5 Useful Techniques to prepare your horse to Vet Visits

We hope this never happens, but it does. Horses get into accidents, fights, and other trouble. If you’ve been long enough around horses you know that crazy stuff happens. No matter how careful you are… Equine first aid is a necessity for all horse owners.

Rusty nail

Kyra stepped into a 2 inch (5 cm) rusty nail on Saturday. She was lame and I discovered the nail when I rinsed the mud off hr leg and foot with cold water. It wasn’t in her foot all the way, but a good 1,5 – 2 cm. Not straight upwards luckily.

Hoof wrapping

When the nail was out (I just pulled it out) immediate relief from Kyra. Then I got a quick lesson in hoof wrapping from my barn manager. One of the perks at boarding out and have experienced horse people around.

Vet care training for horses

I have had “vet care training” since day 1 in my training program. Kyra came wounded to me. So she could already be hosed off, put her foot in a bucket with water and lift her legs.

You don’t want to start training these kind of things in an emergency!

Vet visit

When the vet came Kyra behaved so nicely. When she pushed on the wound Iused the open bar/closed bar technique and Kyra really appreciated it! She didn’t fight although it was very clear she was in much pain! She didn’t kick and let the vet do her work. Wow, that’s such a great feeling! Safety for everyone involved and the best treatment (because the horse lets the vet).

Be prepared!

Prepare your horse before you need it! Trailer loading, rinsing off legs (up until 10 minutes), injections, training for calm behaviour and standing still for longer periods of time (up until 10 minutes) are very helpful!

Useful techniques in vet care training

Techniques you can use for vet care training:

  1. A tiny bit of moulding/molding can help teaching your horse to stand in a bucket (rubber pan). It can be hard to free shape it so that they step into the pan themselves, especially with their hind legs.
  2. Duration. In vet care procedures ‘duration’ is so important. In our minds 10 seconds seem very short, but we also know when we are in the dentist chair without freezing and the drill drills 10 seconds, it’s suddenly ver, very long. Since horses don’t know when we stop with unpleasant procedures it’s even more difficult for them. They really have to trust you!
  3. Start button behaviour. Teach a behaviour so the horse can indicate: ‘I am ready.You can do what you need to do now.‘ Eg teach them to touch a target.
  4. Stop button behaviour. Teach a behaviour so they can indicate ‘Stop the procedure.’ You can teach them to touch a different target than you use for the start button behaviour.
  5. Open bar/closed bar. This is a great technique if the horse is not clicker trained or not prepared well enough. It also helps in quickly building duration. You ‘open the bar’ as soon as the behaviour starts. For instance putting the hoof into the bucket of water, holding up their hoofs for dressing or farrier work. When the horse pulls back, you let go of the foot (if possible!) and stop feeding: you ‘close the bar‘. You ‘open the bar‘ again and start feeding as soon as the horse offers the desired behaviour. The reinforcers must be high enough value to make it worthwhile. If you’re building duration a food reinforcer that they have to chew on long(er) is a good choice. Eating also distracts from the procedure and if they stop chewing with food in their mouth it can be an indication of increased stress or worry.

Make a good hoof wrap out of duct tape

In the next blog I will show you how I make a ‘space shoe’ out of duct tape and other items to keep her foot clean and dry in the mud. I took lots of photos and made videos of our training. Here is one of Kyra’s space boot the next day. It kept well in the mud.

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
Helping horse people to bond with their horse and get the results they want.
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Here’s How You Can Let Your Horse Do What You Want

If you’re frustrated by your horse because he doesn’t do what you want, you might ask yourself questions like:

  • Why isn’t he listening to me?Frustration_in_training_horse_hippologic.JPG
  • Why does he always have to be such a brad?
  • How come he listens to [fill inthe blank/your instructor] and not to me?

Or you catch yourself saying things like:

  • He’s been always like this…
  • He can’t stop grazing, that’s the way he is…
  • I wish he stopped doing that…

Your asking the wrong questions and making the wrong statements!

If you catch yourself in this mindset (and that takes practise!!) turn it around! What all above statements have in common are they are focusing your mind on the wrong things. They are all focussed on what you don’t want. Start focusing on what you do want!

Change your mindset, change your outcome

How can you change this? Let’s take a look to those questions and change them, so that your mind will work for you, not against you. Have you noticed that your mind will fill in the answers?

What answer do you get if you ask yourself ‘Why isn’t he listening to me?’ 

What happens if you would ask yourself instead: ‘What can I change to make my horse more successful?’ Does that feel different? How does it make you feel?

How about this one: ‘Why does he always have to be such a brad?’

Stop using the words ‘always’ and ‘never’ from now on. Change this one into: ‘What happened today that influenced his behaviour? What can I do differently? What does my horse need (to know, or have) in order to do X?’ Do you feel space to change here?

How come he listens to [fill inthe blank/your instructor] and not to me? Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what the other person does have (or do) that makes her successful. Then do the same thing, get the same knowledge or experience.

Homework: try this out and let me know what you’ve discovered. What are you telling yourself? Could you think of different questions? How did that make you feel?

Fixed mindset vs Growth mindset

A fixed mindset is when you believe that you (or your horse) can’t change. ‘People never change’. A growth mindset on the other hand is one that believes that you can change. ‘Practise makes perfect‘. Here are some suggestions to change the other statements:

  • He’s been always like this… -> I can teach train him to do something else, what would be step 1? Who can I ask for help?
  • He can’t stop grazing, that’s the way he is… ->What reinforcement is the grass? How can I give him something else he wants?
  • I wish he stopped doing X…. ->How can I reinforce the opposite behaviour of X more so that he behaves more desirely? Is there a way to prevent X? Can I redirect his behaviour so it will be more desirable?

 

YouYou are NOT a tree

What kind of mindset do you have?

If you have a fixed mindset you can still choose to change! If you choose not to, I can’t help you. No one can. Your life will be hard and often miserable. You’ll always be a victim because you can’t change your life and it’s ‘not your fault’. I don’t think people with fixed mindset will make it to here in this blog.

hand-1915350_640If you have a growth mindset: hooray! You will be able to change you mind and make your life easier and enjoy your horse more. If you need help with implementing this into your daily interaction with your horse, your training of in riding let me know. I’m here for you.

Do you believe you can or can’t ask your horse to stop grazing on cue?

stop grazing_hippologic clickertraining academy grass training leading on grass2In order to test your mindset and experience this in practise I offer a free training. I picked a common problem, something even experienced horse people like myself encounter: a horse that wants to graze when you’re leading him or won’t stop if you let him have one bite. Sound familiar? Or you just want to join my free training to see what I’m like, how I coach and to learn new skills? Sign up here: Free Grass Training Transformation.

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Join our group on Facebook where you can ask questions, interact with like-minded people and get support on your clicker journey. In the last quarter of 2019 I will do weekly LIVE videos in the Happy Herd. Don’t miss out!

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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3 Tips to Succeed Clicker Training your Horse

Do you struggle implementing (more) clicker training into your daily interaction, riding and training your horse?

Would you like to use positive reinforcement in more areas of the relationship with your horse and don’t know how to do this?

Do you feel uncomfortable because you’re the only odd one at the barn who uses clicker training?

#1 Focus on one goal

  • If you focus on one behaviour you want to train or re-train you can fully emerge yourself in finding solutions to training that one behaviour or overcoming that one struggle.
  • It’s easier to ask for help if you know what your wanting help or advice on.
  • Write down your goal. Writing it down will help your brain focus on finding solutions and it’s easier for tip #3.

#2 Make yourself Accountable

  • Set yourself up for success by finding someone to share your goal with. Preferably someone who can help you with advice when needed, but that isn’t even necessary. If that one person will ask you about your progress on, let’s say Monday, then you know on Saturday that you better come into action if you want to share something on Monday.

    The accountability will help you come into action and overcome fear of failure. I speak from experience. When I did a bi-weekly accountability with a friend I usually did nothing about the goals I shared with her (fear of failure) until 3 days before we would meet. Then I started clicker training Kyra and usually I had success in one area, got stuck in another. Only by coming into action I found my struggles and could overcome them. Weekly accountability is better than bi-weekly. Bi-weekly beats monthly and monthly beats not making yourself accountable at all. But if you want to book successes more often, find weekly accountability!

#3 Celebrate!

  • BY celebrating your wins you stand still and enjoy. This is what success feels like! Enjoying your Wins! Make sure you take the time to do this.
  • Celebrating your wins, big AND small ones will motivate you in going after your next goal.
  • It also gives you an ‘end ritual’ that tells you ‘Goal accomplished’. You can only know if you have accomplished if you’ve written your goal down, see tip #1. Don’t fall into the pitfall of stretching your goal endlessly and ending up feeling like a failure.

In my Key Lessons for Trainers, your Key to Success in Horse training, you’ll find these three. If you want to learn about the other 3 Key Lessons for Trainers, join my 8-week home study program Ultimate Horse Training Formula.

Join the Clicker Training Academy if you want to improve your clicker skills

What is the HippoLogic CTA? 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 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.

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Secret to Your Success in Horse Training is …

… having an Accountability Partner

Do you have an equestrian dream that you never seem to accomplish? Something every now and then you think about, maybe even try to do it and after a while you realize you’ve stopped again? You might not even know why?woman-403610.jpg

You can achieve your equestrian dreams in these 5 simple steps. There is one thing that most people don’t realize. I want to share it with you, so you too can start making your dreams come true. The one step that most people don’t take seriously enough…

Secret of Your Success

Pitfall of accomplishing equestrian dreams for most people is that nobody keeps encouraging you if you drop the ball. Here is the step that most people skip:

The Accountability Partner

An accountability partner is part of your Success Team. He or she will help you keep you accountable and will encourage you on a weekly bases to keep working on what it is you want to achieve.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASometimes your riding instructor is a part of your Success Team, but only if he or she knows what your dream is. You have to share your dream so your accountability partner can help you keep on track.

Here is the thing: other goals in life have a ‘build in’ accountability. That is why it is easy to accomplish your goals in almost all other fields than your hobby.

  • Your manager at work and your social environment make sure you show up for work every day (and keep the quality of your work high)
  • Your children will make sure you get out of bed every morning to take care of them and raise them
  • Even your horse will make sure that he is taken care of. I bet you have prioritized his care highly on your list, above the things you want to do with him, right?

How about you and your dreams?

horses-325219_1920If it comes to accomplishing your equestrian dreams, no one is pushing you every day to take a small step towards your goal.

No one is even asking you about your progress every week. Even if they did (maybe in the beginning, because you bought a new horse), it surely fades away quickly and you’re on your own again. That is why it is so difficult to make your equestrian dreams come true. Who is telling you what your next step must be?

There always seems to get something ‘more important’ in the way (doing barn chores instead of clicker training your horse for 5 or 10 minutes), helping your friend or supporting your children or doing some work at home instead of spending time with your horse.

Before you know it, you haven’t been working on accomplishing your equestrian goals for a month… Then you might even get the feeling that your dream is stupid or that you simply ‘never can accomplish it’. Or you start forgetting all about it because it is too painful. Does that sound like you? Here is how you can reverse it.

What is YOUR dream?

_beach_hippologic_goalDo you remember what you wanted when you got your horse? What did you wanted more than anything out of that relationship? Even if you forgot about your dream or someone talked you out of it, I can help you retrieve that dream.

Now you found some one that will support you. I love to see horse lovers accomplish their dreams so much I turned it into my livelihood to help horse people like you! I have helped countless equestrians in the past 2 decades find their joy back being with their horse.

take action_stop wasting timeShare your equestrian dreams in the comments: what it?

Come into action and take the 1st step today

I want to invite you to get on Zoom with me. Book your free 30 minute discovery session today to find out which of the 5 steps to accomplish your dreams you need help with. Once you booked your time slot online, I will contact you. I can’t wait to hear from you!

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.

_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!
Get your FREE 5 Step Clicker Training Plan on HippoLogic’s website.

PS Did you know HippoLogic has a membership (accountability) program to support you?

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

5 Steps to Accomplish Your Equestrian Goals in 2019

For those who are following my blog or my students it is obvious: I like to accomplish things! It also makes me very happy if I see other people accomplish their goals! That is why we live, right. To evolve and learn and enjoy life!

Goal setting? But horse riding is my hobby…

target-2303326_1920Not much horse owners think in ‘goals’ if they think about their horse. It’s a hobby so they don’t think it applies. I think it does!

Remember why you bought your horse in the first place: to ride, to trail ride, to drive or to have fun with (specify that). Are you?

There are your goals. They are just a bit buried and you have to unwrap and reveil them. ‘Riding my horse’, what does that mean to you? Trail riding? Winning dressage competitions? Once a week a lesson with your own horse, ride 3 times a week for 20 minutes or ride 5 days a week for an hour?

Are you living your dream?

Do you do what you had in mind when you bought your horse? Yes? Congrats and I want to hear all about it (share it in a comment)! If not, why not?Set Your Equestrian Goals and Achieve them! What is your horse dream?

Maybe you did bought your horse to ride and you did ride him for many years, but he is a senior and you stopped riding. Or you did ride your horse, but fell off and now you’re scared to go back on. Or you bought a young horse and then got into clicker training and you simply don’t know where and how to start…

Step 1: Knowing what you want

If you know what you want it’s easy to get it. Sometimes you have to dig deeper and ask yourself at least 5 times ‘Why’? This gets you to the root of what you want. Why did you get this horse?
Another approach I use in my online goal setting course for equestrians is to find out what you dreamt about before you got a horse? Or go back to your childhood to get clues about your dreams and desires.

Step 2: Get help in order to speed things up

Improve your clicker training skillsWhen you know what you want you can search specifically for the help you need to get it. If you want to ride your horse with R+ or create a stronger bond than you look for an experienced positive reinforcement instructor. If you want to ride competitions you can narrow your search for an excellent rider that has didactic skills to help you too.

No one has accomplished great things on his own! You don’t have to. If you get the help you need to accomplish your goals it is time and money well spent! It saves you time, money, frustration and making unnecessary faults (that can impact the relationship with your horse or with yourself!) if you don’t want to invent the wheel again.

Don’t worry about ‘skipping the learning process’ there is plenty to learn! I speak out of experience.

Step 3: Divide your goal into achievable steps

clickertraining.ca gets you the results and relationship you want

Clicker training improves the bond with your horse

When you know what you want you can divide your goals into smaller steps. This is one of the 6 HippoLogic Key Lessons (Your Key to Success) for trainers: make a plan.

The more steps the easier it is to accomplish them. Write them down, so it becomes very clear. Don’t forget to celebrate each step in order to stay motivated!

Step 4: Find yourself an accountability partner!

This is where I see things go off track easily. It is easy to make plans, but without coming into action nothing will happen! When nothing happens you will feel bad. If you feel bad you get paralyses and voila: procrastination happens!

Laying down next to meAn accountability partner (another Key Lesson for Trainers) is the one that will help you avoid that pitfall! He or she can also motivate you and help you get new insights and ideas to accomplish your goals.

I have helped many equestrians over the years. It works! You need to get weekly accountability in order to make it work. That is what I offer in my membership program.

Your need someone to cheer you on and celebrate with you! Who can do this better than the person who knows what your starting point was!

Step 5: Keep track, so you can look back

Check list for horse trainingIn order to stay motivated through the year (some goals take time to accomplish) keep track of your accomplishments. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you haven’t accomplished much. Your brain is always looking to the horizon (that what you haven’t accomplished yet) and it is very motivating to look back once in a while to see how far you’ve already came! Keeping a training journal and filming your training sessions/riding lessons is a really good way of keeping track.

Need help? Accountability or professional support?

January 1st 2019 starts HippoLogic’s online course Ultimate Equestrian Goal Formula. You will walk away with a clear goal and a clear training plan to accomplish it.
Are you going to make your Equestrian Dream come true in 2019?

_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.
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PS Did you know HippoLogic has a membership (accountability) program?

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5 Benefits of using a Shaping Plan in Horse Training

The blog you’re looking for has moved to my website: https://clickertraining.ca/5-benefits-of-using-a-shaping-plan-in-horse-training

Happy Horse Training!

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Sandra Poppema, BSc

Go-to person for online equine clicker training

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

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10 Tips to Train Your Horse Faster

When I started ‘training’ my free lease pony I had no idea what my plan was. Well, that is not entirely true… I thought I had a plan.

When he was born my plan was: “To start him under saddle when he was 4 years old”. That’s it. I was 12 years old. I had no idea how to do it, but I thought I knew. After all, I had read all the books in the library about horse training.

Here are 10 tips that I wished I knew back then to set myself up for success, to give myself confidence and motivate me in times of frustration. It would have made my life and that one of the pony (!) so much better.

OK, here we go.

Tip #10 Set a goal

Training_logbook_journal_diary_hippologic2016Set a goal and make a plan (see tip #8). Simply start writing in your training journal what you want to teach your horse. Eg ‘standing still at the mounting block’. Writing it down is very important.

Tip #9

Focus on what you want, instead on what you don’t want. I hear lots of riders say things like: ‘My horse can’t stand still’.

What do you visualize when you read this? You probably see a horse that walks away or doesn’t stand still. Focus on what you want to happen and phrase it that way: ‘I want my horse to stay with 4 hooves on the ground while I mount’. Now visualize it. Is this what you want?

Tip #8

Be specific. The more specific you are the better your chances of success. You know what to look for, so you also know when you are successful.

In the example above I can be more specific: ‘I want to teach my horse to align with the mounting block and stay with 4 hooves on the ground while I mount. My horse is calm and relaxed when I sit in the saddle and he waits patiently for my cue to walk on.’ What do you see when you visualize this?

If you are specific you will know exactly what your training criteria (and you have your training plan) are: 4 hooves on the ground, aligning to the mounting block, standing relaxed while being mounted, wait for a cue to walk on.

Tip #7

Find yourself an accountability partner. Someone supportive of your goals and who is not afraid to ask how you’re doing with your goals. If you want a really good accountability partner look for someone who knows more than you do about the subject and can help you specify your goals and help write down your training plan. Find someone who doesn’t judge.

Tip #6

Next step is to plan your training sessions. A plan without action is nothing but a wish._A dream without a plan is just a wish_Hippologic_equestrian goal setting.jpg You have to know when you want to work on it. Weekly lessons or a monthly meeting with your partner are a great way to make yourself accountable.

Use your calendar to plan what you will work on each day. For example training your horse to align along the mounting block on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. By the end of the month you know how much time you spent on training a specific behaviour.

Tip #5

Keep your training sessions for new behaviours short and sweet. If you train a new behaviour you only have to work on it for a few minutes. I train max 5 minutes per session when I train a new behaviour. Then I give a break or I ask behaviours that are already understood very well and are easy to perform for my horse, before I go back to train another 5 minutes on the new behaviour.

timing is everything_hippologic

Tip #4

Know when to stop. Stop when it’s (still) going well. This is very difficult, but I now know when the best time to stop is. I learned to recognize that little voice in my head that whispered ‘One more time’, ‘This was fun! Let’s do it again. (And again. And again)’ or

‘Let’s see if my horse really understands it or if it was a coincidence that he did it’. This is a good time to stop or focus on something else.

If you keep going, the behaviour will decrease and you can get frustrated. That is not the best time to stop practising, but you have to.

Tip #3

Manage frustration and other negative feelings. If you went on and on until the behaviour gets worse and/or you and your horse get frustrated: please stop. It is better to stop when you feel a little frustrated than keep going. That will never make it better. Forgive yourself, make a note in your training logbook and thank yourself for becoming aware. Awareness is the first step in improving.

Tip #2

Celebrate! Share your success with your accountability partner. Celebrate it with yourself and do something you will remember for this special moment. Take a picture or video of the new trained behaviour or share your story on your social media. Hooray! Be proud! Be happy!

Tip #1

_positive_reinforcement_clicker_training_hippologicUse a bridge signal in combination with something the horse wants. Positive reinforcement is the one thing that made all my training so much easier, quicker and more fun too! A bridge signal (or marker) is such a great communication tool. It provides clarity for yourself and for your horse and makes everything you want to train so much easier and with less frustration.

I wish I would have learned all this in the riding school I learned to ride, or from all the (five) books the library owned when I was a girl!

It would have saved me hours and hours of frustration and prevented me from many dangerous situations. I would be much more confident and saved me a lot of frustration. Me and my pony would have had more fun and a better relationship earlier on.

If you think you can help someone with these tips, please share them with the buttons below and help improve horse-human relationships! Thank you.

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.

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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!
Get your FREE 5 Step Clicker Training Plan on HippoLogic’s website.

Take action. Start for free!

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

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

    Key to Success in Horse Training

    Your Key to Success

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

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

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

How to Start Setting Your Goals and Achieve them in 2018!

Last week I took my notebook and I sat in Kyra’s paddock to meditate. It was really relaxing and suddenly I thought of some brilliant additions to add to my horse training plan for 2018. I am always on the look out for good ideas about planning or training animals.

This time I found it in a business strategy.  The planning for the business is based on a theme, a vision and also on values. I never deliberately used a theme in my yearly training plan, but I’ve heard about it for personal planning.

Pick a Theme

Now I moved Kyra to a barn next to the dyke and to access to the beach it was obvious _beach_hippologic_goal.jpgthat my theme of 2018 will be ‘trail riding‘.

I have been preparing Kyra since she was a yearling: taking her out on the road to get used to traffic, taking her out of sight of her herd (literally one step at the time) to give her confidence to be alone. She was really herd bound in the beginning, but now I can offer her so much, she likes to go with me too. I think she knows she will always get back to her equine friends._despooking om the road_hippologic.jpg

What are your Values

The business strategy plan I read was based on values.  When I thought about my own values in the context of horse training I discovered I have a lot of (non negotiable) values.

The things I always keep in mind during training are: welfare of the horse, clarity, natural behaviour of the horse, safety, fun, learning, trust, positive reinforcement training, control of environment (for the horse), choices, challenges, developing and motivating (in a pleasant way)._give an appetitive HippoLogic

They might not all be considered ‘values’ in the strict sense of the word, but those are my pillars of every interaction with horses. When I thought of my values in training everything became so clear. It was an epiphany!

Eureka!

Wow, suddenly I could just see in front of me what fits in my training plan and training methods and what doesn’t. It was if everything that fitted my values was clear and with a golden aura and everything I don’t value looked dark and in the background.

Now it was clear why we aren’t ‘dressage level 4’ yet. This goal isn’t supported by what I value in training and in my relationship with my horse! It was so easy to let that goal go, it was amazing! It gave me such a good feeling. I didn’t have to swim upstream anymore!

What is your Vision

The business strategy also was based on a vision. I do have a clear vision for Kyra so that was easy to write down. I’ve been writing that down for the past 8 years and it almost never changes. Well… some things drop out such as turning Kyra into a level 4 dressage horse in the usual sense of the word. We already mastered some of the requirements and we will be working on the others.

I thought of my vision for my horse before I got Kyra and it was quite a process to get it clear as a bell. It helped me find the right horse for me!

_HLhippologic_listening to your horse_clicker_trainingI wanted Kyra to be an all round horse. A calm, comfortable and agile trail riding horse to feel safe where ever we go, a wonderful demo horse to give demonstrations positive reinforcement training or give an exciting show with. I wanted her to be strong and prepared to carry a rider, so there is where the dressage exercises (long reins and later under saddle) come in: to help her carry a rider in a comfortable way. I  also would like her to be a lesson horse to teach riders to use subtle cues instead of commands. Above all I wanted a horse to connect with.

What are your Dreams

I also added my dreams into my plan, my long term goals are all based on my equestrian dreams. the things I would really like to accomplish with Kyra.

Many of them already are reality. I know this because I kept al my plans and my training logbooks from the past 8 years and I made pictures and videos of all my accomplished goals: from walking on the street for the first time, until the first trail ride.

Write a Training Plan

Every year I make a training plan for Kyra. I use groundwork (work-in-hand, despooking, horse agility and so on), husbandry, riding, long reins and trick training as pillars. In each column I put a goal that serves my theme (‘trail riding’ in 2018) and is in alignment with my values. I write down what I will work on every month for each of those pillars, so I always have something that I can focus on.

Plan Your Dreams

Do you make plans? Do you have dreams that you would like to turn into reality? What are those? Please share them in the comments, I would love to know what you want to accomplish with your horse. Thank you and Happy Horse training in 2018!

Related posts

This is how I plan my Equestrian Year 2018

It’s December start planning for next year

How to Achieve Your Equestrian Goals

And I have written many more. I like planning because it helps me to be successful.

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

 

 

This is how I plan my Equestrian Year for 2018

Being successful gives me so much joy! Let’s talk about ‘success’ for a moment. This is what is mean to me. Success is what you want to achieve, not what others want for you or wanting to achieve what others have achieved.
I think the best way to ‘measure’ success is 1) Only look at your own accomplishments and only 2) compare yourself with yourself. 3) Achieving goals that you’ve written down (so you can actually achieve them and the criteria are not changing all the time). 4) Having fun and enjoying the journey is a big part of success for me!

Continue reading

How to Achieve Your Equestrian Goals

In December 2016 I started to offer an online course about Equestrian Goal setting. It’s one of my fun projects and my 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!_Set your Equestrian Goals

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

If you think this is a blog that someone can benefit from, please use one of the share buttons  below. I’ also would love to read your comments, I read them all!

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

Happy Horse training!
_Kyra_en_ik_hippologic
Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve human-horse relationships. I connect horse women with their inner wisdom and teach them the principles of learning and motivation, so they become confident and skilled to train their horse in a safe and effective way that is a lot of FUN for both human and horse. Win-win.
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and discover my online course Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Positive Reinforcement Horse Training.
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Unconventional Training Solutions

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

Challenge

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

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

Training goal

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

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

Couldn’t you just use the outside rein?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 1

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

Step 2

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

Step 3

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

Step 4

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

Step 5

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

Step 6

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

Step 7

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

 

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

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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

Setting your horse up for success: splitting behaviour

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make in horse training is that they don’t set their horse (or themselves) up for success. Once you know some basics about horse training, setting it up for succes becomes easier. A common mistake is not visualizing what the goal is and planning how to communicate it to your horse.

_splitting-and-lumping-HippoLogic

Splitting behaviour

If you have a goal in mind to teach your horse, the first step to set yourself up for success is making a shaping plan. In your shaping plan you describe your goal, your starting point and how you are going to divide the goal into baby steps in order to built this new behaviour.

Split your goal behaviour into enough baby steps and train every step separately until it is mastered before you raise a criterion. In this way you train (shape) your goal behaviour in a systematic way. Each baby step is in fact a building block of the desired behaviour. So far the theory.

Splitting behaviour is not easy and this is a continues aspect to work on. Even me, after more than 16 years of experience with positive reinforcement training, I catch myself lumping behaviour. Why? Because every horse, every behaviour and every situation  is different.

You can’t possibly know beforehand what your horse is capable off, physically or mentally. You only know that until you reach a  boundary. Also the training circumstances have a great influence on the learning capability of humans and horses. Teaching your horse something new in stormy weather is probably not setting yourself up for success.

Lumping behaviour

The most common mistake is that the steps trainers make are too big for the horse. This is called lumping. The horse doesn’t understand what is expected from him. When you lump, you simply have raised (too many) criteria, too soon.

How to recognize lumping

It is quit easy to recognize if you know what to look for. You know it is time to adjust your criteria or tweak the setting of your training if your horse shows signs of:

  • fear
  • frustration
  • disinterest
  • distraction
  • anger
  • shutting down

Your horse can get disinterested in you and your training because he thinks he will never  earn a treat and simply gives up. Or he can get frustrated: ‘Why don’t I get that treat now, when I did this just a minute ago I got it.’

Trainer

This also goes for the trainer. If you feel frustrated, anxious, despair, anger or other undesired emotions, just stop for a moment. Take a break and take  few deep breaths. Get yourself into thinking mode again. Then figure out a way to split the training into more steps and start over.

Lowering your criteria is not the same as ‘failing’, on the contrary: lowering your criteria in order to follow your horses (or your own) learning curve is setting your horse up for success. A side effect is that you will succeed quicker, too

Mastering splitting

I don’t think it is realistic to expect we’ll never lump behaviour anymore. It is part of the learning experience: split behaviour enough until you notice a bump in the road. This is when you know you’re lumping. Then you split the ‘lump’ and go on until you encounter the next bump. That is ‘learning’ and it is fun.

Every time you notice that you’re lumping it is a sign that you have experience. Why? Otherwise you wouldn’t notice it and might try to solve the problem with a bit more tack, a whip or other ways to make the horse do what you desire. That is what most people do, I see this happening in the most experienced clinicians too.

Here is a video in which you can see what splitting and lumping can look like:

[Readers who get my blog via their email won’t see the video embedded. Sorry about this. If you want to see it, follow this link to my blog https://hippologic.wordpress.com]

Science of learning

I am grateful I have learned a bit about horse behaviour/body language, learning theory, learning processes and how to motivate a learner (human and horse). I don’t need to force my goals onto my horse anymore now that I have these tool of knowledge and experience.

If my training is not getting me the results I wanted or expected I take a break and regroup. Sometimes my break lasts for a few day or even a week. It doesn’t matter. My horse doesn’t win, if I stop training just because I don’t know what to do at that moment. I am always aiming for a win-win.

Force is never the (right) answer in my opinion. I treasure the bond with my horse too much for that.

Related articles

Setting your horse up for success: Context shift

Setting your horse up for Succes: Short sessions

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Sandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve human-horse relationships. I connect horse women with their inner wisdom and teach them the principles of learning and motivation, so they become confident and skilled to train their horse in a safe and effective way that is a lot of FUN for both human and horse. Win-win.
Sign up for HippoLogic’s newsletter (it’s free and it comes with a gift) or visit HippoLogic’s website and discover my online course Key Lessons, Your Key to Success in Positive Reinforcement Horse Training.
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My favourite motto is… Make haste slowly…

Is the translation of a Latin saying. A saying with a long history starting with the Romans. Festina lente, maybe you’ve heard of it.

To me this has proven a very valuable oxymoron  and it is one of my favourite personal mantras in horse training. If you take the time it takes, than it takes less time.

So many times I wanted a result right away, but couldn’t get it. These are perfect moments to remind myself: make haste slowly. To take the time to step back and rethink my strategy. Reminding myself to make haste slowly has helped me in so many ways.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Prevent frustration

If you consider your training goals first and make a plan before you start training your horse, it helps prevent pitfalls that lead to frustration. Don’t only focus on the goal, the result but also take into consideration the way that leads to your goal.

Don’t forget: you are part of a team

In horse training/riding it is not only about your results. You have to take your equine partner into consideration.

When I just started Kyra under the saddle I wanted to canter. My (classical) dressage trainer said: ‘Just wait, she will offer canter when she’s ready’. But… I wanted it ‘now’. ‘Kyra was already 6 weeks under saddle,’ was my argument. ‘If professional trainers could teach a horse to walk, trot and canter within 6 weeks after starting a horse under saddle, why couldn’t I do it?’

I took my trainers advise and didn’t push it. One day Kyra indeed offered canter under saddle. Since I use a bridge signal and rewards, I could clearly communicate to Kyra that this was what I wanted. I gave her a jackpot (a really, really reinforcing reward). From that day on ‘canter’ was part of our repertoire. I was glad I waited until Kyra was ready and I was glad I listened to the advise of my wise trainer. But it was hard…. I wanted quick results so badly.

Now I know from my own experience that Festina lente is one of the best mantras one can have when educating a horse. Learning can’t be rushed. I think Kyra’s canter wouldn’t have been so balanced if I had rushed her. I probably would have damaged our relationship by asking her something to do which she couldn’t do at the time. Something that’s very clear in hindsight.

I think ‘set yourself and your horse up for success’ goes hand in hand with Festina lente. What are your favourite mantras in horse training?

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

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Technieken om gedrag te verkrijgen: Luring en Moulding

(Click here for the English version)

Luring (lokken), moulding (manipuleren), shaping (stap-voor-stap vormen), targeting (volgen van een ‘target’/doel) en capturing (‘vangen’ van gedrag) zijn vijf manieren om gedrag te trainen met positive reinforcement. Wat zijn de voor- en nadelen van elke techniek? 

In dit eerste deel: de voor- en nadelen van luring en moulding. Luring en moulding zijn de technieken die ik zelden tot nooit gebruik in mijn paardentraining. 

Luring
We spreken van luring wanneer de trainer een primaire versterker (bv voedsel) gebruik om het paard in de gewenste houding te lokken. Voorbeeld: de trainer houdt een wortel tussen de voorbenen van het paard om het paard te verleiden tot een buiging. Het paard krijgt het lokaas zodra hij het doelgedrag vertoont.

Het grote verschil tussen luring en targeting is dat bij luring het lokaas tegelijk ook de versterker (de beloning) is.

_cutting_carrot_hippologic

Voordelen van luring
Lokken kan de opdracht voor het paard op een gemakkelijke manier verduidelijken.

Het is een snelle manier om tot het eind gedrag (doelgedrag) te komen.

Nadelen van luring
Als het paard zo snel mogelijk het lokaas wil bemachtigen kan het zijn dat hij daardoor niet meer op de trainer en zijn aanwijzingen let.

Het lokaas kan het paard dusdanig afleiden dat hij niet meer op het gedrag is gefocust dat hij moet leren. 

Het lokken met met lokaas kan de veiligheid van de trainer in gevaar brengen als hij bijvoorbeeld niet meer zijn eigen hand en/of de mond van het paard kan zien terwijl hij het het voert.

Werken met lokaas kan bedel- en bijtgedrag in de hand werken.

Luring kan de verwachtingen en de regels met betrekking to veilig uit de hand voeren negatief beïnvloeden. Er kan verwarring ontstaan omdat het lokaas nu het gedrag markeert in plaats van een brugsignaal.

Als het aas zeer aantrekkelijk is, kan luring frustratie veroorzaken als het paard (nog) niet bij het lokkertje kan komen en/of de opdracht niet snapt waardoor hij de beloning niet krijgt.

Het paard weet al wat de beloning zal zijn. Voorspelbaarheid over het soort beloning en/of wanneer de beloning komt, kan het gedrag ‘uitdoven’ in plaats van dat we meer van dit gedrag krijgen. Bekend voorbeeld is met een emmer voer je paard uit het weiland halen. Meestal werkt dit slechts een paar keer voor het paard de andere kant op rent als hij emmer en halster ziet.

Hetzelfde geldt voor een paard met voer de trailer (waar hij bang voor is) in lokken. Het zal een, of twee keer werken, maar zolang niet aan het paard zijn behoefte wordt voldaan (het wegnemen van angst/aan vertrouwen bouwen), zal lokken slecht kort werken. Het kan zelfs de vertrouwensband beschadigen.

Het kan lastig zijn om het lokaas af te bouwen en het gedrag te behouden. Door met lokaas te werken heeft de trainer een bepaald verwachtingspatroon bij het paard geschept. Je paard wil misschien niet eens buigen de eerste keer dat hij geen wortel ziet.

Luring lijkt op het eerste gezicht veel sneller te werken dan je paard eerst het targeten aan te leren, toch wegen de nadelen niet op tegen de voordelen. Ik adviseer luring niet aan.

_1Luring_food_into bow_hippologic

Moulding
Moulding wordt soms ook wel aangeduid als molding of manipulation. Moulding is het fysiek begeleiden van het paard (of een lichaamsdeel) in, de gewenste houding of het eindgedrag. Dan voor het gewenste gedrag clicken en belonen. Voorbeeld: het paardenhoofd aan het halster voorzichtig naar beneden leiden -tussen de voorbenen- om het paard naar een buiging te begeleiden.

Voordelen van moulding
Net als luring, kan moulding helpen de opdracht voor het dier duidelijk te maken. In die zin kan het frustratie voorkomen.

Het is voor de trainer gemakkelijk te snappen en toe te passen.

Het is een snelle manier om complexe gedragingen in een keer aan te leren, zoals knielen of buigen. 

Nadelen van moulding
Het paard wordt met moulding niet aangemoedigd ‘zelf na te denken’ over het gedrag: zijn lichaam wordt in de gewenste positie gezet waarna geclickt en beloond wordt. Dat kan het lastig maken het hulpmiddel af te bouwen. In dit voorbeeld: het halster met halstertouw weg te laten.

Waarschuwing: er is een soms maar een dunne scheidslijn tussen moulding en afdwingen van gedrag. Een paard of ander dier, tot een gedrag te dwingen ethisch niet verantwoord en is onacceptabel als trainingsmethode. Wees dus voorzichtig met het toepassen van moulding, vooral als je als trainer frustratie voelt opkomen.

_Moulding_1_hippologic

In het volgende artikel zal ik de voor-en nadelen van shaping, targeting en capturing bespreken. Technieken die ik juist veel gebruik in mijn training.

Sandra Poppema
Bezoek mijn website voor persoonlijk advies of hulp bij clickertraining

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‘Clicker training doesn’t work for my horse’

The first thought that comes to my mind when a person tells me ‘Clicker training doesn’t work for my horse’ is ‘Why not? Is he sleeping?’ Just kidding. (Klik hier voor de Nederlandse versie van dit artikel).

Listen to this blog on YouTube:

Horses can be trained either by using an aversive to reinforce behaviour (negative reinforcement, -R) or using an appetitive to reinforce behaviour (positive reinforcement,+R).

What does the statement ‘Clicker training doesn’t work for my horse’ mean, when someone says that? Does it mean that:

  • The trainer doesn’t understand the concept of +R and therefor is not applying it properly?
  • The horse doesn’t respond to the marker, the clicker?
  • The horse is not interested in the reward the trainer offers?
  • The horse is not paying attention to the trainer and therefor doesn’t respond to the cues and/or clicker?
  • It only seems to works part of the time (with some behaviours)
  • The horse (sometimes) performs ‘worse’ during clicker training

What_if_Clicker_training_does_NOT_WORK_hippologic

#1 Trainer doesn’t understand the concept
A lot can go ‘wrong’ if the trainer isn’t conscious of what he is doing or doesn’t understand what he is doing and expects a different result. The basic terms to understand are: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcementmarker or bridge signaltimingshaping behaviourproper hand-feeding, cues, reinforcer and learning theory.

#2 The horse does not respond to the clicker
Can your horse hear the marker (the click)? Does he knows what your marker/bridge signal means? It usually takes 30 – 50 repetitions (marker+reinforcer, marker+reinforcer etc.) before the animal has learned that the marker is an announcement of an appetitive.

Does your marker sounds the same every time? A clicker always makes the same sound, therefor it ‘travels’ the same pathways in the brain. If you use a special word, it can take longer for your horse to generalize the marker sound, so it can take a little longer for your horse to respond and repeat the behaviour you’ve marked. If you use different markers make sure your horse has been introduced properly to each of them.

The marker is not (yet) paired associated with an appetitive or the trainer has not yet figured out what the horse considers a reward, see #3.

#3 Horse is not interested in rewards
The key is that the reward must be reinforcing the behaviour. ‘The receiver determines the reward’. If the behaviour is not getting stronger, the reward did not reinforce the behaviour so it wasn’t a real reward.

Pay attention to your horses needs and wants. A reward can also vary in value: a tuft of hay can be reinforcing in winter, but not in Spring when you keep your horse in a field full of juicy grass. It is the trainers responsibility to find out what the horse wants to work for at that moment.

#4 The horse is not paying attention
Why not? Is there something more urgent going on for the horse than the trainers cues? Can the distraction be removed or the horse taken somewhere else to train? Does the horse think he’s in danger? It doesn’t matter if the trainer doesn’t see the danger, for the horse it is real. Is the horse in ‘learning mode‘? Is he relaxed and engaged enough to learn?

Does the horse responds to the marker, see #2? Are the cues clear and fully understood by the horse? Does the trainer keeps the horse involved or is he distracted himself? Is the horse frustrated or maybe has mentally shut down for one reason or the other? Are the rewards reinforcing? Is the proper behaviour reinforced? It is all about timing: you get what you reinforce.

_clickertraining_hippologic_reinforce

#5 It only seems to works part of the time
The horse is not interested in the ‘rewards’ you are offering that day, see #3. He might be distracted, see #4.  The cue is not yet established in a different context. The horse doesn’t respond well because the training steps are too big, the criterion has been raised to quickly (also known as ‘lumping’). Or your rewarding schedule is too predictable, see #6.

#6 The horse performs ‘worse’ during clicker training
The rewards have lost their value or the reinforcement schedule is too predictable for the horse and therefor the behaviour becomes extinct. In other words: the click doesn’t motivate the horse anymore.

Of course this is only the tip of the iceberg for the many reasons that positive reinforcement aka clicker training doesn’t work for you(r horse). Can you name another reason? Please share in the comments!

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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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