the marker to pinpoint his exact behaviour that gets him the treat or another positive reinforcer) and the reinforcer itself (the treat).

Practise in different contexts

Once your horse knows and likes to target you can ask him to touch other objects too, like a plastic bag, a cone, an upside down bucket or a huge horse ball.

Click and reinforce every tiny step towards the desired behaviour. This can be literally that you have to click and reinforce every step towards the object you want him to target. Even when your horse is still 30 steps or more away from the object!_flag_training_hippologic

Tip for building confidence

When your horse wants to leave, let him! Make sure you practise this in a safe environment like an arena or his paddock, where your horse has the opportunity to run away if he needs to.

Never punish or ‘correct’ scared behaviour or force your horse to walk towards it, this just adds to his stress and he might associate you to the scary object. That is the last thing you would like to happen!

Try the 15 second rule

Most horses need a maximum of 15 seconds to examine a new, potentially dangerous object and decided that it is safe. If they think it is not safe they usually run away before the 15 seconds have passed by.

Count while your horse is exploring (looking at the object or listening to something in the distance that we don’t hear) and deciding. Once your horse has given the 15 seconds to decide what he thinks of it, the fear often metls away. For good!
Don’t be mistaken! Waiting for 15 seconds when your horse is tense feels like a really, really long time! It feels like eternity! That is why you have to count, so you know if the time is not yet up. It really helps!

I have tried this with my own horse Kyra and she usually needs 8 seconds before she trusts the unfamiliar object. Then I ask her to touch it for a click and treat. She always does! After this she is not scared anymore. I might still need to train confidence with the same object under different circumstances (time of day, maybe it sounds different when rain is hitting the object or it looks different at night or when its wet and so on) but the amount of fear has always diminished after that first positive encounter.

When your horse has done many repetitions of targeting unfamiliar objects you can also ask him to pass by and ignore the object, in order to earn a click and treat. In this way you reinforce and teach him to walk by calmly, even when he is not allowed to examine or touch the object, animal or other horse.

Curiosity

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAHorses are curious by nature and when you let him run away, he will feel safe and find the right distance that feels safe for him to inspect the object. Then he wants to come closer and see what it is. If you can encourage your horse with positive reinforcement to examine the new thing, his curiosity is triply rewarded. First of all because he satisfies his own need to know that it is safe, second because you reinforced him to be curious and third by giving him the freedom to run away to lower his stress. Instead of pushing him to move towards something scary while he is not yet ready to do so.

Kyra

Look how fearful Kyra was for a big ball and how she settled nicely after a few minutes of clicker training. She doesn’t pretend to be fearful, she is really anxious and runs for her life. Can you imagine how stressful it would have been if I had kept her on a lead rope and forced her to come closer?

 

Horse-time

Let your horse decide if something is safe. Give him as much time as he needs! This might only be 15 seconds, but it will save you many scared hours in the future! It is up to him to decide how much time he needs. If you force him to approach the scary thing ‘in order to let him see/feel/undergo it is safe’, it can take longer to get the confidence. This is called ‘flooding’ and if you ‘flood’ your horse, you might create a bigger problem instead of solving it and building confidence in him and you as his trainer.

Success tips

  • Start with familiair objects that already evoke positive emotions in your horse, like a bucket (often associated with food)
  • Start with silent objects that don’t make noises when they are moved, pushed over or blown away
  • Build his confidence in tiny steps and let your horse decides if it is safe for him or not
  • Reinforce your horse with a click (marker) and something he desires, like a piece of carrot or some pellets
  • Keep horses that are already confident near the object close by so your horse can see that it is not so scary as he thinks it is
  • Slowly introduce bigger, newer objects or moving objects.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Click and reinforce often!

Reinforce often! Let him know what you want by bringing clarity: towards to new object results in a click and treat, but moving away from it is OK too! This is how you build confidence in your horse. Let him figure it out in his own pace at his own terms!

I spend a lot of time training ‘calmness’ and ‘relaxation’ in Kyra in new and unfamiliar circumstances. It always pays off, once Kyra is confident to touch an object she is fine with it in the future. Sometimes it takes a while, before she is totally fine with it but when she does I can count on her confidence forever! That is why it saves me time in the long run and it makes me feel safe too!

_Kyra_en_ik_hippologic
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve horse-human relationships by educating equestrians about ethical and horse friendly training. I offer coaching to empower you to train your horse in a 100% animal friendly way that empowers both you and your horse.
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How training horses can change your life!

How Horse Training turned me into a Pollyanna

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

Negative Nancy

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

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

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

Focus on what you want to grow

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

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

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

Challenge

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

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

Shift from self-criticism to self-motivation

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

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

How did positive reinforcement horse training change your life?

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

 

Preparing your Horse for the Farrier with Clicker Training

Being a farrier  is a high risk profession. It is not only a physically demanding job, but also the clients can be very opinionated. Or worse become defensive and kick, bite or rear. With clients I mean horses, of course. How can you help your farrier be safe working with your horse?  How can you prepare your horse for a farrier treatment? My answer is of course: with positive reinforcement.Kyra one month after arrival

Positive reinforcement for the professional

The first thing reinforcing the farrier to come back is that he gets paid! I like to offer a cup of tea and some cookies too, if he is really good with my horse. But the best way to reinforce your farrier to come back and do a good job is to have your horse well trained and prepared.

Continue reading

I accomplished my ‘shittiest’ goal ever!

Yes, this will be a very shitty topic. Sorry about that. The topic is… house-training my horse. In May 2015 I started house-training Kyra. I am a lazy horse owner, so I taught her some tricks to make my life easier.
You can house-train your horse too: http://clickertraining.ca

Thinking ahead

I always, always reinforce Kyra with a treat if she poops or pees when she sees me. If I call her in the pasture and she doesn’t come to me, it usually means that she wants to relief herself first. _house_training_horses_hippologicThe beauty of clicker training is that I can use the bridge signal, the click (‘this is the behaviour I want to see more of, and your reward is on the way’) from a distance and then walk toward her of simply wait until she reaches me so I can give her a treat. I also give a treat when she poops or pees in her stall before I take her out.

Time saving habit

I never have to clean up after her on in the hallway where I groom her. Kyra never has to poop or pee on the cement floor. That is also the reason why she almost never poops or pees under saddle, she already went. Win-win-win.

Other shitty goals

As you can read here, I taught Kyra to only use a specific area in the arena to poop in. The beauty of it is that she can clearly communicates when she has to ‘go’. She simply walks over to that corner and I wait until she has done her business. She has learned to poop right next to the manure bucket, even when I am not around! This is due to the clicker training. She simply made a positive association with pooping in that corner. This means I never have to walk around the arena looking for poop after a ride. I used to walk twice with the bedding fork between the manure and the bucket. It’s a good thing I don’t have to do this anymore, because I used to forget this. I used to think ‘I’ll do this later when I’ve brought Kyra back to the pasture,’ . Only to forget about it. Now scooping her poop takes me less than a minute.

Goal achieved? No…

No. Not yet… I would like her to poop in the manure bucket or wheelbarrow. Like I said: I am very lazy so this will save me another minute. Yay! I must say I had to wait over a year for the opportunity to click Kyra while she was pooping and I had the opportunity to place the bucket or wheelbarrow right behind her in order to catch it.

I accomplished my shittiest goal!

This week was my lucky week: I captured the behaviour twice! Shitty mission accomplished! I even have this on video, believe it or not! Kyra has now been positively reinforced twice to aim for the manure bucket/wheelbarrow. I hope I can ‘catch’ it again. With the wheelbarrow that is. If you want to train your horse to be house-trained, I can help you. Just contact me. Every horse, barn and set up are different so is every training. This blog is how I did it and your situation probably need tailored adjustments to help you succeed. This was my shittiest goal ever accomplished!  Sorry for the smally subject. If you’re not blessed with a visual mind, here is the video. Visit my HippoLogic YouTube channel Next time a more decent blog.

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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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Unconventional Training Solutions

Clicker training is brain training. I simply have to break out of the box of conventional ideas to come up with solutions that are ethical (pain free and force free) and horse friendly (easy to understand and rewarding for the horse). This is not always a simple task with these self-imposed regulations.

Challenge

Sometimes it is a real challenge to come up with solutions for difficulties I encounter in einsteinmy own training with Kyra. If I work for a client it’s really easy, because I am the outsider. To come up with creative training solutions for my own situation is much more challenging. That is why I like to have a mentor too.

If my mentor is not available, I have to focus on what I want and how I want this instead of ‘how I know I can solve this’. Because ‘I know how to solve this’ with coercion, negative reinforcement, punishment and other methods I am not willing to use anymore.

Training goal

Kyra is up for a new step in her training on the long reins. I want her to canter on the long reins. That means she has to learn to collect herself, otherwise I can’t keep up with her.

I started her on a circle in canter because she was too fast. On a circle I didn’t have to run. I created a problem by staying on the circle too long. She didn’t want to follow the rail on the long side of the arena, because she thought she had to stay in a circle.

Couldn’t you just use the outside rein?

_langeteugel-hippologic2012I didn’t want to pull on the outside rein. Her head moves up and down a lot in canter so the reins are already moving and causing too much ‘noise’ to be subtle with the rein aids. I don’t want to pull (force) her with the reins since I think the reins should stay a subtle aid.

Pulling on the outside reins causes her body to bend the wrong way (outside ‘Stellung’) which is a hard problem to solve later.

Why didn’t you use the whip to prevent her coming off the track?

I don’t use a whip. This would only work if she is used to yielding for the whip and/or is afraid of the whip. Using a tool that is developed to cause pain, discomfort or help motivate (in a negative reinforcement way) a horse move is not what I want. I think it can be too enticing to use it for what it is made for in a moment of frustration.
I don’t want to teach Kyra what she is NOT supposed to do (she is ‘not supposed to come off track’), I want her to teach what I want her to do: stay on the track. It is a different way of thinking. Focusing on what you want to teach instead of what you want to prevent.

How did you solve it if you don’t use rein aids or a whip?

Thank you for asking! I had to figure out a way to communicate to Kyra what it is I was looking for: staying on the track in canter.

Step 1

First I laid some poles next to the track parallel to the wall on the long side of the arena. She just stepped over them to make her circle. So I split the goal into smaller steps: I practised cantering at liberty and under saddle along the poles. That made it easier for her to understand that she was suppose to follow the track. It wasn’t fool proof and she was still confused on the long rein.

Step 2

Then I used some cones which she knows how to target. I made it really easy and asked her to touch the cone then canter a few strides to the next cone and asked her to touch that other cone. She understood quickly and so I made the distance between the cones bigger. The poles were still parallel to the track but she didn’t want to jump over them now that she was focused on the cones.

Step 3

Now we made really quick progress: she started to canter on the long side of the track. In 3 training sessions of 5-10 minutes I could take some of the poles away and start cantering on the other side of the arena on the long side.

Step 4

The next step was to fade out the cones and the two poles at the beginning and end of the long sides of the tracks. The cones were not important anymore because now I could click and reinforce for cantering on the track.

Step 5

Now I started to canter on the other side of the arena as well and it was no problem for her to understand to stay on the track.

Step 6

The next step is to change reins and practise everything she now learned in the left lead canter to the right lead canter.

Step 7

Now we are working on speed in canter. She is still a bit too fast and she has to learn to collect more so I can walk along her side instead of jogging. We already worked on this in session 4 and 5.

In this way I taught Kyra to stay on track and canter more slowly in only 7 sessions of 5-10 minutes. No frustration (only a bit of a brainteaser for me), no force, pain or threatening. I really like to come up with training solutions like this so I don’t have to damage the bond of trust I have been building so carefully.

What are some of the force free and R+ solutions you came up with in your training?

Please share this post if it was helpful. It might help other equestrians to think out of the box.

Sandra Poppema
Are you interested in online my online course Set Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them click here for more info

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How to change emotions in your horse during training

 

Sometimes a horse shows undesired emotions during training, like biting, mugging, signs of frustration or even aggression. What can you do to change it? My mentor always told me it is foolish to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results. How do you break this circle?

 

Change the setup

Take a break and rethink your approach. Go back to the point where the behaviour (emotion) was still desirable. Do do know what has changed? Change it back and see what happens.

Maybe you have to change the setup of your training entirely so you won’t trigger the undesired emotion/behaviour(s). In this way you can first ‘work around it’ until there is a more desired emotion or behaviour associated with the behaviour.

Find the cause of the undesired emotion

If you change your training approach you might find the cause of the frustration, boredom or other undesired emotion/behaviour in your horse.

When I encountered a lot of frustration in a horse I used this approach. I didn’t realize what had changed at first.

_low-value-treats-vs-high-value-treats_hippologic

Change one variable at a time

At first I experimented with a different target, a different area to train, hand feeding instead of feeding her from a  bucket and so on. I talked it over with someone who watched the whole session and we figured out it might be the high value food I was using as a reinforcer.

The mare got so excited by the very  yummie treats, she couldn’t wait (anymore) until the target was presented to earn a click and reinforcer. Because she ‘couldn’t wait’, she started to display all her impatience by pacing up en down the fence, tossing her head and pinning her ears. She soon got so frustrated she couldn’t pay attention to what behaviour lead to presenting the target (ears forward, standing still, head at medium height or below) and a click. She went back to her ‘old ways’ to get what she wanted: displaying her unhappiness. This worked for her in the past and she just went back to her default behaviour, as we all do from time to time.

It was only when I changed the food reward to a lesser value food that we immediately saw a huge difference in her behaviour. Apparently the food I was using was really high value for her, so she literally couldn’t wait for another opportunity to earn more clicks and more high value treats. That’s what caused her frustration.

As soon as I offered her much lower value treats, she went back to thinking mode and she was open to learning again.

_treats_in_training_hippologic

I never met a horse that showed me so clearly that a high value treat can cause so much frustration.

Sandra Poppema
Are you interested in online personal coaching, please visit my website or send me an email with your question to info@clickertraining.ca

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Teach your horse to accept oral medication (deworming)

_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 this  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:

Sandra Poppema
Are you interested in online personal coaching, please visit my website or send me an email with your question to info@clickertraining.ca

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