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

Posts tagged ‘attitude’

How training horses can change your life!

How Horse Training turned me into a Pollyanna

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

Negative Nancy

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

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

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

Focus on what you want to grow

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

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

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

Challenge

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

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

Shift from self-criticism to self-motivation

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

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

How did positive reinforcement horse training change your life?

_Kyra_en_ik_hippologicSandra Poppema, B.Sc.
My mission is to improve horse-human relationships by educating equestrians about ethical and horse friendly training. I offer coaching to empower you to train your horse in a 100% animal friendly way that empowers both you and your horse.
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Does your horse have to “work” or does he have a “job” to do?

Work, this word has a negative association for a lot of people. “Work” has to be “hard”, “long” and involves “no fun” activities. If you are riding your horse or training him, do you refer to it as “work”? And what associations do you have with that word anyway? Think about it.

If Kyra “works” for me, it means that we are doing fun stuff, I invite her to be involved, I ask questions and she is entitled to have “an opinion” about her work. If she “complains”, that is a sign for me to be a better boss. In Dutch you refer to an owner as “boss” as well.

If she says “No” to one of my questions I want to figure out why and what I can do better in order to let her say “Yes”. My associations with the word work are “fun”, “learning” and above all it must be REWARDING in one way or the other.

I am convinced that people transfer their association that they might have with certain words to their horse. What emotions come up if I say: dentist, vet, trick training, trail riding? Are you yelling at the gate to your horse: “Come on the vet is here!”  Or: “Come on we are going on a trail ride!”

To me “work” means a lot of good things. I never say about my horse: “That’s her job. She has to do it, because that’s her job.” Kyra didn’t come to me for a job interview. So I am not convinced she wanted to sign up for whatever I have in mind. I have a lot planned in my mind. I am sure she didn’t want to hear about that when she was 11 months old. 😉

Yes, I pay my horse a good salary for doing a good “job”. She is a loyal employee and eager to work for and with me every day. If I give her a day off, she is NOT pleased. She doesn’t want to stay in the pasture when she can be working with me.

Sandra Poppema

_Ifahorselovestheirjob_hippologic

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