Empowering Equestrians to Train their own horse with 100% Force Free & Horse Friendly methods

Archive for the ‘Set up for Success’ Category

How to Achieve Your Equestrian Goals

In December last year I started to offer an online course about Equestrian Goal setting. It is one of my fun projects and the students really liked it.

What is your goal?

I enjoy helping other enthusiastic equestrians with splitting their goals into achievable steps. It has been so rewarding for me to see people achieve their own goals with a bit of help. I’ve been a riding instructor for decades and it always surprised me that experienced riders assumed I would set their goals. Their homework was: ‘Think about what you want to do with your horse” so I can help you achieve it.

I can help clients become a better dressage rider, but if they really want to be a jumper and I don’t know about it, they will never become be a good jumper if we don’t focus on some jumping techniques in the lessons.

Competitions

One client wanted to ride competitions, but her stallion hadn’t left her property for years. We trailer loaded him and drove to a nearby competition ground to practice. It was the day before the competition, so no one was there. It was a very good experience. We kept going to competitions until he was more settled being in an unfamiliar surrounding with unfamiliar horses. At home we worked on riding techniques. The day she was ready for a dressage competition, her stallion was ready, too.

Trail riding

Another client lived near a forest and she bought a horse for trail riding. She didn’t have an arena at home and trail riding_cooperative_horse_hippologic was her dream. Her horse was really herd bound and on top of that he was terrified to walk pass the mailbox at the beginning of her drive way. She couldn’t get him of the premises without being afraid to land in the ditch next to her mailbox. After a few clicker training lessons and some groundwork we went out for rides together: she on her beloved horse and I rode her bike. Mission accomplished.

Other examples of goals my student have are teaching their horse to stand for the farrier, align their horse to the mounting block/standing still while mounting, Spanish walk, cantering under saddle and trailer loading.

Some goals are simple (just one behaviour) and others are much more complex (a chain of behaviours), but they all give you that satisfied feeling when you accomplish them. I always encourage people to celebrate their successes: big and small. In hindsight the small steps are big ones!

Read more about goal setting:
It’s December, start planning for next year
How to plan your week in 5 easy steps

Are your struggling with goals you want to achieve with your horse?

Do you have the feeling you haven’t made much progress or you could have achieved more if you only had some help? This is the course for you!BANNER _Achieve Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them

Benefits:

  • Discover what your equestrian goals really are
  • Learn techniques to set achievable goals
  • Learn how to brake down a big goal into training sessions order to make it  achievable and realistic
  • Learn how to stay motivated and on track, even if you ‘fail’ or if ‘life happens’
  • Learn to track your achievements
  • Celebrate your successes with like-minded people!

Once you master the tools and techniques I hand you in this course, you can benefit the rest of your life from it.

What students said about the course

“I had a really empowering online coaching from Sandra, helping me put my problems in perspective. Now Iliana and I are really focusing on not grabbing for food wherever she goes, and with baby steps we are getting there. Lots of other things to train too, but one thing at a time I think. Thank you, Sandra, you are in inspiration!” Patricia, Spain

“Through her online course on goal setting, Sandra has given me excellent help in how to set achievable goals for my horse training. I’m now better able to see what I need to work on and enjoying achieving my goals. Thank you Sandra!” Ananja, The Netherlands

I have enjoyed all of it. The course has really helped me think about what I actually want to do with my horse. You do a good job of helping focus on a goal. Loved the advice and support.”

I have gained a lot so far. I’ve always had a bit of butterfly mind and tend to jump from one exercise to another too fast and not getting anywhere! Sandra have taught me to focus and take things in small steps. And its so helpful to read everyone else’s progress as well” (student is referring to the Facebook support group for this online course)

What I like is that they (the exercises) are very doable as you have to answer to one thing at a time. I appreciate the way you give support a lot. You are critical in a good way, not letting me feel like everything I do is already perfect but also giving advice in a good way and helping to keep sharp.
I also got a little more insight into why I find it hard to succeed with training plans and what I could do to help myself with this.”

“I think this course is an excellent idea 🙂 You are always very supportive Sandra and make this feel like a safe place (the Facebook support group) to ask questions. Funny, but I’ve met a lot of R+ trainers who a very encouraging and positive with their horses but extremely critical of their human trainers. Sandra you walk and talk R+ in all areas – with horses and people 🙂 “

Here is why and how I started to set goals for myself:

More blogs about setting goals:
Key to success: make plans
5 Reasons to make a planning for your horse

Sandra Poppema, B.Sc. Animal Management

Advertisements

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

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

 

Feel more successful in riding and training your horse

I am reading a very interesting book. It is called Before Happiness and is written by Shawn Achor. You can look it up if you want. In this book you can find ways to improve your succes rate. The thing I like most is that I have already been using a lot of these strategies in my lessons and in my own horse training and riding._safe hand feeding_hippologic.jpg

Success strategies

One of the success strategies is creating mini goals, so you can feel good about accomplishing steps towards a bigger goal. In positive reinforcement we call that a shaping plan or it can refer to your training plan. In the shaping plan you write down the stepping stones towards a goal behaviour. Your training plan contains your ultimate goal, ten year plan, five year plan or (just a ) one year plan.

A good shaping plan creates clarity for the horse (the desired behaviour) and he can also feel successful after each click and reinforcer. It is like saying ‘yes’, ‘yes’ to your horse, so he knows he is on the right track.

Giving yourself a head start

One of the brilliant strategies in the book is giving yourself a head start. I used to skip this part, because it felt like ‘cheating’. Studies have proven that giving yourself a head start doesn’t feel like cheating for your brain. Instead it gives your brain the feeling that you are already half way there.

In horse training you can do the same thing. In a shaping or training plan you write down your goals and you divide them into smaller goals.

What I used to do is start writing down the first step I have to accomplish or teach my horse. I never thought of giving myself a head start by writing down a few steps that are necessary in the process but  that I already have accomplished.

Targeting

For me, a shaping plan to teach a green (non-clicker trained) horse would look like this:

Training steps in training plan by Hippologic

Now I would give myself a head start and write down:

Steps:

  • Safe hand-feeding (check!)
  • Trust in handler and not scared by introduction of a new object (check!)
  • Standing still behind a barrier and paying attention to handler (check!)

This would be my head start. The fourth step would be ‘looking at target’ et cetera. In this way the trainer can already feel successful because s/he can tick off the first three mini goals.

Try it and I would love to hear how this works out for you.

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

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

 

 

 

 

Setting yourself up for Success: Reward schedule

When things are going smoothly we tend to go on for too long or do too many repetitions of the same exercise. While we are still having fun showing off our horse’s newest trick, the horse gets bored…

Continuous reward schedule

A continuous reward schedule is very useful when we are teaching our horse a new behaviour. Rewarding every effort in the beginning, encourages our horse to stay focused on us and will help him to keep offering new behaviours. In this stage of training we want the horse to expect a reward. As soon as the horse masters the new behaviour and we’ve put it on cue, we should change our reward schedule.

If we don’t change our reward schedule and we keep using a continuous schedule of reinforcement, we become way too predictable. Our horse will lose interest in improving his efforts. He knows exactly what you ask and when his reward is coming. He probably will also know what reward you will be giving him, too.

How to prevent predictability

If the reward doesn’t change or the reward schedule stays the same (most people have a schedule of 100% chance of a click and reward), the reward ‘wears off’. Chances are the horse’s performance will deteriorate: he will try to find the least amount of effort he needs to exert to still get the reward. His enthusiasm simply fades and the training stagnates.

Keep your horse engaged

In order to keep your horse engaged in training it helps to give the animal the feeling he can influence his environment. When the reward schedule and the rewards are predictable, his actions don’t seem to influence you/the rewards anymore. This is why it is important to keep the horse ‘guessing’ when and what kind of reward is coming.

There are several ways to become more unpredictable in your reward schedule in order to stimulate your horse.

Rewards

Carry low and high value treats. You can reward good tries with lower value treats and excellent performances with high value treats.

Don’t forget the power of rewarding with a jackpot. A jackpot is a very large (think one or two hands full of treats) and/or a very high value reward that is only given on special occasions.

Best thing to do after a jackpot is to give the horse a break, so you will end training this specific behaviour on an excellent note. You don’t have to stop your training that day entirely, only that specific behaviour.

_treats_in_training_hippologic

Vary the ratio of the click

You can use a fixed ratio reward schedule where you only click and reward for every 2nd or every 5th good performance of a behaviour. Mind you, your horse can learn to predict a fixed ratio schedule. When that happens his behaviour may deteriorate for the performances that are ‘in between’ an expected click and reward.

variable ratio schedule means that it will be random when a behaviour (once it is established) will be rewarded. With a variable ratio schedule it will take a long time before a behaviour will become extinct.

In what way do you use treats to keep your horse engaged in your training?

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

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Setting yourself up for Success: tips for trainers

We all know by now how important it is to set our horse up for success in training. We know how to do it: influencing the context in which the horse learns a new skill, keeping the sessions short, splitting your goal into small training steps and be aware of our reward schedule. But what can we do to help ourselves to be successful?

What is your goal?

You only know if you have succeeded if you know your own definition of success. This is very personal. Take the time to think about it for a minute: How do you define your  ‘success’ in riding or training/keeping your horse? Just pause now and try to think of 5 things that define ‘success’ and write them down.

Setting a goal and writing it down

For me setting a training goal and writing it down helps. Without this compass I feel lost. But achieving my goal isn’t the only measurement for success. For me ‘being successful in training’ involves other criteria. Here are two other pillars that define success for me.

Joy

It is important to me that my horse enjoys the training, too. I want an attentive, eager and happy horse.

If a horse shows resistance, fear, frustration, pain and/or signs of a mental shut down (learned helplessness) it doesn’t matter to me if I reach my desired goal. I was not successful as trainer.

I want to succeed as a team, which means we both are enjoying spending time together. The journey is just as important as the destination.

Experience

We all make mistakes, but it is not about the mistakes. It is all about how you handle ‘mistakes’. I never call them mistakes, I prefer to call them ‘points of learning’.  As long as I have learned something new or found a new way to approach a ‘puzzle’ in my training I can feel good about myself. Sometimes we learn a lot more than we thought we would learn when we started.

I don’t have to reach my training goal in order to feel successful in the process.

Accountability partner

In all the books I’ve read about how to become successful there is one tip that is always the same, no matter if it is about a career of becoming a top athlete. They all have their accountability partner. Someone who motivates you, keep you on track and listens to you when you encounter a ‘bump in the road’.

Basics

feel_succesfull_hippologicIn order to set yourself up for success, start with the basics. This means that you profit from other peoples learning points. Why invent the wheel again?

It doesn’t matter if you are a novice or a seasoned clicker trainer: the basics are key to your success. This is why I like to call them Key lessons. You can find them in the category ‘Key lessons’ in the drop down menu on the right or when you follow this link.

 Celebrate

It is really nice to share your achievements with people who are happy for you. So find yourself a support team on the Internet or in real life. Don’t forget: you could be someone else’s inspiration!

You don’t need other people to celebrate your goals. I have recorded my training successes, big and small, in many ways to enjoy them long after I have achieved them. I made videos and photo albums and I have written them down in my training logbooks. It helps me realize that I already am successful, even if I haven’t achieved my next goal.

How do you set yourself up for success? Please let me know in the comments, I like to be inspired by fellow equestrians. Thank you.

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

Related posts

Setting your Horse up for Success: Short sessions

Setting your Horse up for Success: Splitting behaviour

Setting your Horse up for Success: Context shift

 

 

Setting your horse up for Succes: Short sessions

[Lees hier de Nederlandstalige versie]

We all know the fantastic feeling when our horse is learning something new very quickly. We are in a flow and our horse understands our cues and he is so smart. You don’t want to stop. Have you experienced this? I love it. How can you reproduce such a state?

Learning takes brainpower

_orenA horse’s attention span last only for a certain amount of time. After the attention span is used up, it doesn’t matter how much more you practise: you are not getting better results. If you are doing more repetitions (because it was going so well before) it will become a recipe for failure. You can become frustrated if your horse ‘suddenly’ starts making ‘mistakes’ or his performance looks sloppy. This happens when his brains is ‘full’ and he can’t concentrate anymore. Your horse doesn’t do this on purpose.

The secret to Success

Stop your training sessions while you are still making progress. This is the best time to give yourself and your horse a break. Keep sessions short and sweet. In this way you will keep progressing, but over multiple sessions, instead of progressing and then deteriorating at the end of each session.

If you end on a good note, this is where the next session will start. It will give you, the trainer, a good feeling if you end your sessions when you are still progressing. It is motivating and it will keep you looking forward to the next session.

Signs to stop your session

When I started this (ending my training sessions when we were still making progress) it was hard. No one wants to stop when it is going very well and when you are still having fun.

_short training sessions_hippologicI noticed a pattern in me before my horses achievements dropped. It seemed to be right after the voice in my head told me: ‘Just one more time’ or ‘Let’s see if she really understands it and try again’ or ‘Wow this is going fantastic let’s do this again. It is so much fun now that Kyra has mastered it’.

Sometimes it happened when someone else came to watch and I expected Kyra to perform well because she kept on improving until a moment ago. Suddenly Kyra seemed to have forgotten what I had taught her. See this post Setting your horse up for Success: Context shift.

Tips to keep sessions short

  • Count your treats before your start training (10 – 20 treats)
  • Use a timer (5 – 10 minutes)
  • Notice improvements and stop when your horse performs well
  • Stop instead of ‘trying one more time’
  • Remind yourself: better a few short successful sessions than one long one

Practise makes Perfect

Now it is much easier to stop my session at the highlight and give Kyra a break. I never think anymore ‘One more time to see if she gets it’. Now I just know she will perform this well if I stop now and give her a break.

It doesn’t matter if it looked like a coincidence that she performed so well. Even if she only did it once and I stop, she will remember next time. Especially if I jackpot her before I end the training.

Length and amount of sessions

I have experimented with the length of my sessions and the amount of sessions. As long as I keep my sessions short, give Kyra enough breaks between sessions, offer a variety of different exercises and use an unpredictable reward schedule (without discouraging or frustrating her), I can engage her for a really long time.

I also noticed that the length of a session is very personal and can vary between horses. A lot of factors influence the length of a successful training session, like the age of the horse, difficulty of the exercise, physical and emotional state of horse and trainer,  environmental factors/distraction and so on.

Do you use breaks in your training to improve performance?

Related blogs

Setting your horse up for Success: Context shift

Setting your horse up for Success: Splitting behaviour

 

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

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

 

Setting your horse up for success: context shift

Horses learn in a certain context. Each change in the context of training your horse should be considered as a new criterion. Use this to set yourself and your horse up for success.

What is a ‘context shift’?

If you want to teach your horse something new, like targeting, practise this in the beginning always in the same place, the same context. Maybe you start this exercise in the round pen or in his stall where you can train with protective contact (a barrier).

After a few session in which your horse made progress you might decide that you want to train without the barrier. Now you’ve changed the context. Expect a change in performance and lower your criteria in the beginning so you can give your horse confidence. If you always trained indoors and you ask the same exercise outdoors, your context (indoor/outdoor) has changed.

_context_shift_horse_training_hippologic

Not only the horse experiences ‘context changes’

If your horse masters the exercise and you want to show it to your friend or film it: the context changes for you. Have you noticed that it is suddenly much harder to perform at the same level when some one is watching? 

Why horse and rider perform much better at home

The same thing happens (for rider and horse) if you train for a competition and you as team perform great at home. Once you are in the dressage ring in a new place, with white fences your horse never saw before and you know there is a two person judge watching you, the context in which you have practised has changed. A lot. No wonder is doesn’t go as smoothly as it always goes at home, with your own instructor who you trust. Again, start lowering your criteria and set yourself up for success: consider the first competitions in a strange environment as training. Boost your horse’s confidence by communicating what you want. Positive reinforcement is an excellent way to communicate what you want and see more of.

How to handle context shifts

You will soon notice that you only have to lower your criteria (and your expectations) just a little bit and for a little while. If you don’t do this, the chances of getting dissapointed and/or frustrated are much bigger. Also for your horse it is much easier to learn to generalize certain aspects of the surroundings that have nothing to do with the cue for the behaviour.

Conclusion

You can use the context in teaching new exercises to your advantage, then if you want to teach your horse to generalize certain things in the setting you can change the context of your training. In this way the horse learns to generalize and he will soon learn is important to pay attention to (your cues) and what is best to ignore in order to get a click and reward (for instance certain things in surrounding, that are not part of your cue).

Related articles

Set you horse up for success: Splitting behaviour

Setting your horse up for Success: Short sesssions

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

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: