Teach a horse to lead (or lunge) on grass *grass training done successfully*

A step-by-step training guide can you find in my article that’s published on Horse Rookie.

One day I realized that my horse kept pulling me toward grass and it made me feel like an inadequate horse owner. Here I was, with over 30 years on horse experience and still I was pulled towards juicy patches of grass. Sound familiar?

I decided to make a training out or it, but whatever I did nothing worked long-term. Next day it all seemed forgotten. Which it wasn’t really, it was just the pull of the grass that was so much stronger than my pull on the lead rope. So the behaviour was very much self-rewarding.

Only one thing to do: become more enticing than the grass! The only way to do this is with 100% positive reinforcement. 

In the article I wrote for Horse Rookie I describe two ways of approach, depending of the level of clicker training your horse had before.

All horses like ‘grass training’ because it’s a win-win: either grazing or not grazing is rewarded. READ THE ARTICLE HERE

Imagine how much frustration you’ll avoid!

Join our FREE grass training challenge

Take this Challenge and transform your horse’s behaviour.stop grazing_hippologic clickertraining academy grass training leading on grass2.jpg

Enjoy the accountability and group learning. Put your name on the waiting list and get emailed when we start!

Join HippoLogic’s Facebook group

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!

 

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 the Clicker Training Academy if you want personal support

What is the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy? It’s an online place where you can learn to train every behaviour you have in mind with R+. We have a small, all-inclusive community in which students can thrive and develop.

  • Professional, personal positive reinforcement advice on your training videos
  • Super affordable
  • Student levels are novice to very advanced clicker trainers

Join the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy and become one of the 25 ‘founding members’ (those who receive extra
The first 25 founding members get an additional 90-minute coaching session with me for free (value $150 CAD).

Practical Guide for Riding with Clicker Training

In previous posts I wrote about how you can prepare yourself for riding with the clicker. I talked about the Key lessons for Trainers: Learning Theory, making a Training Plan before you start, how to set a goal, how you can track your accomplishments, how to prepare to deal with emotions (equine and human!) in riding and last but not least: how to get accountability so that you can get out of your pitfalls quickly.

Where to you keep your treats while riding?

Depending on the horse and what your reinforcers are, you can choose different solutions for obstacle number 1.

  1. In a money belt or fanny pack around your waist. I do not like it, because it gets in my way and I can’t hold my hands in the proper position, but some people do prefer this solution. I don’t like it in case I fall off and land on the treats, that can be painful.
  2. Keeping treats in your pocket. I like this one. In Summer I ride with a thin body warmer, just for the sake of having pockets.
  3. In a ziplock bag on the saddle. This is a really good solution if you need many reinforcers. Trotting and cantering can be annoying your horse if the bag is tapping on the shoulder every step of the way. You can use a thin leather strap with buckle and a ziplock bag, ideal for wet treats like apples or soaked beet pulp.
  4. In a pocket that is attached to your the saddle cloth.
  5. Saddle bag.

What you choose depends on what you like. It all has pros and cons.

I personally don’t like a bag or many belt full of (hard) treats around my waist. It also doesn’t feel comfortable trotting or cantering.

Same disadvantage has a loose bag on the saddle. The plastic ziplock bag is perfect for walking exercises or a quiet trot, for more wild rides not so much.

If your horse is young or you go on a 2 hour trail ride you might want to have more room than when you are riding in the arena where you can refill.

Where do you carry your treats while riding?

Join the Clicker Training Academy!

  • Professional, personal positive reinforcement advice on your training videos
  • Super affordable
  • Student levels are novice to very advanced clicker trainers

Join the HippoLogic Clicker Training Academy for personal advice and support in training your horse with positive reinforcement.
The first 25 founding members get an additional 90-minute coaching session with me for free (value $150 CAD).

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.



6 steps to start riding with the clicker (6/6)

How to take positive reinforcement and use it in riding? I will share practical tips in other blogs, but let’s focus on preparation first. How can you make yourself successful?

Key Lesson for Riders #6: Accountability

Always, always, always find a way to make yourself accountable. That’s the best way to keep developing yourself and keep moving forward!accountability hippologic clickertraining

We all have the best and most wonderful intentions until… we get stuck. If you have a back up plan, you get unstuck easily. An accountability partner (can be your mentor, riding instructor a dedicated friend) helps you succeed.

How do you think all successful riders manage? They don’t do this all by themselves. Yes, they do the work, but without the support of a good team (can be a team of two people: you and your accountability partner) it wouldn’t be possible. We ARE social animals! We need support. And knowledge. Two know more than one! You can’t brainstorm by yourself. 😉

Tip 1

Once you’ve set a goal, small or big, share it with someone else! Call your best friend, tell your spouse or post it in a Facebook positive reinforcement horse trainers group.

Tip 2

Tell them when you are going to practise. Be clear what you expect from them and ask them to ask you about your progress. In this way you have to take action otherwise you don’t have to tell them anything. Set a date that they will call you and ask you about your training.

Tip 3

In order to feel successful assess your basement level first. The more honest you are, the better it is. It’s hard, but it’s also very motivating if you know for sure that you went from only half a track in canter to 1,5 track without falling into a trot or for just one click!

If you don’t know how to assess your basement level, feel free to contact me. I teach this to my students and I can help you too.

Other tips to get Started Riding with the Clicker:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Questions? Book a free discovery session with Sandra

If you want to get to know me or have questions about clicker training from the saddle and how I can help you with that, book your free discovery call. Plan your online session in my calendar.

_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!
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and join the Clicker Training Academy.
Follow my blog on Bloglovin

riding with clickertraining hippologic

6 steps to start riding with the clicker (4/6)

How to take positive reinforcement and use it in riding? I will share practical tips in other blogs, but let’s focus on preparation. How can you make yourself successful?

Key Lesson for Riders #4: Training Journal

The only way to know if you are making progress in riding with positive reinforcement is to keep track. A training journal is the best tool to do this. Science has proven that if you write things down you can remember it better. You can also reflect better by yourself if you put things in writing.

_traininglogbook hippologic sandra poppemaDo you want a training journal that helps you improve your riding skills? Don’t use it as a diary, use it as the powerful training tool it can be. In a diary you write down what you’ve done and how you felt about it. My training diaries from 20 years ago are all similar and I read things like: ‘I rode, it was fun but the canter sucked. I did 3 tracks and every time my pony fell to trot all by himself.’ Maybe I added my opinion about my pony that day, but this is not constructive and didn’t help me improve and develop my skills.

Only when I got my horse Kyra (she was born in a nature reserve and totally feral when I got her) I started to change how I used my training journal. That’s how I know it took me 3 weeks to tame and train her. With that I mean: Kyra changed from trying to run away from me and climb the opposite stall wall when I opened the door to a horse that actively sought out my presence, wanted to be haltered (and cooperated by keeping her head low), allowed me to touch her all over, including her legs and belly. I could lift her legs and cleaned her hoofd. And… I made a start to lead her over the premises. If I didn’t kept that journal I would have forgotten!

Tip #1 for a Training Journal that works

Keep it positive so you will read it back. If you write down how horrible rider you were today, it’s no fun to read back and you won’t learn from it!light-bulb-1926533_640

I have experimented the last 10 years with keeping journals and what made it easy and most useful. I advise my students to put at least 3 things that went well in it. It can be just 3 bullet points. This will make you feel good and motivated. I also ask my students to reflect and write down 1 (only 1!) point that they want to improve.
Did you notice I didn’t write ‘one thing that went wrong’? No I want one learning point, so next time you know what to pay attention to. This will help you learn faster!

If you had ‘failures’, call them learning points if the word ‘failure’ makes you feel bad. ‘failing’ is the way we learn. After being a success coach for 8 years I don’t feel bad anymore when I hear the word ‘failure’ because it gets me all excited: Yeey, there is something to learn! I LOVE learning! This is how most of us feel about failures. So until then, start changing your language into positive language.

Failure → opportunity to learn, learning point
‘X went wrong’ → I learned Y (canter sucked → I learned to pay attention to transitions/my balance/and so on)
My horse sucked at X → I got feedback/information about X from my horse
My horse refused to do X → My horse was [reason/cause eg scared] to do X today

Tip #2 for a Training Journal that works

Connect‘ it to your Key Lesson for Riders: Shaping Plan. Make sure you work on the things you planned to do and give yourself feedback in your training journal about the one thing you wanted and worked on. After your training you might notice that you have to adjust your shaping plan.

If you trained under saddle what you had in mind, you are going in the right direction to accomplish your dreams (step 1 Key Lesson for Riders: Training Plan).Set Your Equestrian Goals and Achieve them_HippoLogic

Of course it can happen that you decide not to go with your next step in your Training and Shaping plan. That happens: it’s too stormy and it might not be safe to ride. Write that down too and the reason you decided to change plans. You might discover a pattern after a while…

All this gives you valuable information about how you train and also how often you train. If you stick to the plan, and if you won’t you can figure out how you can change your plans. Maybe they are a bit too advanced or the opposite: not challenging enough.
Some people tell me they don’t like to do all that stuff, that’s too much effort. Those are the people who keep at the same level year after year and don’t improve their riding skills. Some even buy a different horse. This won’t solve the cause: if you’re not evolving, you won’t improve. Yes, it is work! How much are you really willing to improve? With a little bit of help it’s not hard. I provide my students with templates that are quick and easy to use. Make this a habit.

Tip #3 for a Training Journal that works

Celebrate your successes; big and small! I love to celebrate my milestones with a picture or a short video of the behaviour I accomplished. These might not be impressive to other people, but they are important to you. So make sure you share them only with your tribe: the people that enjoy your successes and know how important it is for YOU.

I have videos of Kyra of the first few rides I ever did. For an outsider they are as interesting as watching pain dry. Why? Nothing spectacular is happening for them. For me it is: This is Kyra who is my first horse that I started under saddle with R+. How exciting is that? I rode her the fourth time all by myself, with no assistance. This was also a crown to my preparation work: hours and hours of practising the HippoLogic Key Lessons, all work-in-hand, long reins, teaching her verbal cues and making her feel comfortable with me and everything around her (she was after all a wild horse).

Training journal

I also made photo books of every year with our milestones. I love to go through them, because they make me realize how much we’ve accomplished.

Questions?

Free discovery call with Sandra

If you want to get to know me or have questions about clicker training from the saddle and how I can help you with that, book your free discovery call. Plan your call in my calendar. They usually take 60 minutes because I really want to get to know you and your horse.

Ultimate Horse Training Formula, Your Key to Success 

_key to success_hippologic1

Would you like to use clicker training in your every day training, learn to use it in all situations and for all horses, even in the saddle?

Do you want…

  • a well-trained horse? Trained by you?
  • more knowledge and skills to clicker train horses?
  • more confidence in your training skills?

If you are ready to get the results in riding and training you really, really want, the Ultimate Horse Training Formula is perfect for you.

You’ll improve your training skills and you’ll develop skills trainers need in order to be successful, because my specialty is to help people implement their knowledge into practice.

_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!
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and join my online course Ultimate Horse Training Formula in which you learn the Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Clicker Training.
Follow my blog on Bloglovin

Next blog: Emotions in riding. How they influence your results. What emotions do you want to redirect (and how to do it). Not only the rider’s emotions are important, also the horse’s emotions need to be addressed.

tack free riding bridleless bareback

Tack free riding was one of my childhood dreams!

6 steps to start riding with the clicker (3/6)

‘How do you implement clicker training under saddle?’, is a question many equestrians ask themselves. The answer is simple: the same way you implemented it from the ground! Sounds logical. How do we start best?

First you have to learn the principles of Learning and Motivation, see this part 1 of this series.

Step 2 is to set a riding goal.

Now you have set a goal, it’s time to stake step 3; you have to split it into tiny baby steps. This is called a shaping plan. How are you going to shape the behaviour into your goal behaviour?

After I share the 6 basics (Key Lessons for Riders) with you, I will start a blog about how to implement all of this in practise.

Key Lesson for Riders #3: Shaping Plan

Now you’ve a clear vision of what you want to accomplish under saddle you can start breaking it down in super small increments. Those will become your stepping stones to your goal.

A Shaping plan consist of enough small steps for your horse to be successful in your training

Break up your clicker training so every step leads you closer to success

Tip #1 for a Shaping plan that works

Each baby step must be small enough to be understood by your horse, keep your horse engaged and big enough to be a bit of a challenge (just a bit, you don’t want to frustrate or discourage him).

Your shaping plan consist everything that is going to happen in your training:

  • what you will use as reinforcement
  • how often you will repeat a criterion before moving on to the next one
  • details about where you are going to train the behaviour
  • how the set up of your training area will be
  • all criteria that are needed in order to reach your goal: duration, distance and quality.

This is a very important step! It’s also difficult therefor I give all my students a template that they can use to practise.

  • what bridge signal you’ll use
  • your cue (verbal, body langues, props)
  • duration of your session
  • if you are going to use jackpots and what for
  • and every other detail that is or can be important

Making a shaping plan and splitting behaviour is one of the most important steps in positive reinforcement. If you think too lightly about this and are not going to sit down and think it over, discuss it with your mentor/coach/instructor/friend you will get stuck later in your training process!

So take the time it takes to do it right, it will save lots of time (and frustration!) later!

Lumping in our training (by not making a shaping plan) is a huge pitfall for all of us (including me)! We think we can skip this step or ‘do it in our head’. That’s not true. Making a good shaping plan is the best investment you can make in your training!

I recommend training all behaviour you want to see under saddle from the ground first. Include these steps in your shaping plan, too. Example: to teach rein aids with R+ from the ground, then from the saddle in all gaits and the steps in between.

Tip #2 for a Shaping plan that works

Thinking about how you are going to split the behaviour and envisioning all the steps is great. Another success tip is to write it down.

It’s proven that this will increase the likelihood of success. When you write down your goal and your steps it will become clear if and where you need to be a little more specific.

If you’ve written something down you will remember it better. So when you are actually training and your horse leaps, you still know what your next step is going to be! Or, if you’re lumping, you know what your previous steps were suppose to be. It will be way easier to go back where your horse was still successful.

Tip #3 for a Shaping plan that works

Keep your shaping plans together in a designated place. The more shaping plans you make, the better. I recommend to make one for every behaviour you train, whether it’s a simple or complex behaviour._Key Lesson for Trainers_shaping plan clickertraining hippologic

After a while you will forget how you exactly trained behaviour X, Y or Z. So if someone asks you: ‘How did you train that?’ you can actually look it up and tell them!

Or when you are going to train another horse the same behaviour, you already have your shaping plan ready. You might need to tweak it a bit according to the circumstances, but it will definitely help you re-create your successes!

When can I start riding?

This is the perfect moment to go to your horse and try out your shaping plan. In my next blog I will share with you what you need to know after you’ve been riding (training).

Enjoy your ride!_cooperative_horse_hippologic

Join our Community!

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

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

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

Shape the community

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

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

Start for free!

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

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

    Key to Success in Horse Training

    Your Key to Success

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

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

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

Follow my blog  on Bloglovin

free 60 min discovery call HippoLogic clickertraining online horsetraining

6 Steps to Start Riding with Positive Reinforcement (2/6)

‘How do you implement clicker training under saddle?’, is a question many equestrians ask themselves. The answer is simple: the same way you implemented it from the ground. So, how do we start best?

First you have to learn the principles of Learning and Motivation, see this part 1 of this series. Step 2 is to set a goal.

Key Lessons for Riders #2: Training Plan

You have to start with the ‘end in mind’: set a clear goal. The more clear your goal is, the easier it is to accomplish. When you have a clear goal you can divide it into smaller steps. Something that is very hard to do with a vague goal. Then it’s also easier to cross off each smaller step. That also feels really good: if you can cross off a sub goal. It keeps you motivated! So those are 3 valuable tips already: set a clear goal, divide it into smaller steps, cross off each step when accomplished.HippoLogic advises to use checklist and write down your horse training goals

Write your goal down in your Training Plan. Here are some more tips that will help you write your Training Plan.

Tip 1 For a Training Plan that actually works

Take a good clear look at your values! What values do you have and do they fit your goal? Maybe they don’t fit in your goal? It not, than you have to revise your goal.

Here can you find list of values, take a look and what values do you feel fit your way of horse training and horse riding? Some of my values that are important in my riding and training are are love, integrity, animal welfare, intrinsic value of the horse, honesty, skills and trust(worthy).

When I took my personal values into account suddenly it became clear: my goal to be an _trailride1competition dressage rider wasn’t compatible with my values. Animal welfare is very high on my list. In the 80’s and 90’s pulling the horse behind the vertical was very much rewarded by judges. Riding with a double bit and spurs didn’t fit either: Less is More, right? I wondered what I loved about the riding dressage competitions and if I could take that and honour my values? I loved: riding for an audience, inspire people what you can accomplish with good riding and training and how beautiful it is to see a rider and her horse in total harmony. It took a few sessions with my mentor to figure it out.

Finally I came to the conclusion that riding in a show- or demo team would fit: no judges or rules what to do and when to do it (even if the horse isn’t ready in that moment, or feeling pressured to perform at cost of the horse). If you write your own choreography and something happens you can go with the flow of your horse and still give a wonderful show.

Yes, that would make perfect sense! Suddenly I had my motivation back for riding. Then something amazing happened: I saw a small ad in somewhere. A showteam with Andalusian stallions was looking for team members! That’s how I became a member of Showteam Alegría. I was part of Alegría for years and we did many performances. Unfortunately Kyra and I moved to Canada before Kyra was under saddle, so I never actually rode but it was such a great experience and so much fun.

Tip 2 For a Training Plan that actually works

Once you’ve determined a clear goal which fit your values the next step is to divide it_reinforcing_rider_hippologic into smaller steps. What does your horse need in order to get to your goal?

‘Riding in a show/demo team’ is a clear goal, because the choreography was designed by ourselves and fitted all individual horses. The next step was to ask myself what Kyra needed to master?

If I give shows she needs to become a good traveller (trailer loading), she needs to be calm and confident around music, lots of people, applause, dogs, strollers and a million other things (despooking/mind set) and she needs to master her exercises for the performance (trick training, long reining -> “ground work”). In order to perform, the horse also needs to be OK with grooming, being washed, braided and so on (husbandry skills). So my pillars in my training plan became: Husbandry skills, Mindset, Groundwork and Riding. That’s what I teach my students to do, too.

This helped me very much to make a visual. Here is an example of a training plan for dressage test level 4. I would train all exercises of the test first in from the ground (long reins, work-in-hand or at liberty) before training them under saddle.

You can make this as detailed as you need, depending on what your horse needs. A lot of this is also applicable if you want your horse to become a reliable trail horse.

training-plan-example

Tip 3 For a Training Plan that actually works

Now you have a detailed Training Plan you can seek out the perfect instructor/mentor for the knowledge and skills you need to learn or improve. If you are not familiar with despooking your horse using positive reinforcement only or don’t know how to teach your horse lateral gaits, find some one who does. You can contact me, for instance.

Together with your values it will be much easier to find a mentor/coach that can help you achieve your goals. This safes time and money! How many clinics have you

unicorn-1981220_640

attended that you thought would be helpful and awesome only to be a disappointed and go home disillusioned because ‘in harmony’ or ‘positive horsemanship’ was not what you had in mind when you booked yourself a seat.

If you know exactly what you’re looking for, it’s way easier to find. Even if you feels you’re looking for an unicorn.

I hope this gave you some ideas.

PS I am currently working on an online workshop to help equestrians with making their own personalized Training Plan. Contact me if you’re interested in this interactive workshop. I would love to know if there is enough interest to make this happen.

Join our Community!

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

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

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

Shape the community

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

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

Start for free!

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

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

    Key to Success in Horse Training

    Your Key to Success

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

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

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

Follow my blog  on Bloglovin

riding positive reinforcement clickertraining hippologic

 

6 Steps to Start Riding with Positive Reinforcement (1/6)

‘How do you implement clicker training under saddle?’, is a question many equestrians ask themselves. The answer is simple: the same way you implemented it from the ground.

This can be very challenging because, once we are in the saddle, we have to deal with so many unconscious rules, habits, norms and thoughts about riding that interferes with successful clicker training.

This makes it extra hard to use positive reinforcement successfully under saddle. We are not aware of the many traditions we actually have and how much of those are in straight contradiction with positive reinforcement training.riding_with_the_Clicker_clickertraining_hippologic

Become conscious of your training expectations

When you started to teach your horse Key Lesson Table Manners or Key Lesson Targeting, your first session was maybe 10-15 treats (clicks) long. That’s less than 5 minutes! Then you stopped and gave your horse a break, right? You know can achieve so much in 5 minutes or less.

Once you mounted you maybe expect yourself to be in the saddle for 50 minutes or even for an hour. The length of a normal riding lesson. Now you have let go of that idea, if you want to become successful implementing R+ under saddle when you start. On the ground you didn’t start with an hour of clicker training (hopefully), so why do this under saddle?

Your training sessions, now your riding sessions, need to be fun, sweet and short for your horse. You need to stop training a particular exercise when your horse gave his best. That can be achieved in a few clicks already.

Therefor you need a back up plan: What will you do, if your horse accomplished your criterion? I will address that in the next blog (Key Lesson for Riders #2 Training Plan).

Key Lesson for Riders #1: Learning Theory

You have to study the principles of learning and motivation in order to get the best out of your riding. In my online home-study program I explain these principles and how you successfully implement them in your training and riding. Knowing them is one thing, using them in your daily training is another. They are called Key Lessons because they are the Key to your Success!

Learning Theory is based upon what science calls operant conditioning:

Operant conditioning Horse Training_Hippologic

Here are 3 of the most important tips that will help you implement the learning theory under saddle.

Tip 1 Implementing the Learning Theory

In order to train your horse you have to know as much as possible about horse behaviour, their natural needs and it also helps to know about their physiology. This helps you to set your horse up for success.

Example: Study *) has proven that whither scratching help calm a horse under saddle. This works better than neck patting.

Tip 2 Implementing the Learning Theory

Know what is reinforcing to your horse. If you know about the natural behaviour it’s easier to guess what is reinforcing for them. We are generally reinforced by things as compliments, money or chocolate cake, horses are not.

They are grazers, herbivores, and since that is their normal diet choosing something they like to eat naturally will be a good primary reinforcer.

My horse Kyra was born in a nature reserve and when I got her, 3 weeks after she was captured, she didn’t eat apples, carrots or extruded dinner grains. So I had to find other reinforcers to train her. Since she was also terrified of humans approaching her, scratches as reinforcements where off the table, too. First I had to find out what she liked.

Tip 3 Implementing the Learning Theory

You have to know what your horse considers punishment.

If you think you reward your horse with neck patting, like you probably have learned from your riding lessons, think again: If you get more of the desired behaviour it was reinforcing, but if it didn’t it was neutral. If you get less of the behaviour it was punishing according to your horse.

Knowing the difference between reinforcers and punishment will greatly help you succeed in training.

Example: we all know mugging horse behaviour. Some horses kick their stall doors in order to… Yes, what do they want?

And what usually happens? They get what they want: attention or food.

We think we deliver a punishment by shouting at them, but if the behaviour is not decreasing there is something that is actually reinforcing the door kicking (attention or their breakfast). I have an excellent shaping plan to get rid of mugging behaviour and door kicking.

Let’s recap the basics of setting yourself up for riding with positive reinforcement:

  • Use the learning theory
  • Know what your horse finds reinforcing
  • Know what your horse considers punishing
  • Keep your sessions short and give breaks after accomplishing a criterion
  • Become aware of your expectations (‘riding needs to be an hour long’) and other customs or habits you have (‘the horse is only one treat allowed after the ride’) that will interfere with an optimal learning set up for your horse (short, sweet sessions that are easy enough to understand, yet challenging enough to keep your horse engaged).

I hope this blog gave you some valuable insights. If it did, please share this blog with your friends.

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

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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 you
  • What’s holding you back so you can make a plan to get these hurdles out of your way.

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

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SourcesPhysiological and Behavioral Responses of Horses to Wither Scratching and Patting the Neck When Under Saddle ,, &

_treatpouch_hippologic

You’re not too old and it’s not too late for your Equestrian Dream to come true

“You’re not too old and it’s not too late.

~ Lori Deschene (Tiny Buddha)

bareback riding, fun

You’re never too old! (Source: Pixabay stock photo)

This week I rode my born-in-the-wild mare Kyra for the first time tack less: no bridle, no saddle and not even a neck rope! It was very exciting and so much fun.

Watch the video

Fulfilling my childhood dream

I felt completely confident and safe riding without a bridle and saddle because Kyra is a clicker trained horse. I know her very well and our relationship is build on trust which feels really safe.

While I was doing it, I realized that this was one of my childhood dreams! I made a list of all the things I ever wanted to do as equestrian. Lots of things I have fulfilled now and that feels really good! I encourage you to do the same!

Fear

In my childhood and teenage years I did many cool and dangerous, risky things with horses. ‘Nothing would happen to me’ and it turned out to be true!

tack free riding bridleless bareback

Tack free riding was one of my childhood dreams!

The older I get, the more I know. Therefor I also know more of what can go wrong. That makes me plan more, prepare better and take less risks. This takes out a bit of the care-free spontaneous actions in riding.

This week I decided to have a bit of both: spontaneous and prepared action.

The spontaneous, carefree action was to do ride tack free despite my fear. The feeling of “not having something in my hands” makes me feel uncomfortable and out of my comfort zone. That is the only thing, not the tack free riding, it is really the “empty hands”.

Proper preparation

The preparation part lies in the fact I used clicker training for many years for everything: from starting Kyra under saddle to riding her. We have a really good relationship.

I know I have the best and most trustworthy ’emergency break’ you can imagine in a horse. I have a click. I never used it to stop her, but I know she will stop as soon as she hears it. So that feels very safe.

Two tack free rides in one week!

First time I did have something in my hands: a target stick to help communicate where I wanted to go and a clicker, so that felt comfortable.

The second ride this week I didn’t bring any of those two training aids. I decided to rely on my seat, tongue click and previous preparation to ride her around the arena.

It went so well, above all expectations! That is also when I realized it is the “empty hand-feeling” that feels uncomfortable to me.

Celebrate!

I made a video (Watch the video) because I always want to anchor my achievements deeply in my body and brain. I am a big fan of teaching my students to celebrate their successes.

Making a picture or video of a mile stone is a great way to celebrate and remember. It’s easy and normal to forget your achievements and focus on what we still can’t do or still want to learn. Now I have a two questions for you:

What is your childhood dream?

How do you celebrate your successes in order to remind yourself about your achievements?

Please share

If you think this is a blog that can inspire a friend to fulfill their equestrian dream, please share it on your social media. You can use the share buttons below.

I also love to hear your dream and if you achieved it or still want to achieve it! I read all comments and all dreams!
Don’t want to comment? Simply hit the like button so I know you read my blog. I would appreciate it. Thank you!

Happy Horse training!

_Kyra_en_ik_hippologic
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
I help horse owners get results in training they really, really want. Getting results with ease and lots of fun for both horse and human is important to me. Win-win!
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and join my online course Ultimate Horse Training Formula in which you learn the Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Clicker Training.
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PS In November, December and January the online course Ultimate Equestrian Dream Formula, turn your dreams into reality

Improve your clicker training from the saddle

Many equine clicker trainers ask me: ‘How do you start clicker training under saddle?‘ and ‘Do you have a video of clicker training while riding?‘ They expect something spectaculair in a video.
In this blog I explain one of the biggest struggle points of taking my clicker training from the ground into the saddle.
 
I didn’t know this then and I did find a way to coop with it, but if I had know what the ‘forces’ were that I was fighting it would have been so much easier.

Recently I dedicated a blog about starting/using clicker training under saddle, read it here. I was wondering what makes it so difficult to clicker train from the saddle? What is the difference between clicker training from the ground and clicker training while riding? This is one of the reasons why it is hard to start clicker training from the saddle:

Your brain is wired to 'complete' an action

Riding: Traditional/NH vs Positive reinforcement

Continue reading

Tips for Clicker Training from the Saddle

It seems complicated to use positive reinforcement during riding. Most common struggle points are: ‘It’s hard to hold a clicker and the reins in my hands’, ‘Clicker training is useful on the ground, but I don’t know how to use it from the saddle‘ and ‘If you use clicker training in riding you have to stop all the time to give a treat‘. How to address these issues?

1_treat

Keep it simple!

Positive reinforcement is positive reinforcement, whether you apply it from the ground, standing next to your horse, or when you sit in the saddle. Therefor you have to apply the same rules to set you and your horse up for success: Continue reading

How to drop the crop

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

‘Safety’

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

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

Riding after a stressful day: beneficial or not?

What do you do after a stressful day: are you going to ride or not? Enjoy my 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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The 5 Essentials for Good Riding lessons (4-b/5)

This article is a sequel on the Positive Reinforcement (+R) for Horses during riding lessons (The 5 Essentials for Good Riding lessons (4-a from 5)). +R doesn’t have to be used solely to improve the performance of the horse.

+R for riders

I would love to see more positive reinforcement in riding lessons applied to the rider. Why? I don’t recall seeing a rider ever improve after he or she was shouted at by an instructor. Yes, they sit straight or with their shoulders back right away, but this causes a lot of tension. Due to the tension in their body they loose their ‘feel’ immediately and it destroys their independent seat instantly.

Not only do horses have to be in a learning mode in order to learn a new skill, it also goes for the rider. If the rider is bombarded with too many instructions at the same time or instructions that seems contradictory he or she can become frustrated.

Splitting behaviour as instructor

In my education as Centered Riding instructor I learned to split the riders tasks into tiny steps. We started to ride on a yoga ball and did all kinds of exercises to improve our feel on the ground before getting into the saddle. Something nobody had taught me in my education to become an ORUN instructor ( official Dutch certification for riding instructors).

Make the rider feel successful

For instance, when I had to teach riders the riding trot by one or two steps of trotting at a time. And I had to make them successful, too. I was taught to instruct them to transition to the walk before or just when they were about to lose their balance. It also gave me the opportunity to tell them about their improvements and listen to their feedback about the experience. Then I gave them time to practise on their own. Only after they mastered this tiny step would I raise my criterion for the rising trot._reinforcing_rider_hippologic

With this method of teaching I have seen riders improve their seat within an hour of riding. Even when they have had lessons for over ten years! I also noticed that their confidence in themselves grew and a lot of riders got rid of their fear of falling of.

I remember when I had to learn to trot myself. That was more like: trot until you find your balance. Which- of course- never happened while I was uncomfortably bumping up and down on a  fast trotting riding school pony… Trotting scared me so I was even more afraid to learn to canter.
Sandra Poppema
For tailored positive reinforcement training advise, please visit my website and book a free intake consult!

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Read more in this series The 5 Essentials of Good Riding lessons

Part I: Independent seat
Part II: Schoolmasters
Part III: Facts about horse behaviour
Part IV-a: Positive reinforcement (horses)
Part V: Attention for the horses emotions

The 5 Essentials of Good Riding lessons (4-a/5)

Often when I watch people ride I see struggle. I see a lot of frustration and it seems so difficult to learn how to ride. Truth is, part of it is in the way riding is taught (in general), but it doesn’t have to be like this. Riding and learning to ride can be relatively easy and effortless if the following prerequisites are met. Riding certainly doesn’t have to be the struggle it seems to be for most riders.

5 Things I would like to see more of in today’s riding lessons are:

  • Independent seat
  • Schoolmasters
  • Facts about horse behaviour
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Attention for the horses emotions

Positive reinforcement (+R)

Positive reinforcement is adding something pleasurable in order to get more of the desired behaviour. Example: in riding lessons most of us are taught to pat the horse on the neck in order to reward the horse for their effort. Why don’t we get more enthusiastic horses from this commonly used ‘reward’?

First of all: this is not reinforcing for horses! They don’t like it (…) and therefor it isn’t a reward. Horses have learned that the patting on their neck indicates the end of a certain exercise, for instance trotting around.

If it was reinforcing, they would like to show more of the behaviour in order to earn another reward. I haven’t seen one horse in my whole life that was eager to go back into trot after being patted on the neck. I must admit I have seen green horses occasionally go more forward after being patted on their necks, but that was only because they were turned into flight mode because of it.

Secondly, the timing of this kind of ‘reward’ sucks big time. For instance riders are in general taught to pat the horse on the neck and give it a long rein after a downward transition. Have you ever seen someone being taught to use this ‘reward’ after an upward transition?

I remember I was being told to pat the horse on the neck and giving him a long rein ‘for giving me this good (10 minute long) trot’. It doesn’t make sense scientifically… not to reward during the desired behaviour and often more than 3 seconds after the behaviour. Since riders are not taught to use a bridge signal, the horse doesn’t even know what it was for…

If you pay close attention you can see that it doesn’t cause eagerness in horses, they just ‘endure it’.

A reward has to be reinforcing the behaviour

In order for the horse to connect the behaviour with the reward the reward has to reinforce the behaviour. In other words: the reward has to be rewarding for the horse. A pat on the neck is not, a food reward usually is. And the reward must be given during the desired behaviour or announced with a bridge signal during the desired behaviour.

Reward the riding horse

Why not using a (real) reward to encourage the horse to give us more of a certain behaviour?

I have used a clicker during my riding lessons and it worked amazingly. The rider offered the food reward after each time I clicked. Even riders who never had heard of positive reinforcement or clicker training were open to try it.1_treat

None of my pupils ever said ‘Let’s stop rewarding my horse during your lessons’. On the contrary: they were all pleasantly surprised about the leaps of improvements their horses showed once we introduced a bridge signal and a real reward!

I used positive reinforcement to help improve things like the right head position during transitions, stepping more under their center of gravity with their inner hind leg in bends, teaching smooth transitions walk-canter-walk, ‘duration’ in lateral gaits, standing square and so on.

Adding a reward helps to cummunicate clearly what it is you want from the horse.

Good side effects

The best thing was the side effect of using the clicker on the horse: it helped the rider to develop their feel during a certain exercise. As soon as they heard the click, they knew the horse was doing it right. Which meant they were doing it right! After all, the horse can only do something right if the rider is helping him to perform.

As soon as the riders learned what ‘feel’ they were looking for, they could reproduce it on their own too! I didn’t have to explain anymore what it would feel like in words, but I could  just let them experience it themselves.

Rewarding works so much better than releasing (accumulating) pressure to teach a horse something new. A reward is something the horse looks forward to and engages him in riding. A release on the other hand is often more of a relief and not a reward at all.

[To be continued….]

Sandra Poppema, BSc.
Are you struggling with applying clicker training under saddle? Visit my website to book an online consult. I will be honoured to help you and your horse out. I’ve 2 decade experience with teaching equestrians to ride and train their horses in a horse-friendly way.

Read more in this series The 5 Essentials of Good Riding lessons

Part I: Independent seat
Part II: Schoolmasters
Part III: Facts about horse behaviour
Part IV-b: Positive reinforcement (riders)
Part V: Attention for the horses emotions

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The 5 Essentials of Good Riding lessons (3/5)

Often when I watch people ride I see struggle. I see a lot of frustration and it seems so difficult to learn how to ride. Truth is, that is is in the way riding is taught (in general), but it doesn’t have to be like this. Riding and learning to ride can be relatively easy and effortlessly if only these prerequisites were met. Riding certainly doesn’t have to be a struggle what it seem to be for most riders.

5 Things I would like to see more of in today’s riding lessons are:

  • Independent seat
  • Schoolmasters
  • Facts about horse behaviour
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Attention for the horses emotions

Facts about horse behaviour

If you are a horse behaviourist and you’re watching a riding lesson you hear a lot of nonsense about horse behaviour being taught to riders. I wish all instructors had to write at least one paper about natural horse behaviour before they are allowed to teach.

_Horse_behaviour_hippologicMost famous ones are the ‘be the leader’-myth and the ‘don’t let him win’-myth that refer to the idea of one alpha horse that makes all the decisions and is the dominant horse of the herd. There is no such thing in a herd. Yes, horses can behave dominant in certain situations, but decisions when to move and were to go are more based on a (part of the) group decision.

Instructors make riders believe that they have to ‘dominate’ the horse all the time. How? By being dominant in a way people are by using pain inflicting methods such as kicking the horse forward or using whips and spurs to make the horse obey. It just breaks my heart…

This is not only cruel to the horse but it is unnecessary too. I also think that most riders (who start riding because they love horses) are made insecure by behaving ‘dominant’. Horse lovers want to bond and connect with their horses.

The good news is: you can develop a friendship and still ride your horse safely. Horse lovers don’t like to inflict pain to horses, but they do so because they are taught to by the instructor, so they are acting against their own gut feeling. That’s never a good feeling.

Horses are highly social animals

The reason horses could be domesticated in the first place is because of their social structure. They depend on their herd members for survival and they are ‘hard-wired’ to work together.

If a horse doesn’t follow a cue there is always a reason:

 

  • They don’t understand the cue. All riders are different and not all riders give the exact same cues all the time.

 

  • Something else (danger or getting out of sight of a herd member) has a higher priority. They can simply have missed your cue because of that.

 

  • The behaviour has not been reinforced enough (they lack motivation) or
  • other behaviour is more reinforcing

 

  • The are physically unable (anymore). Maybe they have pain or are tired.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAHorses don’t think in ‘winning or losing’ they act on ‘surviving or getting killed’. They spook because they are afraid, not because they are ‘out to get you’ or ‘want to avoid work’ or ‘are acting out’.

I wish riding instructors would explain more about the natural behaviour based on facts/scientific research to their students and not on century old hear-say.

Horses don’t have to be dominated in order to let them cooperate, they will cooperate freely if they benefit from it. Thankfully more and more people discover the power of the use of positive reinforcement training: it works extremely well and it gives the trainer a good feeling too.

More about positive reinforcement in the next article.

What myths have you heard in riding lessons that you wish are not being taught to riders? Please share.

Sandra Poppema, BSc.
Are you struggling with applying clicker training under saddle? Visit my website to book an online consult. I will be honoured to help you and your horse out. I’ve 2 decade experience with teaching equestrians to ride and train their horses in a horse-friendly way.

Read more in this series The 5 Essentials of Good Riding lessons

Part I: Independent seat
Part II: Schoolmasters
Part IV-a: Positive reinforcement (horses)
Part IV-b: Positive reinforcement (riders)
Part V: Attention for the horses emotions

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

The 5 Essentials of Good Riding lessons (2/5)

Often when I watch people ride I see struggle. I see a lot of frustration and it seems so difficult to learn how to ride. Truth is, that it’s partially in the way riding is taught, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Riding and learning to ride can be relatively easy and effortless if only the following prerequisites are met. Riding certainly doesn’t have to be the struggle it seems to be for most riders.

5 Things I would like to see more of in today’s riding lessons are:

  • Independent seat
  • Schoolmasters
  • Facts about horse behaviour
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Attention for the horses emotions

The schoolmaster

In an average riding school, children and adults who want to learn to ride, get a ‘well broken’*) horse for their first lessons. I would rather see a novice rider on a ‘well trained’ horse or even better a ‘schoolmaster’.

The definition of a true ‘schoolmaster’ is a horse that has been trained to a very high level in a chosen discipline and won’t respond to the rider until asked properly. A schoolmaster is a seasoned horse with lots experience and in a perfect condition to do this job. Schoolmasters are always older horses, often in their twenties or even in their thirties.

A ‘well broken’ horse

If one learns to ride on a ‘well broken’ horse, it usually means that the horse doesn’t respond well (or at all) to whatever the rider is doing. The purpose is that the horse won’t spook either and therefor is a ‘safe’ horse to ride.

It will walk and trot even if the rider uses the reins for balance, kicks the horse accidentally in the flanks in trot or squeezes his legs tight because he is scared. In other words the horse will do ‘his job’ despite what the rider is doing. Not a good way to learn what the proper aids really are and how they effect the horse. This is a good way to learn bad habits.

Learn to balance first

In my previous post I already emphasized the importance of an independent seat. I would

_mechanical horse_hippologic

This schoolmaster taught my son to canter. (No horse was harmed during the making of this picture)

like to see novice riders learn to balance first before they get the reins in their hands. It’s not only better for the rider, who learns to focus on his seat first but also much better for the horse.

I love the idea of learning the basics of riding on a mechanical horse and building some
confidence in the rider first before riding on a real horse. An alternative is learning to focus on your seat while the horse is being lunged. The person that lunges the horse determines gait and direction while the rider focuses on the movement and feel. It is a great way to experience a horse in motion without fear for the loss of control that may come paired with riding.

I wish I’d had a schoolmaster when I started to ride. Did you learn to ride on an experienced, sensitive horse?

*) I don’t like the term ‘broken’ because it refers to a horse that is not ‘whole’ anymore. Unfortunately that is exactly what is going on: most ‘broken’ horses are damaged and therefor they are ‘shut down’ (mentally). I wish that ‘well broken’ would be a synonym for ‘well trained’.
Sandra Poppema, BSc.
Are you struggling with applying clicker training under saddle? Visit my website to book an online consult. I will be honoured to help you and your horse out. I’ve 2 decade experience with teaching equestrians to ride and train their horses in a horse-friendly way.

Read more in this series The 5 Essentials of Good Riding lessons

Part I: Independent seat
Part III: Facts about horse behaviour
Part IV-a: Positive reinforcement (horses)
Part IV-b: Positive reinforcement (riders)
Part V: Attention for the horses emotions

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How to… make the arena more appealing

In my previous post What if your horse doesn’t like arena work I already mentioned that the first step is to find out the reason why.

If you can exclude physical reasons like pain from the saddle, medical reasons like hoof cracks or maybe an unskillful (or rude) rider and so on, you can look for solutions to make your horse more happy in the arena.

What floats his boat?

It is obvious: positive reinforcement (+R) of course. This way of training will make your horse more eager to work for you. With +R you will trigger your horses brain. He has to find out what made him earn that bridge signal (paired with a lovely reward). He will be challenged to think. Horses like that. Really they do!

Variation

If your horse gets bored in the arena because everything you do is very predictable, try something new. If you always ride him, try some at liberty work, long reining or horse agility. Variety is the spice of life.

Use more positive reinforcement to create a better association with the arena or ‘work’ he has to do. Change your Rate of Reinforcement, your treats or your exercises. Raise your criteria (slowly). Trick training is a lot of fun.

Challenge your horse and do something crazy together like ‘101 things to do with a cardboard box’. You can bridge & reward him for every new exercise he comes up with: touch the box with his nose, left hoof, right hoof, kick it forward, play fetch with it, shake it and so on. Don’t bridge a second time for the same idea.

Give him a ball (small or huge) to play with, or to wake his curiosity. Make sure he is not afraid of it.

Relax time

Don’t forget: there is a time to work and a time to play. Do nice relaxing activities in the arena.

I like to let Kyra roll before we ride in the indoor arena on a rainy day (she loves rolling in hog fuel when she has a wet coat) or after our ride.

If your horse likes to be groomed, groom him more often in the arena. Spend time scratching his favourite spots. Watch a video about TTouch or horse massage and try if your horse likes that. 

Feed him in the arena. If you have an outdoor arena where patches of grass grow, let him find them. So he can display his exploration behaviour.
_positive associations with arena_hippologic
Don’t forget: it can take some time before a negative association changes into a positive one. Make haste slowly.

 

What do you do to create variation or make the arena more appealing to your horse? Share it in the comments!

Sandra Poppema
For tailored positive reinforcement training advise, please visit my website and book a free intake consult!

 

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

 

 

 

 

How to teach your horse anything

Whenever an idea forms about what I want to teach my horse Kyra I set it as a goal. I then start writing a training plan and make a shaping plan to achieve this goal.

Goal setting

My goal in this example is teaching Kyra to stand still, next to a mounting block, until I mounted and give the cue to walk.

Shaping plan

After I set my goal I make a shaping plan. I think about all the possible steps I have to teach Kyra to achieve my final behaviour: standing parallel to the mounting block so mounting is safe and easy for me. I have to teach her to stand still when I’m mounting, put my feet into the stirrups, taken the reins and I am ready to ask her to walk.

I write all these steps down. I don’t even have to bring it to the barn. Just writing it down makes me focused.

A few of the building blocks of this goal are:

  • making her comfortable near the mounting block
  • teaching whoa
  • mat training
  • hip targeting (to be able to align her to the mounting block)
  • aligning with the mounting block without stress
  • waiting until I have mounted
  • and walking on queue

_mountainblock_hippologic

Context learning

Horses learn in a certain context. I use this into my advantage when I am teaching Kyra something new. I practise as much as possible in the same circumstance (context).

If I have a portable mounting block I always put it in the same place in the arena to practise. I will only put it in another place if she has already mastered lining up in the first spot.

I lower my criteria a bit when I change something in the context she learned the behaviour. In this way I always set Kyra up for success and I always have a good feeling too!

Set it up for success

I always take into account my horses emotions when I teach her something new. I recently saw a video in which the trainer put the mounting block next to the track in order to mount. Unfortunately this was the place where her horse was the most nervous (‘trapped in between the fence and the mounting block.) She made her training much more difficult than it needed to be.

For Kyra the most comfortable spot in the arena was in the middle where she has the most space and couldn’t hurt herself. Secondly I noticed that facing the door was more comfortable for her than facing the opposite side of the arena. I guess she likes to know where the exit is… After all it is an enclosed area and horses are flight animals.

Practising

Then I started to practise the steps in my shaping plan. I usually go up one criterion if Kyra masters it three times in a row.

Latent learning

After a few days of practise I give Kyra a break or I train something completely different. Often something she has already mastered. After giving her a ‘weekend’ off she performs much better. This latent learning is very valuable to me. It saves time!

Rinse and repeat

After a short break I lower my criteria a bit and start with some repetition to give her the confidence that she knows what is expected. After that I can move on very quickly.

Context shift

After Kyra has mastered the basics of the new behaviour, I change one thing in the context. I put the mounting block somewhere else in the arena. Not too far away from where she was used to.

Generalize

After a few times of putting the mounting block in different spots in the arena, I noticed that Kyra generalized the mounting block. Time for a real change: a different kind of mounting block.

I started practising with benches in the park, fences, rocks etc. Now Kyra is used to all kinds of mounting blocks and she is very safe to mount.

This is the general ‘recipe’ I use in teaching my horse new behaviours. You don’t have to use positive reinforcement training to use this in your training.

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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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Create +R solutions in a -R environment

This is a challenge a lot of clicker trainers face. You start making adjustments in your training when you start using positive reinforcement and it works…

Then you suddenly find yourself in a traditional/natural horsemanship or other negative reinforcement or pressure-release situation figuring out how to apply positive reinforcement.

Working on stamina in trotHow do you apply positive reinforcement methods in a negative reinforcement environment? For instance: how do you deal with your riding instructor’s instructions if he/she is not a clicker trainer?

Introduction of the cue

In clicker training the trainer usually starts training the cue after the desired behaviour is established while in traditional and natural horsemanship methods the cue is introduced
before the desired behaviour is even displayed. Often there are corrections or other aversives given when the horse is not giving the ‘right answer’ right away.

Preventing a poisoned cue

One can not simply apply pressure and release and add an appetitive to introduce positive reinforcement in a traditional training method. The danger of doing so is to get a ‘poisoned cue’.

A cue can get ‘poisoned’ if the horse simply can’t predict anymore if there is an aversive (more pressure), correction  or other aversive is coming or bridge signal with an appetitive (a desired reward).

The horses history

I think it depends highly on the horses history with corrections, punishment and accumulating pressure if you can mix +R and -R in a ‘safe’ way. With ‘safe’ I mean minimizing the chances of a poisoned cue.

How to apply +R in a -R environment

That is a good question. I think it is really hard for a +R trainer (rider) to follow instructions of a trainer who thinks in a traditional way. With traditional I mean that the performance of the horse (the results) comes in first place and the horses emotions are subordinate. With +R trainers the horses emotions are more or equally important to the results.

I can imagine that it is really hard to follow instructions of a teacher/instructor or person that you have given a certain ‘power’ or at least a person who you agreed upon to follow their instructions to question their methods on the spot.

How do you do it?

What is your experience with this? Are you hiring a coach that doesn’t (really) understand what positive reinforcement is and how do you implement their instructions in a way it doesn’t confuse your horse?

Sandra Poppema
For tailored positive reinforcement training advise, please visit my website and book a personal consult!

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How to… train for a dressage test with clicker training

Dressage riders who use positive reinforcement have asked me: ‘I can’t click and reward my horse during a dressage test. So how can I practice a test and still use clicker training?’

Or they say: ‘I don’t want my horse to stop in the middle of the test because he expects a treat’ or ‘He stops because he is used to a click and treat every few minutes’ or ‘If I don’t click and treat often he stops and gives up trying’.

One possible solution to prevent this is to use ‘back chaining’.

Rider

The rider has to memorize the test. If you are a visual learner you can use a dressage-test-white-board.DIY_dressage_test_board_by_hippologic_2015

If you are a practical learner you can memorize the test by walking it yourself. Make a little arena on your lawn or in your living room with letters you’ve printed out and walk the test several times until you know it by heart.

 Chaining

Once you know what to do you want to practice with your horse. The expression ‘chaining’ in positive reinforcement training refers to splitting the behaviour into smaller steps and train every step separately. Each step is one link of the chain.

After you practiced each link separately, you can start pairing two links together before clicking and reinforcing. If that goes well add another link of the chain before that. This is how you make a behaviour ‘chain’.

Back chaining

In ‘back  chaining’ you also start training every exercise (link of the behaviour chain) separately. It doesn’t matter in what order. Once the horse knows all the separate steps you can start ‘back chaining’. Start to reinforce the last exercise in your chain of exercises.

Almost every dressage test ends with ‘A: Down center line, X: Halt, salute, leave the arena in free walk’.

In back chaining you start with this last exercise (free walk and exit the arena). Train the free walk consciously: click and reinforce right after leaving the arena. You can’t click and reinforce during the test, so you have to do it after the test.

Then you add one exercise before the last one (X: Halt, salute) leave the arena in free walk, click and reinforce these two links. Then add a third link before ‘X: Halt, salute’ and so on.

The power of back chaining is that your horse will anticipate and he will learn what to expect. The last part of your chain becomes very predictable and easy because it is always the same. It only becomes longer because the trainer adds exercises ahead.

In this way your horse doesn’t expect a treat during the test, but he will know at the end will be a tasty reward waiting.

The chain can also become a reward in itself: you have reinforced the last link so many times it has a really positive and strong association with something pleasurable in the horses’ brain.

_vlechtjes_knotjes_braids_hippologic

Possible pitfalls

If you are too predictable in your use of your bridge signal and or too predictable in the rewards you offer and the reward schedule you are using, back chaining, can backfire on you. You get the opposite result of what you want: a horse that performs worse instead of doing the best he can.

Keep in mind that you need to vary your reward schedule and your reinforcers in order to keep your horse motivated. Don’t be afraid to experiment with back chaining.

As always: start small, reward big.

Dressuur-amazone Annemarie Sanders-Keyzer tijdens de Olympische Spelen in Seoul 1988

Sandra Poppema
For tailored advise, please visit my website and book a personal consult today!

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