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

Posts tagged ‘barn hacks’

Good Old-fashioned Customs for the Modern Stable Hand

Now you are going to find out how old I really am! In the good old days (I am talking about last century) you learned the ropes from an old horseman. Here are some rules I learned and still follow. (more…)

Winter barn hacks

Here are some barn hacks that will make your life easier at the barn in winter. This winter is one of the coldest in Vancouver, BC, Canada since decades. We had a lot of snow too. Not the nicest weather to work in if you work at a barn. (more…)

I accomplished my ‘shittiest’ goal ever!

Yes, this will be a very shitty topic. Sorry about that. The topic is… house-training my horse. In May 2015 I started house-training Kyra. I am a lazy horse owner, so I taught her some tricks to make my life easier.

You can house-train your horse too: http://clickertraining.ca

Thinking ahead

I always, always reinforce Kyra with a treat if she poops or pees when she sees me. If I call her in the pasture and she doesn’t come to me, it usually means that she wants to relief herself first.

_house_training_horses_hippologicThe beauty of clicker training is that I can use the bridge signal, the click (‘this is the behaviour I want to see more of, and your reward is on the way’) from a distance and then walk toward her of simply wait until she reaches me so I can give her a treat.

I also give a treat when she poops or pees in her stall before I take her out.

Time saving habit

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

Other shitty goals

As you can read here, I taught Kyra to only use a specific area in the arena to poop in. The beauty of it is that she can clearly communicates when she has to ‘go’. She simply walks over to that corner and I wait until she has done her business.

She has learned to poop right next to the manure bucket, even when I am not around! This is due to the clicker training. She simply made a positive association with pooping in that corner.

This means I never have to walk around the arena looking for poop after a ride. I used to walk twice with the bedding fork between the manure and the bucket. It’s a good thing I don’t have to do this anymore, because I used to forget this. I used to think ‘I’ll do this later when I’ve brought Kyra back to the pasture,’ . Only to forget about it. Now scooping her poop takes me less than a minute.

Goal achieved? No…

No. Not yet… I would like her to poop in the manure bucket or wheelbarrow. Like I said: I am very lazy so this will save me another minute. Yay!

I must say I had to wait over a year for the opportunity to click Kyra while she was pooping and I had the opportunity to place the bucket or wheelbarrow right behind her in order to catch it.

I accomplished my shitty goal!

This week was my lucky week: I  captured the behaviour twice! Shitty mission accomplished! I even have this on video, believe it or not!

Kyra has now been positively reinforced twice to aim for the manure bucket/wheelbarrow. I hope I can ‘catch’ it again. With the wheelbarrow that is.

This was my shittiest goal ever accomplished! 

Sorry for the dirty story. If you’re not blessed with a visual mind, here is the video.

Visit my HippoLogic YouTube channel

Next time a more decent blog.

Sandra Poppema
Are you interested in personal coaching or do you want to sign up for the next  online course ‘Set Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them’, please visit my website

Click with Your Horse: http://clickertraining.ca

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Time saving barn hacks

All equestrians know that having a horse and working at a barn is hard work. Feeding, watering and turn ins/outs are time consuming. To save some time I made a list of time saving barn hacks I used myself.

Barnhack_hippologicBrush on a string

For buckets in paddocks and pastures keep a brush on a string attached to the bucket. Without the string it wanders off… For stalls a dishwasher brush works perfect.

Keep a skimmer handy

For big water buckets that are not emptied daily, keep a skimmer at hand to take hay and leaves off of the water surface. Works much faster than using your hands and in winter you keep your hand dry and warm.

Use a leave blower to sweep the isles

Needless to say that you can only use a leave blower when there are no horses inside. It causes a lot of dust to fly around. Wear a dust mask and earplugs.

Teach all the horses how you want them to behave

This is a time investment but well worth it. Teach them all that they have to keep their heads low while haltering, put their noses into the halters themselves and walk with you without pushing or pulling.

Teach them some food etiquette

Rule about safe and desired behaviour around food is not innate. It is taught.Feeding horses_hippologic

When I worked at a barn in the weekends it only took me 3 weekends to teach the horses that hay and grain where only provided to horses who kept 4 feet on the ground and stepped back & looked away so I could throw in the flakes of hay in their stalls (which saved time and increased my safety). I hate the noise 15 horses can produce when they are kicking their doors simultaneously.

Master the hay nets

If you need to fill hay nets I hope you use square slow-feeder nets. They are a bit more expensive but you can fill them up in a few seconds.

If you have to fill old fashioned hay nets use a plastic roll-up sled to keep the opening of the net open. They are a $3 -$10 dollar investment and save a lot of man hours.

Key ring knife

When I was a barn help I bought a small key ring knife to open up bales. You can also cut through baling twine with another piece of baling twine and use it like a saw. Or attach a pair of scissors to the wheelbarrow you use for feeding.

Do you have useful barn hack? Please share it with us! We would love to hear about them.

Thank you.

Sandra Poppema
If you want to teach your horse to behave around food or feeding time, visit my website and book an online consult.

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Safety in Winter: DIY reflection halter

Visibility in these dark winter days is important. I made this very simple Do It Yourself reflection halter for Kyra.

Supplies
1) Halter

step1 DIY reflecting halter by HippoLogic 2015
– Reflecting shoe laces $1 (dollar shop)

step 2 DIY reflecting halter by HippoLogic 2015
– Glue gun

Instructions

Cut the aglets off of the lace before you start.

Measure the shoe lace with the halter part you want to start with. Cut the lace at the desired length.

Take the glue gun and carefully put the glue on the halter. Push the lace until glued.

_step3 DIY reflecting halter by HippoLogic 2015

Be careful not to burn your fingers. Don’t use too much glue because it will spill.

_step4 DIY reflecting halter by HippoLogic 2015

Go to the barn and make a picture of your horses’ upholstered halter.

_step5 DIY reflecting halter by HippoLogic

What do you do to increase your horses’ visibility in winter?

Sandra Poppema
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Best Basics: House-training for Horses

When I put a picture on Facebook of Kyra pooping next to the poop bin in the indoor arena, a lot of people asked me how I potty trained my pony.

_Horses_only_washroom_byHippologic

Why house-train a horse?
To be honest, I started it because I am a very lazy horse owner. My philosophy is: Why do it myself if I can train my horse to do it?

This is why I trained Kyra to come to the pasture _zindelijkheidstraininggate instead of me wading through the mud to get her. She has to go through the mud anyway, she might as well do it by herself so I don’t risk loosing a boot in the mud or getting stuck there.

I really hated walking across to the other end of the arena with a bedding fork to search for Kyra’s poops. I always had to walk twice because her poops are so big they don’t fit on a bedding fork in one go. I wanted her to make it easy on me. That was my motivation.

This result (see picture) didn’t happen overnight and not even in a few weeks. She doesn’t always poop when we are working in the arena and we are not always working in there. To me it was just of a game, without a timeline.

Clicker training
Kyra was already clicker savvy, so she knows really well that after a click of my clicker, she will get a reward. The click pinpoints the behaviour. In order to get more of the wanted behaviour, the best results are obtained by rewarding the animal while (s)he is doing the wanted behaviour or within 3 seconds after the wanted behaviour.

A clicker acts as a bridge between the wanted behaviour and the moment of giving the reward. So I didn’t have to reward her within or during the wanted behaviour, I only had to ‘bridge’ (click) during the behaviour that I wanted to capture and then bring her the reward. That came in handy at liberty.

Start easy
In the beginning my criterion was really low. In my mind I divided the indoor arena in two halves: the half with the poop bin (light green rectangle) in it and the other half.

Every time she needed to poop I asked her very gently to maintain gait until she was in the “proper half” of the arena if possible. Often we didn’t reach that half. Maintaining a trot was never possible, but at least she kept walking. A few steps.

It wasn’t really about maintaining gait, but more about making the wanted behaviour easy._house-train_potty-train_horse_hippologic

If she needed to go poop and we were in the half of the arena where the poop bin is located (green striped area), she was allowed to stand still to take her washroom break. Why? Because pooping while walking, trotting or cantering leaves a long trail of poop.

Like I said, I don’t like to waste time on poop scooping in the arena. On top of that I clicked and rewarded her with a handful of treats during pooping. She learned that pooping was rewarded sometimes, whereas other times it was not. It was up to Kyra to figure this out. And she did!

Raising criteria
After a certain period I realized that Kyra was 100% of the time pooping in the half of the arena where the bin is located. That was a sign for me to raise my criterion.

I divided the “designated poop area” in half again (pink striped area). So now the space where I let her stand still to poop and click and reward her for pooping was about a quarter of the arena size.

After a while she discovered that the had to go poop in a certain corner of the arena. Every time I had the feeling that she “got it”, I raised the criterion and made the “allowed area” a bit smaller in my mind (dark blue striped area).

Correcting my mistake
The poop bin is located in the same corner where the shavings are stored. Kyra thought she had to poop in the shavings, which was an obvious mistake (yellow/orange area). After all, her stall is full of shavings where she poops in. So I began to watch her closely, because she usually pooped in the shavings when she was in the arena all by herself.

Under saddle I could catch her going in the shavings one time and gently let her out of it. She only had to take one or two steps (towards the bin). Then she pooped next to the bin and not in the shavings. She had earned herself a jackpot. [read here more about -> “rewards and jackpots“<-] After a few times she learned that “in the shavings” wouldn’t get her a reward.

Goal
Now my goal is to let her poop in the bin, so I don’t have to clean up at all. Wouldn’t that be awesome? I’ll let you know when we get there.

UPDATE Jan 2017

Here is the sequence on this blog: I accomplished my shittiest goal ever! In which I tell you about how I taught Kyra to poop in the manure wheelbarrow. It even had a video.

Sandra Poppema

Are you interested in personal coaching or do you want to sign up for the next  online course ‘Set Your Equestrian Goals & Achieve them’, please visit my website

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Slowfeeder nets

A slowfeeder net is a hay net with much smaller mazes/holes than regular hay nets. Whereas the regular hay nets have mazes varying between approximately 8 – 15 cm (3,1 – 5,9 inches), slowfeeder nets have mazes of 3,5 cm – 6 cm (1,2 inch – 2,4 inch).MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

The goal of a slowfeeder net is to slowdown the intake of hay the horse eats so he spends more time eating and less time doing other behaviours (vices).

Why a slowfeeder net?
Horses are built to eat 16 hours a day. A big difference between a human and a horse is that we humans only excrete acid in the stomach while we are eating. The stomach of a horse produces acid weather he is eating or not.

The upper part of a horses stomach doesn’t have a protective layer against the acid. So if the horse is not eating and doesn’t produce a lot of saliva to neutralize the effects of the acid on the stomach wall, horses can get ulcers.

I can’t help thinking that it must also give them a miserable feeling when they have an empty stomach when Mother Nature want the relatively small stomach always filled with high fibre and low nutrient grasses.

Most domestic horses don’t have the possibility to spend approximately 16 hours a day grazing. If they do get to forage we often give them a flake or few flakes of hay which they finish very quickly. Slowfeeder nets mimic grazing._slowfeedernet_hippologic

Other advantages
It can save a lot of work. If you purchase a big net for your horse(s) that you can fill, you could skip meals. Depending of the size of the net and the amount of horses you have to feed, you could go from feeding hay 3 or 4 times a day to one meal of hay.

Hay doesn’t get spilled, blown away by the wind outside or spoiled by horses peeing and pooping in their hay anymore. This can save money in the long term.

It also saves work because you don’t have to spend time raking spoiled hay. It might even save disposal costs because the manure pile isn’t filling up with spoiled hay.

In general it extends eating time, prevents boredom and helps the horse mimic his natural behaviours.

As a bonus it saves you time and money you can then spend on your horse in a different way.

How to deal with the disadvantages 
Filling a net can be time consuming. Make sure you buy a net with a big opening that makes filling the net quick and easy. There are “hoops” available that keeps the opening open if you use the round shaped nets. For the square nets I found my own way of filling it quickly. See this video:

Slowfeeders can be very expensive to purchase. It can take a while before the hay saving costs cover the price of your net. In general you will be saving money by buying the more expensive ones instead of trying the cheap ones first. The cheap ones I tried broke quickly and were frustrating to use. I recommend doing some online research about size, shape, material and maze size.

If you choose a slowfeeder with holes that are too small for your horse it can create frustration or your horse might not eat the amount of hay he really needs.

To prevent frustration when introducing a slowfeeder net to your horse, it can be a good idea to give only half or less of its normal portion in the new net and provide the rest of its ration the way you always do. Most horses learn quickly how to eat out of a slowfeeder net.

Depending on the way your horse has to keep his neck and head while he is eating out of a net, it can cause an unnatural position which can cause health problems.

Be aware that you are introducing a new activity and be alert for any changes this causes in your horse.

Sandra Poppema

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